Tuesday, 7 October 2008


One of the main characteristics associated with Mark Hughes is resilience. A dogged, determined player, who created a team in his image (albeit with less playing talent) at Blackburn Rovers.

A key criticism of Eriksson's City side was a lack of such resilience. The inability to break down physical teams or to hold on to leads were symptoms of a team that could dazzle when things went our way, but were too fragile to win in difficult circumstances.

I hoped that the replacement of Eriksson by Hughes would improve this. It does seem, though, that it has not. In fact, our form in the league thus far has seen the Eriksson traits developed even further. The irresistible performances on our day, evident in all three league wins. But on the other hand, a lack of mental toughness to hang on to difficult situations. Of our four league defeats, we went 2-0 up against Liverpool, 1-0 up against Chelsea and pulled both the Wigan and Villa trips back to 1-1 having gone 1-0 down.

This made me think about a manager's ability to impose his own traits on an inherited squad. The presumption was that Hughes would make us more resilient - but the squad itself seems to have become less so. Bringing in Robinho, Jô and Wright-Phillips has done nothing in this regard. Tal Ben Haim is associated with being 'gritty', but he barely gets a game. Zabaleta may be tougher than Corluka, but any improvement is cancelled out by the replacement of Ball with Garrido.

Perhaps we need another transfer window to really adress this aspect of the team. And with Torsten Frings and Stephen Warnock linked, it seems as if Hughes is preparing to do just that.

UPDATE Turns out that there are quotes from Hughes about exactly this issue:
"We need that resolve to be able to see games out and take something positive from every game we play. At the moment we are struggling on that point, but we are a young team in terms of experience and development."

1 comment:

Philip said...

A good post. I'm not sure that I agree with some of it though! It is a game of opinions after all. I would make the following points:

1. Rovers under Hughes were more of a footballing side and less 'tough' than people gave them credit for.
The 'toughness' was commonly employed against big 4 teams whose skill level they obviously could not match. Against mid table and lower sides, they played football.

2. City under Sven, while not tough, did not play attacking, 'beautiful' football. They played a conservative low tempo passing/possession game.

At City Hughes has considerably greater resources than at Rovers, and consequently he is trying to match the big sides in skill and attacking football. Sven (sensibly) never attempted this after the Chelsea debacle as he didn't have the players. It's true that we lack a bit of resilience, something of which Hughes is obviously aware and which he should be able to resolve - we hope! But it would be unrealistic to expect him to turn 'soft' players into Robbie Savage MKII.
The 'tough' aspect of Hughes' character is enormously over-egged in my view.

Keep it up - you've got a great blog, always worth a read.