Can Manuel blow away Manchester City’s malaise?

Manuel Pellegrini’s luxuriant grey locks are probably the only ‘target’ for the hairdryer treatment in Manchester City’s dressing room this season. That has to change – and fast, if City are to win the Premier League for a third time in five years. 

Pep is on his way to burst Manuel's City bubble...but in the meantime there are four trophies up for grabs!

Pep is on his way to burst Manuel’s City bubble…but in the meantime there are four trophies up for grabs!

The cool Chilean is a dignified figure, the personification of composure, not given to red mist reactions, but something has to give if he is to engineer a solution to the ‘manyana mantra’ that afflicts his underperforming team.

It’s as if some players believe there’s always another tomorrow to get the points needed to win the title – it doesn’t have to be today!

Heed the creed - City's underperforming players would do well to practice what is preached at the Etihad.

Heed the creed – City’s underperforming players would do well to practice what is preached at the Etihad.

There’s a slogan hung on a wall at the Etihad which reads: ‘HARD WORK BEATS TALENT WHEN TALENT DOESN’T WORK HARD’ it makes you wonder if some of City’s squad received the memo to read and heed the creed.

When you look at some of the lacklustre showings from key players, the losses that should have been draws and the draws that should have been wins, it’s quite astonishing that City are still just three points off top spot.

Sensational Sergio - Aguero has scored 90 goals in 136 Premier League appearances for City.

Sensational Sergio – Aguero has scored 90 goals in 136 Premier League appearances for City.

Arguably, if City had had a commanding Captain Kompany at the back and been able to call upon Sergio Aguero whenever needed, they would already have piled up a comfortable points buffer over the chasing pack.

Pellegrini makes much of the fact that City are the only team in England genuinely chasing silverware on four fronts. Talk of a Quadruple is fanciful folly when you have a defence strategy as coherent – or incoherent (depending on your political persuasions) – as Jeremy Corbyn’s.

Good Kompany - City look bad at the back when Captain Vincent is sidelined by his calf injury.

Good Kompany – City look bad at the back when Captain Vincent is sidelined by his calf injury.

Any aspirations for trophies won’t last much longer if the likes of Nicolas Otamendi are so easily distracted ‘fixing’ his hair, allowing West Ham to score one of the easiest goals of the season.

The Argentine centre back – one of La Liga’s finest defenders in his time at Valencia – was also at fault for West Ham’s opener, along with Yaya Toure, offering no resistance as the Hammer’s went one up under a minute from kick-off.

Concentration levels - Nicolas Otamendi had the proverbial stinker at West Ham and was culpable in both goals conceded.

Concentration levels – Nicolas Otamendi had the proverbial stinker at West Ham and was culpable in both goals conceded.

Only a combination of Super Sergio and the equally brilliant Joe Hart, saved City from the ignominy of West Ham achieving a first league ‘double’ over the Sky Blues since the early 60s.

Aguero’s sublime 6th minute attempt hit the post, but 120 seconds later he won a stonewall penalty (shock, horror – City were actually awarded a ‘nailed on’ spot kick) which he duly dispatched.

The Equaliser - Where would City be without Sergio Aguero?

The Equaliser – Where would City be without Sergio Aguero?

Sergio’s second equaliser of the day in the 81st minute, was his 90th Premier League goal in 136 appearances – a phenomenal record – bettered only by the all time highest PL scorer, Alan Shearer.

His goal scoring instincts were matched by Joe Hart’s goal saving aptitude at altitude, as England’s Number One served up a strong contender for Save of The Season, with a sensational flying stop from a Dimitri Payet free kick destined for the top corner of the City net.

Save of the Season - High flying Hart's spectacular stop from Payet's free kick.

Save of the Season – High flying Hart’s spectacular stop from Payet’s free kick.

In the end the 2-2 draw was just about right, in a thrilling City farewell to Upton Park (what’s all this Boleyn Ground nonsense) barring a 5th or 6th Round FA Cup tie.

As goodbyes go, this East London encounter really should be the last time Yaya is called upon for a full 90 minutes.

It’s not making the Ivorian colossus a scapegoat for every poor City performance this season, it’s the simple truth that Toure can no longer keep up with the pace of the PL.

Time for change - Yaya has been immense for City but can no longer play the full 90 minutes to good effect. Courtesy@MCFC

Time for change – Yaya has been immense for City but can no longer play the full 90 minutes to good effect. Courtesy@MCFC

His status as a City great is already cemented in the Club’s history and he can still contribute this season, either as an impact sub or for the first 55-60 minutes of a game.

Pellegrini and Yaya have to figure out what’s best for the team, with no room for ego or sentiment – best of luck with that one Manuel.

Only Aguero, Hart and the understated Fabian Delph emerged with any credit from yet another underwhelming away day. With City being overrun in midfield, it was all the more perplexing that Pellegrini failed to introduce Fernandinho as a second half substitute.

Credit - Fabian Delph nearly followed up his goal strike against Crystal Palace, hitting the post against West Ham.

Credit – Fabian Delph nearly followed up his goal strike against Crystal Palace, hitting the post against West Ham.

With more than half the season done and 48 precious points still up for grabs, is City’s proverbial glass half full or half empty?

New Year showings at West Ham, Everton in the League Cup semi final 1st Leg and, for long spells, at Watford have given cause for concern.

Nailed on - Navas scored against Everton but should also have been awarded a stonewall penalty in the League Cup semi final first leg.

Nailed on – Navas scored against Everton but should also have been awarded a stonewall penalty in the League Cup semi final first leg.

True, City can sometimes grind out a result, but where’s the determination, dynamism and dominance that such a talented squad should be displaying? 

The flair and silky skills were evident against Norwich in the FA Cup and Crystal Palace at the Etihad, but it’s all rather hit and miss on a weekly basis.

All is far from lost, but Pellegrini has to get a proper tune out of his squad in the coming weeks or City will be feeling, rather than singing, the blues.

Stones' stonewall scandal - Referee Roger East was the only man in the world who didn't believe Raheem Sterling should have had a penalty when fouled by Everton's John Stones at the Etihad.

Stones’ stonewall scandal – Referee Roger East was the only man in the world who didn’t believe Raheem Sterling should have had a penalty when fouled by Everton’s John Stones at the Etihad.

Everton and Villa are next up in the domestic cups before a potential banana skin at The Stadium of Light where, until recently, City were as illuminating as a 15 watt bulb.

Back-to-back 4-1 romps on Wearside in the league last season and the League Cup in September, plus a similarly resounding Boxing Day win at the Etihad, are three good reasons for optimism, but you never can tell with City’s Keystone Cop defending. Strangely, City still have the fourth best defensive record in the top tier and, as ever have scored the most goals.

Wonderland over Sunderland - City players celebrate in their latest 4-1 Boxing Day win over the Mackems. Courtesy@MCFC

Wonderland over Sunderland – City players celebrate in their latest 4-1 Boxing Day win over the Mackems. Courtesy@MCFC

Amazingly and disturbingly, City are without a win against any of the top seven teams in seven games so far this campaign.

It makes the clashes against leaders Leicester and 4th placed Spurs at the Etihad next month, even more pivotal to City’s title tilt.

Penalty shouts - City have been denied three clear penalties in recent weeks, at Leicester and two against Everton in Cup & League.

Penalty shouts – City have been denied three clear penalties in recent weeks, at Leicester and two against Everton in Cup & League.

After that, if, as hoped, City have beaten a struggling Villa in the FA Cup, it’ll be a 5th Round tie and then off to the Ukraine for a critical encounter in Kiev in the Champions League.

Sting in the tail - Navas and Aguero celebrate Sergio's stunning headed winner at Watford.

Sting in the tail – Navas and Aguero celebrate Sergio’s stunning headed winner at Watford.

The month will hopefully be rounded off with a visit to Wembley and a Capital Cup win. Failing that, it’s another trip to the North East and a date with The Toon – the Geordies having failed to beat City in the league since September 2005.

It’s a gruelling fixture list and City need players fit and focused to take the spoils.

A time for leadership on and off the field. In Kompany's absence City need a new skipper on the pitch.

A time for leadership on and off the field. In Kompany’s absence City need a new skipper on the pitch.

It’s a time for on the field leadership, intensity and a winning mentality. It’s a time for putting any ‘Pep’ talk to one side and for players to live up to their job descriptions as ‘professional’ footballers.

2016 could be Manchester City’s finest’ hour’ – it really could. Equally, the next 16 weeks could be the biggest anti-climax in City’s history.

Rather like Manuel’s hairdryer, it could blow hot or cold.

 

#TrustOurMP

By David Walker

Dedicated to a true Manchester City Lady Blue, Alison Hignett and daughters Rebecca and Abigail, following the loss of husband and dad, Barrie. Rather like a fine Spanish wine, Barrie was a more than decent ‘red’ and will be greatly missed.

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

14 Comments

  1. January 25, 2016  1:33 pm by Richard Cooper Reply

    You have got that article about right David
    Cup competitions apart the games against Leicester and Spurs are crucial. Leicester have only lost 2 games and Spurs, I think, have the best defensive record this season.
    Some of our goals against recently have been pure folly as seen at West Ham and at other times they have looked "all over the place "
    Like you we couldn't understand why Ferna didn't come on after half time as the midfield was being overrun and contributing to the defensive woes. But a point away from home and a fair result.
    But still in 4 competitions and 2nd in the league and all to play for. The brightness on the horizon is the emerging Delph and Iheanacho the form of Fernandinho and strangely enough Fernando has had some decent games of late.
    A fit Mangler should probably replace Mart who admits himself the pace is getting too much and YaYa is best up front and not at the back where his lack of pace defensively was exposed. Always at his best surging through.
    Hopefully Sergio will stay fit and Sterling and KdB get back to 8/10 retings
    New sign should be put up at the Etihad "Clean Sheets Win Trophies"

    • January 25, 2016  3:26 pm by David Walker Reply

      How about 'Clean trophies win sheets ' offer the players an incentive of luxury bedding for winning titles and cups? Hopefully the next month or so will shape our season in the most positive fashion and we arrive in March with the League Cup in the cabinet, top slot in the League, an FA Cup QF beckoning and half way to the same stage of the Champions League. Cheers RC.

  2. January 25, 2016  2:08 pm by Mark Reply

    Very big 6 days coming up. Let's hope Manuel opts for a 442 for all 3 games

    • January 25, 2016  3:20 pm by David Walker Reply

      It does make you wonder how Sergio feels about being a lone striker for so much of the time. Iheanacho has shown he is worth a punt, he has a good scoring rate, is fast, direct and an excellent foil for Aguero. Everton, Villa and Sunderland - all need dispatching - anything less would be a crime with this squad.

  3. January 25, 2016  4:57 pm by Philip Entwistle Reply

    Very insightful David, spot on as usual.
    Yaya's days are now definately numbered on that performance, he has achieved his ambition of wanting away - bye bye.
    I felt really sorry for Silva, our most creative player bar non, hauled off with Toure having the game he was was an insult.
    Our defence, or what is left of it won't win us didly squat this season, without Joe's ability to pull of the spectacular we would be down there with the swamp dwellers as also rans.
    We have over the following 4 weeks or so to play like every game is a Cup final, or we could all be on the beach by the end of February alongside Yaya.

    • January 25, 2016  7:59 pm by David Walker Reply

      The Cup Final scenario is absolutely right - especially the bit about February 28th when, hopefully we will win the League Cup Final. I don't know who conducts the defensive drills at City - if it's Manuel or a member of his coaching team - but whoever it is, they could be accused of claiming money under false pretences if West Ham's goals were anything to go by. The complete lack of concentration on the second was inexcusable.

      If Pep can attract the likes of Pogba this summer, and given the high intensity game that Guardiola demands, it could well mean Yaya will be on his way in the summer. It's strange that a player who has achieved so much with City can divide opinion in such a fashion.

  4. January 25, 2016  5:24 pm by carole Reply

    I'm not buying the Yaya criticism...he's judged more on how often he charges forward and scores than on brilliant passing and vision. David Mooney's recent piece sums him us. Howiehok wrote a similar piece.
    More tellingly, the passionate tweets posted at weekend by City's own Mark Booth say everything I want to say. And when you talk of Kun's sublime effort which hit the bar, who's sublime pass was it that created that chance for him? Yes, Yaya Toure.
    ( Who, by the way, has identical vital stats to someone who is never accused of being 'fat' or overweight'...12st 2lbs, 6ft 2" Diego Costa...)

    When David Silva returned recently, Pellegrini remarked that he " preferred the way we play when Silva is on the pitch". It was a very revealing remark...making clear the City style of play just isn't the same when he is missing. and not the style he wants. Silva, Yaya, Kun, Nasri have an amazing rapport and our short-passing, intricate style is best embodied by this group as it was under Mancini. This, in my opinion, is the reason Pellegrini wants Yaya on the pitch as often as possible. He sets the style, and has been there to do that while others were unavailable for months on end.
    I think our main problem is that very costly players have come in in... KDB and Sterling....and maybe you can include Bony in this... none of whom are familiar with it. Nor have they been able to learn that style or adapt to it, simply because key players from whom they can learn have been missing for the majority of the season.
    .KDB is a super player even if his passing isn't good and he gives the ball away a lot. But he can create and score and has been brilliant at times, but he has a lot to improve on. We have a certain way of playing at City, one the club want, and it may take some time yet before he and Raheem are capable of adapting to it.
    This point was even touched on by Thierry Henry, who said it can take far more than one season to gel with new team-mates and adapt to a style of play your're unfamiliar with.
    Had we had these really KEY players available our performances would have been very very different as the season went on. And the same problem probably applies to Otamendi who doesn't have Kompany there to help him adapt.

    It's a huge pity we didn't have these players in pre-season, that after a few games in which we did very well we lost Silva and Kun and were already without Nasri and Zabaleta. Buy hey, that's not Yaya's fault, nor is it Pellegrini's!

    • January 25, 2016  7:52 pm by David Walker Reply

      Clearly there are pros and cons on the Yaya debate. What he has achieved for City is truly remarkable and there's little doubt he should have had far more recognition for his individual play than that simply bestowed upon him from Africa. He's been a colossus for us in so many ways these past 5 or 6 years, and still has a part - possibly a significant part - to play this season. Most are in agreement that the Yaya of 2013-14 simply no longer exists. It's not his fault that Father Time is creeping (has crept) up on him and, if he is to play regularly, it is for the manager to decide how best he can contribute to the team.

      Playing him in a two man holding midfield does not work. If that's what he is being asked/told to do then Manuel Pellegrini is culpable. If Yaya is deployed as a Number 10 and relieved of any substantial defensive requirements, maybe it might work. If the team buy into such a proposition because of what he contributes elsewhere all well and good.

      We are obviously not of the same opinion on Yaya in the here and now. I just don't think he has the physical capacity to be effective over 90 minutes and would be better deployed in a more limited and impactful time period. As ever I respect your opinions and the rationale that accompanies your thinking.

  5. January 26, 2016  1:57 pm by Neal Everett Reply

    Good article David. It seems that if City are to win the title this season, it will be in spite of Pellegrini and not because of him. Again, two points wasted on Saturday because of poor tactical acumen. At the moment, the balance of the side is all wrong and a double decker bus can be driven through the Blue's defense the way MP has the midfield set up. We really should be at least 10 points better off. In my view the new bloke can't arrive soon enough - whoever that may be!

    I'm hoping for a more positive team selection on Wednesday against Everton; definitely Kun and Kelechi as the front two and a more dominant midfield, with, perhaps, Siva or KDB sitting this one out. Anyway, let's hope a good win provides the springboard to finish the season strongly.

    • January 26, 2016  10:49 pm by David Walker Reply

      Yes, we have to 'go for it ' tomorrow, our strength is in attack and Everton's weakness in defence. It'll be far from easy but we have to believe we are better than the Scousers and get the job done.

  6. January 26, 2016  5:32 pm by Stephen Reply

    As I said on facebook Otamendi had me in a fury. His idiocy helped me to realise football still matters loads to me as I was so apopletic with rage. He is awful and prone to fly in around the pitch to leave is exposed. I genuinely find him awful but been hoping he will settle over time but if we could get 2/3rd's what we paid I would grab it already as I think he might be thick based on the fixing hair vs positional play fiasco. As for Yaya he will go down as an all time city great so hate to see the decline but he does not cut it in a midfield 2 any more. Wish he did as he was best mf in the league but father time has caught up sadly. That Kante at Leicester would be such a pick as replacement. How was he or alli not scouted as 10m for both is mad. 30m min for either now. Still somehow we are still in a good position in league and as you say it could be a season for the ages. Win vs everton tomorrow night and a wembley trip for my birthday sound good! Just have to get planning permission 😉😉

    • January 26, 2016  10:52 pm by David Walker Reply

      So you'll be buying the cakes on Feb 28th? No Yaya jokes - were above that aren't we...aren't we ;-) Otamendi HAS played well for us at times, but he is impetuous and will learn how best to play in the Premier League as time goes on. That said, you'd expect more from him and certainly Mangala at £72m the pair - jeez, that's criminal. I think the transfer cock-ups will be drawing to a close when Pep arrives, albeit Barcelona didn't always get it right during Guardiola's time at the helm.

  7. January 26, 2016  9:27 pm by Doug Henshaw Reply

    Hi Dave it nice peace again my friend. Unfortunately we never know which city is going to turn up till the game gets underway. Defending was indeed a shambles that needs sorting sooner rather than later. I agree Yaya is not any longer a 90min player, the guy is a legend but father time catch's up with us all. MP is not helping us one bit poor tactics & strange descions on subs. Just got to hope the right city turns up in future games starting Wednesday.

    • January 27, 2016  9:22 am by David Walker Reply

      Bang on fella - Ying or Yang, good or bad, sensational or sub-standard??? It's not arrogant to say but we REALLY should be beating Everton at home in a Cup semi final. Whether we do or not...well, I'll get back to you at 22.00hrs ;-)

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