Site Update

February 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Site News 

We’ll have a full breakdown of the transfer market dealings for City plus my thoughts on City’s performances while I was away within the next twenty four hours.

Middlesbrough 0-1 Manchester City: Mancini Still Perfect

January 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Match Summaries 

Manchester City is taking baby steps towards asserting itself as a big club. Another step occurred today at the Riverside, where a watered down City side survived Boro 1-0 to advance in the FA Cup for the first time in three seasons.

Shay Given was not tested until the last ten minutes of the match, as Robert Mancini’s tactical changes continue to impress at the back. For those critics, who point to the level of opposition, I would clearly state that the sort of opposition that ran through City under Mark Hughes (Burnley, Hull, Bolton, even Scunthorpe to a certain extent) are now being thoroughly outclassed under Mancini.

Tactically, Mancini got it right, although in the first half Benjani was isolated up top, playing as a target striker with nobody to play off of. The spine of the City side was very strong today, and that showed as the match wore on and the Blues asserted control.

City’s youngsters were a mixed bag: Vladimir Weiss struggled while Dedryck Boyata was outstanding.

Match Ratings:

Given           6

Zabaletta      7

Richards      7

Boyata         8

Garrido        7

Weiss           5

Kompany     6

DeJong         6

Sylvinho       7

Petrov           8

Benjani         7

Barry            6

Tevez            7

Bellamy        7

Mancini Makes a Promising Start

December 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Roberto Mancini 

Let me be upfront and honest. I do not like  British managers being replaced with foreign ones. I also do not like players from the British Isles being replaced by players from the continent, Africa or North America. Call me a traditionalist, but I believe the fabric and character of English football has been hurt by a foreign invasion. Not that I am against all foreign players, but I do support the 6 + 5 rule and believe it could ultimately help the English game.

All of this having been said, I am an admirer of football tactics and a supporter of Manchester City Football Club. That puts me in the awkward position of understanding that the sacking of a Welsh manager and replacement by an Italian manager was probably the best move the club could have made from a footballing perspective.

City’s shape at the back and spacing in the attack have looked more organized and consistent throughout Mancini’s first two matches than at any time this season under Mark Hughes (even when the side was winning in the first month of the season). Additionally, under Hughes their always seemed to be a desperation on the squad- a chip on the shoulder type play rather than quiet, efficient confidence.

Hughes’ City teams often lost their shape for large portions of the match and tactical changes came late. Last season this was a regular occurrence as Hughes was “burdened” with players inherited from Sven Goran Eriksson. But two of these players, Javier Garrido and Martin Petrov have now been re-integrated into the squads plans under Mancini, who is an Eriksson disciple.

Hughes did plenty of damage by selling Verdan Corluka and Elano, both significant Eriksson signings while replacing them with the less capable Pablo Zabaletta and nobody in Elano’s case. When asked about why his City side looked more capable than his England teams, Eriksson famously quipped that with England he didn’t have Elano.

Yet, for Hughes, Elano was a expendable part. Martin Petrov was as well, and would have undoubtedly been dealt this January were Hughes still the manager. Petrov provides the Blues the type of the attacking width and intent that Arjen Robben used to provide for Chelsea and currently provides (while healthy) for Bayern Munchen.

If Mancini continues to play a variation of the 4-4-2 diamond, this setup is enhanced by Petrov’s presence. In fact, the discarded winger could be the most important player in the new City setup.

The criticisms that Mancini has merely beaten Wolves and Stoke are meaningless to me. The reality is that, City drew with similar quality sides four times in the last two months of Hughes tenure, including twice at home. In each of those matches, City spent significant time looking like a desperate side on the back foot. In Mancini’s first 180 minutes as City manager, the Citizens have generally appeared in control.

I have a great deal of time and sentiment for Mark Hughes. However, City’s ownership absolutely made the right choice in sacking him and bringing in Roberto Mancini.

Mancini Takes Charge

December 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Roberto Mancini 

Roberto Mancini has made quick assessments about the City squad according to published reports. My thoughts are found at Set Piece Analysts.

Is City Headed For Yet Another Relegation Fight?

December 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Garry Cook, Mark Hughes, Roberto Mancini 

While the above may seem like an attention grabbing headline, those of us who have supported this club for a longtime know that nothing is ever easy at City. Switching managers mid season has already led to a player revolt and the hiring of a manager with no Premier League coaching experience. (And only four matches as a player).

In other words, Garry Cook and Brian Marwood have begun the process of City rediscovering its recent history and becoming a relegation fighter again. City’s 29 points are only 12 clear of the relegation zone, which is a similar position to where the Club found itself in the 2006-07 season under Stuart Pearce.  That season, City escaped relegation by all of three points.

Cook and Marwood evidently want to tempt high profile Continental targets to Eastlands, but who is to say any would choose City over let’s say Inter or Lyon, and furthermore, how can Continental players be trusted to fit into an English team in the dead of winter? The acclimation to the English game is nearly impossible for a target brought in during the January window. That’s why Hughes wisely spent his time focusing on English based targets, who would play the game the right way.

City’s form prior to the Sunderland match 11 points from 10 league matches was almost relegation form. Included in that stretch were home draws against Burnley, and Hull as well as Derby draws versus Wigan and Bolton. All four listed teams are relegation fighters this season. Without Mark Hughes ability to rally his team spiritually, all four matches could very well have been loses which resulted in six point swings against City. Hughes may have been tactically inept at times, but his force of personality allowed City to escape several matches the side should have lost, with draws.

While Richard Dunne did not appeal to “fans” in China and India whom Cook seems to be concerned about, he certainly appealed to those in the Northwest that supported City have been through the relegation wars. It is highly possible that with a star laden team on big contracts, that City will simply wilt after this managerial change.

Roberto Mancini will need to use every trick he has in his management repertoire to keep this side afloat. Relegation may not be looming, but a bottom half finish is looking likely as the Cook/Marwood revolution takes the building blocks Sven Goran Eriksson and Mark Hughes built, and trashes them.

Hughes Sacked

December 19, 2009 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Mark Hughes, Roberto Mancini 

MCFC have sacked Mark Hughes with immediate effect. Roberto Mancini takes over with former City striker Brian Kidd becoming Assistant Manager.

The promotion of Brian Kidd to Assistant Manager is a safe move. Kidd served in the same capacity for Manchester United and England. Kidd is best remembered however by me, as a goal a game striker for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the NASL after he had moved stateside. A Manchester native, Kidd played for both United and City.

Hughes did the best job he could with a club that lacks the continuity or stability to truly contend for major honors. This having been said, he made a number of mistakes on the job, and if City is as ambitious as the ownership claims, an upgrade was eventually needed.

Roberto Mancini is a solid hiring. Of the available names on the market he was in my mind the most qualified to manage City. Nonetheless, City’s season and future hangs in the balance and the side could either finish in the top four or flirt with relegation by making a change at this point in the campaign.

Hiring a manager from outside England is often times a disastrous move for Premiership clubs, particularly in the winter. A manager from Italy is unlikely to have any real idea of how to tactically cope with the brutal winter weather that grips traditional Lancashire. I also have serious concerns as to whether Mancini understands the English game, and knows how to work with players who are either British or have spent the bulk of their professional careers in England.

However, I still consider Mancini a better hiring than Guus Hiddink (who recently failed to qualify the most talented Russian team since the USSR’s breakup, for the World Cup), Jurgen Klinsmann (whose player moves with Bayern Munchen were as perplexing as some of Hughes worst moves) or just about anyone else that is currently availible.

We’ll have much more on the sacking, tomorrow morning UK time.

Manchester City 4-3 Sunderland: Hughes Last Hurrah?

December 19, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Match Summaries 

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In a match that represented a microcosm of City’s season thus far, Craig Bellamy and Roque Santa Cruz, the two players in the side who had previously played for Mark Hughes stepped up to try and save the embattled manager. But is it enough?

With Roberto Mancini who won two Serie A titles as a manager at Eastlands today (Mancini’s Inter were awarded a third title after the fact) the press is active with speculation about Hughes future.

After scoring two quick goals, the second on a penalty that should not have been given, city’s defense collapsed, once again showing an inability to man mark properly on set pieces and to deal effectively with dangerous crosses. City’s attack looked outstanding today, but when have the Blues not looked potent going forward, save the midweek trip to White Hart Lane?

Hughes 4-3-3 formation has not allowed City to keep its shape well, when establishing a lead in matches, nor has it provided any possession advantage late in matches. Perhaps a change in tactics, and not in manager’s would solve some of City’s problems?

City’s injury crisis worsened today with Micah Richards and Shaun Wright Phillips exiting with injuries.

MORE LATER

Hughes Should Stay

December 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Mark Hughes 

Mark Hughes time at Manchester City has not been smooth by any stretch of the imagination. The side is currently underachieving after the manager asked his critics to judge him based on this season’s results.

Yet, City’s Arab owners need to be cautious in pulling the trigger. Hughes understands British football and the Premier League better than any manager currently available on the open market. Bringing in a continental manager who will have difficulty with English players is a recipe for disaster and could send City closer to the relegation zone than to the top four.

From a tactical standpoint, Sparky is trying to get the Blues to play with style, but has been forced to mold several disparate parts together. City has overspent on the attack, while neglecting the defense. The sale of longtime skipper Richard Dunne and the unwillingness to buy former City defender Sylvan Distain speaks loudly to the priorities of City’s board.

Gary Cook, the club chief executive made the infamous statement that Richard Dunne does not sell shirts. But what Richard Dunne did do is develop an abiding loyalty from all City supporters, one that continues even though he has left our club.

Mark Hughes transfer dealings have been far from pristine. City has over paid for among others, Wayne Bridge, Roque Santa Cruz, Garreth Barry and Carlos Tevez. The fact that each of the listed players former clubs seems to have not suffered from the loss of high priced players says a great deal about Hughes talent evaluation.

A case against Hughes can also be made based on players that perform well for other managers (like Dunne, Robinho and Micah Richards) struggling under him,

However, the time for a change is not now. Hughes deserves an opportunity to right the ship. City is in a full fledged, long term building mode and Sparky may not be the man to complete the job, I can think of no better option to keep it moving forward.

Spurs 3:0 Manchester City- Dire Football

December 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Site News 

I’ll have some thoughts on the team later

Bolton 3:3 Manchester City

December 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Match Summaries 

Another fixture, another draw. City’s form continues to be a mystery as another local derby ended with as many questions as answers. The Blues were on the back foot for much of the first half, but two pieces of outstanding team play, saw City equalize before the half. Craig Bellamy’s sending off still remains a mystery but plenty of positive signs can be taken from this match.

Carlos Tevez has gotten beyond his early season injuries and has really broken through. Stephan Ireland, for perhaps the first time since early in the season showed the quality that made him the club’s best player last season. Sylvinho despite an advanced age, showed good understanding of Craig Bellamy’s game and prior to Welshman’s sending off, the Brazilian defender was linking up well with him.

Ultimately, however not having Nigel DeJong was a killer for City. Without the seasoned midfielder playing in front of the back four to break up opposing attacking chances, the Blues looked disorganized and at times desperate. Vincent Kompany’s performance was about as poor as I can recall from the Belgian International.

Despite the negatives, a victory at White Hart Lane on Wednesday, would put City in great position to crack the top four by Boxing Day. City has two less loses than anyone in the league, but with eight draws, the side still is having trouble learning how to win.

PLAYER RATINGS:

Given   6

Richards 4

Toure  6

Lescott 6

Sylvinho 6

Barry  5

Kompany 4

SWP  6

Ireland 8

Robinho 6

Tevez 8

Adebayor 6

Santa Cruz 5

Bellamy 6

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