Milestones, mishaps & ‘miracles’ – Man City 3 WBA 0

There was something distinctly surreal about City’s routine seasonal home win over the not-so ‘Boing Boing Baggies’.

The dreaded lunchtime kick-off and the aftermath of Wednesday night’s humbling in Barcelona, meant this was always going to be an understated affair…but still, it managed to produce its fair share of shocks and surprises.

Surprise send off - Neil Swarbrick did what his colleagues have been doing all season...got it wrong AGAIN! Courtesy@MCFC

Surprise send off – Neil Swarbrick did what his colleagues have been doing all season…got it wrong AGAIN! Courtesy@MCFC

A sending off with 89 seconds of kick-off is unusual, even more so when it’s the wrong player being shown the red card.

Referee Neil Swarbrick maintained the abysmal standards set by his colleagues all season long, by giving Albion’s Gareth McAuley his marching orders in another case of mistaken identity.

Wilfried Bony opened his City goals account on just his second Premier League start for his new club, albeit some foolish folk had already begun casting aspersions on the wisdom of his £25m acquisition from Swansea.

Opening goal salute - Wilfried scored the first - hopefully of many - for City. Courtesy@MCFC

Opening goal salute – Wilfried scored the first – hopefully of many – for City. Courtesy@MCFC

The Ivorian strong man could and probably should, have been awarded Man of the Match honours. He showed what City can expect in the weeks, months and years that lie ahead – a strong leader of the front line who will give a great return on investment.

Bony’s first strike in sky blue contrasted with a multitude of club and individual milestones that came to the fore, in a game where an alleged 45,018 crowd mustered all the atmosphere of a Tupperware party on the moon.

1000 NOT OUT - Super Frank clocked up his 1000th appearance in senior football in the WBA game. Courtesy@MCFC

1000 NOT OUT – Super Frank clocked up his 1000th appearance in senior football in the WBA game. Courtesy@MCFC

Super Frankie Lampard, making an all too rare start for City, notched up his 1,000th appearance in senior level football. Manuel Pellegrini took charge of his 100th game as City boss. Joe Hart kept his 100th clean sheet in City’s goal, while at the opposite end, Fernando – of all players – scored City’s 1000th goal of the club’s Premier League tenure.

So much history in the making and still plenty of room for irony, self deprecating humour and corner kick controversy.

Following Bony’s well executed 27th minute opener, it was the much maligned Fernando who stabbed the ball home 13 minutes later, taking City’s PL goal tally into four figures.

Praise The Lord - miracles can happen...Fernando scored...and from a corner - allegedly! Courtesy@MCFC

Praise The Lord – miracles can happen…Fernando scored…and from a corner – allegedly! Courtesy@MCFC

It stemmed from a corner kick – City’s 262nd corner since Martin Demichelis headed an equaliser in the 2-2 draw with Arsenal, back in September. City’s abysmal corner kicking has been a hot topic all season long.

The question was, did the goal derive directly from a corner, or was it in a second phase of play? If it’s the latter, City are now up to 270 corners and no goals scored.

Fernando, having what many saw as his best game in a City shirt, was also reported to have later apologised for his goal, explaining that he’d lost his bearings, wasn’t sure which way he was facing and that his shot was actually intended as a square pass…(it’s a joke for goodness sake).

In other breaking news for anorak statisticians, City mustered 26 first half shots on goal, the most in a top flight English game since 2003/04, and 43 by the final whistle – one of which David Silva deflected in for his 11th league goal of the season.

Silva service - Merlin celebrated goal number 11 in the Premier League this season. Courtesy@MCFC

Silva service – Merlin celebrated goal number 11 in the Premier League this season. Courtesy@MCFC

As for Joe ‘BraveHart’ of Barcelona, who produced the most saves ever by an English keeper in the Champions League, he was completely redundant as Tony Pulis’ pugilists failed to land a single metaphorical glove on Hart’s goal.

It had been oh so different in the Catalan capital, where England’s finest had produced one of the most mesmerising goalkeeping displays of modern times.

Thankfully the El Barca masses weren’t familiar with the City ditty ‘It should have been 10, it should’ve been 10…’ otherwise a Spanish derivation could have been echoing around the sprawling, dilapidated expanse of the Camp Nou.

The Joe Show - Hart thwarts Messi for the umpteenth time in the Nou Camp. Courtesy@MCFC

The Joe Show – Hart thwarts Messi for the umpteenth time in the Nou Camp. Courtesy@MCFC

With so much speculation and repercussions rippling around in the wake of City’s Champions League exit, there were some notable absentees from the line-up against Albion.

Petulant Samir Nasri, booked in Barcelona when he could so easily have been sent off for violent conduct, was conspicuous by his absence. Aleksander Kolarov, booked for body-checking Lionel Messi didn’t make the sub’s bench, whereas Yaya Toure was missing through injury.

Even if fit, would the lumbering Ivorian have warranted a place after his lacklustre loafing around in Barcelona?

Exit strategy - should Yaya be allowed to leave this summer as City rebuild their team? Courtesy@MCFC

Exit strategy – should Yaya be allowed to leave this summer as City rebuild their team? Courtesy@MCFC

Yaya has been a critical factor in City’s success, ever since Roberto Mancini signed him from Barcelona and converted him into a world class attacking midfielder.

He was by far the most influential player in last season’s Premier League title win, but, less than two months shy of his 32nd birthday, is it time for him to leave the Etihad as City revamp an ageing team that isn’t going to get any better?

The only way City can accommodate Yaya – now a luxury item – is to deploy him as a No 10 – excused from defensive duties, tracking back and any collective work ethic.

His return from a successful African Cup of Nations, where he captained the Ivory Coast to victory, was supposed to reignite City’s PL title defence and drive them on, deep into the Champions League knockout stages.

Feeling the pain - Silva was devastated to lose in Barcelona but not all City's players seem to care as much. Courtesy@MCFC

Feeling the pain – Silva was devastated to lose in Barcelona but not all City’s players seem to care as much. Courtesy@MCFC

He talks a great match – as does Nasri – but that’s mainly what both do nowadays – just talk. Edin Dzeko let’s his body language do his talking – he has done all season and, bar one good show against Newcastle, failed to deliver.

And yet Manuel Pellegrini is the one getting all the flak for City’s ineptitude in the PL and their stumbling in the Champions League.

With eight league games to go it’s time City realised the need to balance the books, in both apportioning blame for ‘failure’ and shaping up for the summer transfer window.

KO time - Kolarov Off - despite signing a new deal the Serbian left back could be heading to Italy this summer. Courtesy@MCFC

KO time – Kolarov Off – despite signing a new deal the Serbian left back could be heading to Italy this summer. Courtesy@MCFC

Yaya, Nasri, Dzeko, Kolarov, Fernando, Navas, Jovetic should all go, along with the inevitable departures of Lampard and Milner.

Such an exodus is essential if City are to raise funds to refresh a squad that has lost its appetite for success.

Say what you like about Alex Sir Baconface Ferguson and his detestable Red scummers, but they somehow maintained their hunger and desire for title after title after title. City don’t have it in their DNA at present.

Sweet spot - Bony hit the first of City's three goals against WBA. Courtesy@MCFC

Sweet spot – Bony hit the first of City’s three goals against WBA. Courtesy@MCFC

It would be arrogant to expect unremitting success for City in this new era of wealth and expectations, but it shouldn’t be wrong to expect a bunch of multi-millionaire players to stretch every muscle and sinew trying to achieve it.

Clearly some don’t.

Past glories can no longer mitigate for a lack of application and effort. If buyers can be found among the likes of Inter Milan, PSG, Wolfsburg, Juventus and Sevilla, then City might recoup £100m or so.

The club has failed to land a stellar signing since Sergio Aguero FOUR YEARS ago. That has to change this summer if City have realistic ambitions to be England’s top club once again, and at least compete properly with Europe’s best.

Four long years - Sergio Aguero was City's last stellar signing way back in 2011.Courtesy@MCFC

Four long years – Sergio Aguero was City’s last stellar signing way back in 2011.Courtesy@MCFC

How much will be at Pellegrini’s disposal – assuming Manuel is kept on for the third and final year of his contract – remains to be seen.

Another factor unknown to the masses is, who actually calls the shots in City’s transfer dealings?

If Sheikh Mansour demands that MP up his game, surely the same must apply to Director of Football, Txiki Begiristain.

Winners - can Sergio & Manuel help steer City to Premier League and Champions League success in the years to come? Courtesy@MCFC

Winners – can Sergio & Manuel help steer City to Premier League and Champions League success in the years to come? Courtesy@MCFC

Looking further ahead, if City’s masterplan is to have Pep Guardiola succeed Pellegrini in 2016 – if not before – will the Bayern Munich coach have any off-the-radar say in who City should be targeting this summer?

Stranger things have happened.

It’s almost as strange as City scoring from a corner after 262 attempts…but there again, that remains a matter for debate.

 

By David Walker

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

 

 

16 Comments

  1. March 22, 2015  6:53 pm by Doug Henshaw Reply

    Great read as always Dave had a good chuckle about the Fernando piece losing his bearings wasn't sure which way he was facing lol. Great to see that MP followed my advice & started with Lamps. It was vital we got the win & just as vital we gave a good performance but the main thing is 3pts in every game now if possible. I still think its thanks & goodbye to MP we are not progressing under him in fact I think we have gone backwards but that's just my opinion. Hope we can keep Jovetic he's miles better then Dzeko & should never have got the chop from cl squad. Keep up the good work Dave & thank you.

    • March 22, 2015  11:33 pm by David Walker Reply

      Well we certainly haven't progressed on the field that's for sure, but that can't all be blamed on MP. Change of personnel on the field required in the summer and maybe we'll view MP in a more favourable light next season, if he's still with us. Thanks Doug.

  2. March 22, 2015  7:07 pm by Stephen Reply

    It was a goal from a corner please. Agree clear out needed but scouting network needs to up its game. If hummels is to be sold we should sign him. New left back and vibrant midfirlder are essentials. I know englidh premium tax but i liked look of derby left back as a development project. Young and hungry would suit. As for yaya i would bite hand off at anything 5m+ to be honest as attitude as a senior player is a disgrace.

    • March 22, 2015  11:38 pm by David Walker Reply

      On his recent performances - no hang on - on most of his performances this season, Yaya doesn't merit the status accorded to him in previous seasons. It's a shame but he has been unprofessional and maybe the time has come to move him on. That said £5m would be too much of a bargain - surely we could get £10m+. If he wasn't so Goddam lazy he'd still be a tremendous asset, but there's no point keeping any player if he can't be bothered. Hummels would be a good shout but must confess I'm not au fait with the Derby left back.

  3. March 23, 2015  12:12 am by Phill Reply

    Interesting how at the game Silva was MOTM over the PA system yet NBC in the States gave it to Bony - yet I thought Aguero had a great game - recall a few times he lost the ball and went on and won it back.

    • March 23, 2015  12:29 am by David Walker Reply

      Sergio put in a very tenacious showing, one that I think mirrored his frustrations at the way he and the team have performed in recent weeks. If only the likes of Yaya, Nasri, Dzeko and Kolarov gave the same levels of commitment. Cheers Phill.

  4. March 23, 2015  11:00 am by John Ogden Reply

    Good article again David and an interesting list of exit players. Agree with most, though I too would question the wisdom of selling Jovetic. I prefer him to Dzeko and as MP likes 2 players for every position, we would need 2 new strikers if they both go..
    Still hoping Milner stays. If Yaya goes (and Lampard) maybe he will get more central midfield roles.

    • April 1, 2015  11:23 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks very much John. On the evidence of this season, I prefer most players to Dzeko ;-) but I just feel Jovetic flatters to deceive and hardly ever delivers. I think his value to City this summer could be as leverage in the Italian transfer market, as we seek to upgrade the squad with players of the calibre of Paul Pogba. Time will tell.

  5. March 23, 2015  11:46 am by carole Reply

    This endless criticism of Yaya and others is totally OTT. Stop and think!
    While Pellegrini spoke yesterday about the effect the recent African Cup of Nations has had on Bony.... playing 6 games in 18 days....imagine how much more mentally and physically draining that competition must have been for their 31 year old captain....who is then expected to come back and immediately drive his club to CL and PL glory too...
    I heard the BBC Africa football correspondent highlighting this recently.. He put Yay's form down to simple fatigue, both mental and physical. He said it was a very exhausting competition in difficult conditions in which all Ivory Coast's expectations rested on Yaya dragging them to victory and that it was particularly tough for him. He too played every 3 days....is he expected to come back and immediately be at his best for us? He has in effect had TWO world cups to cope with this last nine months...
    I don't believe he's lazy or unprofessional. I don't believe ANY of the players don't care or 'aren't trying'. I think they're tired, mentally and physically..knackered...simple as that. It's been a long and tiring season, especially for those who went to the latter stages of the world cup ( and we had more than most there!) We've had injuries to key players too..
    Take a look back to the gruelling Christmas/New Year period and remember just how much effort WAS put in by the lads! They won Pellegrini MOTM for December...we were in terrific form....pressing, closing down, working our socks off.
    Do you seriously imagine that at some point, they all decided to down tools? Couldn;'t it just be that there was nothing left in the tank?
    Once a team go on a losing streak, confidence suffers. Chances aren't taken, shots go inches wide of the mark. Belief drains away. We've even seen it with Sergio, who can't buy a goal just lately...
    And it isn't just US who are suffering from the lack of a winter break is it? Chelsea are struggling too....some of their results have been bizarre...they haven't been playing well in the PL or the CL for weeks now...look at the way they allowed Hull back in the match yesterday...shades of Burnley at the Etihad . Fabregas has faded, Oscar looks lifeless, stalwarts like Ivanovic & Cahill are rocking,

    We all know a lot of our problems have been in defence. We've never had a settled back 4, there's no continuity. Vinny has spoken at length recently about how debilitating his injuries have been ( and how tough it's been dealing with his sister's cancer struggle ) MP has spoken of Mangala..the difficulties of settling in to the PL and our style of play. It's the same for Fernando. They are human beings first...can't we cut them some slack? None of us have any idea what levels of fitness different players are at or what problems they are facing in their daily lives!

    It seems to me that most fans expect them to perform like Rolls Royces the entire season!! That they're written off when they have a bad patch...wow, it was only a few weeks ago that most were overjoyed that Nasri was back from injury we'd missed him so much! How do we know he isn't still suffering the after-effects of his operation which he said was difficult to recover from?

    Before you judge, consider this: If there's one player who NO ONE could ever accuse of dereliction of duty it's Zabaleta. So how come he, too, has been below his best for a long time now? Isn't his faltering form the real indicator of the true situation....that the entire team ARE giving their all but simply haven't the physical resources to deliver 100%?

    • March 24, 2015  6:48 am by David Walker Reply

      As ever fair Carole you make some fair and valid points. Maybe I am overly harsh which is where your viewpoint comes in at the other end of the spectrum.
      I always respect your opinions, but inevitably it appears that we adopt a different perspective on the abilities and attitudes of some City players. The beauty of a democracy.
      Thanks for reading, albeit at this rate you'll probably stop doing so sometime soon ;-)

  6. March 23, 2015  1:40 pm by Richard Cooper Reply

    Firstly ithink I should apologise to Wilfried as prior to Saturday I was a bit underwhelmed by him but he certainly did look like the player we expected with a terrific goal and a commanding 90 odd minutes.
    Even with eleven men the Baggies would, I think, have been pretty awful which allowed Mangler and Fernando to have good games and hopefully they will carry on with similar performances.
    Lamps who deserved his start could have had a hat trick and along with Merlin, Bony and Sergio a score of 6-0 would not have flattered City.
    The atmosphere was very flat but in such a one sided game the excitement comes only by waiting to see if Sergio will score or will Myhill make another good save.
    YaYa was, is and always will be an enigmatic character - when he is good he is awesome and at other times his laconic style can be annoying but I am unsure whether he or Nasri, Dzeko etc are lazy and not caring individuals just good players who have good and bad days.
    Certainly Nasri was lamentable in Barcelona and Edin's goals per game this year have been poor but they don't become bad players overnight - a conundrum to be sorted at the end of the season as will the future of MP despite the endless speculation.
    For now all that is important is to ensure we chase Chelsea "all the way" and at least secure second place - then City can have the inquest on the Manager and certain players.

    • March 24, 2015  8:39 am by David Walker Reply

      In short RC - agreed, although I stick to my guns that we can't rely on players such as Yaya Nasri Dzeko Fernando Kolarov if we want to be the best - too hot & cold.

  7. March 23, 2015  6:01 pm by Stephen Reply

    The tiredness argument is potentially valid bar for fact that yaya has not been 60% at any point. "Cakegate" seems to have taken its toll. Kane and eriksen at spurs have played more games but look vibrant. I hate to give players an excuse and as a fan i can accept any result if I can see full effort being given. Just seen too little this year imo

    • March 24, 2015  8:44 am by David Walker Reply

      Agreed Stephen. This will doubtless be controversial & I'll be criticised BUT, if by playing for national teams players are too tired to do their hugely well paid 'day job' they either, shouldn't do it or, take a month unpaid leave to recover. It's City who suffer.

  8. March 26, 2015  5:13 pm by Toby Teasdale Reply

    I think the Sheikh will be looking for someone to come up with 'the big one' I can see the same kind of shuffling’s, briefings and votes of confidence that preceded Pellegrini's arrival. I don't think Guardiola would be the best choice as City's next manager. For him City will be just another 2-3 year £50m stint.

    Our next manager must know how to win the big cups, yet be someone we can love and who could love us. Just like choosing the next family pet!

    Apart from recalling Mancini that leaves his 56 year old pal Ancelloti and his assistant 42 year old Paul Clement. (Who is itching to branch out on his own, and may need some persuading). A partnership in the Mercer Allison mould would suit us nicely, but not perhaps the enigmatic Soriano and Begiristain. They want a patsy!

    Hopefully our owners are right now pondering where the £190 million blown on transfers has gone? And why we have regressed (as a team) since Mancini was culled? The blame is not Pellegrini's. He can only work with what he's given, to that extent FPP MAY HAVE BEEN A BLESSING.

    • March 27, 2015  7:41 am by David Walker Reply

      Interesting points TT. If Pep isn't willing to Come to City within required timescales then Ancelotti would appear the natural choice. He'd have to insist on sole control and tell Soriano & Txiki to 'back off',

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