Venison sausages, fog, Sunday roast, sunny delight, Jurassic park, the Korean War 1950-53, Les Battersby, fog on the tyne (it’s all mine, all mine).
Well, I might as well write random words, I can’t imagine anyone rushing to read this particular match report.
It’s hard to know where to start with another poor, lifeless performance, but the team sheet is as good a place as ever. And by that I of course refer to the inclusion of David Silva, and to a lesser extent, Yaya Toure.
Pellegrini was caught between a rock and a hard place with the derby on the horizon. With the stinging criticism of the home cup defeat to Wigan last season probably still fresh in his mind, he couldn’t play too weak a team and risk getting slated if City went out, especially as holders of the competition. He could have trusted more in youth, but he’ll know best whether to bed them yet. He probably wishes he had done now. He probably didn’t want to risk Nasri after a spell out with injury. He had to leave Kompany and Aguero out, and chose to do the same with Zabaleta. So with Silva our sole remaining playmaker, Pellegrini probably hoped City could build a lead and then he could take off the Spaniard and Toure. After all, the chances of him getting injured were small, and he could get injured training or getting out of the shower.
Having said that, he’s probably got a really fancy shower, the type you walk in and out of quite easily. Anyway, as soon as we all saw his name on the team sheet, there was a collective wince, as sod’s law came into play. And so it proved, and suddenly a derby game we all thought would be a walkover a fortnight ago is turning into a nightmare scenario and the negativity amongst City fans is almost unparalleled. As I write I don’t know the extent of the injury, but it doesn’t look good for Sunday. The plan backfired spectacularly, he didn’t even get to contribute during the match and Toure has a knock too, and despite his underwhelming season, Sunday could be made for him.
As for the performance, it was quite simply terrible. Barely a single player on the pitch came out with any credit at all, which is extremely worrying. Were they all so preoccupied with the next league match? Whilst the inclusion of Jovetic did not make it a traditional 4-4-2, whatever the shape was it didn’t work once again. The team was sloppy, slow, lethargic, made mistakes when pressed and was prone to the counterattack. It seems teams are working us out.
And this against a team with six changes from the victory at White Hart Lane. There was no thrilling second-half comeback from City, and whilst we might bemoan the late misses from Dzeko and Nasri, which were poor, Caballero prevented us from being two down at half-time and Newcastle clearly should have had a penalty and Kolarov a red card in the second half – the penalty couldn’t have been much clearer to be honest.
I could go through all the team shaking my head as I type, but you know it all anyway. Milner tried his hardest, but couldn’t impose himself on the match, Demichelis was probably the best of a bad bunch whilst Jovetic was lively but everything he tried failed. His shooting was wild, his final pass even wilder. His attempt at a moustache needs to go too.
As for the goals, a hesitant Fernandinho takes the blame for that one, caught in possession far too easily, though the route to goal was far too easy after that, Mangala once more passed by and Caballero nut-megged. The second goal saw pretty poor defending from the same two players as Sissoko breezed through the defence and scored with the keeper failing to make himself big – he was probably scared of being nut-megged once more so made his body compact, which didn’t help.
The worrying thing about the side right now is the clear lack of drive. I hate the word tempo, as it brings images of ex-players sitting in a studio using it as their only basis of analysis, but City certainly don’t have much of it right now. No pace, no cutting edge, no drive, no pressing – a bit melodramatic perhaps, but there’s little fire in the players’ bellies as far as I can see.
As for Pellegrini – I don’t lump all the blame for the performance on his shoulders this time as he put out a strong side and the team, in whatever formation, should have won that game at will. I can’t blame him when whichever Brazilian he plays in front of the defence messes up .Or for his left-backs going through terrible spells. Or Dzeko going through another lean spell. Or the terrible crosses that repeatedly left Kolarov’s boot, or Milners’ boot, or Nasri’s boot, or….
But in a way I do blame him. He’s running this team after all. He must be responsible for the malaise that hangs over this team. The fact is they haven’t played well since last season. For the second time, a City team is defending its title with a shrug of the shoulders. A seemingly good win against Liverpool turned out to be against a fading side. The win against Spurs was due to the brilliance of two players (three including Milner) and not a team effort. The win at Hull was shaky, the loss to Stoke appalling, and the less said about the Champions League the better. Still, at least the team broke some records in the second half against Sheffield Wednesday. Two of the better performances were against Arsenal and Chelsea, but neither were won and City had to salvage a point on both occasions. To complete the ignominy, Pellegrini has been “out-tacticed” this week by Sam Allardyce and the charmer that is Alan Pardew. If he completes the hat-trick against Van Gaal on Sunday, I suggest he goes into hibernation. Manchester City have now won only four of their last twelve matches – their worst run of form since 2009. The thing was that the team masked things for a while by just about picking up good enough results to keep in touch in all competitions and keep the mood satisfactory in a period of quite tricky fixtures, but the mask has fallen now.
The additional worry apart from a run of poor form is the position of Pellegrini. Yes the man who won two trophies last season – that guy. Many City fans are already talking like his position is in danger. None of us know, but I’d be surprised if our owners were really considering that. If a top four finish was under threat it might be different, but the poor form of other teams should not make that an issue, unless the malaise lingers into the depths of the winter.
Still, it’s like this every season at some point – it was the same last season, the season before, and the season before that, and we won the league on two of those occasions. Only later in the season will we be able to judge properly how the season is going (to state the obvious).
What annoys me more though is the utter demonization of two of the summer signings after a handful of games by (many of) our supporters. Willy Caballero has already been written off, he’s gone, by a good section of our support, despite the fact he was one of the best keepers in La Liga for many years, and despite the rather important fact that he’s hardly played for us yet. I’m not trying to say he’s playing well, from what little we’ve seen, he isn’t, it’s just that everything I knew about him before he arrived pointed to a top-class keeper. Don’t give up just yet. Mangala was poor again, though not the only one and is a clear scapegoat now. He is erratic, a terrible trait for a central defender, and is struggling to cope with the English game, and the price-tag hands over him, but again it is early days. I would presume he was extensively scouted, especially for that price, so let’s see how he develops – he has time on his side. My only worry is that a minority of fans will be on his back to the extent he never gets that chance – you only have to look to history, and to how the likes of Boateng and Savic have developed since leaving us to see how that tends to end up.
However, one of Pellegrini’s great strengths was how he improved players, so it is all the more baffling to see how many players have gone backwards this season. As I will mention later, Fernandinho is a ghost of the player he was last season, the performances of Yaya speak for themselves, and he probably takes the blame for that, but Dzeko is back to his worst, Zabaleta has even looked shaky as has Kompany and our left-backs are bang out of form.
And yet despite all this, Nastasic has been sent into exile for the heinous crime of not leaving the club in the summer. I simply don’t understand how a manager can decide he is a worse prospect than Boytata and dismiss him so ruthlessly. Two years ago this young man was the future of our defence. Football shows that a lot can change in a short space of time.
Back to Fernandinho briefly. Football365.com run a regular feature using whoscored.com statistics for player performances. On an article this week about players who have dipped in quality compared to last season, they said this: Fernandinho (Manchester City) – 7.41 to 6.65
While it’s Toure that has come in for criticism for letting his standards slip for Pellegrini’s side this season, the form of Fernandinho has been somewhat overlooked. One of a number of players likely to be haunted by his part in Brazil’s collapse at the hands of Germany, the midfielder has looked a shadow of his best and fallen out of favour to compatriot Fernando. At this stage in the previous campaign Fernandinho had a rating of 7.41, also his rating come the end of the season too.
And so onto the next game, whatever that is. Derby day is horrible, but it can bring one huge plus – win against United and the season will be back up and running immediately. Apparently the team were locked in the dressing room after the West Ham match as an inquest was held and stories soon emerged that the players were hurting and want to put it right against United. It’s just a shame that they forgot there was another game before then.
We can laugh at United not having midweek games, but at least none of their players will get injured in derby week (tries to tempt fate). At this rate we’ll be joining them soon anyway.