Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Khaldoon: Stop congratulating one another and meet our terms

I've said it before, and I'll say it again; Khaldoon Al Mubarak oozes class and authority. He doesn't often speak to the press about anything, and the last time he spoke publicly was exclusively for at the end of last season.

But now, with under a week to go in the January transfer window, Khaldoon has broke his silence and spoke in no uncertain terms about Carlos Tevez's dream move to AC Milan. But before I go into that, let's just quickly recap the transfer saga over the last couple of months.

Milan made their approaches quite public saying that they had spoken to the player and his advisers in December and that he was going to Italy on loan. Milan's vice-president Adriano Galliani spoke on Italian TV saying;

"We have an agreement with Tevez and we have recently sent an email to City with our offer (loan with option to buy for £19m at the end of the season).

"We hope City says yes, there were other European clubs interested, but we are in pole position.

"Tevez wants to come to us. Half of the agreement has been reached. Now we await City's response."

In addition to this, Tevez was quoted in Argentina as saying, "I see myself only in the red and black shirt, I am hoping for Milan." And his greasy adviser Kia Joorabchian was quoted as saying, "We are only in talks with Milan."

This has gone on for several weeks now with Milan saying he's going there and City saying he isn't unless they buy him. And now, sorry to burst your little bubble, Carlos, it doesn't look like that's going to be happening despite your handler's best efforts and having already agreed personal terms with the Club before they ever approached City with an offer.

Khaldoon Al Mubarak told The National;

"As things stand AC Milan isn't an option for Carlos Tevez,

"Mr Galliani and his advisers have developed a misplaced sense of confidence from their premature discussions with Carlos and his advisers. If they want to be a consideration in this transfer window they would do better to stop congratulating one another and begin to look at how they would meet our terms."

City made there position perfectly clear from the beginning of the transfer window that they were not willing to loan Tevez out, and that only a transfer offer that met their valuation (reportedly £25m) would even be considered. However AC Milan have only put forward loan offers with the option to buy at the end of the season.

I don't believe AC Milan have/had any intention of buying Tevez even if City had agreed to the loan deal. I fully believe they would have sent him back at the end of the season when they had Cassano fit again after his minor heart surgery in November.

Khaldoon also made a point of praising the other 2 clubs that have been in the running to sign Tevez. PSG were reported to have agreed a fee with City but were unable to reach an agreement on personal terms with the striker. No doubt this is because Tevez doesn't want to go anywhere else and Joorbachian believes the rubbish Gilliani has been spouting about buying him at the end of the season.

"Paris St German and Inter Milan approached discussions with us in good faith and it is always a positive experience to deal with people with such a professional approach,"

Tevez and Joorabchian seem to be doing their utmost to get away. Refusing to play/get off the bench.warm up, buggering off to Argentina without permission, and the public statements that he wants to go to Milan are all tactics to try and force City's hand into selling him on the cheap.

Did they really think this would work? They have misread and underestimated the resolve of Al Mubarak and Mansour.

"Carlos remains a player with contractual obligations to Manchester City for the next two and a half seasons. Unless we receive an offer that we deem appropriate, the terms of his contract will be enforced."

With Tevez clearly not wanting to play for City again and Mancini unwilling to let him play, City are quite willing for Tevez to miss out on what should be the best years of his career should AC not meet their valuation or if Tevez rejects negotiations with other clubs like he has done.

There were fears that Tevez was getting away with his ridiculous and childish behaviour, but we have recently found out that is not the case. Tevez has lost out on a total of £9.3m worth of earnings through loss of a loyalty bonus, club fines, and not being paid since his November walk-out. This is likely to continue as long as Tevez stays away.

As tired as I am with it, I'm actually slightly looking forward to seeing how this pans out now we know Khaldoon's stance on the matter. As I said after the Munich debacle, this is going to cost Tevez and his career. The question is, how much?

3 months without football, 3 months without being paid, loss of reputation, £9.3m and counting.

Twitter: @MikeWalshmcfc or @mcfcDSLeftFoot.
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

One for the future: Interview with Alex Henshall

Last week one of City's brightest young talents received the news that he was on the shortlist for Great Britain's Olympic football team at the 2012 Olympic Games having played a number of games for England's U17s.

Since arriving from Swindon in June 2010 at 16 years old, Alex Henshall has impressed City's coaching staff and has been a regular feature for the U18s and also featured for the EDS in the NextGen series this season. Alex is one of a number of promising attacking players coming through City's ranks at the moment with Albert Rusnak, Devante Cole and Jordi Hiwula just 3 other names to choose from in the academy squad.

After the news that ex-City manager Stuart Pearce had shortlisted the 17 year-old winger, I decided to try and pin the pacey wide boy down to a few questions.

MW: Thanks for taking the time out for this, Alex. We'll jump straight into it. How do you feel about being shortlisted for the Team GB Olympic team? And is there any particular player you would like to play alongside should you make the final cut?

AH: Very happy and delighted with the news. At first I didn't think it was real and couldn't get my head round it, but yeah very happy! And definitely David Beckham. Always idolised him and would be a life time experience!

MW: You were nominated for City's goal of the season for your volley against Liverpool last season, is that the best goal you've scored so far?

AH: hahaha I took the goal well but yeah I would say it's defiantly up there without a doubt.

MW: Is there anyone in City's 1st team that you look up to or has influenced you since joining City, and why?

AH: Yeah, always been Adam Johnson. People always say we're alike but obviously he's better and experienced. I learn a lot off him just by watching him especially on and off the field!

MW: Are there any players in the U18s that you particularly enjoy playing alongside?

AH: I love playing with all of them, I'm not going to single anyone out. I think they have made me a better player playing with them I'm certain with that, and I think we have all got a good chemistry now :)

MW: Who is your favourite player in general?

AH: My favourite player at the moment is Gareth Bale. He's class at the moment and he plays like I want to play.

MW: How was it playing against your old side in the FA Youth Cup, and how do you feel about your opponents, Fulham, in the next round?

AH: Yeah like I always said I love my home town, I would never forget it! Was great going back and playing against them and also seeing friends and family all again. Also especially to show how much I progressed. Yeah Fulham, another good side. Think we're all looking forward to it. Another test for us and hopefully we'll come out with another victory.

MW: You've only been with City about 18 months or so, are you aware of the transfer connection City has with Swindon in the past?

AH: Umm yeah a few said to me when I signed that players like Mike Summerbee were there, if thats correct! But at the time I wasnt aware of it haha.

MW: Spot on. Which team do you support? Swindon, City, or another?

AH: Funny enough I actually support Liverpool! It's just a family thing, we all support them, but I must say I do support City a little bit now, because you know playing for them too and I like watching them :)

MW: What would you like to acheive in the next 12 months, and where would you like to be in the next 5 years?

AH: Well I'v always dreamt about being a Premiership player, So I hope I make it to the top level where ever I go and have a good career in the game. The next 5 years, umm, well hopefully I'll still be good then, haha! But nah, I still hope I'll be playing Premiership level and still progressing because I love doing what I do and I'll do anything to play.

Thanks again for taking the time out Alex, and hopefully that Premiership future will be with City in not too many years to come.

You can follow Alex on Twitter @AlexHenshall11. And myself @MikeWalshmcfc or the official David Silva's Left Foot profile @mcfcDSLeftFoot.

Alternatively you can like the official Facebook page David Silva's Left Foot for regular updates from this blog.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur: Post match review.

A cagey first half as both teams sized each other up, 4 goals in 9 minutes in the 2nd half and a stoppage time penalty. I think my pulse has just about managed to return to normal.

There was a lot of talk about this being a season defining game for City and Spurs, but to be honest, I think it was more important for Spurs' title challenge than it was for City's given the next 2 month's worth of fixtures. Kyle Walker took to Twitter and stated that City were "there for the taking" or so he thought.

Micah Richards returned to the side and was once again handed the captain's armband, an indication of how far he's come since Mancini joined the Blues and a testament to how highly the Italian rates him. Mario Balotelli also passed a late fitness test and started on the bench. James Milner was preferred over Nigel De Jong and started alongside Gareth Barry in the centre of the park.

The first half lacked any real pace and urgency, although City managed to create a couple of chances. One of which came on 17 minutes when Silva pinged the ball back from the touchline into the path of Sergio Aguero, but as has happened recently, Edin Dzeko was in the way and the chance went begging. Spurs also had a couple of speculative efforts that were blocked by City's defence.

8 minutes later a quick free kick set Aguero on his way with Kaboul in toe. Aguero could have possibly bought himself a penalty after he was taken wide in the area and Kaboul gave him a little push in the back. To his credit though he stayed on his feet and created a chance for David Silva who flashed the ball across the face of the goal.

With 30 minutes gone, Richards stole the ball from Bale and then Parker before hitting a low cross to Aguero on the edge of the area. Sergio jinked to his right, giving himself so space but a good save from the evergreen Brad Freidel prevented City going 1-0 up.

There was a potential penalty shout early in the second half Richards steamed into a packed 18 yard box with his cross being blocked by Assou-Ekotto's elbow. I've seen them given, but with the distance between the players was minimal and a penalty would have probably been a harsh decision.

Then the game really sparked into life with 55 minutes gone. David Silva doing what he does best, finding space, keeping the ball and threading an inch perfect pass through the defence. Nasri had made a superb run from the left, leaving Kyle Walker stranded. The pass was excellent and the finish, superb. First time, right foot, Friedel had no chance.

City had the ball in the back of the net 3 minutes later after Nasri's corner was flicked across the face of the goal by Dzeko. Joleon Lescott got to the ball before Scott Parker and slid into the back of the net with the ball and City were in complete control and seemed as though this could spark another mauling.
If you thought a mauling was on the cards though, you were wrong as Spurs hit back almost straight away from the restart. After 2 changes of possession, Kaboul  hoofed the ball forward and Savic, who had had a good game up to that point and dealt with similar lofted passes throughout the first half with ease, misjudged the flight of the ball and gave Jermain Defoe a clean run on goal. Joe Hart could do very little about it as Defoe rounded him and passed the ball home. What should have been a comfortable lead with Spurs not making many good chances before hand was threatening to turn into a real scrap for victory.

Minutes later though, City could have go back the 2 goal lead when Aguero knocked the ball through the Spurs defence and into Dzeko's path but the Bosnian blazed the ball high over the bar from 10 yards. Despite his goal in his previous game he still looks like a player low on confidence and with Balotelli fit again he may find it difficult to keep his place in the starting 11.

9 minutes after City scored their first goal, Spurs levelled the game when Lennon carried the ball down the left and passed the ball to Gareth Bale who had drifted into the middle. Once again, Hart could do nothing about it as the first-time finish was simply top class.

Spurs could have taken the lead when once again Savic lost possession. This time Bale stormed towards City's goal and squared it for Defoe, but he couldn't turn it into the net. It was a real let off for City.

Mancini had already made his first change, bringing on Mario Balotelli for Edin Dzeko and after getting booked for a late challenge on on the edge of the area a few minutes earlier, he then found himself in the centre of another controversy as it is being alleged that he intentionally went to stamp on Scott Parker's head after the two of them got in a tangle.

If you watch it in real time, it's nothing. Watch it in slow motion and it looks like a deliberate attempt at a stamp. Personally, and I can hear the cries of bias and blue tinted specs already, I don't think it was intentional and I know many will disagree. I'll be the first to hold my hands up and say when something is wrong, but despite the best attempts of Harry Redknapp after the game and Alan Hansen in the MotD2 studio, Balotelli is not the kind of person to try and deliberately stamp on someone's head.

Mario had already been knocked totally off balance by Parker's challenge with Modric coming in behind him. Now you can go on about 'unnatural movement' or whatever you want but all you are doing is speculating as to how a person may or may not move when that will vary from person to person depending on their size, size, agility, actual direction of movement and intended direction of movement.

If you want to watch it in slow motion, go ahead, then tell me where Luca Modric is looking when the 'stamp' occurs. Did he call to the ref to point this out? No. Why? Because it wasn't an intentional stamp to inflict injury on anyone. In fact no player on the pitch made any claims of a stamp.

The ref was 6 yards away, did he see any foul play? No. Why? Because it wasn't an intentional. And that is where I will leave it, but no doubt this will drag on for days in the press and in the forums compounded by the factor that Balotelli then went on to win a penalty in the last few seconds of time added on.

When the pressure is on and a penalty has to be taken, there is only one man for the job. Seemingly unaffected by any kind of pressure and supremely confident in his own ability, Mario Balotelli is one of the best penalty takers I have ever seen. Nonchalantly striding towards the ball and effortlessly stroking it beyond the keeper 

A simply enthralling game for the neutral, a heart stopping game for City and Spurs fans, but it leaves City 8 points clear of the London Club and still 3 points clear at the top of the table with a fantastic run of Premier League games ahead with the opportunity to push further ahead in the race for the title.

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

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Don't you just love the media's interpretation?

'Mancini admits to Adebayor mistake' and 'Mancini rues Adebayor loan deal as punchless City prepare for Spurs' are just 2 of the headlines I've seen since the pre-Spurs press conference. Now I've watched that myself, and I must have missed the bit where Mancini said this as I don't recall it at all.

ESPN (one of the more useless sports sites I've come across so far) had this to say;
"While Mancini was initially happy to let the Togolese striker depart on a temporary basis in the summer, he has now admitted he would not have let Adebayor leave the Etihad Stadium if he had known Carlos Tevez would go on to fall out with the club, depriving Mancini of a fourth striker alongside Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli."

Mancini was actually asked;
"Has there been times recently with the Carlos situation and injuries when you wish you could have been able to call on (Adeybayor)?"

And his exact reply was;
"Probably, probably. But we didn't know what would happen with Carlos like in Munich. We had four strikers, I think with four strikers you can play one year."

Forgive me but where does he say that it was a mistake to let Adebayor go out on loan? Previously in the conference he intimated that Ade would have been left on the bench at best most of the time anyway, and wouldn't have been happy about that just as he wasn't last season which was why he was loaned out then.

In hindsight would Mancini not have loaned out Ade? Well when he was loaned out last season City had Tevez, Balotelli and Dzeko from January. Who is to say that Ade wouldn't have gone anyway now we have Aguero, Balotelli and Dzeko while Tevez plays golf in Argentina?

Don't the press know that City posts each press conference on their website for everyone to see for themselves? The stories are sly ways to make Mancini sound incompetent, as well as a 'cheat' according to other recent stories.

Lets not forget about the second headline I mentioned earlier, either. "Punchless" City. I doubt you'd be surprised to hear that this is from the Daily Mail posted by an unnamed sportsmail reporter. I wonder why they felt the need to remain anonymous? Perhaps because the headline is so blatantly anti-City that it's embarrassing?

This punchless City have scored more goals than anyone in the league by the way. Our strikers have netted a combined 42 goals in all competitions and only Mario Balotelli has scored fewer goals in the league than Adebayor due to missing around a quarter of the season with Ade playing in almost every game.

Spurs' strikers (Adebayor, Defoe, Pavlyuchenko) have scored a combined 24 goals in all competitions in comparison. So, Daily Mail, would you like to have a little word with the idiot that wrote the article as this is just another pathetic, lazy, inaccurate anti-City piece of journalism.

Oh, and don't worry Ade, we don't want to prize you away from the new club you're in love with, and the new manager that's the best you've ever had and understands you and has helped you, and the fans that you adore (despite you making an official complaint about them 12 months ago for what you perceived as racist chants towards yourself). That is until you figure out that Spurs wont be putting up any money for you come the end of the season.

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

Friday, 20 January 2012

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur preview

Sky Sports are billing this weekend's match as a grudge match with Spurs seeking revenge for the beating they received at White Hart Lane earlier in the season. According to a recent poll by Sky Sports, Spurs are also the favourites to win the league, no doubt partly due to the new-found hatred that City has acquired.

Spurs are certainly in the title race at this point and there's no doubting they are a good team but they have a really tough run of games approaching that starts against City. In the next 5 games after City they are away to Liverpool and Arsenal and are at home to United, not exactly a the easiest fixture list.

City could seriously hamper Spurs' ambitions with another win which would see them go 8 points ahead of them and potentially 6 points clear of United depending on their result later on in the day. Another 5-1 victory may not be on the cards though as City will be missing at least 2 key players, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure. Mario Balotelli and Micah Richards are also hoping to return from injury.

Spurs will be without a few players themselves due to injuries, however they will probably feel the loss of City loanee and their top scorer in the league, Adebayor the most. Despite Redknapp favouring the City outcast, Jermain Defoe has actually scored more goals for the club in all competitions scoring 1 every 84 minutes, so will be an able deputy.

Spurs  have a wealth of attacking talent throughout the starting 11 too. Bale, Van der Vaart, Lennon, and Modric are all threats to City's goal. Given the pace of Bale and Lennon on the wings you would hope Richards will return to the right of defence with Clichy on the left.

Redknapp has recently praised the way Spurs have gone about their business, saying that they have had success without spending the kind of money City have done in recent years. And while it is true that City have spent more while Spurs have managed to wheel and deal in the transfer market, it's not as though Spurs are flush with academy talent in their side. 10 of their probable starting 11 will have been bought and taken no part in any academy activity. They are also one of the biggest spending English clubs in the last few years.

It's not as though they've won much either. I know success isn't measure only in silverware but it's the ultimate indication of how successful a club really is. A solitary League Cup win in 2008 is their only trophy in the last 10 years. The last trophy before that was 1999 with another League Cup and we all know where City were at that time.

But to be honest, I don't really care how Spurs run their club, I only care about them finishing behind City in the league.

A repeat of the 5-1 would be great, but I just don't see a scoreline like that as I see this game being a much closer contest this time. Thankfully Edin Dzeko has found his shooting boots again and an attacking lineup of Silva, Nasri Aguero and Dzeko could prove fruitful.

Whether Nasri gets the nod though is anyone's guess as Mancini may want to go with the industry that Milner provides. Either way, City still have plenty of talent despite the loss of several players and have enough of it to win this game.

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

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The 'imaginary red card' issue

It seems to be the phrase on every journalist's lips at the moment, right along side "in crisis" and "feeling the pressure". Of course you will be aware that all of this is directed at Manchester City.

Mancini is no stranger to controversy as through his career he has proven to be a character whose ability is matched by his passion for the game and his ability to lose his temper. Sometimes that passion spilled over into anger as I'm sure many of you will be aware of some of his history.

Since coming to England just over 2 years ago it has usually been Mancini's arguments with Tevez or his treatment of players that were unwanted in the squad that have brought himself some negative publicity. Now, though, it is his conduct on the touchline that is being called into question. What is funny though is that 2 of his main detractors in recent weeks have been Alex Ferguson and Wayne Rooney. If there were any two people who had no room to comment on anyone's conduct on or off the pitch it would be these 2 reprobates.

So what has Mancini actually done? This all started when Kompany was given a straight red for a tackle on Nani during the FA Cup tie against Manchester United. It is almost universally accepted that it was the wrong decision but despite this, the FA upheld the ban.

Since 'that' tackle there has been a rather large debate on what should be deemed reckless or excessive and endangering other players and we have seen several times in various matches tackles that have been 'worse' than Kompany's that haven't even been met with a free kick, never mind a straight red card.

Manchester City have also had some rather suspect decisions go against them in recent weeks. Gareth Barry's 2 yellow cards against Liverpool in the league is one of those. Barry was sent packing while Charlie Adams and Martin Skrtel kicked lumps out of several players and barely an eyelid was batted. In the same match and only a short time after Barry was sent off, Skrtel brought down Yaya Toure on the box and received a yellow card.

In the Carling Cup tie, again against Liverpool, Glenn Johnson flew into a two footed challenge on Joleon Lescott that again was almost unanimously thought as much worse than Kompany's. Did he get a red card? No.

There have been other instances lately but the latest came against Wigan on Monday when Figueroa deliberately handled the ball on the half way line preventing Sergio Aguero a clean run at the Wigan goal. Once again this was met by cries for a red card from City fans at the game and at home. Several online forums with nothing to do with City have mentioned the exact same incident saying it should have been a red card. But the ref only gave a yellow.

In each of these instances Mancini was seen brandishing an imaginary card of some hue, believed to be red. Now I'm not exactly jumping for joy that he does this, but given the current run of awful refereeing decisions that have gone against City I can fully understand that he is getting really frustrated with injustices and irregularity within the game.

Partly the reason the media have picked it up and ran with it is that Mancini was annoyed that Wayne Rooney seemingly had an influence on Chris Foy sending off Vincent Kompany. Mancini was right in feeling aggrieved, and then expected the same rules to be applied be referees in other games. This hasn't happened though as I have mentioned above.

Rooney took to Twitter on Monday after Figueroa received a yellow : "Was manchini asking for red card????" Firstly, Wayne, he probably was as it was a straight red card offence. Secondly, Mancini should have a capital M. Third, there is no h in Mancini. Fourth, where's the 'a' gone? Get back to school you dopey, douche bag, neanderthal.

Why is Wayne Rooney including himself in the goings on at City anyway? What's it got to do with him? And it's not like he has never tried to influence a ref is it? 

Now Mancini is no saint, he has a fiery temper that burns below the cool exterior and if waving an 'imaginary red card' is the worst thing he does on the touchline then so what?Although it's not acceptable in the English game, is it really any less acceptable as this?

Or this?

Or this?

Or this?

Or this?

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Is there are difference between managers doing it on the sidelines and players doing it on the pitch? Mancini thinks so, and I'm inclined to agree with his point that whilst on the touchline he has no influence on the referee what so ever by doing this as the ref can't even see him. However players who run up into the face of a referee can and clearly do sometimes influence the decision making process of officials.

Again, this isn't me defending the card waving, I don't like it, but this has gone way out of proportion because it's Mancini. Would there be the same furor over Alex Ferguson doing it? If the card waving isn't acceptable as it is deemed to be cheating because it is apparently an attempt to influence the referee, what about this?

Oh we all know about Fergie time and his watch tapping antics. Is this not attempting to influence the referee into blowing his whistle earlier than he intends to? That could directly influence the outcome of the game couldn't it? Yet it is spoken of by commentators as some kind of endearing quality, a bit like Schole's tackling. "Oh he still can't tackle can he, gufaw" and "We're now into Fergie time, laugh giggle" are comments that we have heard for nearly 20 years.

How is Alex Ferguson tapping his watch, or screaming and pointing into the face of officials during the game and at half time better or more acceptable than the wave of the hand? It's more intimidating and it's more likely to influence future decision. So why isn't that ever mentioned? Well we all know the answer to that don't we?

Let the media have their say, they don't negatively influence the squad any more than waving an imaginary card on the sideline influences a referee. Although as with referees, a little more consistency wouldn't go amiss.

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


City's big chance.

The next couple of months are absolutely massive for City's title hopes. I know what you're thinking "Yeah that's stating the bloody obvious" or "Aren't they all?" Well you would be right on both counts, but take a look at the fixture list and the games coming up for teams in the top 6, and specifically for those who are the bookies' favourites to challenge for the title, United and Spurs.

After maintaining their 3 point cussion at the top of the league on Monday, City have a fantastic chance of pulling away from those closest to them as they each play teams in the top 6 several times, whereas City only have to play Spurs at home. I say 'only', I know that will be a very tough game but you see what I'm getting at.

Spurs play 5 of the top 6 including City, United play 4, while Arsenal and Liverpool play 3 and they will all be taking points off each other. Once City have played Spurs we only play 1 team in the current top 10 (in this run of fixtures of course) so this presents a fantastic opportunity to make a massive push towards to Premier League title.

Punctuating those fixtures for City are (at minimum) the 2nd leg of the Carling Cup semi-final against Liverpool and 2 Europa League games against Porto. It will be interesting just how seriously Mancini takes these given the opportunity that presents itself in the league.

Kompany will be back for the Everton game, Silva should be 100% for Spurs, as should Dzeko and hopefully Balotelli having all suffered recent injuries. Hopefully Micah will recover quickly too. Kolo and Yaya will both be back in the squad in time for Blackburn at the very latest if they get to the final of the African Nations.

At that time City (circumstances permitting) should really be kicking back into gear if we can get to that point with everyone fit and no more suspensions.

I know several of you reading this will be thinking "take one game at a time". Again you would be right, and Mancini voices that same opinion in each press conference when asked about games in the future. However his team selection often tells a different story as he juggles players around so they will be fit for certain games. He definitely plans ahead and I will be totally surprised if he hasn't looked at that fixture list and considered the possibility of being clear at the top of the league by a good few points by the final whistle of the game against Swansea.

A large factor in how the next 8 games pans out will be City's ability to unlock tightly packed defences as I expect at least 4 of those games to be almost 90 minutes of attack versus defense. City have struggled reently when teams have parked the bus and they are going to have to figure out how to move it quickly.

Despite United 'coming good' in January and Spurs being favourites for the title according to a Sky Sports vote, City could make huge strides towards lifting the Premier League trophy come May if they can string a solid set of results together. Of course you can't get too excited about that prospect because absolutely anything can happen between now and then, and I'm not saying City will definitely be clear by a good few points either, but there's no harm in considering the possibility, is there?

Edit: Manchester United are away to Arsenal, not home. Shows you how much a give a damn eh? ;)

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

Wigan Athletic v Manchester City: post match

That certainly wont go down as one of the greatest City performances of all time. I got a rather uneasy feeling just before kick off and it proved to be quite a nervy game all round as, I think it's fair to say, City scrapped away to get a 1-0 victory in a half empty DW Stadium.

Of course you could look at the result and the performance and be thinking that City should have flattened Wigan without much trouble but the Premier League often produces a surprise or two throughout the season. We've seen several good results for teams lower down the league, or bad results for those higher up depending on which way you want to look at it.

This game looked as though it might be one of those days as City never really got going despite the first half looking quite comfortable as City went ahead through Edin Dzeko's first goal in over 2 months. The goal itself came in the 22nd minute after Edin won a free kick down the left flank. David Silva lofted the ball into the box and Edin Dzeko found himself unmarked and unimpeded to head the ball home.

The 2nd half was a different story with Wigan being largely the better side as City's usually metronomic passing lacked consistency, even David Silva looked out of sorts as a number of passes he usually does in his sleep didn't reach their intended targets.

What City didn't do though is fall apart. When luck isn't on your side and you have a few players not playing quite up to the standard that has come to be expected of them then you need them to just grind out results.

A good indication of how City's evening was going was when Aguero got himself within 7 yards of the Wigan goal but instead of pulling the trigger with his left foot he weaved his way across the face of the goal expertly avoiding the Wigan defenders only for Edin Dzeko to put in a perfectly timed tackle, prodding the ball into Al-Habsi's hands.

Despite Wigan's performance in the 2nd half, Joe Hart only had to make 2 saves all game. Partly due to Wigan's appalling final ball, and the battling defensive display from City. Gareth Barry and James Milner both put in a good shift and Sergio Aguero made himself a pest when Wigan had the ball in their own half. Stefan Savic and Joleon Lescott both put in a decent performance at the back too.

As is becoming the norm in City games of late there was yet another contentious decision by the referee. This time Wigan's Figueroa blatantly cut out a lofted pass forward with his hand at the half way line. The pass would have seen Aguero have a free run on goal with no other defenders within 20 yards of him.

Surely this was a clear goal scoring opportunity despite the distance from goal as there were no other defenders near Aguero. But no, Martin Atkinson gave a yellow card for what should have been a straight red, much to Mancini's growing and justified annoyance with the inconsistency of officials in the Premier League.

Thankfully it didn't change the outcome of the game like it potentially has done in recent weeks but it is yet another indication that something desperately needs to be done about the standard of officials in England.

I wont hold my breath for any positive headlines from this game as we all know when certain other teams  grind out results after a couple of bad games they're "playing like champions" while other teams are "struggling" or "feeling the pressure". Whatever is said, it wont change the fact that City are 3 points clear at the top of the league.

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

Friday, 13 January 2012

Wigan Athletic v Manchester City preview.

After a very disappointing first half against Liverpool and a distinct lack of cutting edge in the 2nd half, Wigan away is probably one of the best places to go right now for a game to build up your confidence again. I mean that with respect of course, but there is no denying that Wigan aren't having a great season.

They have never been much of a threat to the usual top teams and have finished outside the top 10 all but once since their first season in the Premier League in 2005-06.This season they are currently 2nd from bottom and firmly in a relegation fight with another 5 or so teams, have the joint 3rd worst home scoring record with 10 goals, and 3rd worst home defensive record as they have conceded 2 goals on average in each game.

Although I'm not a fan of Wigan, I do feel for Roberto Martinez as he is one of the more dignified managers in the league despite struggling with the difficulties of the quite obvious financial restraints he has to work within and players he is able to attract.

It is teams such as Wigan that are the ones City need to be consistently beating but since Wigan were were promoted the league record against them isn't particularly great (W5-D3-L5), however after being a bogey team in the past the last 4 meetings have seen City score 9 goals without reply.

City will of course be missing Vincent Kompany (suspended) as well as Kolo and Yaya Toure (international duty). Their are questions over the fitness of Mario Balotelli as he certainly didn't look 100% before being subbed off in the 1st half against Liverpool, and David Silva is the other concern after suffering an ankle injury a week ago.

Despite this, City undoubtedly have the quality to beat Wigan and they must prepare for yet another team to park the bus. When even the likes of Liverpool play with a back 5 and end the game with 6 defenders on the pitch against you it tells its own story about how teams feel about your attacking threat.

Earlier in the season City just brushed this aside but teams are becoming more and more resolute in their defending and it's no surprise that in recent weeks this tactic has yielded results for City's opponents. It's not a tactic Martinez is known to use but I wouldn't blame him or be surprised if he does on Monday night.

With the possibility of Wigan playing on the counter attack, perhaps one of the key players will in fact be Stefan Savic and despite his shaky start and giving away a penalty he didn't have a particularly bad game, but he did look nervous  throughout which is unlike him. Although not tested as often as Kompany in City and Liverpool's previous meeting, Stefan managed to keep Andy Carroll pretty quiet. His performances have been a little mixed but that is to be expected as he hasn't had regular football and it is his first season in the league.

Behind the scenes Vinnie could be a great aid to him at this time as his qualities as club captain stretch beyond match day and onto the training ground. His shoes are particularly large ones to fill but I hope he has a word in Stefan's ear to let him know that the lads are backing him.

I know there are absolutely no easy games in the Premier League and anything can happen on any given day but City really need a good win to kick start their season again after a sketchy run of results. There are also a small number of players in the squad that really need to step up to the mark too after several rather under-par performances.

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

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Captain Kompany, the perfect role model

Dear all,

I appealed because I obviously completely disagreed with the interpretation of the officials on the day but that happens in football and we move on. I wonder though if we are now going to see an unprecedented wave of red cards on match days because we sanction "if's" and "maybe's"? Are we going to look back at video evidence for every single challenge that goes unnoticed by the officials, look at different scenarios and potential outcomes of what could have been considered a good tackle and then sanction it? Players and managers are starting to expect more sending offs from referees and I think it's for the wrong reasons. My understanding is that English football prides itself on the hardness, the fairness and the tradition of its game. That is why hundreds of millions of people tune in to watch Premier League football and English referees have always been a key factor to that success in my opinion. So I don't agree with people saying that referees in this country aren't doing well as I think they are the best in the world. Hopefully common sense will prevail again in the future and I for one hope not to see consistency in sending offs and suspensions when the intent of a player is to win the ball.

I'd like to add to this that I waited for the suspension to be confirmed before making any comments on the matter as I didn't want to give the impression that I was using the media as a tool to benefit my own personal agenda in this case. I'm not speaking on behalf of the club or anybody else, this isn't me defending myself, this is just me raising a genuine concern.

If football fans decide I'm wrong in raising these concerns then I will have no problem in accepting the fact that times are changing again for our game.

This was Vincent Kompany rather eloquently airing his views on the straight red dismissal during the early minutes of the FA Cup 3rd round tie with Manchester United. The majority reaction to the sending off was sheer disbelief that a player can be shown a straight red for a tackle that doesn't touch another player. I share that sentiment completely and as you can see from the passage above, so does Kompany.

But this isn't going to be another ramble on the incident itself, the actual rules regarding tackling, the general decline in standards of officials, or the inability of the FA to use a little common sense. I'm not even going to mention that both Andy Carroll and Glen Johnson made very similar challenges last night and weren't even penalised with free kicks just like Kompany shouldn't have been which raises yet more questions about the state of current guidance surrounding interpretation of supposed intent... oh dammit, never mind. Anyway, this is to show my complete admiration for our Club captain.

Both on and off the pitch, Kompany is an outstanding professional. Forget this nonsense from the increasingly dithering Alex Ferguson implying that Kompany is a dirty player and intent on causing injury to others. That is quite simply a ludicrous statement intended to influence others into a negative opinion of a footballer who's moral standing is infinitely higher than anyone at his club.

At the time of the red card, Rooney and several other United ran to surround the referee waving their arms about, brandishing imaginary cards and generally screaming in the ref's face demanding immediate and harsh punitive measures.

What followed then was a player on the brink of losing it, it was written all over Kompany's face that he was absolutely furious with the referee for this shocking decision. But what was his reaction? As incensed as he was, he didn't give in to screaming abuse at the officials. Yes he demanded an explanation from Chris Foy, and rightly so, but at no point was he seen giving abuse directly to the officials.

Now how many times have we seen players of certain teams and even club captains verbally abuse officials directly to their face? Plenty, is the answer. Now I'm not saying it never happens with City players, all I am saying is it happens an awful lot with certain other teams in the league. I will leave you to fill in the blanks as I think we all know which teams and players I am talking about.

On the note of having a go at referees or arguing with other players, next time the ref gives a contentious decision or players get wound up and Kompany is on the pitch, have a look where he ends up. When things get heated you can be certain that Kompany will sprint the length of the pitch to try and make sure the tensions of his players don't boil over.  

We are supposed to have a system now whereby the referees are not surrounded by players at every decision made and that only the captains are to converse with the officials. Unfortunately that seems to have been forgotten completely by many players. Not Kompany. As already mentioned, in a heated situation Vinnie will be there to quell the storm.

On the pitch there are few who are more driven, competitive or as professional as Kompany which is why Mancini chose to give him the armband, and contrary to the usual, not a single person objected. He is a player that leads by example, never gives less than 100% on the pitch and is never caught up in controversy of his own making.

Kompany is a true captain in every sense. A captain shouldn't just lead for the 90 minutes of a game, they should be role models behind the scenes and in their personal lives. This can not be said for every captain out there that's for sure. But you guessed it, Kompany is one of them.

During public post and pre-match interviews he is always respectful of the opposition, never does he give in to boastful talk of how City will do this or do that even if they will. It is always "we can" achieve a certain goal, never "we will" as that is far too presumptuous for a man of Vinnies nature to speak of.

His commitment to the fans has recently been underpinned by his facebook and twitter accounts where he has begun to regularly update the fans with bits of information about training, and even held a fantastic competition to win his shirt and captain's armband from the FA Cup derby.

I will say one thing about that; if you read this Vinnie, you should've picked my speech ;)

There are a number of players who don't mind airing their opinions on social networking sites such as Twitter, and it was no different after that game with Rooney and Ferdinand logging on at the earliest opportunity to state categorically that they thought it was a definite red card.

Wayne Rooney
"Funny how people think i got kompany sent off. Im not ref. i didnt give red card. But it was a clear red card. 2 footed tackle"

Rio Ferdinand
"By the way how can there be any debate about the red card yesterday?? You leave the ground with a #2footTackle = Red card #fact"

And what was Kompany's immediate response after the game?

Vincent Kompany
"Thanks for the support I'm getting from everyone. Surprised at Sir Alex Ferguson's post match comments. Maybe that's a sign..."

Nothing about the decision at all, just a thank you to the fans and disappointment that Ferguson basically said Kompany goes out to hurt players on a regular basis. No tit for tat tweets to players, no arguing with opposition morons who send him vile messages. Even from the wording of the tweets the evident difference in dignity and intelligence is there for all to see. The gulf in class is like a yawning chasm, it's massive.

Manchester City really couldn't ask for a better captain.

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

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Keep calm and carry on

Well, what can I say about today? Disappointing if not predictable just about sums it up in a polite way. If you haven't heard yet, where have you been? The FA have upheld Vinnie's 4 match ban after an independent panel felt that the wholly inept Chris Foy was right in sending off Vincent Kompany in the Manchester derby.

Now for all the people saying "#twofoottackle = red card" and the line "by the letter of the law it was a red" you really should know better and check "the letter of the law". In fact you can do it right HERE. Also to quote Referee Development Officer, Peter Roberts with reference to two footed tackles; "If he takes the ball cleanly, it is a free kick and a caution." I rest my case your honour.

But anyway the damage is done, now City should use this as motivation to push harder to bring the Premier League title to the Etihad Stadium. Over the last few weeks there has been a growing siege mentality surrounding the squad with all the talk of City's season collapsing and some rather dubious red card decisions and officiating that has had a say on certain results.

We saw this mentality in full force in the FA Cup against United and much has been said about the performance that day. What City need to do now is continue that same determination right up to the end of the season, starting with Liverpool's visit to the Etihad in the Carling Cup.

I know for a fact there are fans of every team that don't feel the competition is worth winning. I beg to differ, silverware is silverware and although the big prize is ultimately the Premier League trophy, the Carling Cup is important for the players and the teams taking part regardless of what the fans think.

How Mancini will go about the starting 11 is anyone's guess as although Komapny's dismissal is a massive blow there are players waiting to step up to the challenge. Micah Richards and Stefan Savic are the 2 other players that can play at centre-back alongside Joleon lescott whilst Kolo Toure is away.

Savic put in a great performance when required to against United and even picked up a nasty blood injury that was quickly wrapped up for him to battle on. To be fair to the lad, he didn't put a foot wrong and will be itching to prove his worth to the team now he has a chance for a short run in the starting 11.

There is also a question surrounding the fitness of David Silva, although the Twitter rumours of a broken ankle a just a little wide of the mark.

One plus point to take note of is that Gareth Barry has served his ban which was picked up against Liverpool in the Premier League, and will no doubt return to action straight away to bolster the options in the centre of midfield and provide cover for the roaming full-backs. Barry has been the most consistent player so far in this campaign and will hopefully pick up where he left off.

Another positive is that both Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko took full part in training and will hopefully be in contention for a return tomorrow or against Wigan.

On the transfer front, Kompany's ban may mean Onuoha gets another 6 months at the club as he may well be needed for cover should the unthinkable happen to any more defenders before the transfer window closes. Although Mancini showed little intent on giving him another chance as he opted to name 16 year old Karim Rekik on the bench ahead of him on Sunday.

The fans certainly have their part to play. The 2nd half of Sunday's game showed what can be done when the crowd gets behind the team. Several of the players commented on it after the match and clearly respond to the noise levels in the stadium as we have seen several times this season. The louder the crowd, the bigger the performance has been. So you know what to do.

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