Transfer Window Thoughts

February 2, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Adam Johnson, Benjani, Roberto Mancini, Robinho 

The decision to loan Benjani to Sunderland will no doubt provide a bit of a shock to the supporters base that has been concerned about a lack of scoring punch beyond Carlos Tevez recently. Benjani scored the only goal in City’s 1-0 victory over Boro in the FA Cup Third Round, and has a reputation for lively play inside the opposition 18”.

Combined with the loan deal that sent Robinho to Santos, City enters the final portion of Premier League matches and the fifth round of the FA Cup with substantially less going forward. The signing of Adam Johnson from Boro will certainly help in the league, he is FA Cup tied, and will play no further role in that competition.

While the collapse of the Gago deal may actually provide a blessing in disguise for City, the failure to secure McDonald Mariga thanks to the UK Home Office is a devastating blow for the club. Additionally, the failure to sign Victor Moses, a young striker with tremendous future upside was disappointing.

When Patrick Vieria returns from injury, this transfer window will truly be judged. If the former Arsenal great provides the leadership and midfield cover necessary, Mancini’s cautious movement can be applauded for not unsettling the team too greatly. However, if Moses provides a spark for local rival, Wigan and Benjani helps revitalize Sunderland’s season, question will no doubt be asked of the manager.

Confederations Cup 2009: Robinho’s Redemption

June 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Robinho 

Robinho had a frustrating 2008-09 season at Man City. Despite finishing near the top of the Premier League goal scoring table, his play seemed uneven and at times he looked disinterested. But this Summer’s FIFA Confederations Cup has provided Robinho who has had a hand in four Brazilian goals sweet redemption on the world stage. While fellow Man City star Elano has found himself off the pitch after an unvene first game against Egypt, Robinho excelled against both the USA and Italy in consecutive 3-0 Brazil wins.

Next Robinho and Brazil face host South Africa in the semifinals with the opportunity to face Spain, the reigning Euro Champions in the final. Spain must get past the USA in the other semifinal.

Elano and Robinho Take on the World

June 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Elano, Robinho 

The FIFA Confederations Cup begins Sunday and Man City heroes Robinho and Elano will be among the key players to watch. Brazil having been transformed into a more tactical and defensive minded side under Dunga lead COMNEBOL qualifying and now put their impressive record on display against some of the world’s best.

Brazil has been drawn into Group B with Egypt, the United States and Italy. The Brazilians will be favored against Egypt who will be without Zaki, and will overwhelming favorites against the United States who have struggled away from home for the better part of six years. But it is the match-up versus Marcello Lippi and Italy that bears watching. That final group game will be broadcast in the UK i on BBC 3 a week from today.

Should Brazil advance to the final a date with Spain, the current world #1 could await. We’ll track Elano and Robinho’s progress throughout the tournament.

The Hughes Revolution: Barry The Latest Signing

Mark Hughes has seen the faith placed in him by City’s owners and some supporters rewarded with the signing of Gareth Barry. Barry has featured for England under Fabio Capello more regularly than any other midfield player.

Hughes is the right man to take City forward in a positive way. For all the clamoring from outsiders that City must bring in a cosmopolitan manager, Hughes has an ability to connect with players from the British Isles, the core of this City team better than anyone on the market.

In his role Hughes is learning how to better utilize Robinho and Elano two Brazilians that have made Dunga’s international side perhaps the most formidable on globe outside of Spain. Jo’s return to Manchester City will likely find the talented Brazilian striker more at home than he was in the first six months of Hughes tenure.

The City manager has learned to deal with talented foreign players and his managerial skills had clearly improved by the end of the 2008-09 season.

Additionally Hughes ability to sell top players with Premiership experience on City instead of a current big four club is critical.

Let’s look at the list of City signings from within the Premier League under Hughes:

  • Shaun Wright Phillips

An England squad player whose level of comfort in City colors is unquestioned

  • Wayne Bridge

England international whose relationship with Hughes dates back to Southampton in the late 90s. This signing solves City’s long term woes on the left side of defense and can push forward into the attack comfortably.

  • Shay Given

One of the top 10 goalkeepers in the world and arguably the best Premiership goalkeeper over the past ten seasons. An indispensible player for the Republic of Ireland

  • Craig Bellamy

Cultured Welsh international who previously had great success under Hughes with the Wales National Team.

  • Gareth Barry

After years on the fringe has become a regular for England under Fabio Capello.

Hughes has not only signed useful premier league players but players who feature regularly for the national teams of the British Isles. In City’s recent history attracting quality players of this stature who were not on their last legs as professionals has been almost impossible. With these signings Hughes has proven he belongs. Now the question is whether or not he has staying power.

Whose Next?

The injuries to Benjani and Bojinov now doubled with Bellamy and Robinho both set to miss significant time begs the question as to whose next among City’s attacking players to go down. City is left with thin options up front. Darrius Vassell could always be thrown into the mix as conceivably could Elano, but among pure strikers you are left with a  19 year old Daniel Sturridge and two 20 year olds Ched Evans, and Felipe Caiecedo.

Mark Hughes decision to let Jo leave on loan to Everton looked like solid business two months ago but now has to be questioned. Nonetheless, City should have Robinho back sooner than Bellamy.

Wednesday’s match against Aston Villa, a side whose away form has been outstanding presents a challenge for the youngsters. Will they be able to step up?

Robinho: Another Brazilian Flop in England?

March 1, 2009 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Robinho 

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Brazilians don’t win in English Football. For all the accomplishments of the Brazilians in World Football they have not conquered England. Perhaps the most influential Brazilian in the Premiership was Juninho at Boro, but even he could not stop the Teeside club from being relegated.

Simply being strong in world football does no’t translate to all styles of play or climates. For example English players have traditionally struggled in Major League Soccer in the US. David Beckham is merely the latest English player to flop in the American league which features lengthy travel, alternating altitudes and poor football facilities.  Yet the English players who have moved to the US and failed have generally been more skillful and football savvy than the Americans who have been successful at their expense.

It’s been obvious to me for many years that Brazilians thrive in German or Italian football while often struggling in Spanish football and usually flopping entirely in British football. Brazilian players including Robinho lack the discipline to play a long ball tactical approach and often times lack the conditioning to play at a high level for 90 minutes on challenging wet pitches. The fact that most pitches in England are also narrower than pitches in Germany or Italy (or Japan or Saudi Arabia for that matter) affects the Brazilian game.

Chelsea however after being burned with the hiring of a Brazilian manager seems ready to make another fatal mistake in their drive from being the runaway top Premiership club a few years back to perhaps missing the Champions League in the near future. Press reports indicate Robinho is still coveted by Chelsea and the west London club is willing to part with England Captain John Terry in return this summer.

From my vantage point, this would be like stealing for City. As we discussed repeatedly on this site during the January window, signing English based targets who can play for a Welsh manager is critical. Being able to swap an ineffective malconent for the England captain almost seems too good to be true. Perhaps it is.

City 2 F.C. København 1: Bellamy’s Masterpiece

February 26, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Craig Bellamy, Robinho, UEFA Cup 

As we speculated earlier this week on the site, Craig Bellamy and Robinho may not be the best of friends. But on the pitch they have developed a connection in just seven matches playing together that has City very much alive in the UEFA Cup.

After a lackluster first half of football, City scored two second half goals, and could have had more. Robinho was brilliant even though his finisihing touch alluded him all evening. City wins 4-3 on aggregate. Some other thoughts:

  • As usual Wayne Bridge was outstanding at getting up the pitch and joining the attack but today actually played a very solid defensive game as well.
  • Micah Richards and Richard Dunne once again did not have the best of games. The central defense duo has been struggling all year long and while Joe Hart didn’t deserve his ultimate fate, Shay Given was signed for a reason as we saw again tonight. Richards was particularity bad at dealing with a succession of first half Copenhagen corners.
  • Vincent Kompany did well playing in Nigel DeJong’s normal role, since DeJong was cup tied and is ineligible for UEFA Cup action.
  • With Spurs elimination today, Manchester City is the last remaining British club in the UEFA Cup.

Bellamy vs Robinho?

February 25, 2009 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Craig Bellamy, Robinho 

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Reuters Photo/A rift in the City Dressing Room?

Rumors have been abound for sometime that Mark Hughes distinctly British and disciplinarian managerial style does not sit well with City’s Brazilian contingent. Similarly rumors have begun to circulate in the past week that Craig Bellamy who trouble seems to follow has created a rift in City’s changing room with Robinho, the British record transfer signing.

During the January transfer window Jo was loaned to Everton (and will be sold this summer) and Elano was shopped around. Some transfer rumors claimed Robinho could be on his way out as well heading to Chelsea to join his former National Team boss Luiz Felipe Scolari.

The sacking of Scolari likely means if Robinho is going to leave City this summer he’ll head back to Spain or to Italy.So long as Hughes remains in control it’s tough to see Robinho working out at the club. Part of the reason is the January transfer of Craig Bellamy, long a Hughes favorite and a controversial talisman himself. Bellamy seems to always save his best for when he is being managed by Hughes: be it with Wales, Blackburn or now City.

Bellamy has long been the poster child for bad behavior among British Footballers. The Welsh International, captains his national side but is better known for his antics on and off the pitch.  While featuring for Newcastle,  during the 2003-2004 UEFA Champions League he kicked Inter’s Marco Materazzi (Although given the Italians antics perhaps he deserved it) and later that season threw a chair in training at John Carver then Bobby Robson’s #2 at Newcastle. I actually attempted to speak to Carver who now manages in MLS about this incident and got a cold stare and no answer, probably meaning it is still a sore subject for him.

Bellamy’s bad behavior continued after he left Newcastle: He allegedly sent nasty emails taunting Toon and England legend Alan Shearer after Bellamy had been loaned to Celtic. After being transferred to Liverpool he attacked John Arne Riise at a training session an incident which was ironically knocked out of the tabloid headlines by Joey Barton’s incident with a Liverpool cab driver a week later.

Robinho has his own personal off the pitch incidents to contend with. He has been accused of sexual assault in a Leeds Nightclub and when it seemed he may just be reunited with Scolari during the January window, he left the club and flew back to Brazil.

For the record Bellamy is backing Robinho and claims no rift has occurred in the City dressing room. But given Bellamy’s history, Hughes relationship with him and the discontent of City’s Brazilian contingent, can we really believe him?

Brazilians Continue City Away Misery

February 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Elano, Match Summaries, Robinho 

The failure of a fitness test just before kickoff by Micah Richards was a clear harbinger of things to come from City. Pompey, bruised and beaten and having just gone through a managerial change dominated the first half. City’s best opportunity to score came around minute 20 when Craig Bellamy laid off a ball for Elano. With seemingly all day to pick the target, the Brazilian missed entirely.

Elano scored midweek for Brazil against Italy at Ashburton Grove, but he looked horrible on Saturday filling in for the suspended Shaun Wright Phillips on the right flank. His Brazilian mate, Robinho who was also brilliant at midweek was if anything even less effective.

City’s backline held up for much of the first half even against the brilliance of Glen Johnson and effective runs of Jermaine Pennant. Dave Nugent, one time England striker kept City level by missing an open target more than once. Shay Given did the best he could to throw Nugent off, including once on a breakaway when Wayne Bridge had pushed so far upfield to try and provide the service that Robinho was incapable or perhaps unwilling to provide.

Shalem Logan made his Premier League debut: not his Man City debut however, as he featured in the League Cup a year and a half ago under Sven Goran Eriksson.  Logan looked raw at times but did more to supplement the attack from the right back position than the ineffective Elano did.

Craig Bellamy provided some moments in this match thanks to his legendary and volatile temper. Even after the match Bellamy could be seen trying to lecture the officials. Vincent Company serving as captain for the match tried his best to calm down Bellamy but it was to no avail.

A lack of composure always follows when City falls behind and after Glen Johnson’s brilliant strike midway through the second half the side went to pieces. Robinho, ineffective as always away from Eastlands had already been subbed out, while his Brazilian mate Elano continued his personal efforts to keep Pompey clear of the relegation zone.

Late in the match, the slow and awkward Peter Crouch began to resemble Lionel Messi, getting behind the City defense easily. Had City not made the transfer deadline deal to acquire Shay Given, this scoreline could have been worse and more embarrassing.

Earlier in the week we asked the question as to whether or not Mark Hughes knew how to manage Brazilian attacking players. But the shameful performances by Robinho and Elano against a side that had not won a Premier League match in close to three months beg the question as to whether the duo simply are further proof as to how far Brazil has fallen in the world football pecking order under Dunga.

2-0 was the final scoreline, and City’s woes away from Eastlands continue. The Blues last won away from home in August.

Can Hughes Manage Brazilians?

February 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Elano, Jo, Robinho 

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Brazil’s performance in this week’s friendly match against Italy gave Dunga, a manager under fire some breathing room. But it had the opposite affect on Mark Hughes, bringing into his ability to manage a cosmopolitan squad. Elano and Robinho both scored goals in Dunga decidedly un-Joga Bonito Brazilian setup.

Dunga had many of the same questions surround him in the South American media and his selection of Elano for Copa America 2007 was a definitive attempt to break the mold of previous Brazil squads and to place a more defensive and possession oriented stamp on the national team.

Mark Hughes had three Brazilian players from September through December. Each at times seemed unsettled and uncommitted to the club. But Brazil’s national team had been similarly unsettled for a long period of time following Dunga’s ascension. The thinking in  much of the press that Hughes somehow cannot mold a cosmopolitan squad may or may not be valid.

Somehow Brazilian football is evolving to resemble more of a continental European style and less of a traditional Latin one. That’s why Sven Goran Eriksson whose tactics always contain a continental flavor (as evidenced by Eriksson’s total mismanagement of the Mexican National Team whose players are used to playing a completely different way: to counter this Sven has accelerated the naturalization process for a number of foreigners currently playing club football in Mexico who fit his style) went out of his way to acquire Elano.

Hughes has stated openly that Elano now understands his role at City. But given Elano’s central role with one of the top national teams on the planet, will he accept Hughes tactics? The failure of Jo at City coupled with the players roraring early success under David Moyes at Everton raises more questions about Hughes. Is this another case of Hughes not being tactically flexible enough to build a setup around a strong Brazilian striker? Or was Jo simply not prepared for Premiership football when at Eastlands?

Questions about Hughes will continue to persist going forward. One thing is for certain though: despite all of the flux and circus atmosphere surrounding the team this season, City still have an opportunity for their best ever Premier League finish. That at least is to Mark Hughes credit.

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