Monday, 29 August 2011

Match Report - Spurs (Away)

Well that's one of our bogey teams laid to rest, maybe now we can even manage a win at Goodison Park some time.  It wasn't just the win yesterday, but the manner of the victory that was remarkable.  I think many blues would have taken a point away from North London, but not even the most positive City fan would have predicted the mauling that Tottenham suffered yesterday, but when it happened we all loved every single minute of it.

6 points from our opening 3 games would have been acceptable, and 7 would have been a really good return, but to start the first international break with the full 9 is great and when you add in the performances that we have turned in it really becomes too good to be true.  I should probably remember who it was, but someone on the TV said after the Bolton game that City were playing the best football in the Premier League and I don't think anything this round of games has changed that, that includes our chavvy neighbours in Salford.

After the Bolton game I sort of felt that we probably wouldn't perform that well again for a while, but as it happens the win at the Reebok wasn't a patch on what we did yesterday.  The starting 11 demonstrated more than ever a shift in the managers thinking with just 2 defensively minded midfielders shielding the back 4, allowing a forward 4 of Dzeko, Silva, Aguero and Nasri to torment Tottenham.  Any doubts about how quickly the newly signed Frenchman would take to settle were soon banished when within the opening 10 minutes the former Arsenal man looked more than comfortable alongside his new team mates.  He was superb, not only did he lay on 3 goals for his team mates he also did the dirty work and tracked runners to help out the defence as well.  One particular highlight for me when I was watching the game back was his expression (which can be seen above) just after Dzeko had crashed home his 4th, a look of disbelief about the quality of his new colleagues, fantastic to see.
Talking of Dzeko, he was once again superb, he led the line fantastically well and was a constant threat and worry for the Tottenham back line.  The opener came when a perfect Nasri cross was met by the Bosnian's outstretched foot, on paper it may sound simplistic but the interplay and wonderful one-two between Aguero and Nasri that lead to the goal was superb.  The second was a game changer, shortly after Crouch headed a wonderful volleyed Bale cross inches wide, a goal that would have turned the game on its head, City countered and another inch perfect Nasri cross was met by Dzeko who managed to arch his back and strain his head to head the ball back across goal and into the net, it was a remarkable finish and from a technical point of view could have been the pick of the bunch.  

The half time break came and went and any fears of City once again throwing away a 2 goal lead again were ended when Dzeko completed his hat trick tapping home a low Toure cross, again some of the build up was superb and it essentially won the game for the blues.  Aguero added a 4th after he was released by Nasri, he showed fantastic strength to beat Dawson before hammering the ball past Friedel from an acute angle, it was a great goal.  Predictably however we did manage to find a way to blot our copy book, the introduction of Jermain Defoe lifted Spurs and he saw a rising shot smartly turned over by Hart, from the resulting corner however, some incredibly sloppy marking by Yaya Toure resulted in Younes Kaboul slamming a header into the City net.  Spurs didn't really rally however, they withdrew an off form Modric and after making 3 changes van der Vaart limped off with a strained ham string resulting in the London club having to play with 10 men.  

Perhaps we then left them off the hook slightly, later in the day United proved they don't provide any mercy, they continue to pummel their opposition, the last 25mins was played out with City firmly in control, content to play keep ball without really testing the Tottenham defence.  It wasn't until deep into injury time that the score board was troubled again, Dzeko and the again superb Barry played a neat one-two outside the Spurs area resulting in the Bosnian driving home his 4th of the day with a sublime left footed finessed finish.  The whistle blew immediately after the restart to put Spurs out of their misery, but if the truth be told Tottenham weren't even that bad, City were just an absolute sensation.

Enough waffle, what of the slightly unimportant numbers:

Joe Hart: 7 - Was excellent when called upon, made some sharp saves in the second half from Defoe and kept some Spurs efforts out early on.  Nothing he could do about the goal, a pretty decent perform let down by his defence on one occasion.

Pablo Zabaleta: 6 - A surprise inclusion at the expensive of Richards, got booked early on and was at times given a fright by the pace of Bale but got to grips with him as the game went on.  Took a couple of typical bangs to the head towards the end as seems normal.

Joleon Lescott: 7 - Could possibly be at fault for letting Crouch fire a header just wide in the first half but generally played well and looked strong.  The partnership between him and Kompany continues to impress Kompany is the brains, Lescott

Vincent Kompany: 7 - Another great captains display, he made some superb tackles again taking the ball cleanly and snuffing out various attacks.  He also used the ball well I thought, he rarely gives it away and even surged forward from time to time to support the midfield.

Gael Clichy: 7 - He attacking well and provided width, he was a constant threat to Corluka and some of his link up play with Nasri was superb. Didn't really allow Lennon into the game after a shaky start, he matched his pace and snuffed out his threat.

Gareth Barry: 8 - Barry has been massively improved this season and this was another great display, anchored the midfield supremely, used the ball well and mopped up nicely.  He attacked at the right times and filled in gaps as well, all action, superb, undroppable at this point for me.

Yaya Toure: 6 - Toure looked assured and confident again, but blotted his copy book by going to sleep on a Tottenham corner and allowing Kaboul a totally free header resulting in a goal.  At 4-0, it didn't matter, but it's a lapse that could have cost us under other circumstances.

David Silva: 8 - Superb AGAIN, was a constant threat and his movement along with Aguero and Nasri was fantastic.  The Frenchman might take more plaudits but the Spaniard's impact cannot be underestimated.

Sergio Aguero: 8 - Lovely link up play with Nasri to create the first, and scored a beauty as well.  The 3 attacking talents behind Dzeko were impossible to deal with, their movement was so fluid and considering Kun still isn't 100% fit it was extremely impressive.

Samir Nasri: 9 - It may not have been as sensational as Aguero's debut, but it was close, any question about how he fits in were soon banished.  He got 3 assists and was at the heart of every good move, when you add in his defensive work too he looks a great signing.

Edin Dzeko: 10 - I said to myself it would take something extraordinary for me to ever award a 10, well this was it.  The Bosnian hit 4 goals and has now scored 7 in 4 games, his goals were great, but his all round play for the team was superb.


Micah Ricahrds: 6 - Attacked well and worked very hard, took a couple of knocks but really not enough time to impress.

Stefan Savic: 6 - Brought on to add an extra body in the defence, looked tidy and neat, but no time really.

Only really one choice for Man of the Match, that is Edin Dzeko, he endlessly tortured the Spurs defence and proved what a handful he can be.  He is slimmer, quicker and understands his role much more than he did last season.  His 4 goals aside, he proved an excellent outlet and brought his team mates into play with consummate ease, if you don't believe in him yet, there is nothing that will ever convince you.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Should We Be Trying To Keep Our Feet On The Ground?

Things are looking pretty damn good at the moment, it's a good time to be a City fan, we sit happily on top of the pile, we have just signed a player capable of changing a game in Samir Nasri, and later today we will be involved in a Champions League draw for the first time, it's going to be difficult to not get carried away...but that is exactly what I believe we have to do.

Let's get things into perspective a little, we play Tottenham on Sunday at White Hart Lane a fixture that we perennially struggle in and a lot could change on that game, it is crucial.  I don't mean to sound overly negative or pessimistic I just wonder whether we are being entirely realistic.  I have told anyone that has asked me that I don't think we will win the Premier League this year, and have always said that I would take a season of consolidation, making sure we qualify for the Champions League again.

I understand the attitude of people who say we are capable of winning or going close to winning the title, we have an excellent squad with fantastic depth, and it could be argued that on paper we have the best starting 11 in the league, so surely that would mean we should win the league.  Well I don't think that is necessarily the case, the point of this however isn't to assess what I believe to be our title chances it is to address the good feeling and high expectations that are enveloping City fans at the moment.

My fear is that if the wheels come off and we go on a losing streak, how as fans will we react?  Football fans are a fickle bunch and when their teams lose they tend to look everywhere for someone or something to blame and that can be passed onto the pitch.  A team with manageable expectations however I think can fair better, in the event of a dip in form they generally pull together as opposed to turning on one another.

One of the key beliefs of our new owners is this need to manage expectations and not get carried away and I think this season it is more important than ever.  There was only really one game last year when the atmosphere at Eastlands was vile, that was Birmingham at home.  We drew 0-0, and clearly it wasn't a great result, Roberto Mancini chose to withdraw Tevez when we were in need of a goal and the Italian manager was hardly flavour of the month for that decision.  I worry that with raised expectations we may see more times of frustration and irritation and I don't believe that is something which proves overly helpful.

Don't get me wrong, I was hardly pleased during that Birmingham game, and I was just as frustrated as the next person it was a bizarre tactical decision, but games like that will continue to exist, we will have bad days and how we react to those is important.

I suppose the most important reason to keep our feet on the ground is for our own sanity, if we lose the next 2 games it will be a kick in the teeth, but it would hardly be the end of the world, look how far we have come and what we have at our disposal.  We all know that great things are coming to this club that we love so much, there is no hurry though, lets just enjoy the ride otherwise we could turn into nervous wrecks!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

When Will Ade Stop Believing His Own Hype?

Other than the fact that we were better than them last year, one of the main reasons Spurs failed to qualify for the Champions League was lack a of goals, and as hard as Redknapp has tried to fix that problem, he has so far failed.

He has started the season (albeit only one league game and one Europa League game) with Jermain Defoe as his first choice striker with Dutch maestro Van der Vaart playing just off him.  The English striker only managed to net 4 league goals last season which was hardly an inspiring return, Peter Crouch wasn't much better and although Roman Pavlyuchenko scored a few goals he still doesn't seem to be thought of particularly highly around White Hart Lane.

We have all heard at great length about how they are looking to our very own Adebayor to solve his goal crisis.  As City fans we know that on paper it would be a great signing for them, but in reality it would probably be a spectacular failure.  Adebayor will score goals for them, but only when he is in the mood, he is almost guaranteed to score in the North London derby, but at the same time it is a close certainty that he will do something which will result in a 3 game ban.

In pure footballing terms he is a great striker when on form, and can be absolutely unplayable but those occasions are far too inconsistent for my liking and Tottenham will find the same problem.  I see a level of similarity between Spurs and City fans in some ways, both sets of supporters like players who give everything and put it all on the line, even if they aren't as technically gifted as others, that definitely doesn't describe the Togolese striker.

The 27 year old fancies himself as being so much better than he actually is, he has made it publicly clear that he is holding out for a move to Real Madrid where he spent the second half of last season on loan, I think Ade is the only person in Europe though that believes he is good enough for a club of that size.  His total haul for the Spanish giants was 8 goals in 22 games, 5 of which came in the league.  When you consider that he was probably working as hard as he ever works in that period it is not a particularly impressive tally.

The size of the players ego however doesn't end there, according to todays Mirror he has started telling his prospective new club that they must sign new players in order for him to sign, Wayne Rooney this guy isn't.  The newspaper reckon that he has insisted they sign Lassana Diarra and assure him of other quality signings before he agrees to a potential move, I find this attitude bizarre since if he doesn't deem the Spurs squad good enough his only other option is our reserve squad, it seems pretty farcical to me, he must really believe that a massive club will come in for him, something which patently isn't going to happen.

Even if this deal is going to happen, it still seems crazy to me for us to strengthen one of our rivals, even though he won't score hat fulls of goals for them, he will still be of assistance.  I suppose on the other hand it could get his wages off our books which will clearly help, the City fans I have spoken to seem pretty split on it really.  Clearly he isn't a 'Mancini player', but thanks to our previous manager we are stuck with him on sky high wages and maybe just getting rid of him to wherever is preferable even if it does help Tottenham...

Monday, 22 August 2011

Match Report - Bolton (Away)

I sent a text to my flatmate at about 5:05pm on Sunday that read "We've scored 3 goals away from home, whats going on?", clearly this feeling is not new, we had some fine away days last year, but hopefully it will quieten down some of the more misguided critics of the club who claim we are a negative and boring team to watch.

In truth it wasn't all so straight forward, granted we dominated possession but it was still just a one goal margin that proved the difference at the final whistle, a couple of defensives lapses luckily didn't cost us but on another day in a different time the result could have been a crushing draw.

Whilst it wasn't entirely smooth sailing at the back, the point still remains that City really should have scored a couple of goals more than they did, Sergio Aguero missed a couple of sitters in an all action display and perhaps we were a little wasteful late on.  

It was however a slick performance, with attacking threat throughout the game.  Bolton away perhaps seems a strange game for Mancini to unleash some of our attacking talent but it was definitely a much more attacking display than some away days last season.  With Toure occupying a much deeper role than normal playing alongside the superb Barry, Aguero and Dzeko were left to terrorise the Bolton defense.

There was perhaps some fortune about the first goal, Silva hit a nice strike from outside the area that perhaps should have been saved by Jaaskelainen, but there was no argument about the second and third. Barry struck a stunner from a well worked corner, something that perhaps we haven't seen enough of.  At 2-0 City were in total command and it took a very sharp finish from Ivan Klasnic converting a Martin Petrov cross to fire the Trotters back into the game.  There is perhaps more Lescott could have done to stop Klasnic from reaching the ball, but it wouldn't be right to take anything away from Bolton who scored a superb goal.

The second half began as the first half had done with City on top, not more than 2 minutes had past before Edin Dzeko fought for a Milner flick, marauded past Zat Knight before firing a superb finish into the Bolton net, it was a great goal from a player who is now firing on all cylinders, cynics of the Bosnian should really take note, Edin was first class again and lead the line superbly.  Much to Mancini's disgust however City endeavoured to give Bolton a way back into the game again with Kevin Davies heading home a good fee kick which maybe again Lescott could have done better with.  There were late cameos from Johnson and Tevez and in truth even though Bolton were just one goal behind the game ended with City being on top again.

2 wins from 2, and more important a couple of very impressive performances, next Sunday will be a real test at White Hart Lane, but until then lets enjoy being top of the league, and more importantly being the team who has played the best football in the first two weekends of the season.

Enough of my diatribe, lets get onto the numbers:

Joe Hart: 7 - Nothing he could do with either goal to be honest, made a couple of smart saves early on, other than that he really didn't have a great deal to do.

Micah Richards: 6 - Got a great assist for a goal that was wrongly ruled out for a foul, good attacking performance, he was at times troubled by Petrov though and perhaps could have done a bit better on the first goal.

Vincent Kompany: 6 - Never looked totally comfortable with Davies, did a good job for the most part but didn't always have his supreme confidence.  Having said that the Bolton captain is one of the hardest players in the game to deal with.

Joleon Lescott : 6 - Strange one really, generally defended really well, perhaps better than his partner, but was at fault for both goals to a degree.  He was the right sort of player for the occasion, should perhaps have marked Davies and left Klasnic for Kompany though.

Aleks Kolarov: 7 - He replaced Clichy and was superb to be fair, lethal coming forward, provided some great ammunition and created width exceptionally well.  Defensively he dealt with Eagles well and didn't give him a sniff.

Gareth Barry: 8 - Superb performance, dominated the Bolton midfield with Yaya Toure, shielded the defense expertly and I think it was probably his best performance in a City shirt, even if it wasn't for his stunning goal it was a quality run out.

Yaya Toure: 7 - Played a much deeper role than normal and he excelled, didn't offer as much offensively as can be expected, but he shut things down well and his power and presence infront of the defense steadied the ship.

James Milner: 9 - This was why Milner was signed, his energy and enthusiasm was great, he created chances, was unfortunate to not score, and he got back and defended too.  It was an all action display from the Englishman, more of the same please, absolutely superb.

David Silva: 8 - Another quality display from the Spaniard, scored a good goal and was once again the heartbeat.  Mr Reliable is always there when we need him and his ability to just pop up between the lines is exceptional, if it weren't for Milner he would be my man of the match.

Sergio Aguero: 6 - A good performance from the Argentine but he should really have had 2 goals.  Nice runs, good link up, and very hard working display, but not great in front of goal, plenty will follow though, there is no doubt about that.

Edin Dzeko: 8 - I could fast run out of positive things to say about the massive striker, another top performance.  He held the ball up, brought in his team mates, he bullied defenders, fought for the ball and scored a superb goal, fantastic game for Edin and his tally is now 3 in 3.


Carlos Tevez: 6 - Where to begin? He looked interested, hungry, and passionate, whether he will remain though no-one knows.  He doesn't look fit yet, but a good 30 minute run out.

Adam Johnson: 6 - Good cameo, but not really enough time to do anything, some tricky runs, but he was barely on the field for 10mins.

Pablo Zabaleta: N/A - No time to judge.

I have to give man of the match to James Milner personally, but to be honest it could have also gone to Silva, Dzeko or even Barry.  The midfield and attacking unit was for the most part superb, but Milner stood out for me because I think he proved to some people just how useful he can be, and showed what he is capable of.  The hard part for the England man now is to continue in that vain because he has proved what a massive part he can play in our push for success.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Match Preview - Bolton (Away)

It feels like no time has past at all since the last trip to the Reebok, many things have changed but the good feelings experienced by all City fans at the end of that game remain, things were looking good then, and they are looking even better now.

Circumstances are different in some ways however, what was a last day of the season battle, is now a start of the season race, after a good performance on Monday night where we really laid a marker down against Swansea, the game on Sunday will be a great opportunity to show that we can perform against better teams as well and prove that the performance on Monday night was not just a flash in the pan.

The game is in fact between the top 2 teams in the league after both opened their campaigns with 4-0 demolitions of newly promoted teams, it is therefore likely that confidence will be high in both camps.  This is really the sort of game that we should be winning if we have realistic expectations of winning the league or pushing Manchester United close.  In previous years we may have thought about taking a point, but this time around it is a game we should be winning, but it definitely wont be easy.

Kevin Davies will as always be a threat, but that is the sort of challenge that Joleon Lescott enjoys, he has no problem with a physical battle and hopefully he can match the hard working Bolton striker.  Our creativity and skills in midfield will be matched with the hard working efficiency of Nigel Reo-Coker and Fabrice Muamba, and I can't help but feel that is where the game will be won and lost.

Recent Form

Clearly it is difficult to judge both clubs form, we are only one game into the season.  Both sides won convincingly in their first games, but as previously noted for both teams this was against slightly less impressive opposition.  Looking to the end of last year, City were winning in style notching up 4 straight wins, including that victory at Wembley, things were gelling and hopefully we will start this season as we ended last.

Bolton on the other hand will be hoping for a change of fortunes, after a strong season they faltered towards the end.  They lost 5 games consecutively at the end of the campaign including 2 at home to both Sunderland and that defeat to City.  Clearly a lot of this can probably be attributed to the fact they had nothing to play for, but it could still be argued that if City score early it could weigh heavy on the Bolton players.

City - Bolton: Head To Head

Currently we are undefeated in 5 games with the Trotters, taking in 4 wins and 1 draw.  At the Reebok however things are less spectacular, victory in May was the first in 6 attempts, drawing 2, and losing 3 of the previous meetings.  City and Bolton provided the majority of goals on the opening weekend, weighing in with 8 of the 18.

Team News

Bolton have had a torrid time in preseaon with injuries losing key midfielder Chung Yong Lee and former City fullback Tyrone Mears both to broken legs as well as Stuart Holden who also suffered a leg break towards the end of last season.  They will put Ricardo Gardner through a fitness test to see whether he has recovered from a groin problem prior to the game as well.

City will possibly give a debut to Aguero after his heroics on Monday night and there is a possibility that Carlos Tevez could make the bench.  There are doubts over Nigel De Jong who was substituted against Swansea with a minor foot injury and whether he is fit enough to play will be decided nearer the time.

Who Could Hurt Us?

Kevin Davies: At 34, the former Southampton striker is still causing problems for defences.  His work rate is second to none, and his aerial ability is pretty impressive.  He has become the heartbeat of the Bolton side and even though he is never a prolific goalscorer for them, he is still at the heart of many of the good things they do.  He didn't net last time out for example, but he was still central to their good pieces of play.  He will no doubt give the defense a real battle and if we are to win on Sunday they need to deal with the threat presented by the Trotters captain.  It is players like Davies that make me thankful that we are without Toure and can use Lescott to combat the power of certain forwards.

Who Could Hurt Them?

Edin Dzeko: The Bosnian striker was a bit of a revelation against Swansea on Monday night and if he can produce more of the same it will be a massive boost for the side.  Not only did he score, but his hold up play was much improved, and his first touch also looked a lot better.  I expect City will play him upfront alone as is the formation preferred by Roberto Mancini and his ability to hold up the ball and bring Silva, Toure, Johnson and or Aguero into play is vital.  He scored at the Reebok in the victory last season and that coupled with his goal on Monday will no doubt have boosted his confidence.  I fancy Dzeko to score again, and if he is on form I think he'll cause huge problems for the Wanderers defence.


I have a feeling City will triumph on Sunday, and I think the most likely scoreline will be a 1-0 victory with Dzeko scoring the all important goal.  I think Lescott and Kompany will be able to deal with Davies, but we certainly won't have it all our own way, as with any game against Bolton, it will be a tough battle but I think we will come through and take the 3 points.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Match Report - Swansea City

The Summer seemed to pass interminably slowly, but as I arrived at Eastlands, sorry, the Etihad Stadium last night and had my first beer of the season it suddenly didn't feel that long since we crushed Stoke.  In that time a lot has changed, there has been more furore over the future of a diminutive Argentine striker, the ground has a new name, and we have been linked with every name under the sun.

The confidence around the place remains, on twitter yesterday I saw predictions of 3, 4, and 5 nil, and now foolishly I suggested it would be a lot more cagey than that, and said I would take a 1-0, as long as it brought 3 points....well at half time last night I would have snapped your hand off for any sort of positive score line.  The second half flurry of goals was always going to come really, if it weren't for some fantastic goal keeping from Swansea keeper Michel Vorm on his debut, City would have been in front.  He saved brilliantly from Dzeko and Silva, and right on half time Gareth Barry crashed a left foot strike off the cross bar, it was coming, and when it arrived it changed the game entirely.

The first arrived after good work from Adam Johnson ended with a shot that was parried to the feet of Edin Dzeko who was left with a simple tap in, a goal that was wholly deserved on the basis of his work rate.  Then the game changed, the introduction of Sergio Aguero lifted not only the 44 odd thousand people in the stadium, but also the rest of the players on the pitch.  City would have no doubt scored a second or even third without him, but the fantasy and devil that the debutant brought with him was terrifying in the best possible way.

He had his first goal not long after coming on, a lovely low cross from Richards was met at the far post by a sliding Aguero who neatly finished into the corner, everyone was in raptures, the stadium erupted, a star was born.... that wasn't the end of it though.  His deft flick over Vorm, and acrobatic pullback for Silva to fire home the 3rd was a delight, but when in injury time he looked up, found himself some space and crashed home what is clearly one of the goals of the season it became clear just how good Aguero is.  Many people sat around me had a look of disbelief as the impact of his debut wore off, it was truly a stunning cameo.

It wouldn't be fair to just focus on City, Swansea gave it a good go defensively, they looked neat and efficient and at times in the first half they kept the ball extremely well and you have to give them credit for that.  Scott Sinclair looked extremely quick and will cause lesser defenders than Richards many problems, midfielder Joe Allen looked good when he came on, and Scot Stephen Dobbie looked impressive in spells.  It was very much a team effort from the Welsh side, clearly hoping that they would be able to resist City for the 90mins, it wasn't to be however, and although it was a fair score line in my eyes they still deserve a lot of credit for their work ethic.

Now for the all important numbers:

Joe Hart: 7 - Didn't really have a huge amount to do, but what little he did was done with confidence and style, City's number 1 for years to come.

Micah Richards: 8 - Superb raids forward from right back, his buccaneering attitude is fantastic and his cross for Aguero's first was excellent.  Showed desire to get back and defend and do the dirty work, very impressive.

Vincent Kompany: 7 - Like Hart had little to do, but kept things safe at the back.  I sincerely hope he will be club captain for years to come.

Joleon Lescott: 8 - The resurgence continues, 12 months ago he was a forgotten man and maligned by many now he is imperious and will hopefully retain his place with the return of Kolo Toure.

Gael Clichy: 7 - Solid debut, attacked well and clearly had more pace than Kolarov to get back and defend, good signs for the future.

Nigel De Jong: 7 - Reliable, solid, bulldog like, you could easily write those three statements for every NDJ performance, came off early with a slight knock, hopefully precautionary.

Gareth Barry: 7 - I really think what he offers the team is underestimated by some, started slowly, but shielded the defence excellently as the game went on, very neat and assured passing, solid.

Yaya Toure: 8 - Really hard to rate, poor first half, backed off too much and wayward passing, but excellent in the second, some great rampaging runs and passing, not fully fit, so I give him benefit of the doubt.

David Silva: 10 - I ran out of superlatives for Spanish Dave many months ago, another superb performance running the show, and behind everything that was good on the night.  Fully deserved goal topped off his game.

Adam Johnson: 7 - Struggled early on, but grew into the game as it went along, caused the Swansea defence no end of trouble, will hopefully get a run in the team.

Edin Dzeko: 8 - What a difference a preseason can make.  Looked a different player to last year, understood his role, took his goal well and worked very hard for the team, will hopefully keep it up.


Sergio Aguero: 9 - Whether there has been a better debut in Premier League history is debatable, but the Argentine was superb.  He was inventive, hard working, devilish and supremely skilled, lets hope there is a lot more to come.

James Milner: 7 - No real time to rate, composed, and energetic, got forward down the wing well, did fine.

Stefan Savic: N/A - Really not fair to judge, had barely any time, couple of poor passes but still finding his feet.

Man of the match has to be Silva for me, Aguero clearly will take all the headlines and deservedly so, but Silva kept the team ticking over for 90mins, he truly is a special player and one that hopefully will be at the club for years to come.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Rumour Mill: Ade For Lennon...No Chance...

Alarm bells started ringing up and down Fleet Street on Sunday when Roberto Mancini revealed that he was in the market for a winger.  The Italian is often pretty open about players that he is looking at and his confirmation that he is looking to recruit both a central midfielder and a winger has caused quiet a stir in the press.

The bastion of all things accurate and reasonable, the Mirror, today claim that a swap deal is in the offing involving everyone's (least?) favourite wheeler dealer Harry Redknapp.  The two names being rammed together in this most recent case of media desperation are Emmanuel Adebayor and Aaron Lennon.

Clearly we are looking to move on the striker and have struggled to do so previously.  In footballing terms I still feel that Adebayor could have something to offer, but his attitude in training and supposed undermining of the manager makes that a near impossibility.  The biggest problem with the striker is his sky high wages, there is clearly not a shortage of clubs who would happily take him, but he seems incredibly unwilling to take a wage cut, a problem that we are facing with many of the players on the outskirts of the squad.

The newspaper report that talks have already gone on, something that I find highly unlikely, and they claim that both parties are trying to 'numbercrunch' the figures involved to find a solution that both parties would be happy with.  Lennon would clearly be a decent option, but I would hardly be blown away by his arrival.  He wouldn't be close to the first team and if his signing was at the expense of Shaun  Wright-Phillips, that would be a shame.  He might be lightning fast, but I have never been entirely sure that he is good enough for a team aiming for the title.  A good squad player, but not a starter.

I suppose the other way to look at it, is that if there are no other offers on the table it would get Ade's wages off our books and clearly Lennon would be on less money and therefore it would make sense.  The big stumbling block in my eyes is that I highly doubt the player is willing to take a pay cut to play for Tottenham, he has been unwilling too before and I see no reason why he would take a cut now.  It remains an inescapable fact that the White Hart Lane club won't be able to pay him what he is currently getting.

I see no truth in this to be honest, I am sure we will sign a wideman, but the man to fill that role looks increasingly likely to be Italian winger Alessio Cerci.  Obviously I hope that we can move on Adebayor, if only to get his wages off the books, rumours abound that Real Madrid may be ready to make a move for the striker, although quite why they want him remains a mystery to me.

Ultimately I just don't see this one as anything more than tabloid nonsense, I wouldn't be overly disappointed if it were to happen but I highly doubt there is anything in this one.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Match Report - Dublin Supercup

As I said when writing the report of the game against Club America, I am not going to cover the games in any great detail in preseason, this is more going to be looking at who impressed during our time in Dublin.

Our form in the run up to this season has seen us go unbeaten and whilst it doesn't really count for anything, some performances are giving extremely positive indicators for the coming season.  We played 2 entirely different teams in both the games, and everyone in the squad got a decent run out with the exception of Sergio Aguero who has been thwarted with a bad case of blisters.

The game against the Irish XI was mostly a chance for some of the younger members of our squad to demonstrate their ability.  With the exception of Gareth Barry, Adam Johnson, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Stuart Taylor it was an extremely young side.  The game was won 3-0 and was pretty straight forward really, the Irish team put up a good show of their defensive ability in the first half but City slowly picked up the pace as the game went on and there were some extremely encouraging performances.

SWP continued his impressive preseason, for me he was the man of the match, at this point we know exactly what we are getting, it was a performance full of endeavour and work rate and he along with Adam Johnson ran the show and gave the Irish defense a torrid time.  They both managed to get on the score sheet with will well taken goals, Wright-Phillip's strike in particular was a lovely finish on the volley.  There also has to be a lot of credit for Gareth Barry who played some defense splitting passes and got himself an assist.  

Some of the youngsters impressed as well, one of the stand out performers for me was midfielder Abdul Razak who patrolled the midfield alongside the England international.  He made a brief cameo against West Brom last season and he is highly thought of by many at Eastlands, he looked industrious and kept things simple, it was a very impressive performance.

Stefan Savic looked solid again at centreback, he had very little to do, but when he was tested he dealt with things well.  Young Swiss player Frederic Veselli got another run out after his first against Club America, he looked competent and solid at full back and got forward well to support the midfield.  Perhaps the best youngster was newly signed Denis Suarez, to say that he looks like a David Silva in waiting would be heaping too much pressure onto his shoulders, but he looked great.  His movement in the midfield was superb, and he always wanted the ball, he floated about well and seemed to understand what was expected of him.  He got 30mins and to be honest I was hoping he would play the full 90, but there are definitely signs there that he could go on to be a really special player.

The third goal was scored by a young Italian trialist Luca Scapuzzi, a player who has previously been at Milan, his goal will no doubt have done him a lot of good and who knows it may secure him a 12 month contract to see what ability he has.

The only real disappointments for me were Weiss and Guidetti some of the 'older' statesman in comparison.  Weiss got a lot of praise on twitter, but a lot of it surprised me, he is full of endeavour but he has a real tendency to overcomplicate things, with a resurgent SWP I do wonder if he will see many games this season.  Guidetti as well worked hard but never really tested the opposition defense, good effort and work rate, but there was very little final product.

The game against Inter Milan was a totally different kettle of fish.  It was an entirely changed team and they definitely impressed.  It is hard to single out who played the best, because everyone had a good game, even Aleksandar Kolarov looked greatly improved.  As I have made clear previously I feel that Edin Dzeko could have a really good season this time around, he looks more mobile, slightly quicker, his touch seems to have improved and he seems to be understanding his team mates a lot more.  He scored the second on the day and finished in style, most of the credit must go to Silva for an absolutely exquisite reverse pass, but the finish itself was confident and controlled, as soon as he picked up the ball in a one on one situation there was no doubt where it was ending up.  He was unlucky to not have scored earlier, he converted a wonderful Kolarov cross, but the goal was wrongly ruled out for offside.

Mario Balotelli was also much more involved this time, he scored a cracking header off a corner to give City the lead and he looked a constant threat.  Such a frustrating player, if he was 'interested' every game like he was yesterday he would be a top striker, but his attitude makes it difficult.  You don't know what you are going to get, his performance against Milan was much more FA Cup final rather than LA Galaxy.

The star of the show, as has been on numerous occasions however was David Silva, on a day where Wesley Sneijder was expected to shine, he was totally eclipsed by the magical Spaniard.  He was the heartbeat of City again and there was a clear suggestion that he might be even better this year than he was last.  Some of his passing was sublime and the Inter midfield never managed to get close to him.  I still have concerns that we may be too reliant on him, but with the arrival of Sergio Aguero some of the creative responsibility might be taken away from him, and that may not necessarily be a bad thing.

There was another good cameo from AJ and SWP who played the final 10mins, and they combined late on for another Adam Johnson goal, if Wright-Phillips isn't at the club next year it would be a real shame, his preseason has been excellent.  Milner looked solid and impressive in the midfield, his work rate is truly exceptional and I think people may have judged him too early last year and now that he is settled into his better position I am sure he will go along way to win over some of his critics.

3-0 against Inter Milan on paper is a great result, and it was, the team played with fluidity and understanding and that can only be a good thing with the Premier League season just 2 weeks away.  It is important to remember that Inter are much earlier in their preseason than we are and so we always had a great chance of winning the game, but some of the performances on show were extremely impressive, definitely reasons to be cheerful as we start with the competitive games next weekend.