Thursday, 5 February 2009


Mark Hughes spent much of the first half of the season criticising the squad he inherited from Eriksson. Weak, unfit, unready for the Premier League etc etc etc.

While he had brought in new players (Wright-Phillips, Kompany and Zabaleta in particular) the squad was still more inherited than Hughes-created : containing Eriksson buys, Pearce buys and Academy graduates in almost equal measure.

With the addition of our four January signings, though, the 'Hughes players' are now the dominant force. Their shared character is based not just on being bought by Hughes, but in a shared set of characteristics, presumably which attracted them to Hughes in the first place. The outfield players are all aged between 22 and 29 (Given is 32), they all have at least 25 international caps (barring Zabaleta with 8), they all have Champions League experience (again barring Zabaleta, who has at least lost a UEFA Cup Final), they are all (and this is important) characterised by being quick, physically strong, athletic and competitive.

I know a lot of that sounds like meaningless platitudes - who doesn't want athletic 20-something full internationals - but I genuinely think it's not. Different managers look for differnt things in transfer targets. Eriksson looked for technically gifted foreigners playing on the continent (and Benjani...), Arsène Wenger looks for talented teenagers, mainly from the French and Spanish leagues, David Moyes looks for the best Football League talent, Kevin Keegan went for ageing millionaires, Damien Comolli for players who were good on Football Manager.

Of course
I recognise that these are generalisations - but I do actually think there is an important point to be made here about different managers looking to buy different types of player.

The point here is that we now have seven such 'Hughes players': Given (slight exception), but then Kompany, Bridge, Zabaleta, Wright-Phillips, de Jong and Bellamy. Stephen Ireland could be classed an 'honourary Hughes player', given that Hughes has helped to transform his game and invested in him in the sense of not selling him to Sunderland when he had the chance in August.

The upshot of this is that Hughes now has ownership of our squad in a way that he didn't before. Yes, there are still Eriksson players making the team (but far fewer than in August), and of course Academy players (although he wants Academy players involved in the team anyway). But once SWP returns from suspension I imagine that all of those seven will start the majority of our league games. And so if we don't start winning games like West Ham away (March 1), Aston Villa home (March 4), and Fulham home (April 11) criticism of Hughes will rightfully become a bit sharper.


Elby the Beserk said...

A good point. But I would still counsel patience. Hughes must have two season at least. Remember, we've been shite for over 30 years. Let's not fuck this up, and lets not hurry.

tommytheblue said...

it's all very well to have patience elby, but Hughes has to achieve some degree of success on the field towards the end of the season.

he now has no excuses the results now reflect the money he has spent.
The owners too have invested their cash and will expect some sort of respone.

you cant guarantee a manager 2 years because of our past failings.

I want a decent few wins now...more than 1 away win for the season.

alex.ash said...

I really believe that we have to look at Villa and ask ourselves how long it has taken Martin O'Neil to forge the team he has there.
I believe he's in his third season and in his first and second seasons he took the team to 11th and 6th, respectively. Gotta give Hughes some time to produce the goods. Remember for the last few seasons the number of players coming into City has been ridiculous, certainly not the right environment to build a team.

pjdemers said...

Alex - I really think you nailed it. O'Neil had a really hard time settling in at Villa. If I recall I think Villa won only 2 games between November and April during his 1st Season. but he was given time and he's come good.

I think Sparky will come good but I think patience is the key word here. despite much need reinforcements I still think the squad isn't deep enough yet but Sparky looks to be addressing this issue.

My only current concern about Sparky is that like Sven there seems to be no plan B. I would like to see City vary our play more. I still get really nervous when we have to chase a game. While we added some need bite there still seems to be some collective self-doubt that creeps into the side now and again. I would like to see City obtain an"over my dead body" attitude that is so prevalent in the German National team. Given Sparky's track record as a player alone he can hopefully instill this mentality in the squad

tommytheblue said...

stop this nonsense with martin oneil, who before he joined villa had won severall titles with villa and leicster.

He came into villa and gave them one of their best winning streaks. They only lost around 10 games all his 1st season....thats not bad cconsidering Hughes has already lost 11 by feb.

i could mention bryan robson ad boro, he was given time, he spent alot and ulitmatley failed. Should we have given frank clarke 3 seasons becasue fergie didnt have the best 1st season.

let's judge on Hughes ability to get the team together for therest of the season and improve our form and judge him on his achievments ..if we think at the end of the season he has made improvments.

pjdemers said...

Tommytheblue - I understand where you're coming from and hear your argument but one bit of difference between Robson and Hughes is that his record at Wales and Rovers suggest he has the ability to do the job. I'm not saying he should get a free ride because of this. we do need to see lot more consistency and much stronger showing from now til May.

My comparison to villa was that they did not come sprinting out the gates during O'neils first season. I believe Villa finished 15th in their first season and it was his second season when Villa started to see what he had brought to the table.

Obviously I'm disappointed with our season so far but we have seen improvement since our woeful displays against the RAGS & WBA. Sparky also has made some good tactical decisions lately (Zaby into MF, Kompany to CD, Moving Richards up front against Rovers late in the game,etc). I just think his record shows that while he's a little slow out of the gates he seems to get it right but I do agree with you we need to see considerable improvement especially in our away form.

I think we'll still blow hot and cold for month before we start to see the needed consistency. But yes Sparky has no more excuses.

BluePeter said...

Boys, what do people really have against Hughes?

Is it the simple fact he used to be a Rag?
If that is the case then it is a stupid argument not worth a second more.

Is it that he has not won trophies in his first season in charge?

We need to break this habit of ditching managers if they don't immediately produce the goods. Patience is something we should possess in bucketfuls, so why this headlong rush to ditch Hughes?

What is the real reason?

You need time to build a dynasty, certainly longer than one season.

Yes Hughes m,akes mistakes - his selections, game plans, substitutions at times can beweilder and infuriate most people. But if not him, who?

Bearing in mind we want to go through a new coaching teams and methods being introduced, along with players going and coming.

BluePeter said...

We have a seemingly endless supply of money which appears to have attracted the jealousy and emnity of most neutral fans.
The downside of this wealth has seen us go from everyone's favourite second team, to a team everyone now takes delight in denigrating.

We have never had the media profile we now possess, which in turn has its positives and negatives.
The negative press will try to bury us as quickly as they can before moving onto their next victims. Sensationalism does and will go hand-in-hand with victimisation.
The positive press will find it hard to make headway until we achieve tangible success - both on and off the pitch.
If we as fans are constantly calling for the manager - whoever-he may-be - to be sacked, it only adds fuel to the negative press's desire to do us down

As a club we have to deal with this; as fans we have to deal with this.

Because we are in the press more, more will be expected of the club, both on and off the pitch, that extends to fans.

So for once give the man in charge a break.

tommytheblue said...'s pretty obvious what has been written here. Hughes has to get results, it's that simple.

i dont know what your trying to imply. But it's pretty obvious why views towards managment.

I dont beleive in being patient for patients sake. Nor do i belive it is wise to let the past influence a decision.

Hughes hasn't been succseful so far, and needs to improve the results. We have as very expensive squad, or which he has worked with the squad for around 7 months. I expect these player to be fully implemented in his trianing regime and fitness standards.

There simply has to be some degree of improvement from now until the end of the season. I expect our owners to expect that too and so will Hughes.
It's not an anti hughes sentiment, it's a need for results from investmant. We need to lose less game than we have been. It;s not unfair or unreasonable.

Gav said...

I'd rate Martin O'Neill as one of the very best managers in the business, he really is up there with The Special One, Taggart and Arsene Wenger. He's done it before with teams much lower down the divisions than Blackburn and Wales.

I like Hughes, but he doesn't have quite the pedigree for him to have a rubbish season and for people to be patient with him. He needs at least some form of half decent results to buy himself the time.

I'm sure he'll get them, but we need to be up the top half to be able to sign players too - it's a virtuous circle.

A good run in the UEFA cup would be a great marker to lay down - I'd want semi-finals at least, let's see how we go...