Pellegrini’s Brief – carry on winning – SWANSEA CITY v MAN CITY

As the strains of Auld Lang Syne fade you won’t find Manuel Pellegrini endorsing any New Year sentiments of  ‘out with the old and in with the new’ as his Manchester City team venture into South Wales.

It’s a case of as you were and more of the same for the City boss looking to continue a Premier League run with 22 points from 24, where City have won 10 of their last 11 matches in all competitions.

Pointing the way - City boss Manuel Pellegrini could lead the club to their finest ever season in 2014

Pointing the way – City boss Manuel Pellegrini could lead the club to their finest ever season in 2014

City want to start 2014 in the same fashion as they left 2013, breaking goal scoring records and winning a plethora of matches in both league and cup, home and away.

Swansea offers a stern task, given that City’s last three sorties into the Principality have produced just one point. The men from Manchester have failed to register any goals in two visits to the Liberty Stadium, going down to a 1-0 defeat in their Premier League winning campaign in 2011/12, before grinding out a 0-0 stalemate last season.

Pellegrini has yet to play the Swans in their natural habitat. He’ll be hoping for better than when his side succumbed to the Welsh outfit’s hated rivals, the Bluebirds of Cardiff, when the feathers famously flew as his title favourites lost out 3-2 back in August.

The match represents the first of 19 reverse fixtures this season. City won 3-0 a month to the day in Manchester, as Negredo and a brace from Nasri secured the win. City were deserving winners but, in a season where the Sky Blues have swept all before them at Fortress Etihad, the margin of victory was perhaps slightly flattering.

Super Samir - City will rely on Nasri to down the Swans in Silva's absence

Super Samir – City will rely on Nasri to down the Swans in Silva’s absence

Michael Laudrup’s side play a nice brand of passing football and, even when missing key players including Michu, Nathan Dyer and Michel Vorm, the Swans should not be underestimated.

City’s injury list includes top scorer Sergio Aguero, Martin Demichelis, Micah Richards and seemingly the jinxed Stevan Jovetic, although there are rumours the man from Montenegro could yet make the bench.

A fully-fit and firing Jovetic would certainly help mitigate the prolonged absence of 19-goal Aguero, who is likely to be out of action in January and the early part of February.

Pellegrini took a calculated risk against a doggedly determined Crystal Palace, resting a number of key players as the fixtures come in thick and fast. The narrow 1- 0 win was achieved, but at a cost.

David ‘Merlin’ Silva was on the receiving end of a Five Card Trick in a shade of yellow, which means he disappeared out of Pellegrini’s selection options as he serves a one-match ban.

Disappearing Dave - Silva will be missed as he serves a one match suspension

Disappearing Dave – Silva will be missed as he serves a one match suspension

It’s bizarre that one of the world’s most technically gifted and supremely talented players should somehow amass five bookings. Silva is normally sinned against as opposed to being a sinner, but he’s a feisty little fellow and City will miss his guile and creativity.

That said, Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta – two of City’s most influential characters – should return, alongside Negredo and Nasri who were summoned off the bench to ensure it was 10/10 home wins on Saturday.

Much has been made of City’s form away from the Etihad. Adjectives abound among the media who can’t wait to exaggerate any flaw in Pellegrini’s team. ‘Erratic’ ‘Poor’  ‘Terrible’ are all in common currency when describing three wins, two draws and four PL defeats on the road.

Those are the stats, but what the pundits and journo’s conveniently omit is that City have won all three Champion’s League and two Capital One Cup encounters away from home.

Zabaleta makes City better - Pablo is key to the team's success in 2014

Zabaleta makes City better – Pablo is key to the team’s success in 2014

The hope is that the collective shortcomings and individual errors that contrived to see City cough up 12 points in four games have been eradicated.

19 games in, and Pellegrini has absorbed lessons learned in his ongoing PL odyssey. He appears to be approaching the luxury of being able to select a settled back four, commanded by the incomparable Vincent Kompany.

Yes, he will still utilise his squad and give non-regulars a chance to shine in ‘lesser’ games such as Blackburn in the FA Cup, and maybe even the two-legged League Cup semi-final against West Ham, because the PL and Champions League remain his priorities.

The turn of the year also means the opening of the transfer window and a chance to further strengthen what is widely regarded as the strongest squad in the PL.

Key defensive positions at centre back and left back would benefit from new talent, but not at the cost of selling clubs seeking to extort silly money.

Nasty but nice - Matija has proved great value for City and with so much more to come.

Nasty but nice – Matija has proved great value for City and with so much more to come.

FC Porto’s Eliaquim Mangala is a prime example, with the speedy, talented 22-year old French centre back available at a reputed £33m. He’s an outstanding player, but is he really worth three times the money City paid for Matija Nastasic?

Lest we forget, next summer City will have a returning Karim Rekik available after a season, gaining invaluable experience and exposure with PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch Eredivisie.

City fans can, and must, have faith, in Pellegrini and Txiki Begiristain, City’s Director of Football, to make the right judgement calls at the appropriate times.

The ‘Project’ being underwritten by City’s generous owner and benefactor, Sheikh Mansour, is not one based on short-termism.

Equally, the assembled brains of business acumen and football expertise, won’t want to let a season that holds so much promise unravel for the sake of a key signing or two.

Toure de Force -  Can Yaya help transform City into the best club side in the world?

Toure de Force – Can Yaya help transform City into the best club side in the world?

Yes, there’s talk of an incredible quadruple but, without being defeatist, that might be all it amounts to. Games such as Swansea away have proved troublesome in the past.

If City can eradicate the quirk in their DNA that allows for unforeseen failings against supposedly ‘smaller’ teams, then a second PL crown in three years is well within their grasp.

Success in the Capital One Cup-cum-League Cup is 270 minutes, away barring any pesky extra time or penalty shoot-outs. The FA Cup is anybody’s guess, and of course the ‘dream’ CL tie against Barcelona beams bright on the horizon.

Back-to-back away wins in the PL for the first time in almost a year would be but one step in the right direction.

2014 has the potential to be the finest year in City’s illustrious – and let’s be fair, at times, less than illustrious – history.

For decades upon decades being ‘a blue’ wasn’t about trophies and glory. It was about survival, scrapping for recognition and laughing in the face of adversity, the only alternative being crying at City’s unerring knack of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Carry on winning - Pellegrini is a class act

Carry on winning – Pellegrini is a class act

Well no more. City stand on the cusp of actually having the best team in the land and all the world, led by a manager destined for his best days in the sun of European football.


By David Walker






  1. December 31, 2013  6:12 pm by Alan Baxter Reply

    Seeing as we've won our last 3 European away games I fancy us to take the 3 points tomorrow. It'll be interesting to see the starting line up tomorrow, pace and width I think may be key.
    Happy New Year to you and yours. I'm hoping for a RBNR victory special in May.

    • December 31, 2013  8:07 pm by David Walker Reply

      It will undoubtedly be a labour of love to write such an article e.g. PL &/or ECL Champions. Whether anything will ever surpass AGUUUUEERRRRRROOOOOO is debatable. HNY fella #MCFCBLUEBROS

  2. December 31, 2013  6:37 pm by Dave Ormrod Reply

    Great read as always. Lets dream and go for all 4 trophies. Really fancy us for the Champions league.

    • December 31, 2013  8:08 pm by David Walker Reply

      We can dream those dreams - they're so much closer to reality than they ever were before. HNY Dave.

  3. December 31, 2013  7:30 pm by Afful Forson George Reply

    We need to develop our own Talents Fancy Rekik, Lopes, Pozo, Cole n alot r jxt great youth boost their confidence

    • December 31, 2013  9:03 pm by David Walker Reply

      That's the ethos behind the Etihad Campus and definitely the way forward in the not-too-distant future. HNY!

  4. December 31, 2013  7:46 pm by Graham Ward Reply

    I think this might be another tight one. Zabaleta, Toure, and Negredo back, but I think we may go 5 in midfield again, with Navas providing the extra body and width to the attack. Nasri may be pushed a little further forward, with Milner to give a bit more support on the left to cover for the absence of Silva.
    2-1 to City.

    • December 31, 2013  8:10 pm by David Walker Reply

      Sound thinking there Graham - bit of a strategist & tactician on the sly there fella! Thanks for your support HNY fellow blue.

  5. December 31, 2013  8:36 pm by Simon Dear Reply

    One of the most enjoyable reads yet , I think the festive season brings out the best in us all and I'm hoping the players up the anti and take the points at Swansea , I see them as the Welsh Sunderland ( they sound the sane aswell ) so it's a big ask but one we must deliver having clawed back the 7 or 8 point gap to the top, we are in prime position now and I'm sure these players will deliver , I think 4 trophies is impossible but EPL, a cup final & a hum dinger against Barca that goes to pens, is more like what I'm expecting . My god 4 trophies still up fir grabs I recall time no long ago when the season was over in early Jan year on year. Let hope 2014 is memorable one.
    all the best .

    • December 31, 2013  8:49 pm by David Walker Reply

      As ever cheers Simon - let's see what 2014 brings for us all - one step at a time - 3pts out of South Wales!

  6. December 31, 2013  9:06 pm by Jim Land Reply

    Hi David. Another well-written intelligent article to round off the year. Thank you for all the good work this year, RBNR is now my priority call for City stories.

    • December 31, 2013  9:15 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Jim - much appreciated HNY!

  7. December 31, 2013  11:20 pm by Kev Russell Reply

    Another top preview David & really appreciate all your hard work in producing RNBR for all us football fans to read, digest & enjoy. I'm hoping & think that City will eventually score down here in West Wales. You're correct, the last two meetings here have been boring affairs so a goal fest is due. 5 or 6 nil will do just fine. HNY #TopScriber

    • January 1, 2014  2:22 am by David Walker Reply

      A goal fest would be a massive bonus - a win will suffice. Laudrup's a good manager & the Swans play some good stuff but these are the games we must win if we are to win the title in such competitive times. A very HAPPY NEW YEAR to you & Annie - thanks my friend.

  8. January 1, 2014  2:10 am by Susan Richardson Reply

    Excellent preview David I would take another 1goal win tomorrow. Happy new year x

    • January 1, 2014  2:19 am by David Walker Reply

      And would too! If only the inimitable David Coleman were here to say '1-0'! HNY Susan - THANKYOU for your support x

  9. January 1, 2014  9:23 am by GeorgeInIsrael Reply

    I always have mixed feelings when we play Swansea, as my mum is from there, so usually I want them to win. The 64/5 season was when my dad started taking me regularly to see City and that season both City and Swansea were in the old Division 2. My late grandfather was Swansea's honorary club Doctor and when Swansea came up to Manchester, he organised 2 tickets (for my Mother and me - Dad had a season ticket) in the director's box - but on the Swansea side. City won 1-0 with a first half goal and it was not easy for an eight year old to remember not to cheer for his team.

    • January 1, 2014  9:36 am by David Walker Reply

      Lessons learned at an early age George - diplomacy & an ability to go covert behind enemy lines! We should have what is required for a win today, but never ever easy...


      • January 1, 2014  10:00 am by GeorgeInIsrael Reply

        You're right. Of the 12 games that City of played in Swansea, we have only won 4.

  10. January 1, 2014  9:54 am by Eileen Fullen Reply

    Still under the influence and a task for 8 for dinner looming I still can't resist your reads. A joy and thank you for all your efforts. A win today will warm my dinner guest 8 fold. HNY

    • January 2, 2014  11:13 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Eileen - we achieved the win and I hope your dinner went down as well as City's performance. HNY!

  11. January 1, 2014  11:10 am by Nev Artingstall Reply

    Another great read to start the new year off. Keep em coming David.

    • January 2, 2014  11:14 am by David Walker Reply

      HNY Nev - many thanks for your support. I'll do my best to keep RBNR motoring in 2014.

  12. January 1, 2014  11:12 am by Stan Reply

    Another well written and interesting article David. One thing i would challenge is that our away form in the PL (CC and CL don't count unfortunately, but nice try!) isn't up to scratch. Bear in mind we have have to travel to Arsenal, Tottenham, the swamp, Everton, Liverpool and Newcastle with some if not all have a smarting at our place, revenge will be very much in the air. Four defeats already have us on the back foot and after that lot we really have our work cut out.

    We have have had it easy so far now the real work starts and if we are to throw in decent FA and CL runs, we will be at full stretch. There is a very real reason the quad hasn't been won by some fantastic squads in the past, its bloody neigh on impossible!

    Have a wonderful blue new year to you and all readers.

    • January 2, 2014  11:18 am by David Walker Reply

      I think the quintessential difference for the second half of the season is that MP has been learning vital lessons along the way and that the team is now fully conversant with his requirements, his tactics and his overall philosophy. New signings have bedded in - Jovetic apart - and, although we face some stern away fixtures, City rise to the challenge on the big occasion. The quadruple is pie in the sky, but a PL title and a domestic cup are well within reach. HNY and thanks for your feedback.

  13. January 2, 2014  3:16 pm by Mole Rocks Reply

    I agree 2014 could be the most amazing year City have had, as long as no complacency sets in.

    I don't think that will be the case, as you mention, City now have a phenomenal management now, who ruthlessly desire success in all parts of the organisation.

    I read a tweet from Chris Bailey earlier, where he mentioned that City are still in competitions at the EDS and junior levels, while investing in the NYCFC & MCFC Ladies projects.

    It just keeps getting better and better, so much so we'll have to start hating ourselves! (Joke)

    We have survived the United glory years and our lean times, it's now City's turn to be top dog, if they keep the hunger!

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