Any alphabetical analysis of Manchester City’s ‘performance’ against a horrible bunch of Russians would go something like this;
A – abject, appalling, atrocious, awful.
B – bloody abject, bloody appalling, bloody atrocious, bloody awful…you get the gist!
Even the most diehard City fan would be hard pressed to find anything positive about such a clueless, gutless and witless showing… bloody hell, even those who turned up on a free ticket will be demanding a refund!
This was City’s worst performance in the Champions League in four seasons – the biggest disappointment in Europe’s top competition, since being ignominiously dispatched by Turkey’s Fenebahce in the old European Cup in 1969.
Ironically I had a foreign gentleman sitting by me in the Colin Bell Stand last night. I asked if he was Russian on the basis he was heading for a sharp exit, but no, he was Turkish and he had his Fenebahce scarf on to prove his credentials.
He, like most of the 45,143 crowd, was bewildered as to how a City side awash with world class players such as Kompany, Yaya and Aguero, could succumb to an, at best, ordinary CSKA Moscow team, in such a pitiful and ill-disciplined manner.
Always an advocate of Manuel Pellegrini, staunch City supporter and one not given to knee-jerk reactions, I am now having serious doubts about the hitherto trusted MP.
It’s becoming increasingly obvious that City’s Chilean boss isn’t a master tactician. Worryingly he has emerged, in recent times, as a one-trick pony, or taken to the equine extremes, a bit of an ass.
Once again City’s ‘midfield’ went missing in action, affording little protection for an increasingly vulnerable defence and limited service for an isolated Sergio Aguero.
Yes, it’s wonderfully entertaining to see your team score 156 goals as City did last season, but titles always rest on a solid defensive structure.
Unless Pellegrini can conjure up something to break his stride pattern, he’s sprinting towards the status of a dead man walking, not because City are six points off the top of the Premier League, but because of their ineptitude in the Champions League.
Perversely, the overwhelming majority of City fans would still take PL success over CL glory. Not so City owner Sheikh Mansour. The kudos that comes with being Europe’s top team is what he craves…and who can blame him?
Lording it over the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich is ultimately what it is all about from the Abu Dhabi perspective. It’s a global showcase coupling the United Arab Emirates with the best of the best in the most popular sport on the planet.
For the fans, the CL is an irritation born of frustration with the team’s shortcomings, but more tellingly with a total mistrust of the entire competition.
UEFA is riddled with corruption, the draw for the Group stages is manipulated in favour of a cartel of established clubs and games are officiated by hapless or simply ‘bent’ referees.
Yes, City fans are paranoid about the Champions League, and with good reason. Groups of Death are regular occurrences, and truly ‘criminal’ refereeing calls the norm.
Greek rookie ref Tasos Sidiropoulos – pronounced Tossos Offolot – was no different to a procession of dictatorial men in black – sometimes yellow – who have been harsh on City.
He truly earned his cat calls of ‘Malaka’ from the home supporters by conveniently booking Sergio Ignaeshevich, and failing to send of CSKA’s Pontus Wembloom for a second bookable offence.
Allegedly a case of mistaken identity, despite the protests of City players.
He denied City a fourth stonewall penalty in four days when Sergio Aguero was felled in the box in the last few seconds. It didn’t help however that Aguero had dived a few moments early – something completely out of character for the Argentine striker.
It could have meant City scraped a draw but that should never have even been on the agenda, let alone a loss.
In fairness to Mr Tossos Offolot both Fernandinho and Yaya deserved to be sent off. Yaya’s litany of petulant behaviour, which he normally gets away with in the Premier League, finally caught up with him as he raised his hand to an opponent’s face and pushed him over.
But and it’s a HUGE BUT, the unpalatable truth that Sheikh Mansour, Pellegrini, the players and the fans must swallow, is that Manchester City are simply not up to it in the Champions League.
The Premier League is regarded by many as the richest, glamorous and most competitive in Europe, and yet City are presently faring as the worst champions of the top seven leagues, with a meagre two points from four CL group fixtures.
Champs don’t just become chumps overnight and victories over Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester United, along with draws with Arsenal and Chelsea, show City are still contenders for a third domestic title in four years.
So what the hell happens to an undoubtedly talented squad of players and a manager who has been to a semi final and two quarter finals, when it comes to the Champions League?
Pellegrini has spoken of a ‘crisis of confidence’ and admits it is ‘difficult to understand the level of performance’.
He stoically, correctly but perhaps deludedly, states that City could yet crawl into the knockout stages with wins against Bayern Munich at home and AS Roma way, and hope other results go their way.
On last night’s evidence City have as much chance as a one-legged man winning an arse-kicking competition… but hope has to spring eternal.
Skipper Vincent Kompany was defiant on social media tweeting: ‘When no one believes anymore it’s my role to still believe…#MCFC #UsAgainstThe Word #KeepThe Faith’
Fighting talk from the Belgian Boulder, but rather than being built on solid foundations, City performances are decidedly rocky.
Yaya – his excellent equaliser apart – put in another lacklustre showing capped by his sending off. He allowed his Ivory Coast team mate Seydou Doumbia a free header in the second minute to put CSKA one up. Yaya was supposed to be marking him but instead, he was away with the fairies – oblivious to the danger.
Gael Clichy, outstanding in the Manchester derby played more like Gail Tilsley from Coronation Street. He gifted possession to Moscow in the 34th minute and could only watch as Doumbia slotted past Joe Hart from 15 yards out.
Fernando gave another below par showing, requiring too much time on the ball and playing crab-like with more square balls than a Picasso painting.
Aguero was literally inches away from connecting with a Milner cross, which would have made it 2-2 in the second half, before Dino and Yaya departed in the space of 11 minutes.
Once again the match statistics told a different story. City had 63% possession and 15 attempts on goal compared to CSKA’s seven. City completed 701 passes – nearly 300 more than the Muscovites – a case of quantity over quality.
When will the message sink in about City’s slow motion interpretation of tiki-taka play? Do it fast or don’t bother, as the actress may have said to the bishop!
If City somehow turn this wretched run of form around, starting at QPR on Saturday evening, it’ll be a joy to do another alphabetical analysis, but this time in reverse starting with the letter ‘Z’;
Z – zeal, zenith, zest, zing…
God help us if it’s Zzzzzzzzzzz! WAKE UP CITY!
By David Walker
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu