Thursday, 29 December 2011

Sunderland v Manchester City

City kick off the new year travelling North East to Sunderland who it's fair to say haven't really been up to scratch so far this season. Hence the sacking of Steve Bruce and the hiring of Martin O'Neill.

Since taking charge of Sunderland on the 5th of December, the fortunes of the Club appear to be looking a little better. However the points they have picked up are against those around them in the table and they lost away to Spurs, which isn't all that bad given Spurs' current form.

Where they might be in the table had they held onto Darren Bent last January and Assamoah Gyan is anyone's guess, but the fact that Sebastian Larsson is their current top scorer tells a story itself. That's not a slur on Larsson at all, and he is definitely going to be a goal threat for the defence to watch out for. But the fact that Larsson is a midfielder tells you they haven't managed to replace the threat that Bent and Gyan posed in front of goal. In all honesty, Niklas Bendtner wasn't ever going to be the answer to the loss of those two players.

It will be interesting to see how O'Neill deploys his midfield as this is where a game against City is really won or lost. Playing a defensive 6-3-1 like Stoke certainly isn't the answer as this gives City's midfield far too much space and time to look for the right pass. West Brom on the other hand, although once again playing defensively, played with 2 close banks of 4 which limited the amount of space for players like Silva to thread that killer ball into.

That hasn't always worked for teams as we've seen, but it certainly makes it more difficult for City to break through, and I suspect that may be how O'Neill will look to thwart City's advances on Sunday.

As for City, I fully expect Mancini to field a very different team to the one that started against West Brom. Why? Because City play host to Liverpool just 2 days later. Liverpool will also have had an extra 48 hours rest so it will be up to Mancini to try and keep the '1st' 11 as fresh as possible.

The 2 main headaches will be the full-back and central midfield positions. At the time of writing this there is no news on the fitness of Micah Richards or Aleks Kolarov. If both are fit to play I suspect Aleks will play at left-back and Zaba will continue to play on the right. This being with the Liverpool game in mind of course where Richards and Clichy would start.

As regards to the midfield issue, does Gareth Barry start against Sunderland after only being used as a sub against West Brom? Or does he sit on the bench again and be fully fit to face Liverpool? I know this wont be popular with a lot of the newer City support, I'd rather him play against Liverpool as he has been one of, if no the most consistent performer in the entire squad since the start of last season. My thoughts on his contribution will have to wait for now though.

If I was pushed to make a decision on who will start in the centre I'd go for De Jong and possibly Abdul Razak. Mancini is going to want Barry and Yaya fit to face Liverpool, and I've simply no idea what is happening with Owen Hargreaves.

A recall to action is in order for Edin Dzeko, after missing out on his last chance through a late ankle injury. As mentioned in previous articles, he is due a few goals as he seems to score in fits and starts. Although he is getting less opportunity at the moment due to the ever increasing contributions of Mario Balotelli.

I suspect this will be quite a tough game, especially with the number of changes we might see to the starting 11. Even so, City have enough ability to win and keep another clean sheet. Whether that happens, we'll find out on Sunday.

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City: Post Match

0-0 was not the result anyone quite expected, but that's how it ended at the final whistle. After saying I hope West Brom have a go but suspected they wouldn't, I wasn't surprised when they didn't. But that result was certainly a positive one for West Brom and their main aim of not getting beat was achieved. 

City were left ruing a couple of fine chances that went begging which would have opened the game up and played into City's strengths. In the majority of previous games these chances haven't mattered as City have gone on to score several goals anyway, but not in this game. 

The first of these chances fell to David Silva on 24 minutes. Toure gave the ball away outside West Brom's 18 yard box, but as the Baggies played the ball forward Kompany intercepted the ball and hit a wonderfully weighted pass to Aguero who then put it on a plate for Silva in the middle of the box. Silva, with plenty of space, hoofed the ball over the bar. 

City had the ball in the net 10 minutes later but Balotelli's shot was flagged offside. The ball was initially played to Aguero who was marginally offside, however Aguero never touched the ball as a defender got to it first. The ball then looped to Balotelli who then volleyed it into the back of the net. As the ball was played initially, Balo was onside.

It's another instance of the offside rule either being misunderstood or mis-applied with all this first phase, second phase nonsense. It's high time it was simplified and cleared up once and for all. But anyway...

Balotelli came close to scoring in the 53rd minute. After receiving the ball from Clichy on the left wing, Mario struck a curling shot from 25 yards which beat the keeper but unfortunately for City, it didn't beat the cross bar. 

Perhaps City's best chance of the game came just after an hour as the ball was cleared from another City attack, Clichy lofted the ball to James Milner who headed it back into the box. The ball fell for Aguero who had the opportunity to toe poke it into the net but hit it wide from 7 yards out. Sergio actually thought he was offside as he hadn't seen the defender behind him playing him onside as the ball was played. Even so, as I was taught in school, always play to the whistle.

You have to give some credit to West Brom though, they're the first domestic team to stop City scoring so far this season. They created a few chances for themselves too, unlike the hapless Stoke in game prior to this.

The real reason as to why City didn't score (other than the goal that was given offside) is that City didn't have enough chances on target. Out of the 17 shots, only 4 were heading for the back of the net. Not a very good day for City on the attacking front and Mancini will have to watch for complacency setting in and weed it out should it appear. 

On the plus side though, it's the 3rd clean sheet in a row. Although I doubt anyone will be mentioning this despite creaming themselves over United's clean sheets on so long ago. 

Just short of the half way point of the season with 18 games played, City are still top of the table with a superior goal difference to Manchester United. City have also already played United, Liverpool, Spurs, and Chelsea away from home.The only team in the title and top 4 hunt that City have yet to play away is Arsenal. Everyone else has to come to the Etihad stadium where City haven't lost for over a year.

Strap yourselves in for one hell of a ride.

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Monday, 26 December 2011

West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City

The season's festivities climaxed yesterday but as joyous as the occasion may be, many Blues throughout the land will have had a portion of their thoughts on something other than the Turkey; Boxing Day Football. City travel to the Hawthorns to take on West Brom in the next game of a tightly packed Christmas and New Year schedule.

After the rather unexpected cake walk that was City v Stoke earlier at the Etihad 5 days ago you would expect and maybe hope West Brom to put up a little more of a fight with them being on home turf. Sadly I half expect them to play like the away side and sit and defend in the hope they can withstand City's attacks for 90 minutes. I hope I'm wrong.

Woy Hodgson is tasked with stabilising the somewhat yo yo existence seen in recent years at the Hawthorns and at this stage of the season they are mid-table, and around halfway to safety with 21 points.

Unfortunately for West Brom, their home form isn't exactly exemplary, having lost 5 of their 8 games there this season. West Brom have also failed to get any points from any games against teams in the top 6. City have won 5 of their away games, only losing to Chelsea with 10 men 2 weeks ago. Unsurprisingly, the odds are clearly stacked heavily against the Baggies in this fixture.

Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie bare the majority of the responsibility when it comes to scoring goals. Both have scored 5 and 4 league goals respectively. England international Ben Foster will be hoping his defence can limit the number of chances City create, but I would think he may be a little busy.

His opposite number, and England number 1, Joe Hart, will also be hoping for a clean sheet which would be the 3rd in succession after shutting out Arsenal and Stoke prior to this game. Kompany returned to his imperious best in those games too, and will be wanting to continue and build on that form.

After impressing against Stoke, possibly partly due to the lack of defending he was required to do, Adam Johnson will also be hoping for another start. Mancini was clearly pleased with his contribution during the game though. Whether he gets his start or not is another matter. At the moment I would think he would take any time he can get and has a habit of coming on from the bench to score late on in games.

Who starts up front is a mystery and will partly depend on whether Dzeko is fit enough to play after turning his ankle in training before the Stoke game. Both Aguero and Balotelli have been in fine form though so either one should be able to do a job up front.

Micah Richards is the only other injury concern and with the number of games coming up it may be once again down to the man for all seasons, Zabaleta, to fill in at right back.

With all due respect to West Brom, I hope they put up more of a fight than Stoke, but unless they play out of their skin or City have a really off game then City should have another 3 points by the end of the day.

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Manchester City v Stoke City: Post Match

That could be the easiest 3 points earned by any team at any point this season. Stoke seemingly arrived at the Etihad with only one plan; not to get smashed. They certainly didn't want to have a go at City's back 4 and in the first half they rarely managed to get the ball out of their own half. I'm not sure whether or not 3-0 is getting smashed either by City's recent standards.

As predicted, Mancini was set to give Dzeko a starting role but an ankle injury before the game put an end to that. Lescott did return at the centre of defence though, and Adam Johnson also got a rare start.

The first 45 minutes may as well have been a training match of attack vs defence. Stoke's lineup started as 4-4-2 but ended up more like 6-3-1 for the vast majority of the half as City passed the ball pretty much at will, looking for an opening in the tightly packed Stoke defence.

It was Adam Johnson who got the first meaningful shot. Cutting in from the right at the edge of the area there was only ever one thing on his mind but his curling shot ricocheted off the woodwork.

Tony Pulis was constantly barking orders at his players from the first whistle, but whatever he was trying to convey helped very little, if at all as the entire half was all about City. Even when Stoke managed to get the ball out of their own half it was picked up by either Kompany or Lescott without much trouble.

After 15 minutes the possession stats flashed up 65-35 in the Blues' favour, and it didn't get any better for Stoke. Nasri and Toure went wide with shots of their own around the 20 minute mark as City continued to completely dominate the play.

The first goal came just before 30 minutes after a nice bit of play between Silva and Nasri out on the left wing. Silva found Yaya with a cutting ball into the box with the Ivorian hitting a shot/pass across the box met initially by Kompany, parried by Sorensen, tapped home by Aguero. A brilliantly worked goal.

City didn't have to wait too long for the next goal either, and what a goal it was! The home crowd were still thinking they should have had a penalty when Silva was blatantly pushed in the area and Stoke were looking to get the ball back out. They did get it out, only to the top of the 18 yard box before City had the ball again. Adam Johnson found himself in plenty of space and struck a beautifully driven shot from around 30 yards that rocketed into the bottom left of the goal. 36 Minutes, 2-0, absolutely nothing for Joe Hart to break a sweat over.

That's how it continued in the second half although Stoke put up a bit more of a fight. I say a bit, and I mean a bit. In fact Stoke were lucky that City appeared to be taking it easy knowing the number of games they will be playing in a short space of time.

Stoke conceded a third less than 10 minutes into the second half in a way that merged the first 2 goals together. Stoke were pinned back and managed to clear the ball from their own area but only by a couple of yards before Toure and Barry stole the ball back for City. Nasri received the ball off Barry and hit a low cross across the goal which was met once again by Aguero who tapped the ball home.

Much of the second half was City asking Stoke "go on then have a go" and then taking the ball off them and knocking it about for a while in no real rush to extend their lead. Not to sound cruel on Stoke, but they had absolutely no idea either in defence or attack and very rarely managed to keep the ball for a reasonable length of time. It's not often that stats give you the full story in a game, but these few really do;

Man City: 76% - 24% :Stoke City
Man City: 937 - 292 :Stoke City
Pass %
Manc Cit: 91% - 72% :Stoke City
Shots on Target
Man City: 11 - 0 :Stoke City
Shots off Target
Man City: 3 - 3 :Stoke City
Shots Blocked
Man City: 8-0 :Stoke City

After the electric pace of their game against Arsenal, City were quite content in taking it a little easier, keeping the ball and making Stoke do all the running. Stoke managed 3 shots in the whole of the 90 minutes, and not one of them was on target. Joe Hart may as well have sat in the stands for all the work he needed to do.

Another 3 points, Manchester City sat at the top of the tree at Christmas for the first time in Premier League history, and the first time since 1929. Just another tick in the Club's record breaking season so far.

Merry Christmas and here's to a happy Blue year

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Manchester City v Stoke City

The Etihad Stadium plays host to Stoke City in tomorrow's Premier League fixture. The Potters have won the last 4 games on the bounce, beating an in form Tottenham on the way. City returned to winning ways against Arsenal on Sunday in an enthralling end to end spectacle.

Tony Pulis and his team currently sit 8th in the table and qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League. They are a tough test for any team to face, physically robust and know how to play to their strengths. Although Stoke do have players that can play a bit, they are well known for a certain, very unattractive style of play.

It wasn't particularly surprising when they announced the signing of Peter Crouch from Spurs in the summer. He's exactly the kind of player Stoke want up front as they punt or throw the ball into the 18 yard box. Peter Crouch is Stoke's joint top scorer with Jonathan Walters, both currently on 4 league goals.

Rory Delap is well known for his ability to launch the ball into the box from throw ins, and giving one away within 30 yards from the goal line is as good as giving away a corner. City will have to be fully focused if Stoke get any throw ins or free kicks near the area. If Kompany and Richards play like they did against Arsenal though even the likes of Crouch will have a tough time beating them in the air.

I think it's fair to say that you know exactly what you're going to get when you play against Stoke and to be fair to them, what they do works for them. Whether you like the way they play or not is another thing, but each team has to play to their strengths at the end of the day, and their strengths are their physical presence and set pieces.

I suspect we will see Joleon Lescott returning to the side after missing out on Arsenal. Kolo was likely chosen ahead of Joleon for his added mobility which thankfully shone through after some very lacklustre performances. However, Lescott has much better ability in the air and will be the better option against the aerial bombardment Stoke are likely to try and impose.

We may also see a recall to action from Edin Dzeko in place of Super Mario. Although Mario provides much more flair and an ability to create something out of nothing, Edin has more of a physical presence and is less likely to lose his temper with the physical nature of Stoke's defence. In short, Mario is an easy target and Edin he is a safer option to start with. He's also is due a bag full of goals having not hit the back of the net for over 6 weeks.

The last time Stoke played City was straight after their defeat in the FA Cup final. The result was 3-0 in a rather one sided game. In fact the FA Cup final was a rather one sided game too, although that's not to say the same thing will happen this time round. Both teams have improved since May and will be looking to pick up as many points over the Christmas period as possible.

City (Manchester of course) are unbeaten at home in the last 12 months, and Stoke have lost 4 of their 8 games away from home this season, conceding 16 in the process. This all points to what should be a comfortable victory for Mancini's men after his 2nd anniversary of becoming manager at Manchester City. However, football often likes to throw in a result no one expects. Hopefully that wont be tomorrow.

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Monday, 19 December 2011

Manchester City v Arsenal: Post Match

What a game that was! Quite possibly the mos t exciting game I've seen this season. With a 1-0 scoreline you would be forgiven for thinking this was an edgy, nervous game with few chances, but you would be very wrong.

It was blatantly clear from the moment the whistle went that both teams were up for this game. City's season was falling apart according to large sections of the media after losing to Chelsea, and with Manchester United beating QPR earlier on in the day City really needed a result to stay top of the league.

Within the first 10 minutes City could have been 1-0 up as Zabaleta (playing at left back) received the ball out wide from a perfectly weighted pass from Barry. With the Arsenal defence retreating,  Zaba placed a wonderful first time pass across the top of the 18 yard box which was collected expertly by Aguero. Sergio's first touch was sublime, his shot however wasn't as he blasted the ball over the bar.

As well as Zabaleta comng in for Kolarov and Clichy (injured and suspended), this game also saw Kolo Toure return to action, chosen ahead of Joleon Lescott. Noteably though, it was Kopmpany who occupied the left side of the central pairing. With the threat of Walcott cutting inside and causing trouble it was up to Kompany and Zaba to make so he didn't have any influence on the game.

That's exactly what they did. Both Zabaleta and Kompany has absolutely superb games. Amongst the best I've ever seen either of them play. Komapny was a giant in defence, nothing was getting past him and he even showed a few deft touches going forward when the opportunity arose. Zabaleta was sensational at left back both in defence and going forward, even hitting the post with a drive from outside the area later in the game.

After his previous performances this season I was a little worried when I saw Kolo's name on the team sheet. But I will hand it to him, he also had a fine game. Perhaps the most notable contribution was executing a perfectly times tackle on Aaron Ramsey with the young gunner 6 yards from goal and certain to score. The look on Ramsey's face said it all, he wouldn't get a better opportunity to score all season.

Balotelli came close to scoring after 25 minutes as he brought the ball down between two Arsenal defenders and shot on the turn from around 8 yards. Unfortunately for City, Szczesny was in fine form, and closed the gap quickly to stop the shot heading into the back of the net.

The first half was exhilarating as both sides seemingly took turns in trading blows. City attacked, then Arsenal attacked, back and forth it went. Joe Hart made a number of fantastic saves to keep City in the game, the best performance from him so far this season as he was clearly desperate to keep a clean sheet. Both teams went in level at 0-0 at the halfway mark.

The deadlock was finally broken on 52 minutes after Zabaleta intercepted a pass on the edge of his own area. Gareth Barry picked up the ball and passed quickly to Samir Nasri who then quickly turned and ran past the halfway line, spotting Balotelli in acres of space to run into on the left wing. Balo took control of the ball 6 yards from the byline, worked his way to the 18 yard box and jinked passed song before firing off a low drive. Szczesny parried the shot but Aguero managed to get his head to the rebound which then fell neatly to Silva who tapped the ball home with his right foot.

Both sides had a number of good chances in the second half. Robin Van Persie had the ball in the back of the net at one point but the assistant flagged for offside. Arsenal may well feel aggrieved after seeing the reply though.  It was a mixture of poor finishing and excellent goalkeeping from both teams that kept the score down before time was called on a simply breathtaking game.

An outstanding performance from all players. Nasri was given man of the match at the Etihad, Kompany was given it by Sky, although Zabaleta and Gareth Barry were two other very strong shouts for the award.

City remain top of the table despite their season apparently falling apart after the Chelsea game. Stoke visit the Etihad Stadium in the next few days, a different sort of test altogether awaits.

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Friday, 16 December 2011

Manchester City v Arsenal

Another big game ahead as Arsenal travel up from London to the Etihad Stadium. The media have taken delight in declaring City's season is crumbling after falling out of the Champions League and suffering their first domestic defeat against Chelsea. All I will say to that is "pffft, get a grip and find something interesting to write about".

Arsene Wenger's side haven't exactly got off to a flying start to the season after selling 3 very important players over the summer. Their defensive record is quite shocking overall, conceding more goals than anyone in the top 7 teams.

This poor record is partly down to their complete and utter capitulation to Manchester United earlier on in the season, but they have only conceded 2 in their last 5 Premier League games. However, their numbers at the back have taken a serious hit and are without a recognised full-back on either side of the pitch.

Unsurprisingly I would say their main threat is Robin van Persie. RVP has almost single handedly kept the Gunners in the top half of the table, scoring 15 or the team's 31 league goals. And they said City relied too much on Tevez last season! I've not heard much (anything) about how van Persie has been carrying the squad from the media, and you wont do either.

Given RVP's goal scoring form, it is a little concerning that City haven't kept a clean sheet for 8 consecutive league games. The absence of Nigel De Jong has certainly showed this season as Mancini has opted for the combination of Barry and Toure in the middle rather than Barry and De Jong with Toure further up the pitch.

On the plus side of this though it has obviously enabled City to be more adventurous despite using the exact same formation as last season as we now have more quality attacking players to choose from. There can be no denying that City's ability going forward has more than made up for less cover at the back.

Talking of cover at the back, Micah Richards is set to return at right-back which is a big boost to the squad. Pablo Zabaleta is likely to move over to the left of defence as Kolarov is still recovering from injury and Clichy is suspended. Other than that, there are no injury concerns at this time.

City are once again favourites with the bookies to come out on top, and despite Arsenal slowly getting themselves back into top form and City's little blip in the league I'd have to agree with them. Arsenal will come and play football, there will be no buses parked in front of their goal. This, coupled with their makeshift defence, could play right into City's strength on the break.

And FIFA 12 predicts...

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Transfer Crazy (and it's not even January yet)

Silly season hasn't even kicked into gear yet, but that hasn't stopped Manchester City being linked with a ridiculous 34 players which are worth an eye watering £617.7m as of today (15/12/2011). What's laughable is you will actually see people commenting on these rumours as though a) they're actually true and b) City are actually wanting to buy them all. I do pity these sad individuals, almost as much as I pity the journalists (and I use that term loosely) who make up the majority of them in the first place.

So who are the lucky 'few' that could be playing alongside David Silva and Vincent Kompany at the Etihad Stadium after January?

Ezequiel Lavezzi - Napoli (£25m)
Edinson Cavani - Napoli (£30m)
Marek Hasmik - Napoli (£25m)
Daniele De Rossi - Roma (£8m)
Alesio Cerci - Fiorentina (£5m)
Milos Krasic - Jeventus (£17.5m)
Thiago Silva - AC Milan (£25m)
Alexandre Pato - AC Milan (Swap with Tevez
Maicon - Inter Milan (Swap Carlos Tevez)
Cristian Chivu - Inter Milan (£15m)
Radja Nainggolan - Cagliari (£4.5m)

Sergio Busquets - Barcelona (£35m)
Eric Abidal - Barcelona (£11.5m)
Maxwell - Barcelona (£6m)
Sami Khedira - Real Madrid (£20m)
Javi Matinez - Athletic Bilbao (£34m)
Mhemet Topal - Valencia (£10m)

Paul Pogba - Manchester United (pre-contract for free summer transfer)
Robin van Persie - Arsenal (£30m)
Ross Barkley - Everton (£30m)
Lewis Dunk - Brighton (£5m)
Tommie Hoban - Watford (unknown)
Wilfried Zaha - Crystal Palace (£700k)

Eden Hazard - Lille (£40m)
MBaye Niang - Caen (£1m)

Sime Vrsaljiko - Dinamo Zagreb (£12.5m)
Mateo Kovacic - Dinamo Zagreb (£12.5m)

Gregory van der Wiel - Ajax (£28m)
Christian Eriksen - Alax (£30m)
Zakaria Bakkali - PSV Eindhovan (unknown)

Neymar da Silva - Santos (£50m)

Hulk - Porto (£88m)

Marco Reus - Borussia Monchengladbach (£15m)

Yassine El Ghanassy - Gent (£3.5m)

And there you have it. Mancini's apparent shopping list. Forget what I said about City only really needing 1 wide man to complete the squad as that's clearly not the case according to the press. I'll keep this updated as and when new rumours are published so we can all have a laugh at them.

Nathan Redmond - Birmingham (£6m)
Shaquille Hunter - Bristol Rovers (unknown)
Gary Cahill - Bolton Wanderers (£11.5m)
Cheick Tiote - Newcastle United (£25m)
Jan Vertonghen - Ajax (£11m)
Angel Pozo - Real Madrid (£100k)
Nicla Leali - Brecia (unknown)
Kurt Zuoma - St Etienne (£5m)
Nir Biton - FC Ashdod (unknown)
Nicolas Gaitan - Benfica (£37.5m)
Nicolas Burdisso - Inter Milan (unknown) But he actually plays for Roma and in injured forthe entire season. Well done Daily Mail.

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Chelsea v Manchester City: Post Match

I'm not sure I can remember the last time so many people rejoiced over a Manchester City loss. Times are changing for sure. It was certainly an exciting game to watch although the end result wasn't what any City fan wanted to see.  

It all started so well on a very wet and windy night at Stamford Bridge when Aguero received the ball just inside the Chelsea half, found his way out of a dead end and threaded a perfect ball to Balotelli who's perfectly timed run gave him the space to run at the goal with Ivanovic struggling to catch up. He still had a lot of work to do though as Cech came out to meet him and Ivanovic tried to put in a challenge from behind. Mario oozed pure class by effortlessly easing the ball around Cech and neatly slotted the ball into the back of the net. Less than 2 minutes on the clock and City were already 0-1 up at Stamford Bridge.

City totally dominated the next 30 minutes with some exquisite one-touch passing which left Chelsea chasing shadows for the most part. Even when they didn't have the ball they gave Chelsea little room to breathe, closing down players quickly and forcing errors. However, City failed to capitalise on some very good chances as well as having a very good penalty shout turned down by Clattenburg.

Silva jinked his way into the penalty area, ending up on the deck as he passed Bosingwa who stuck out a leg and made contact with Silva's knee. Clattenburg waved play on. How he could just wave play on is a mystery as the call had to be either a penalty to City or a yellow card to Silva for diving if Clattenburg felt it wasn't a penalty.

Chelsea managed to find their way back into the game against the run of play after 34 minutes when Daniel Sturridge managed to get around Gael Clichy and whip in a cross which was met by Raul Meireles. It was good movement by Meireles although the defending could, and should have been better. Zabaleta could have come closer to him (although he would have left the far post unguarded) and Yaya Toure stopped tracking him the closer he got to goal.

Meireles was lucky to still be on the pitch after that as he committed a studs high challenge either side of that goal. First he caught Silva and the calf after he was 2nd to the ball and then caught Zabaleta's knee in very similar circumstances. Only one of these was punished with a card, yet both were yellow card offences. Both sides returned to the dressing rooms with 11 men and all to play for at half time.

Things took a turn for the worse for City after the restart as Gael Clichy was booked for pulling back Sturridge just inside City's own half. A needless foul given Clichy's pace and the position of other players. He then received a second yellow 11 minutes later after a rash challenge on Ramires, leaving City with 10 men for the next half an hour.

To their credit, City defended well and limited Chelsea's chances despite the lion's share of possession they now had. It wasn't until the 81st minute that Chelsea managed to gain the lead through a Frank Lampard penalty. Daniel Sturridge's shot from just inside the 18 yard box hit Joleon Lescott's arm as he dived to block the ball. It wasn't intentional by any stretch of the imagination, but his arms were high and a penalty was given.

City put up a good fight and still managed to cause Chelsea some problems to the point that it looked as though Chelsea had the man sent off for a short spell, but it wasn't to be. Chelsea's players and staff rejoiced like they'd just secured the quadruple, as did several of SKY's commentary staff.

City have now played Spurs, United, Liverpool and Chelsea away from home, winning 2 drawing 1 and losing 1. 7 points away from home to 4 of the 5 closest title challengers is nothing to be sniffed at. Although there were a couple of disappointing performances from some players last night, the team as a whole can hold its head up high despite the defeat.

Cue the 'resurgent Chelsea' and 'the wheels falling off at City after crashing out of the Champions League' comments from people who either didn't watch the game or should really know better.

Arsenal visit the Etihad on Sunday. Although they're looking good in attack, their depleted defence may just take a beasting after the disappointment of the result last night.

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Looking for maximum points for Christmas, but what about the January Sales?

January is fast approaching and although the rumour mill hasn't quite cranked into gear just yet you can be sure that clubs will have been looking at potential targets for a while now. Do City need to get the wallet out in January?

I think we all know that whether they do or not will largely depend on who leaves and for how much as City reign in the spending done over the last few seasons. Mancini has stated as much several times in press conferences in recent weeks.

There are still a few players who aren't on loan at the moment who aren't really part of Mancini's plans for the Club. Top of that list are Tevez and Bridge. One refuses to even acknowledge he has a contract and wants to leave, the other seemingly just wants to pick up his paycheck and go shopping.

We'll look at each position in the squad and try to assess where City may want to strengthen when the transfer window opens and a brief thought about options at the end of the season. This is all just my opinion of course so feel free to leave comments with your own thoughts.

  • Joe Hart
  • Costel Pantilimon
  • Stuart Taylor
Questions were asked when City announced the season long loan of Pantilimon as we knew very little about him other than what we had seen in the Europa League last season. I do believe that he is a good stand-in keeper if the unthinkable should happen to Joe Hart. I really can't see any ins or outs happening with this position in January.

With Pantilimon only being on loan City will need to look at getting in another keeper capable of covering. Maybe that player will be Pantilimon, he's certainly got the right attitude and is about as good a keeper as you'll get who will stay at a club knowing he is likely to be 2nd choice for most of the season.

  • Micah Richards
  • Pablo Zabaleta
  • Nedum Onuoha
Micah has made the RB position his own this season and is almost everyone's automatic first choice for the role.

Zaba has predominantly been used for European games this season and will no doubt now feature in the Europa League. Lets face it, he's not a bad deputy to have is he?

Nedum really isn't in any sort of favour with Mancini and if the right offer comes in it may be tempting to let him go. However, given the recent injury worries in the fullback positions which saw Zaba play in left-back against Arsenal I don't think he will be going until the summer.

  • Gael Clichy
  • Aleks Kolarov
  • Wayne Bridge
Both Gael and Aleks have shared the left-back position this season, with Gael getting the more time between the two of them. Although it might not look it at times, Kolarov has stepped up his game from last season in both defensive and offensive duties. He is still better going forward than defending though.

Wayne Bridge, well, what do you say about this player... Turned down a move to Celtic in the summer because they couldn't match City's wages and now he is usually sat at home or seen swanning about town with his missus. Not bad work if you can get it. City will be desperate to get Bridge off the wage bill and pocket anything they can for him. I'll start the bidding at some lint and an old scrap of chewing gum rapper.

With Zabaleta's ability to play left-back should both Gael and Aleks get injured we wont be seeing anyone coming for this position.

  • Vincent Kompany
  • Joleon Lescott
  • Stefan Savic
  • Kolo Toure
  • Dedryk Boyata*
The centre-back pairing pretty much picks itself at the moment. Kompany and Lescott are one of the best defensive partnerships in the country. They provide a balance to the back line and both complement each other's ability.

Stefan Savic will take some time to get used to life in the Premier League and his performances so far have proved that. That being said, he has shown enough potential to suggest he can make it in England once he is settled.

I don't think many would have thought it 12 months ago but we may be seeing the back of Kolo come January. Rumours have circulated about PSG's interest in the Ivory Coast international and his recent interview with So Foot has not helped restore his image since his drugs ban ended. Although he privately denied ever saying what was reported, So Foot have declared they have a recording of the interview and will take legal action should Kolo publicly denounce it. Message to Kolo; If you want to stay, get your head down, get fit and zip it.

With the promising Dedryk Boyata coming back from loan at the end of the season, unless Kolo is sold in January, I doubt we will see any more defenders coming into the club.

Midfield (Holding/Box-to-Box)
  • Yaya Toure
  • Gareth Barry
  • James Milner
  • Nigel De Jong
  • Owen Hargreaves
  • Abdul Razak
The centre of midfield is pretty much covered in all honesty. Looking down that list of players you'd be a brave person to say we need yet another player who can play in the centre of the park.

Yaya Toure will be missing for a few weeks in January but even so, I don't think that warrants going out and spending anything on a 'replacement' as I have seen some say. Ok Hargreaves will probably never be fit enough to put in back to back games, and Razak is still developing as a player but that still leaves Barry, Milner and De Jong.

Mancini will have to rotate these 3 and include Hargreaves and Razak where possible to keep everyone 100% through January and part of February.

Midfield (Attacking)
  • David Silva
  • Samir Nasri
  • Adam Johnson
  • Vladimir Weiss*
This is the position that City really need to be careful with. David Silva has become such an influential player that it is difficult to replace him should he have to miss games. Samir Nasri offers a lot of creativity although he has yet to really find his feet in the squad.

The real area City lack is options with wide men. Mancini is a great admirer of Adam Johnson but it is clear he still has much of his game to develop. Johnson is also City's only dedicated winger. Milner can and has played out wide but he isn't a winger.

A lot depends on what Mancini really thinks about Vladimir Weiss and whether he feels the Slovakian has enough talent to step up to the plate next season after his loan spell in Spain. I'm undecided about Weiss, he has obvious ability but lacks consistency. He could be the answer to City's lack of wingers but it's 50/50 as to whether Mancini trusts him enough not to bring in another wide man in January.

City do have a number of very talented young players coming through the ranks who fit into the attacking mid and winger roles. Juan Roman and Denis Suarez are both technically gifted young Spaniards and Alex Henshall Jeremy Helan and Albert Ruznak are all pacey wide-men.

All 5 have huge potential and if Mancini feels he needs another winger come January I hope he doesn't pick up one that's so young that it would hamper the chances of these young men in the future.

  • Sergio Aguero
  • Edin Dzeko
  • Mario Balotelli
  • Alex Tchuimeni-Nimely*
  • John Guidetti*
  • Luca Scapuzzi*
As with the centre of midfield, City have enough options at the front to be able to leave it as it is. Given the options in positions behind the main striker only a long term injury to 2 of the players before the end of January would have City looking to bring in cover.

I've not included Tevez in the list for quite obvious reasons, he clearly doesn't want to play for City and will do as he damn well pleases. That situation has been done to death and the Club will sort that out as they see fit.

The 3 other strikers named on the list are players with the potential to step into a 4th striker spot next season. It'll be a 3-way fight between them, although none of them will have to be included in the 25 man squad due to their ages so they may have another season to prove their worth before Mancini makes a decision on them.

There are a lot of players out on loan that I haven't included. This is basically because I don't think any of them have a future at  anymore, which is unfortunate for some of the younger players as if the club was in the same place it was 4 years ago they would likely be breaking into the first team quite easily.

All in all, when it comes to January, I really don't think we actually need to bring any players in (on loan or bought) for the majority of positions unless certain players end up with long term injuries or are sold on. If Kolo leaves, expect another defender to come in. If the midfield (holding or attacking) is hit with any long term injuries expect a loan signing.

I have seen it mentioned several times recently and no disrespect to anyone who has considered it, but the idea that City will actually go out and buy a player(s) to cover either or both Kolo and Yaya while they're on international duty is more than a little silly. It's makes absolutely no sens,e football or business-wise, what so ever.

You wouldn't expect any other manager to go out and buy a permanent replacement for a player who was out for 4-5 weeks with injury, so why would Mancini buy replacements for players off on international duty for the same length of time? As mentioned, the only way Mancini will by a replacement for Kolo is if he's leaving the club, not because he's on international duty. The same applies for Yaya.

There is a possibility that Mancini will look for another winger just so he has a player other than AJ to choose from but I can't see any more being done until the summer.

Don't be fooled by all the transfer rumours. This time 12 months ago their were around 30 players linked with moves to City and Mancini only opted to buy Edin Dzeko due to having only 2 strikers who were deemed good enough at the time.

Knowing me though, I'll be completely wrong.

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Chelsea v Manchester City

After the disappointment of dropping out of the Champions League the boys at City will be looking to put that firmly behind them as they take on a Chelsea side which appears to be slowly clicking into gear.

Andre Villas-Boas has had a tough ride in England since moving from Portugese side Porto. Billed as the next "special one" by parts of the media, you can certainly see some of Mourinho's influence in the way AVB handles himself with the press. Managing by far the best team in a rather average league and managing one of the top 4-5 clubs in a much more competetive league are worlds apart, as he has quickly found out.

One thing is for sure, the Chelsea side under AVB thus far certainly hasn't been as competitive as in previous seasons. The strength and organisation appears to have left with Carlo Ancelotti and that sees Chelsea currently sitting in 4th place in the league and already out of the Carling Cup.

Both Arsenal and Liverpool have been to Stamford Bridge so far this season, with Liverpool visiting in the league and Carling Cup. On all 3 occasions Chelsea have walked away as the losers, losing 3-5 to Arsenal, 1-2 and 0-2 to Liverpool. Manchester United have also played Chelsea (at Old Trafford) and beat them 3-1. So as you can see, their record against top teams this term is nothing short of abysmal.

They do still pose a threat though as Daniel Sturridge, a product of City's youth Academy, has scored 7 league goals so far this season and is beginning to look every bit the player we thought he would become at City. That is until his massive ego got in the way of things and wanted to move to a big club for the big money.

Patience, as they say, is a virtue and Daniel had none of it and has missed out on the blue revolution here at City. He's probably not bothered though. I suppose we'll have to make do with Dzeko, Balotelli and Aguero eh? :)

Didier Drogba is slowly getting back into form, and looked great against Valencia, but the player that may cause more trouble than any other though is new boy Juan Mata. Mata was one of the players I'd have loved to see City sign in the summer and he's been showing exactly why Chelsea spent £23.5m on the young Spaniard.

Of course, City have their own Spaniard in David Silva pulling the strings on the pitch. New ways of describing David's ability and influence have quickly dried up as they have already been used several times over. As it happens, Merlin or the magician are the two terms most often used now as some of the things he does on the pitch are simply magical.

City haven't shown any signs of slowing in the race for the title so far as they continue scoring almost at will, although a relative goal drought is almost bound to happen at some point. Hopefully it wont start against Chelsea.

AVB stated that if Chelsea lose this game then they are out of the title race. They are already 10 points adrift and face the possibility of being 13 points behind come the final whistle. He may or may not be right, but saying so in public puts pressure on City to perform and 'take out' one of their rivals, and it should also spur on the players at Chelsea to step up their game. I say 'should' as there is the possibility that some may find that added pressure to get a result a little too much. I suppose we'll find out on Monday night.

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot