Saturday, 29 November 2008

Is there a 'Micah Richards problem'?

Is there? If there is, this is what it is (and if there isn't, this is what it would be):

He's not as good a centre back as Vincent Kompany, and he's not as good a right back as Pablo Zabaleta.

I guess it depends on where Kompany is going to play. He was exceptional in defence on Thursday (as he was for the last 40 minutes against West Ham in August, when Richards went off), and could easily play at centre back for years to come. If we get Diarra, a Diarra/Ireland/Johnson midfield is quite likely in 2009/10.

Even if Kompany stays in midfield, the rumours about our signing Kolo Toure (or, less plausibly, John Terry) suggest that Hughes wants a new centre back. Overall this season, Richards and Dunne have been as bad as each other. But Dunne's had a good last month whereas Richards has not. Could he be slowly squeezed out in 2009?

I honestly don't know: what do you think?

Slow improvement

I think we're finally seeing a bit more grit from Mark Hughes' City. After months of lazy surrenders punctuated by occassional brilliance, we seem to be a little bit tougher in recent weeks.

Coming from behind to get a point at Hull, out-battling Arsenal (not too difficult, though), going to Schalke and coming back with three points: are these examples of such a change? Or are we just playing better?

We still need Diarra though.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Schalke 04 0 - 2 Man City

  • We're pretty much through. Only once ever has a team failed to progress with 6 points from the group stage - Rangers in 2004/05. We have two relatively easy games left though - PSG at home, Racing Santander away - from which we should be able to get some more confidence boosting wins.

  • Having been in a trough not long ago, the point at Hull, 3-0 win over Arsenal and then this evening's performance put us on a real high going into Sunday's derby. I still think we'll lose, but I do hope the whole 'crisis club' label's been shifted onto Blackburn or someone else for the time being.
  • Two interesting performances in defence: Vincent Kompany at centre back, Micah Richards at right back. Arguable that they were both playing in their strongest position, rather than where they've been this year. Both were very impressive. The problem though, is that while Kompany may be at least as good a centre half as Micah, Zabaleta is probably a better right back than he is as well. When Diarra arrives in January, could Kompany move back and put Richards on the bench?
  • Again, Steven Ireland was our best player. The energy, the skill, the tackling, the goal - it was all there, like it has been every week for months. We missed Robinho tonight, but we'd miss Stevie just as much if he got injured. When Johnson gets fit, and presuming on a January addition, we'll be spoilt for choice in midfield in 2009.
  • SWP in central midfield still doesn't look as good as he does out wide. I'd like to think that with everyone available he'd move back into Vassell's position and someone else would fill in for him centrally.
  • As good a team performance as we've seen this season. The first time we've won without scoring at least three goals. (As pointed out by cityfan_in_la in the comments this is an epic, epic fail by me. We've only won by 3+ goals in the league, but in the UEFA we've won quite a few by one or two goal margins) Coupled with Hull and Arsenal, maybe a sign that this gritless side is finally developing a stronger work ethic?
  • At long last - a win in a change kit! The first since West Ham away in August 2007. Now for one in the league...

Monday, 24 November 2008

Toure linked

An interesting rumour growing recently is that City are going to go for Kolo Toure in January.

It started, as many good City stories do, with Daniel Taylor in The Guardian on Saturday. There wasn't much over the weekend but it was in Monday's M.E.N. and Tueday's Mail and Times.

I don't think it requires inside knowledge to guess that Hughes is going to bring in more, and better defenders in January: only Hull, Stoke, Blackburn and West Brom have conceded more league goals than we have this season. Whilst they were both brilliant on Saturday, neither Dunne nor Richards have impressed much so far. Tal Ben Haim, about whom I was excited when we bought him, has so far been a big dissapointment.

Now I'm not Kolo Toure's biggest fan - I'd much rather have William Gallas (even with the lunacy thrown in), but Kolo would still be a really good signing: only 27 years old, played more than 200 Premier Leauge games, with one League title and two FA Cup wins. I'd love Richards and Dunne to be as good a pairing as Distin and Dunne, but it seems like that might not happen. So why not shake things up?

And if we don't get Diarra we should go for Kolo's brother too.

Podolski to leave Bayern

If the Roque Santa Cruz move doesn't work, it wouldn't be a great surprise to see us move for Bayern Munich's Lukas Podolski in January. City bid roughly £14m for him in January 2008, but Jurgen Klinnsman (who was then still manager of Die Mannschaft) wanted him to be in place for his summer takeover. But opportunities have been limited this season, and so Podolski has now announced:
"I have made my mind up that I would like to leave the club in the winter. I have already told the management that I want to leave this winter."
Rafael Honigstein has reported that we tried for him on the Robinho day, and could go back in Janaury. So this is a genuine possibility.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Dabo 25 yard strike saves Lazio

I like to keep you in touch with the success of former City players: this season I've shown goals from Bianchi, Samaras and Vuoso. But today another City legend - Ousmane Dabo - scored. His 25 yard stunner is not quite as good as it sounds (it went through the Genoa 'keeper's arms), but the mere fact that it happened is noteworthy nonetheless.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

City 3 - 0 Arsenal

  • How pleasing to see us play football and graft in the same game. This, I imagine, is the sort of synthesis that Hughes has been aiming for: dogged in defence, devastating in attack, built around strong performances through the spine of the team.
  • Those who have dissapointed this year were strongest: Dunne and Richards played as well as they have all season, both individually and as a pair. Kompany was back to his destructive best. Even Vassell and Benjani worked hard.
  • No surprises that the goals that won the game were scored by our two best players: Ireland and Robinho. Ireland now has six league goals this season: more than his career total before this year (4 in 2007/08 and 1 in 2006/07). Robinho now has 8 in the league: as many as our top scorer, Elano, did last term. He is now very likely to be the first City player to score ten league goals in a season since SWP and Robbie Fowler both did in 2004/05.
  • What a vote of no-confidence in Kasper Schmeichel: requesting FA permission to bring someone in ahead of him, and then rushing back a 'keeper with an alleged three/four week ankle ligament absence. With stories in most papers this week about a £60m Buffon bid (I've only started to take it seriously today, when it was on the back page of The Times), his time may well be limited.
  • How good to see Sturridge come on, win a penalty (not quite as questionable as his one at Stadium of Light last season, but not stonewall either), and score it confidently. But should we really be giving Elano excuses to complain?


Robinho's goal.


Arsenal preview

Two teams, defined by physical and mental weakness, unable to hold on to a lead, with no Plan B when the Brazil 1970 stuff doesn't come off, with no answer to physical strength or tenacity, with a captains who divide opinion, etc etc etc.

Whether we're described as 'a rich man's Arsenal', 'Arsenal Lite' or 'just a shit Arsenal', it's a comparison we've heard a lot - and rightly so. It fits. So we might get to see a great display of attractive football this afternoon. Leads will be won and thrown away, tackles will not be made, set pieces will go undefended.

But rather than play to our strengths in the knowledge that this is a game we won't get kicked out of, Hughes has stuck with Vassell over Elano. And Hart's playing!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Elano miracle goal

After announcing his new contentedness at City, Elano has just scored a miraculous goal for Brazil. Seriously: have a look.

There are lots of people already on bluemoon writing stuff along the lines of 'if he can do that, why doesn't Hughes pick him?'. I think the important point to make in response is that whilst he demonstrably can do that, he very rarely ever does for City, particularly in tough games. Too often he just gets bypassed in midfield, ends up getting outmuscled and has to come off. I think that SWP in midfield and Vassell on the right sucks as an alternative, but we shouldn't pretend that Elano always plays brilliantly for us when he just doesn't.

This Saturday, however, is Arsenal. At home. Denilson, Nasri and Fabregas are obviously very good players - but this could be just the stage Elano needs.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

A bad sign?

Garrido has been our best defender this month. By miles.

What do you think?

Hull 2 - 2 City

This game taught us nothing knew, but reinforced much, almost all, that we did. It reminded us:

  • That we have an error prone and poorly organized defence. Even without the great opinion-splitter at centre back today, we had what we have become familiar with: the individual errors, the poor communication, the sense that something important - trust - is missing. Oh how I long for Distin and Dunne! Only Stoke, Blackburn and West Brom have conceded more.
  • That Darius Vassell is a Championship player. He is a hero for his two goals in derbies, but is disastrously out of place. He almost went to Derby County fifteen months ago, and would have fitted in well. Anyone who remembers his misses against that team last January should know that he is just not up to it at this level. One for the January giveaways.
  • That there are few central midfielders in the Premier League currently playing better than Steven Ireland. The talent's always been there, but he has become physically and mentally stronger than any of us thought he could be. The first goal demonstrated his battle, the second his brilliance. On current form, I can think of only one midfield in the country he wouldn't get into.
  • That we do not a sufficiently good centre forward. Jô may be a great prospect (although my mind is slowly drifting on this), but does not have the experience or application to start every week in the Premier League. Benjani can do some things well, but does not have the quality to get the best out of his suppliers. We have asked much of Evans and Sturridge already (seven starts between them so far). Bozhinov may well be the best striker at the club, but that's irrelevant and will be for some time yet.
  • That this is a team that cannot hold onto a lead. We were ahead against Chelsea, Brighton, Wigan, Liverpool (by two goals), Newcastle, Spurs and now Hull. The fact that our last two league wins were 3-0 and 6-0 at home I think looks worse in this light.
  • That we can be an irresistible attacking force. Ireland-SWP-Robinho led counter attacks will be too good for many defences we come up against this season. We are still the league's second top scorer. That order goes: Chelsea 32, Man City 26, Man Utd 25, Arsenal 25, Villa 22, Liverpool 21. Of course I'd rather have 26 points than 26 goals, but it's still pretty cool.
  • That Mark Hughes has still not got this group of players playing at the level they should be.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

On transfer targets

Three names keep on cropping up in stories on City's January targets:

Wayne Bridge, Roque Santa Cruz and Lassana Diarra.

It would be good if we could go into 2009 with a starting line up of:

Hart; Bridge, Dunne, Richards, Zabaleta; Ireland, Kompany, Diarra; Robinho, RSC, SWP.

A solution that people are only just daring to speak of is:

Hart; Bridge, Kompany, Richards, Zabaleta; Johnson, Diarra, Ireland; Robinho, RSC, SWP.

The idea of Kompany as the long term replacement not for Hamann but for Dunne is an important idea to consider, I think. He'd be a better captain than Richards too.

On the January clearout

This, I think, is one of the biggest media stories about City for a while. But in amongst everything else, it's got sucked into a very general and imprecise 'City in crisis' media narrative.

On Tuesday morning there appeared in the papers three almost identical stories about a City clearout in January. The journalists? Ian Ladyman at the Mail, Daniel Taylor at the Guardian and Ian Herbert at the Independent. These three are by far the best journalists in the national press for City stories (and, for that matter, much better than the useless MEN).

Now if those three all get the same story in the same day, it's probably not by chance.

These are the players that Hughes is briefing will go: Ball, Garrido, Vassell, Onuoha, Hamann and the big story: Elano.

The first five aren't really a surprise (Castillo and Caicedo are also on their way out, not that you needed telling): neither of the left backs are good enough, neither the fitness nor the form of Onuoha, Vassell or Hamann is trustworthy any more.

But Elano? I know that the 4-3-3 we've moved to is bad for him. The central midfield role he's asked to play now is not really his thing. Yes, he has good games. But he gets by-passed, out-muscled and over-run almost every time we leave home. When he's not willing to put in tackles he's a passenger in this role. But even with all of that, selling him seems quite extreme. Maybe the Brazilian clique we were so eager to build up around Robinho actually needs to be destroyed: news that Jo went out clubbing with tonsilitis and then missed training, and has been fined, could point to a discipline problem.

One more interesting thing to emerge from these stories: Hughes' claim that of our summer signings, he only really chose SWP (it's in the Guardian piece). It's quite well established that Jo was a player Tord Grip and Sven recommended to Thaksin, who sacked Sven but pursued the move anyway. Robinho was reported to have been a choice of al-Fahim, which is quite plausible.

But Ben Haim, Kompany and Zabaleta? I really don't see how a non-football man, whether al-Fahim or Mubarak or whoever could have found these. In fact, Hughes has spoken of trying to get Zabaleta in the past, saying when we signed him: "I saw him a few times when he was at Espanyol and I wanted to nick him." Guillem Balague has written about Hughes and Bowen going to watch Zabaleta when he was at Espanyol.
"Mark Hughes has been monitoring the Argentine full back for some time: I was sat alongside Mark Hughes and Mark Bowen - when the City boss was at Blackburn - while the pair were scouting the player in an Espanyol match against Atletico Madrid at Montjuic."
Now, it is possible that Hughes tried to sign Zabaleta when he was Blackburn manager, but then randomly had him imposed on him when he came to City. But it's unlikely. This bit of the stories sounds a lot like Hughes trying to distance himself from any responsibility for the current squad.

On the 'hysteria'

Mark Hughes is surely right about the mood of 'hysteria' surrounding City at the moment.

It's come about due to a very unfortunate coinciding of five different things at the start of this week. The loss to Spurs, Elano's speaking out of turn, the story about the clear out, the (long scheduled) board meeting on Sunday, the (long scheduled) meeting with Sheikh Mansour on Tuesday.

But it seems like things have settled down a bit now. Statements from both Khaldoon al-Mubarak and the Sheikh himself, both in unequivocal support of Hughes have certainly blunted the speculation.

Sheikh Mansour said:
Mark shared with me his plans for how the team should be developed. His strategy is compelling and he has my absolute mandate to implement his plans to evolve this team in the right way over the short, medium and long terms
So with this settled, we can look at by far the biggest story of the week (I think), the news in the papers on Tuesday about a January clearout.

Vuoso saves Mexico

This is funny.

Sven's Mexico team, struggling recently, relied on a stoppage time winner from City legend Vicente Matias Vuoso to beat Ecuador in a friendly last night.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

City vs Spurs thoughts

Sorry these are so late. I do, in fact, have commitments beyond maintaining this blog.
  • What a fucking awful day. We've seen this season that when big teams come to CoMS, we roll over. And it's long established that when we travel to teams beneath us in the league, they outmuscle us and we roll over. And of course I don't expect us to get anything when we go away to the top teams. But this was a home game against a team beneath us in the league! Aren't these the ones that we're meant to be able to win?
  • We started ok, but after the red card to Gelson, offered almost nothing. There were times when Ireland or SWP would break through on goal, but in terms of concerted attacks there was little there. Not a huge surprise, given the Benjani-Hamann-Ireland-SWP midfield we played with for most of the game.
  • For some time we thought the defensive problem was Garrido. Buy Bridge and we'd be fine. But Garrido had probably his two best ever games for City last games, and we conceded twice both times. It's time for us to face up to the fact that the problem is the Dunne/Richards axis in the middle. Strong last year (although nowhere near the much-missed Distin/Dunne), they have seriously regressed this season. Even when Micah and Dunney both have good games (and when did that last happen?), they look like they've never played together before. There are certain problems (injuries, one good holding player, no good left backs) than cannot be pinned on Hughes/Bowen. This, however, is not one of them.
  • Our next games are Hull away (too combative), Arsenal home (too skillful), Schalke away (too far away) and then United at home (much too good). We might have to wait till December: PSG home on the 3rd, Fulham away on the 6th, to get some more wins on the board. But to be honest I'm not hoping for too much in terms of results until the massive January clearout (more on this soon, I hope).

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Vassell and Benjani start

I wasn't expecting this. Presumably the same system as Thursday: a 4-3-3 with Vassell and Robinho either side of Benji (Jo drops to the bench), with a midfield three of Gelson, Ireland and SWP.

Good attacking options from the bench: Elano, Jo and Evans.

Friday, 7 November 2008

City 3 - 2 FC Twente: Player ratings

Hart: Another solid performance, did well from corners and it is good that he always tries to distribute the ball and start attacks tBoldhe minute he gets it. 7

Zabaleta: More animated than Corluka*. A few great challenges, but also was beaten a few times by Twente's Elia towards the end. One great burst forward on the counter attack. 6

(* I know he shouldn't always be compared to Corluka, but he was Hughes' direct replacement for him, and Corluka was the best right back we have had in a long time)

Richards: Made a few good tackles, but wasn't really noticed - I suppose this is a good thing. Was caught out for the first goal as he appealed for a free-kick, but he wasn't the only one. 6

Dunne: A good leader and sometimes you feel he is the person that stops the defence from collapsing. However, was directly at fault for the second goal - he lost his man in the crowded penalty area. 6

Garrido: You know things aren't right when he is your best defender. To be fair to him though, he made fantastic tackle to stop Twente's Kufo when he was through on goal, and looked less error-prone than Zabaleta. Hopefully his performances will stop Hughes from playing Richards at left back again. 7

Fernandes: Defensive midfielder for City can't be an easy job, as there isnt much help provided by the players in front of you but he aquitted himself pretty well. You will always get bundles of energy and endeavour from Fernandes, and he did not disappoint in this regard. 6

Ireland: Always prepared to put a foot in and showed this by winning the ball back several times in the first half. Also showed that he uses the ball very well with a number of key passes, and played the starring role in the midfield again. 8

Wright-Phillips: He took his goal very well and made a number of good runs, showing he had the beating of anyone he took on. However, sometimes there is so much emphasis on Robinho he gets overlooked. 7

Vassell: Anonymous. Needs to regain match fitness but I don't think he has the quality to play as many games for us this year as he did last year. 5

Jô: A quiet game, but glimpses of quality showed that he has what it takes - the back-heel to Wright-Phillips, the shot which was a flick and making a fool out of a Twente defender to make a scoring oppurtunity. 6

Robinho: For the first half he was ineffectual. But for the second half he was just brilliant. The second goal deserved to win any game, but it also gave him the confidence to try some outrageous skills, most of which came off. Some great runs on and off the ball provided him with two more chances to score, but he hit the post both times. 9 (10 for the second half)

Benjani: Worked very hard and may feature often this season. 7
Elano: Fantastic passing and interplay with Robinho. 7

City 3 - 2 FC Twente

  • The team last night was definitely picked to attack, and for most of the game it did so brilliantly. In all of our home games this season we have been free-flowing and attacking, with the possible exception of our first European games. The league scores at least have been 3-0,1-3,6-0,2-3 and 3-0. This is really impressive, but unsurprising given how good our players are. Last night we again showed that our natural instinct was to attack. We should have got more than three, Jô and Robinho (twice) missing great chances to add to the scoreline.
  • However the defending was worse than usual. It's really difficult to find where the problem is. I thought all of the back five, individually, were generally good last night. Maybe it is more mental than physical, a problem with work ethic, perhaps. It is also important to remember that the formation picked was very attacking and Fernandes seemed to be our only midfielder at times. This balance between defence and attack is one that Hughes is yet to sort out.
  • Vassell and Benjani, who both did not have much match practice, featured prominently. This tells us that they might feature more than we first thought when we bought Robinho and said we would never see them in a City shirt again. Benjani might be a good addition as Jô needs to share the burden of playing up front on his own with someone (of course I'd rather this someone was Bojinov). As for Vassell, I can understand that his hard work makes him a manager's favourite, but the gulf in quality between him and our other forward players is obvious.
  • This was a game that we needed to win in our group. If by the time we play Schalke we still play as openly as we do now, I don't think we have a chance. Schalke themselves only got a point at Racing Santander, where we also have to go to. We should be able to beat PSG at home given that we can turn it on when we want to at the CoMS. But it isn't an easy group and progress will still be a struggle.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Interesting formation

Admittedly I'm only watching on, but we seem to be playing 4-3-3, with SWP in central midfield. Gelson has replaced Kompany holding, while Ireland keeps his place. Robinho and Vassell are either side of Jo.

Is this how it looks to you? We do seem to be playing well - although playing nice football against bad teams at home isn't exactly our problem at the moment.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

FC Twente preview

  • Richard Dunne has a knee problem and is a major doubt. This may not be a bad thing as he is obviously not on top of his game and a break from the action may do him good.
  • Michael Ball, Benjani and Darius Vassell "could be in contention" according to's preview. It is unlikely they will play leading roles after minimal match practice. Ball seems to be third choice left back at the moment, although Benjani's experience might become useful with our current strikeforce of three young forwards. Jô is likely to start if fit, but there is no news on his tonsilitis problem.
  • Hughes showed himself to be a Vassell favourite, when the forward featured heavily in the early European round before his bad injury. I hate myself for saying this, but he could be a useful player to have at the moment, maybe just as a level-headed prescence in the dressing room rather than anything else.
  • Even if he was match fit, which I doubt he is, this is not Vassell's (or indeed Ball's or Benjani's) game. It demands people who have the skill to break down Twente and create chances. That is why we might keep the same attacking line up. We could have done with Vassell at the Reebok last week, though.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Robinho and Elano in Brazil friendly squad

Not great news really.

Brazil have a friendly with Portugal in Gama, Brazil on 19 November.

And Robinho and Elano have both made the squad (Jo has not).

This is a far from ideal time for them to be travelling back to Brazil - three days after our trip to Hull, and, more importantly, three days before Arsenal at home.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Bolton 2-0 City: Player ratings

Hart: Made what I thought was a crucial save to deny Nolan when it was 0-0. Was solid throughout and did not look at fault for the two goals. 7

Zabaleta: Was part of our solid defending for the first 60 minutes of the game. Made a rash challenge in the first half and was booked, which perhaps suggested that he still needs to adjust to the Premier League. The Zabaleta/Corluka debate will only get going once he has played more games. 6

Ben Haim: It's difficult to find faults. Handled Kevin Davies well, along with Dunne. City didn't deserve to concede twice as Bolton didn't threaten for most of the game. Showed urgency when chasing the deficit, which will earn him plaudits with the fans. 6

Dunne: A good game, sprinkled with the crunching tackles and powerful headers that have become his trademarks. Was not helped by inexperienced left-back Richards, and had to calm after he reacted wildly to a foul. 7

Richards: Quite obviously played out of position, but this wasn't his fault. Caught out of position for the first goal, and his performance showed how poorly Hughes rates Ball and Garrido. 5

Wright-Phillips: Whenever he got the ball he was direct and energetic. Had he been given more service, he definitely would have had the beating of Samuel, but has begun to resemble Robinho in the way he drifts in and out of games. 5

Ireland: Ireland showed what an improvement he has been this season, with tireless industry and a great run to see himself through on goal. However, he missed this oppurtunity and had City scored the game would have been different. Was well marshalled by Bolton's midfield three. 6

Kompany: By far City's best outfield performer. Doing all the defensive work of City's midfield, must have felt like he was holding up the sky in the second half. Coped well and was always in the thick of things. Of the midfield three, which consisted of City's best player this year and a Brazilian, he looked the most composed in possession. Reproducing last year's Hamann is not the problem. 7

Elano: Despite his well-documented versatility, one feels in this deeper role he is being shunted out. City have more and better attacking talents than last season, but Elano has been stroppy when he has been substituted and left out. The product of this is unwelcome, especially on trips to the Reebok. Was not given the time he usually has to carve out attacks. 5

Robinho: To his credit, he kept on trying after being physically dominated by the Bolton right-back Steinsson. Fantastic skills, dribbles and the occasional pass that only he saw, but would have liked to be involved in the game more than he was. Is starting to learn how difficult the Premier League is. 6

Evans: When the ball came to him on the ground, he held it up well and brought others into play effectively. When the ball was played to him in the air, he didn't have a hope. Was involved in both our chances, setting up Ireland's one-on-one and missing his oppurnity. A work in progress. 6


Hamann: I thought I was watching Dabo. Gave away the ball more times in his twenty-minute stint than he did for the ninety minutes of his best games last year. 5

Sturridge: Didn't really disturb the wall that Bolton put up at the back after they went one up. Will get more chances due to the lack of options up front. 6

Bolton 2-0 City

  • A reality check. City are very much a new team and we needed to be reminded of this.
    Today's team consisted of five new signings and some more young players. Last year we also had a new team, although the club lost its patience with it and refused to give it a chance to develop. Given what is being written on City message boards, it looks like this might happen again. People always underestimate how long it takes for great teams to develop. Benitez has only put together a team who can win the title in his fifth season. Wenger's third great team is still very much in the pipeline after three trophyless years. However, Mourinho's amazing success with Chelsea sets a standard for new teams that is too unrealistic for most to reach.
  • Martin Tyler raised an interesting point at the end of the game. He said that for tricky away games we might need to drop some superstars, with more than a subtle hint at Robinho. I don't think dropping Robinho is the answer and I don't think many people do. However, it does raise the question of whether Hughes is a strong enough manager to make desicions like dropping Robinho or other high-profile players. He has a tough, uncompromising image in the press, but who knows what he's actually like?
  • Hughes keeps on talking about how we are going to strengthen in January. Firstly, I don't think he should be talking about buying in January as it undermines the current squad. Even so, buying players in January is notoriously difficult (remember last year, nothing until Benjani and Caicedo in the last day). It is naive to think that top class left backs and defensive midfielders with Champions League experience will suddenly appear out of thin air. Also, in order to make themselves an attractive proposition, City need to win games now with the Current squad.
  • Sometimes I think the UEFA Cup is a slightly annoying distraction, but actually I think the game against Twente on Thursday will really help. It is a home game against relatively poor opposition. City should be able to control the game and see a lot of the ball. This could be an oppurtunity to win big and restore the confidence of our attacking players before the game on Sunday against a resurgent Tottenham, which I think we will lose at this rate.

A bad mix

We have the grit of Arsenal and the charm of Chelsea.

Bolton line up

Sturridge on the bench, Jo not in the 18, so Evans starts up front.

Sticks with the Kompany-Elano-Ireland midfield, with Robinho and SWP out wide.

Zabaleta in for Onuoha. Richards or TBH at left back?

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Onuoha out, Aguero in?

Two News of the World pieces on City tomorrow morning.

One is that Nedum Onuoha will leave, to either Blackburn or Birmingham.

The other is that we're going to get Aguero for £35million.

I'm not an Onuoha fan. He's one of a number of players (with Vassell and Ball - two Pearce signings) who don't quite have it for the level we're aiming at.

Aguero, on the other hand, is a very good player. Can't see him coming to CoMS though.

UPDATE Aguero scored both goals in Atletico's 2-0 win over Mallorca this evening. In case you're interested.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Kompany suspended?

Neither the Premier League nor Manchester Evening News seem to think so. I was sure five yellow cards meant a one match ban. Maybe we just have to wait a while for it to kick in?

Anyway, why quibble? We will really need him tomorrow. Is there still a case for playing Fernandes instead of Elano? I'm not sure...

And with Sturridge out, will it be Jo or Evans up front?

It could happen

In the unlikely event that we do win tomorrow, it could be our first win, in any competition, wearing a change kit for more than a year.

That is, of course, presuming that we wear red/black tomorrow.

And that we win.

Fink Tank rates us as having a 36.6% chance of winning (Bolton 37.8%, draw 25.6%).

Bolton preview

The central failure of the Eriksson era was the inability to win away from home against lesser teams.

More than anything else, this was the problem. We lost at Reading, Birmingham, Spurs and Middlesbrough. We drew at Fulham, Bolton, Wigan and Derby.

This is what I wanted Hughes to fix. To combine our attacking flair with the grit of his Blackburn side. But what have we got? A team so physically and mentally weak at times that we make Arsenal look like Chelsea.

Bolton are a really bad team. I hope this is finally the year they go down. But can I go into tomorrow with any confidence of a win? No. We simply don't seem to have the tenacity, the resilience, the bravery or the strength necessary for games like this.

There's no point in stepovers when we just roll over.