Time to soil Saints’ clean sheets – Southampton v Man City

Four wins in a demanding quartet of games would go a long way to decontaminating a season that many believe could yet become a toxic wasteland for Manchester City.

Having lost their grip on the League Cup, they have fallen nine points behind domestic table-toppers Chelsea and progression in the Champions League depends on a do-or-die gladiator clash with the Romans next month.

Cleaning up - Let's get back to winning ways and wiping out the opposition. Courtesy @MCFC

Cleaning up – Let’s get back to winning ways and wiping out the opposition. Courtesy @MCFC

Up next are Southampton and Sunderland away, Everton at home and then the shoot-out in Rome.

City start their four-match run against a side who many thought would have been all washed up following a mass exodus in the summer…how wrong could they be?

Southampton have been the surprise package of the season thus far, sitting two points clear of City in second place, despite the sales of Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Rickie Lambert and Calum Chambers.

Saints’ boss Ronald Koeman is the Widow Twankey of the Premier League with his team keeping more clean sheets than a Chinese laundry – seven in 12 games – having conceded just six goals all season, with only one at home.

Capital punishment - City have already released their grip on the League Cup. Courtesy @MCFC

Capital punishment – City have already released their grip on the League Cup. Courtesy @MCFC

So what happens when the meanest defence comes up against the hottest striker in the top flight of English football?

Sergio Aguero is in the form of life with a goal-a-game in the PL and coming off the back of a sensational hat-trick against Bayern Munich, having gone one-on-one with Manuel Neuer three times, putting the ball past the world’s top keeper each time.

It’s a personal landmark for the 26-year old Argentine as he makes his 100th league appearance in City colours. Thus far he’s bagged 64 PL goals in 99 games.

Ravenous - Sergio has an insatiable appetite for goals. Courtesy@MCFC

Ravenous – Sergio has an insatiable appetite for goals. Courtesy@MCFC

Statistically he scores at a faster rate than any other player since the Premier League was founded in 1992.

In total Aguero has netted on 92 occasions in 140 games for City, and the sooner he gets to a 100 goals, the sooner Manuel Pellegrini’s men can shape up as a team capable of retaining their PL title and progressing to the last 16 of the Champions League.

City were fortunate to escape from St Mary’s with a 1-1 draw last season, and ordinarily a similar result would not be a disaster, given the Saints form of eight wins from their last 12 league games.

But with Chelsea dropping two points at Sunderland this is an opportunity, albeit a far from easy chance, to narrow the gap on Mourinho’s men to six points.

Saint Sergio - Aguero wheels away to celebrate scoring in City's 1-1 draw at Southampton last December. Courtesy @MCFC

Saint Sergio – Aguero wheels away to celebrate scoring in City’s 1-1 draw at Southampton last December. Courtesy @MCFC

Pellegrini has already raised the bar saying he wants City to win eight league games on the bounce through to the end of 2014. So far, it’s one down and seven to go.

David Silva – the Spanish magician who is the only real rival to Aguero as City’s all-time greatest player – will once again be missing as he recovers from knee ligament damage. This will be his sixth game on the sidelines and his creativity is a massive loss.

Balkan duo Aleksander Kolarov and Edin Dzeko are also out, but Yaya Toure and Fernandinho come back into contention after midweek bans in Europe.

Calling card - AK47 is still missing and out of action. Courtesy@MCFC

Calling card – AK47 is still missing and out of action. Courtesy@MCFC

The City boss has to strike the balance between continuity and player fatigue, so almost inevitably, changes will be made from the unlikely heroes who bombed out Bayern on Tuesday.

Frank Lampard was outstanding against the Germans, bringing his experience and guile to the party but, having played the full 90 minutes, his 36-year old limbs might appreciate a time out.

Yaya and ‘Dino’ will surely start with perhaps James Milner dropping to the subs bench. Samir Nasri – not hugely influential in midweek – is nonetheless, capable of the creativity to generate openings for Aguero and livewire Stevan Jovetic.

Take a bow - Super Frankie Lampard has been superb in his short spell with City. Courtesy@MCFC

Take a bow – Super Frankie Lampard has been superb in his short spell with City. Courtesy@MCFC

Jesus Navas will probably get the nod with the task of targeting the Saints’ thrifty defence, getting behind it and pulling the ball back to City’s SAS strikeforce of Sergio & Stevan.

The jury is still out on Navas, despite him being a champion in his debut season. His lightning pace is a real asset, but too often he opts to cut inside instead of beating his man down the flank.

Similarly his final ball is often found wanting, but not always – his assist for Jovetic’s opener against Swansea being Exhibit A for Jesus’ defence.

Expect to see Zabaleta restored at right back for his overlapping ability. That’s not a poor reflection on Sagna against Bayern where he looked very solid, it’s just he doesn’t possess Zaba’s natural zest and zeal for the wing back role.

Sweet Jesus - Navas needs to ruffle Southampton's defence with his speed. Courtesy @MCFC

Sweet Jesus – Navas needs to ruffle Southampton’s defence with his speed. Courtesy @MCFC

The complication with a marauding Pablo is that he and Navas have an annoying habit of denying each other space on the right side of City’s attacking formation.

They don’t seem to complement each other, something that if rectified, would provide far more potency in City’s forward play.

In defence, Eliaquim Mangala gave a controlled and effective CL performance, so is he ready to once again partner Vincent Kompany in the centre of the back four?

Rising star - Mangala is the future at centre back for City, but is also the man for the present? Courtesy@MCFC

Rising star – Mangala is the future at centre back for City, but is also the man for the present? Courtesy@MCFC

Will Mangala’s pace and power help contain Graziano Pelle and Shane Long, more so than the calm and experience of Martin Demichelis? If City’s £32m man is ready to step up to the plate after an ‘eventful’ beginning to his career at the Etihad, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

A fourth away win would see City leapfrog Southampton into second spot and send out a statement that the Champions are finally on the rise again.

Squad rotation and selection are essential given that City come up against their bogiest of bogey teams on Wednesday – Sunderland away – the Stadium of Light, where the Sky Blues are decidedly dim.

Same again please Yaya - City's Toure De Force can propel City to seven more league wins in 2014. Courtesy@MCFC

Same again please Yaya – City’s Toure De Force can propel City to seven more league wins in 2014. Courtesy@MCFC

God forbid City having the usual 74% of the possession and end up losing one bloody nil for a fifth consecutive trip to Wearside.

It’s time to break the cycle but, with the Black Cats purring after their stalemate with Chelsea, it’ll be time for the champions to claw out a win, any which way.

They say football’s a funny old game – Southampton beat Sunderland 8-0 and then Gus Poyet’s men render Chelsea scoreless.

If City can take six points off those two teams in red and white stripes, it’ll certainly have the travelling fans chuckling as they go to opposite ends of the country within 96 hours.

Blowing the whistle on under achievement - Manuel must get his team working harder. Courtesy@MCFC

Blowing the whistle on under achievement – Manuel must get his team working harder. Courtesy@MCFC

Both will be intense affairs and although City have the undoubted class and talent to succeed, they have to align that to a more physically intense presence.

If Pellegrini is to get a maximum points haul before Big Ben brings in 2015 he has to get his team working harder, pressing opponents, squeezing the space…just as ‘lesser’ teams do to City.

If the desire is there,it can and will be done. Similarly there has to be a radical upgrade in the diatribe of rubbish that flows from each City corner.

Disappeared - Spanish magician David Silva needs to re-appear for City ASAP!Courtesy@MCFC

Disappeared – Spanish magician David Silva needs to re-appear for City ASAP!Courtesy@MCFC

If there’s no improvement in the corner kicking department City may have to instigate extra security precautions when training resumes at the new splendiferous Etihad Campus.

Beware of sniper fire…because somebody on the coaching staff will want shooting!

 #TrustOurMP

 

By David Walker

COMPETITION TIME

Read But Never Red is delighted to partner with Manchester City to be able to offer one lucky reader the chance to savour a behind–the-scenes journey around the Etihad in the company of a City Legend.

The Legends Stadium & Club Tour - we've two tickets worth £140 for one lucky winner.

The Legends Stadium & Club Tour – we’ve two tickets worth £140 for one lucky winner.

For the opportunity to win two tickets for the superb £70 a-head Manchester City LEGENDS STADIUM & CLUB TOUR all you have to do is tell us is:

How many appearances did Jeff Whitley make in the City first team between 1996 & 2003?

Perfect host - Jeff Whitley made a 133 first team appearances in City's colours.

Perfect host – Jeff Whitley made 133 first team appearances in City’s colours.

You can enter the competition via a host of social media by using the #MCFCLegendsTour & stating the number of games Jeff played.

Please send your answers via:

www.readbutneverred.com – comments section

On Twitter @ReadButNeverRed using #MCFCLegendsTour

On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/readbutneverred

The competition closes at midnight on December 15th with the winner being drawn at random by a designated representative from Manchester City FC

 

 

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

 

17 Comments

  1. November 29, 2014  10:55 pm by srexr Reply

    For the 2 away games I don't believe we should be pressing at all but trying to suck the opposition forward and countering quickly. I have no reason to think this will happen as the tactic of moving the ball forward with pace has been conspicuously absent this season, but I live in hope. We have problems breaking down massed defenses so trying to play in a way that encourages that whilst leaving us open to an opposition counter (so it seems) makes no sense to me, even if it does to Pellegrini.

    Teams at home will come out and play if you give them the chance, and that's where the extra skill of our attackers, with a little space, can shine..

    • November 30, 2014  12:39 am by David Walker Reply

      Can't argue with your logic provided our defence - which has not been a Chinese laundry of late - can actually keep the best linen sheets clean at the back. Thanks for your feedback, much appreciated.

  2. November 30, 2014  3:26 am by GeorgeInIsrael Reply

    Great preview, as usual. I would guess that against the Saints we will have room to play, so hopefully that will be to our advantage. As for Sunderland, it's about time we got some breaks against them. MP said that everybody is fit except Silva, Kolarov and Dzeko. Does this mean that Nastasic might actually get some playing time?

    I answered the competition question on Twitter. If I win, please make sure that the prize goes to somebody deserving.

    • November 30, 2014  8:02 am by David Walker Reply

      As ever, thanks George and very magnanimous of you if you were to win the #MCFCLegendsTour.

      As for Nastasic, I'd be surprised if he ever plays for City again and think he'll be shipped out in January. He & MP obviously have their differences.

      • November 30, 2014  3:25 pm by GeorgeInIsrael Reply

        Maybe no choice now!

  3. November 30, 2014  8:48 am by Carl Horsfield Reply

    Great read David as always. I do disagree with one point about Sagna though. I thought he was dreadful against Bayern. His positioning was awful.

    Comp: 116

    Fingers crossed for 8 wins on the bounce

    • November 30, 2014  9:10 am by David Walker Reply

      Fair enough Carl...I disagree with your answer ;-) Jeff made 116 league appearances - but what about those Cup games? Best of luck mate and thanks for your feedback.

  4. November 30, 2014  9:32 am by Carl Horsfield Reply

    Sorry presumed just league.
    133 total league and cup

    • November 30, 2014  9:38 am by David Walker Reply

      No apologies! Now you have a much better chance of success

  5. November 30, 2014  10:00 am by Carl Horsfield Reply

    What's the prediction today Dave?

    • November 30, 2014  10:51 am by David Walker Reply

      I'm useless at predictions but a 1-0 City win would go down a treat.

  6. November 30, 2014  11:32 am by carole Reply

    Little chance of us having 74% possession against any decent team nowadays David...certainly not Southampton who are pretty good at keeping the ball themselves. In fact, what worries me most this season is how dramatically our passing game has deteriorated under a man who was brought in to bring 'beautiful' as well as winning football, as Soriano put it. (In Spain, MP's style was once described as 'death by beautiful geometry'...mmmm. )
    It's pretty shameful that we can dominate possession against lesser teams yet struggle against those who play us at our own game. It's painful to see that we could not keep the ball when Bayern were down to 10 men...most other CL opponents would have dictated play for the rest of the match and not allowed them a sniff.
    I like to think that if Silva and Yaya had been available to link up with Nasri & Jovetic, that would have happened. But there are far too many players at City now who are not at their technical level. We desperately need more Silvas...players who can keep the ball, add a touch of creative genius. An Isco...what a difference he would make. It worries me that we might blow £50M on a Barkley instead....we have enough pace and power.
    I'm hoping Yaya will take the game by the scruff of the neck today, dominate that midfield, dictate the play....if he's on his game we will win convincingly. If not.....

    • November 30, 2014  12:32 pm by David Walker Reply

      Well crafted comment Carole & agree on all aspects. We have to start buying in the 5 Star transfer malls - we've earned the right now & we have the finances as FFP eases off. We need a new creative midfielder, left back and striker.

      We have £58m in the kitty from the summer & we need new young blood as ours is not the youngest squad in the PL.

      Would love Reus from Dortmund, Pogba at Juventus, Khedira at Real Madrid but unlikely. We have to address the homegrown issue & are then forced to pay over the odds for average England players.

      On reflection has Txiki really done such a great job on player recruitment? I could see us going for Bony in Jan but he would then go off to the ACON with Yaya.

      Our players have to take individual responsibility for their own performances and step up to the proverbial plate, starting today.

  7. December 1, 2014  10:08 am by Toby Teasdale Reply

    Best performance this season, particularly the first 20 minutes. Yaya's enforced rest during the week obviously did him good and Lampard enjoyed himself. Dzeko and Kolarov were not missed (always room for Merlin). Could be De Michelis and Boyata against Sunderland!

    Another useless referee, where do they find them?

    Note the wife-beater has you persona non grata (badge of honour methinks). Serves you right for communicating with the Brummagem Oaf Aren't City fans supposed blank 'Talk Shite'?

    The hairs on Maureen's neck will be starting to rise.

    • December 1, 2014  8:07 pm by David Walker Reply

      I admit I strayed in a moment of madness - forgive me father...

      Talkshyte BANNED FOREVER!

  8. December 1, 2014  11:38 am by Toby Teasdale Reply

    I think Pellegrini should be the winner of the Jeff Whitley quiz. It seems '133' is the emergency police telephone number in Chile

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