Sunday, 14 February 2010

City 1 - 1 Stoke

  • Wembley looks a bit further away this evening. Having let a lead slip at home against a side we should beat - a feeling which has become depressingly familiar this season - our progress to the quarter-finals, which felt so likely on Saturday morning, is now unlikely.
  • But this result had been coming for the last few games. I wish our performance was an aberration from the Portsmouth and Bolton home league wins, but it wasn't. In fact, our first half performance was probably better than in either of those games. We kept the ball moderately well, we created a chance or two without ever tearing the opposition apart, and we certainly never pressed and pushed our advantage home as we might. We were defending better today than we did for the first hour against Portsmouth, in terms of chances created.
  • The one difference between today and the Portsmouth and Bolton games was the goal we conceded. Grinding out narrow wins is great but it doesn't give you the luxury of a margin for defensive errors. It certainly doesn't allow you to switch off at a Rory Delap long throw, and fail to pick up the excellent Ricardo Fuller. Like much of the game - the blown lead, the 4-2-3-1 built around Stephen Ireland, the revealed fragility of Joleon Lescott and Kolo Touré it was very reminiscent of the Mark Hughes era. I like to think it would have been different with Vincent Kompany playing, but I am rather prejudiced on this point.
  • Players that we certainly missed were Craig Bellamy and Carlos Tévez. They have shared the role of attacking talisman this season, leading by example, dragging the team with them, creating and scoring chances. So often this season a flat performance has been lifted by a sudden contribution of one of these two. With neither we struggled. There should have been goals in our team - Martin Petrov, Stephen Ireland and Shaun Wright-Phillips lined up behind Emmanuel Adebayor. Wright-Phillips did well (in front of Fabio Capello), but Ireland and Petrov are both out of form and Adebayor's recent goal scoring run does not seem to have coincided with a major improvement in performances. We started well but then failed to create much until a late switch to 4-4-2, as we mimicked Stoke and hurled long balls up to Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz. There were a few half-chances but not enough to put us through.
  • With the money we've spent we should be able to lose a few players and still win home games against teams with away records like Stoke's. Our home record is pretty important, remember. It's the one thing stopping us from being a very average football team. If results today become habitual - and I don't think that they will - then we have little to no chance of reaching our targets for this or any other season. Because our away form certainly isn't going to get us anywhere. Which is why I think we won't be going to Wembley this year.

1 comment:

Johnny Crossan said...

In his post match interview on the OS I think Mancio said that Petrov was injured after 5 minutes and that Ireland was too later in the game.

That would go some way to explaining our lame performance after the goal.

I thought the positives were Bridge, Lescott and Roque - all of whom did well. Sweep was also good in patches.