Mind the gap…

Space was the ‘Final Frontier’ for Star Trek’s Captain Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise as they vowed to ‘boldly go where no man has gone before…’

To boldly go... - Star Trek's Captain Kirk, flanked by Mr Spock (left) & Dr. 'Bones' McCoy.

To boldly go… – Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, flanked by Mr Spock (left) & Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy.

The cult science fiction TV series of the late 1960s and early 70’s swept all before it and now, here in 2015, another Captain whose surname begins with ‘K’ has some spatial issues to address, if he wishes to enter previously unchartered territory.

Manchester City skipper Vincent Kompany, on-field leader of the Champions of England, needs to literally step up and take his team to a place where the sky might not even be the limit – back-to-back Premier League titles.

The gap between second placed City and PL leaders Chelsea is presently five points. A win for Jose Mourinho’s team over Manuel Pellegrini’s side on Saturday night, would see the chasm widen to a yawning eight points.

Unchartered territory - Captain Kompany needs to step up from the back and help City retain the Premier League title for the first time. Courtesy@MCFC

Unchartered territory – Captain Kompany needs to step up from the back and help City retain the Premier League title for the first time. Courtesy@MCFC

Such a gulf could prove unbridgeable for City for a second time this season. They’ve already done it once, having sat level on points at the top on New Year’s Day. To do it again is always possible, but perhaps improbable.

If City are to haul themselves back into PL contention, Captain Kompany and his defensive crew would be well advised to take a few steps forward…and get closer to their defensive midfield colleagues.

At this point it has to be stated that Manuel Pellegrini, winner of the Premier League and Capital One Cup in his first season in England, winner of numerous league titles and cup competitions in his native South America and winner of 28 international caps for Chile, is pretty tactically astute, but there are areas of glaring concern, as seen from the ‘terraces’.

Trusted Engineer - Pellegrini needs to sharpen City's performances and tighten up at the back. Courtesy@MCFC

Trusted Engineer – Pellegrini needs to sharpen City’s performances and tighten up at the back. Courtesy@MCFC

City continue to leak goals at an alarming rate, (10 in the last 6 games) so something is fundamentally wrong with the team’s defending.

Changes in personnel, injuries, loss of form, even jet-lag have been cited as the source of the problem – all with varying degrees of merit – but a defence sitting too deep and disconnected from its midfield, is a common denominator.

For anyone who has studied City and sought a cure for the team’s defensive frailties, look no further than the space between Kompany and Co and the much maligned likes of Fernando and Fernandinho.

Dino delight - Fernandinho celebrates his goal at Goodison Park earlier this month, but his overall form has been patchy. Courtesy@MCFC

Dino delight – Fernandinho celebrates his goal at Goodison Park earlier this month, but his overall form has been patchy. Courtesy@MCFC

Once City lose possession in the middle of the park – and they’ve been quite good at doing so in recent weeks – their opponents find themselves with a good 15-20 yards to gather momentum, look up, seek options, maraude forward and bear down on Joe Hart, or occasionally, Willy Caballero’s goal.

If City held a much higher backline and compacted the space between defence and midfield, any loss of possession could be addressed quickly and more effectively by a defender in closer proximity.

Hart-Stopper - Opponents are getting through to threaten Joe Hart's goal far too often recently. Courtesy@MCFC

Hart-Stopper – Opponents are getting through to threaten Joe Hart’s goal far too often recently. Courtesy@MCFC

What’s stopping Pellegrini introducing the higher defensive line? Surely it can’t make City any more vulnerable and susceptible to being hit on the break than has already been seen, to such painful effect, in recent games.

Does the manager, or indeed City’s defensive corps, lack the confidence or collective self belief to adopt such a system?

Fernando and, to a lesser degree, Fernandinho, have come in for what many would say is justifiable criticism, as City have lumbered through some lack lustre showings since the turn of the year.

Field Marshall - Vincent Kompany & City would benefit from playing a higher line of defence.. Courtesy@MCFC

Field Marshall – Vincent Kompany & City would benefit from playing a higher line of defence.. Courtesy@MCFC

Undoubtedly under-performing, the ‘F’ men might have fared better if their mistakes hadn’t been compounded by City’s ‘spaced out’ formations.

As if conceding goals wasn’t a big enough problem, City have – by their own standards – been well down in the ‘Goals For’ column. The crippling run of injuries to Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic is an obvious reason, but it can’t be cited as the sole explanation.

The arrival of Wilfried Bony to City – hopefully sooner rather than later if Cameroon can beat the Ivory Coast and send ‘The Elephants’ crashing out of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) – will beef up the firepower.

Time out - Sergio's injury absence has impacted on City's goals haul this season. Courtesy@MCFC

Time out – Sergio’s injury absence has impacted on City’s goals haul this season. Courtesy@MCFC

If Pellegrini runs true to form City will continue with the manager’s preferred 4-4-2 set up, after all, it’s served the Chilean well in most instances in the domestic game.

Even so, many fans, perhaps even some of the players, would prefer greater flexibility from the City boss, especially at times when the City midfield is outnumbered and overrun by the opposition.

Five alive - City cannot expect to succeed in the Champions League if Pellegrini's 4-4-2 formation leaves them light in midfield.  Courtesy @MCFC

Five alive – City cannot expect to succeed in the Champions League if Pellegrini’s 4-4-2 formation leaves them light in midfield. Courtesy @MCFC

High profile defeats in the Champions League in recent years, notably against Barcelona and Bayern Munich, have emphasised the naivety of allowing two strikers to become stranded, as City’s midfield is suffocated by the sheer weight of numbers and intensity of an opponent’s pressing game.

Both Arsenal and Middlesbrough targeted David Silva, in the belief that if you nullify the mesmerising Spanish playmaker, you snuff out the bulk of City’s creativity.

Magical - Merlin is brilliant but opponents are targeting him to stifle City's creativity. Courtesy@MCFC

Magical – Merlin is brilliant but opponents are targeting him to stifle City’s creativity. Courtesy@MCFC

Without Nasri and Yaya present to take advantage of the attention being paid to Merlin, it’s a ploy that has worked for City’s opponents.

Deprive Silva of the space in which to operate, ensure that he and Sergio Aguero are kept apart by resolute defending and you have more spatial issues, this time with the attack too far away from their supply lines.

Knockout - City will be quietly hoping the Ivory Coast are eliminated from the African Cup Nations this week because Yaya could be back in time for Chelsea away on Saturday. Courtesy@MCFC

Knockout – City will be quietly hoping the Ivory Coast are eliminated from the African Cup Nations this week because Yaya could be back in time for Chelsea away on Saturday. Courtesy@MCFC

When forced to play without any recognised striker, Pellegrini found that a 4-5-1 set-up more than served its purpose, even when James Milner was playing as a makeshift centre forward.

With Yaya and Bony’s availability for Chelsea unclear until the conclusion of the Group Stages at the AFCON, Pellegrini, presumably cannot finalise his game plan in attack.

It doesn’t, however, preclude him from working on his defensive drills, hoping Kompany is back up to speed asap (maybe Warp Factor 10 in ‘Trekkie’ terms) and City’s midfield and rear are as tight a drum.

Tight at the back - Fernando might benefit if there was less space left between City's defensive midfielders and defence. Courtesy@MCFC

Tight at the back – Fernando might benefit if there was less space left between City’s defensive midfielders and defence. Courtesy@MCFC

You never know, Fernando might even hear the drums…beating out to the rhythm of a seismic win for City on Saturday night.

 

#TrustOurMP

By David Walker

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

 

13 Comments

  1. January 27, 2015  6:01 pm by pete lynch Reply

    What i would give for a win at the bridge! Intelligent piece as always and a read i always look forward to. Thank you!

    • January 27, 2015  7:26 pm by Toby Teasdale Reply

      Seven no trumps do you Peter?

    • January 27, 2015  7:52 pm by David Walker Reply

      I'd give your right arm for a win at the Bridge ;-) Intelligent might be pushing it Pete, but either way the cheque's in the post! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  2. January 27, 2015  6:21 pm by Doug Henshaw Reply

    Great read Dave i hope you sent it to MP. Personaly I would go one up top. But which ever way MP sets up if it isn't working in hope he changes sooner rather than later same with substitutions. For me these are two of his biggest failings. Here's hoping Dave.

    • January 27, 2015  7:36 pm by David Walker Reply

      Young MP knows more about football than I will ever know. I still have trust, BUT, as you rightly point out, his stubborness/belief that he is doing the right thing, could become a vice rather than a virtue if he doesn't play to his team's strengths. At present we do not have a midfield four who are dynamic enough to hold their own against an opponent's five. The outlook could and should be so much brighter by Saturday night. Thanks mate.

  3. January 27, 2015  7:24 pm by Toby Teasdale Reply

    Sunday will be a midfield dog fight, Maureen will see to that If we run Chelsea will bite our heels, if we walk they will eat us. (David, little Oscar’s up for it, is the ‘Black Bitch’ available?).

    IMO the Nando's and Navas have been misfiring and Kompany's still not fit. Time now for Pellegrini to go boldly.

    Hopefully Manuel (if he is reading this) will opt for 4:5:1

    Zabaleta, De Michelis Mangala, and Clichy.

    The midfield dogs of war; Jovetic, Lampard, Milner, Nasri and Silva.

    And coming back to fitness, Aguero

    Captain Picard said ‘It is possible to commit no errors and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life’. Still, we have seen in our last two home games, how important it is to want to win.

    Now let battle commence and may the best team win.

    • January 27, 2015  7:32 pm by David Walker Reply

      How very dare you presume that Mollie Zaba would be 'up for it'. Good God man she needs to be won over with an Oscar winning performance, wined and dined by her new PAL and he needs to Winalot and show himself to be deserving of a pedigree chum. He can Cesar the moment (correct spelling) but only when MZ feels he is a suitable suitor! You can have your midfield dogfight on Sunday if you wish - I'll be more than happy to see City swanning down the cat walk on Saturday night ;-)

      If - IF - the Ivory Coast have been dumped out of the AFCON, maybe we can have our Elephants on the bench...which would be nice.

      I concur - may the best team win...provided their name ends with CITY. Always a pleasure never a chore TT - thanks again.

      • January 28, 2015  7:13 am by Toby Teasdale Reply

        Perhaps MZ is waiting for Bony, particularly with you 'swan' ning down the cat walk!!

        Come on you Macaroons!

  4. January 28, 2015  7:53 am by Guvnor Reply

    I think we should leave Lampard out of it as much as possible, it will be too emotional for him, he wouldnt want to score at Stamford Bridge, I wouldn't trust him. 5 man midfield Aquero to start, if nothing from him after 20 minutes, jovetich, then Dzeko last resort.
    I do feel the worse, we lose it in midfield all the time, teams put two men on Silva then he is out of it.
    But there is always hope, stay off the ref, then get the rewards. 1-2 City says my heart.
    My Head is just muddled. See Ya all

    • January 28, 2015  8:44 am by David Walker Reply

      You could be right with Super Frankie - consummate professional he may be - but it is a big ask & the emotion could get the better of him. Chelsea fans could be aggressive towards him and it could go either way in his mind - leave him upset or angry. Maybe CFC fans would do better to accord him respect.

      If City are in right frame of mind I think we can win or at least get the draw...& then go on and retain the title!

  5. January 28, 2015  1:08 pm by Richard Cooper Reply

    The conundrum of defence and midfield.
    Certainly the defence should higher but it is the lack of a battling midfield that causes concern. Perhaps put Milner into the midfield mix - his non stop running and enthusiasm could help, and have Navas as an out and out winger. Fernandinho on his good days shows a lot of promise but to me Fernando is the disappointment of this year. At the start of the season he looked like NdJ with a bit more skill but alas, recently, he appears somewhat lost .
    Am sure Kompany will come back to his best and at present Demichelis is the most reliable partner. Mangala has promise but is prone to moments of recklessness.
    1st half last weekend Jovetic was ok - probably looked our most likely goalscorer and as I am sure he will be here until at least summer, he can hopefully deliver the goals his game has been lacking, and Sergio was livelier than the previous week and should cause Chelsea a few problems.
    Is Nasri fit yet ? and with Dzeko now back surely there are goals on the not too distant horizon.
    As I said earlier this week I think it will be a lively affair at the Bridge and with more space than home games we could and should cause Chelsea a few problems. Please sort out the defensive and midfield woes and do all we can to concede nothing or only 1 goal.
    Hope the match isn't remembered for anymore of the unacceptable "goings - on" of last night, and a draw will make me happy but a victory will make a pretty good journey home.

    • January 29, 2015  2:37 pm by David Walker Reply

      The 'goings-on' of Tuesday could yet weigh heavily in City's favour if Costa's three-match ban is imposed and Fabregas is missing through injury. It all seems to good to be true, but even then, we should not take Chelsea lightly, not for one moment. One thing is for sure if Costa and Fabregas are missing and Chelsea win then there can be no excuses. Forget Yaya and Nasri being absent, the loss of Diego and Cesc would more than balance the books in terms of available personnel.

      It's a bit of a cliche, but it's time for City to step up and show their mettle, no excuses, no blaming the ref, albeit that it is Twattenburg. I think City have regressed from where they were in May 2014. Now is the time for Kompany, Dzeko and Sergio to get back in the groove and the newbies like Fernando to earn their bloody wages! I still think we can get a win or, at the very least a draw, and then go again with a fit squad and Bony in our midst. Thanks RC.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.