Thursday, 27 October 2011

When Will The Media Realise Adam Johnson Is Not Ignored By Roberto Mancini?

It is clearly the done thing to knock Manchester City, it is impossible for some sections of the press to be entirely positive about the club.  Whilst things on the pitch are going pretty well at the moment, various people feel the need to find some dirt and they aren't shy in flinging it.

City crushed Wolves last night 5-2, defensively we were a bit shambolic at times but as an attacking unit things were pretty impressive, the personel may have been different but the offensive fluidity demonstrated on numerous occasions so far this season was still present.  Man of the match for me was Adam Johnson, a player that can thrill and frustrate in equal measure, last night he was good, I would go as far as to say very good, but rather than focus on this the Sky commentators and pitchline reporter felt the need to find drama and negativity, and to be honest I am getting pretty sick of it.

Johnson is a very good footballer, but he is not as great as the media make him out to be, he is certainly worthy of a place in the squad and he has a massive part to play, but this attitude that he is undroppable I do not understand.  I am a fan of the player perhaps a bigger fan than other fans of the club, but I can still recognise his weaknesses as can Roberto Mancini, pundits in the press however can not.  Commentators, football writers, former players and managers are wowed by his tricky feet, his excellent passing, his precision shooting, but they ignore his occasional lack of willingness to track back or the fact that sometimes he can be a touch too selfish, or that sometimes he overcomplicates situations as opposed to taking the simpler option.

Clearly in this day of modern football, not all players will be running the length of the pitch to attack and then defend, and some players do struggle tackling, but that isn't to say players can't try to improve that side of their game.  That is something that Roberto Mancini is trying to instill in the player, and for me there has definitely been improvements in that side of his game over the last 12 months, the player is working hard to learn but that is being ignored.

If you were to believe what you read in the papers however, you would be lead to believe that Johnson is not rated by Mancini and that the player is heading for the exit, this despite the Italian saying in numerous interviews that AJ is going nowhere and that he personally believes the winger has the potential to be one of the best players in the world in that position.  The general attitude coming from the media is that Johnson is ignored and underused, but the statistics tell an entirely different story.

This season Johnson has started 10 games in all competitions, hardly a bit part player, and last term he appeared in 43 games across all of the teams competitions, these are not the sort of figures being racked up by a player who is supposedly ignored by the manager.

The 24 year old is still learning about the game and he is still developing and this will continue to happen, many have compared him with Joe Cole at Chelsea who played far more games for the Stamford Bridge club than people realised.  Many said he was ignored by the hierarchy at the and that he should move on, he eventually did move, it didn't exactly pan out for him did it....

Johnson is at the right club, with the right manager, he is an important part of the team and will play a massive part this season, maybe someday soon journalists and football reporters will actually do some research and notice how often he appears for the club.

Monday, 24 October 2011

A Few Thoughts On The Derby...

Some days it is really not hard to write about this wonderful football club, and today is one of those days.  This really is more of a collection of my thoughts in the aftermath of yesterdays tormenting of Manchester United, many things have gone through my mind in the last 24 hours and I have tried my best here to collect them together.

1) The Power Hasn't Shifted....Yet.

Call it what you want 'Six In The City', the 'Demolition Derby' or one of the many other puns doing the rounds but the real significance of the game is that City are now proving their point.  The power has not shifted, we will have to win the league a couple of times before we can claim to be the totally dominant team in Manchester/Salford but we can now stand proudly alongside that lot from Stretford, the 'noisy neighbours' are going to the next level.

For quite a while now, journalists, supporters and players have all spoken about Manchester City and said that having all this money is one thing, but they have to prove themselves to be real contenders and with the destruction of United yesterday we did just that, we all felt we should be have been taken seriously before this weekend but now more than ever the team has proved they are going somewhere, and that is great to see.

2) We Are Now A Team Not A Group Of Individuals

A common criticism of the club in the past has been that City have been merely a group of individuals and there have been questions about how much the players 'want it'.  I hold my hands up and say that at times over the past couple of years that attitude has been totally understandable, there have been some players that pulled on the City shirt with their mind on the money, not on the team or 'project'.  I think those claims can now surely be put to bed, the idea that there is no team spirit in the camp is now quite frankly laughable.  The celebrations at the end of the last minute victory over Villareal were fine evidence of just that, and the win yesterday has further underlined it, the collection of hugely talented players is becoming a team.

3) Nothing Is Won In October

As soon as the final whistle blew yesterday, Sky announced that City were now favourites for the Premier League title, a similar sentiment was portrayed by Alan Hansen on MOTD claiming it was our title to lose, apparently Collymore on TalkSport said the same's all a load of rubbish, we are in October.  Our form has been superb, played 9, won 8, drawn 1.  Five points clear of United, and 6 points ahead of Chelsea, there are no complaints from me, and we will be there or there abouts come May, but to claim the title race is over is farcical.  We must hold our hands up and say that before yesterday we had enjoyed a lovely run of fixtures, we past the derby test with flying colours but there are more challenges to come and nothing has been decided just yet so lets not get ahead of ourselves.  In many ways we need to ignore the pressure coming from outside and just focus on winning games of football, lets not worry about the title for a few months yet!

4) Just Who Is Our Best Striker?

A little bit of a stat attack for your, Edin Dzeko has hit 8 goals in 7 games, Kun Aguero has netted 9 in 8, and Super Mario has notched up 5 in 5.  All 3 are in absolutely devastating form, but if we just had to pick one, who would it be?  Going into the season Balotelli was probably 4th choice, but now he appears undroppable, the problem is so do Aguero and Dzeko.  The Italian linked up with the Argentine brilliantly at times yesterday, and Dzeko proved that although he may be a slightly erratic finisher at times he definitely knows where the back of the net is, in all honesty I still think Aguero looks the most prolific, but it is a very difficult quandary to ponder, one this is certain though, who needs Carlos Tevez?

5) How Good Is James Milner?

A lot of City fans feel the need to have a boo boy, someone to make a scapegoat for disappointing results and for long spells last season that man was James Milner.  At times I got sick of being one of the dissenting voices, insisting he was a top player.  He is starting to prove that now, and it may have been some time coming, but it has certainly been worth it.  He has managed to demonstrate not only his immense defensive skills, he has also shown his supreme work rate as well as some fantastic work in the final third.  It was not worth forgetting that he kept Nigel De Jong out of the team yesterday and that is no mean feat.  If he continues with this great form it is going to result in some real selection issues for Bob.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

This Could Be Our Most Important Signing Of The Year

Just over 12 months ago on the 13th November 2010 the final whistle ended a 0-0 draw between City and Birmingham, boo's rung out around the stadium and to be frank the atmosphere was vile.  Many supporters were aiming their frustration squarely at manager Roberto Mancini.  It was the second home 0-0 draw that week (the first coming in one of the worst Manchester derbies ever) and the team were looking goal shy.  It was expected that the game against Birmingham would be a home banker and we all hoped the Italian would take the reigns off and let City play, that wasn't to be.

It was another incredibly cautious display, the aim to manufacture a tight 1-0 win.  The moment Mancini NEARLY lost the ground was when in the 83rd minute he decided to replace leading scorer Tevez with Gareth Barry, it was a nonsensical decision to be honest and left many scratching their heads and many others showing their anger towards the manager.

On Saturday, Alex McLeish was back at Eastlands, again hoping to stifle Mancini and his team, this time it didn't work.  A lot has changed since that day, the anger aimed at the manager has well and truly dissipated and even his harshest critic on that day must surely now remain silent.  The 4-1 demolition of Villa put City on top of the Premier League table, played 8, won 7, drawn 1, it is a fantastic record.  On top of that he guided us to a 3rd place finish last year improving on expectation by one place and of course he delivered silverware, Mancini is doing a brilliant job.

He has spoken previously about wanting total control of the club and whilst that may not be entirely possible in this modern day where finances play such a big part, the backing he has received from the board over the Tevez saga suggests that his plea's are being listened too, and that can only be of benefit to us all.

It is for that reason that I was particularly pleased to see the Sunday Mirror claiming that talks were about to begin over a contract extension for the Italian, he needs to be tied down.  He is quoted as saying:

“I don’t want to leave, I’m very happy here. If the club want me to stay, then that’s good…In England, managers have more power regarding the team and everything else about the club….I’m not saying I can have the power of someone like (Sir Alex) Ferguson but if a manager stays at a club for five or six years it is natural that he has more power.”

The backing he has received in recent weeks from the supporters demonstrates what a massive shift in feeling there has been.  Not all supporters got on his back that day against Birmingham, but there was perceived to be pressure on his shoulders and it currently looks as if he has survived and come through it all incredibly well.  For me personally I hope this extension can be wrapped up as soon as possible because I genuinely don't believe there is anyone better for the job, so lets sing it one more time....."Mancini Wooooah....Mancini Wooooaaahh.......".

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Rumour Mill: Two New Starlets Set To Sign?

Normally there is not a lot to say about domestic football during an international break, but player recruitment appears to be continuing apace this week if the tabloids are to be believed.  It appears that youth development is the order of the day with City supposedly close to capturing 2 of the most exciting prospects in world football.

With the recent unveiling of the new training and youth development centre there is a clear model being created to ensure the long term success of the football club.  With Financial Fair Play and all that goes with it, the days of building new teams every year by throwing money about are gone, and as much as we know that these new rules were put in place to maintain the status quo and stop teams like us achieving anything, it would still be preferable to do it by youth development as opposed to huge spending.

Over the last 18 months to 2 years we have recruited some top young players Karim Rekik, Denise Suarez and Joan Roman have all joined the club as well as many others.  It now appears that this new policy is set to continue with possibly two more youngsters arriving.

The more concrete of the two stories comes from Sky Sports who claim that 17 year Raul Mendiola will fly to Manchester on Saturday to complete a move to Eastlands.  Interestingly he currently plays for 'Arsenal FC' who are based in California, they are clearly linked to the Emirates club and it would be somewhat of a coup should City managed to secure his signature as it appears they could do.  The Mexican forward (who could also play for the USA) has been a prolific goal scorer at youth level and was named 'US Development Academy U15/16 Player of the Year' two years in a row....what a world famous accolade.  

City sent scouts to watch him play in the 2011 Generation Adidas Under 17 cup and were thought to be incredibly impressed with his ability.  Recently Mendiola has been training with MLS giants LA Galaxy to further improve his game ahead of a move to Europe.  He has been tracked by numerous clubs, but speaking too he more or less confirms that there is a big possibility of a move:

"I'm pretty excited...It's one of the top clubs in the world...I've been told that there's a possibility that I could be loaned out to (Espanyol) in Spain for a year, or I could stay with Man City.".

Everything seems pretty much in place on this one and personally I am pleased to see us making moves for these top quality young players.  The quotes suggest talks have progressed well and hopefully this one could be wrapped up over the weekend.

The second possible signing is Belgian youth international Zakaria Bakkali.  The 15 year old is a striker who is currently on the books of PSV Eindhoven in Holland, much is expected of the Moroccan born forward, in fact hilariously The Mirror dub him 'The Best Young Player in the World', I suggest that description is taken with a pinch of salt.

The newspaper go on to claim that a move will be sorted in the next few days, there is no indication of money but they do describe the transfer as a 'big money deal'.  

I suppose there isn't really much more to say, hopefully these 2 deals will come off and the expansion of our youth development set up will continue.  We all want to see big names coming in from time to time but if we can start to bring through these youngsters from a young age it will help the club massively and help us go from strength to strength and build upon this solid base that we are currently demonstrating.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Replacing Tevez With A Big Name Would Be A Big Mistake

Back sometime in the middle of the interminably long Summer football break I wrote a piece about players who could replace Carlos Tevez when it looked as if he was on the way out, I felt that of all the options the standout candidate was Sergio Aguero.  Fast forward a couple of months and Aguero is a City player, as is Tevez...just.

I am pretty certain that the signing of Kun from Atletico Madrid was as a replacement for Tevez and when he stayed it looked as if we had a wealth of riches in the attacking department, so much so, the man who shared the golden boot last season with Dimitar Berbatov has barely featured for us.  It would appear that everything came to a head on Tuesday night and his refusal to play was most likely based on his frustration over a lack of game time.

We are therefore back exactly where we were all those months ago, except one thing is different, we are talking about replacing Tevez....again.  It could be debated at great length whether Aguero would have been signed had it not been for the outcry from Tevez, but the general consensus seems to be that was the case, I therefore find it a little strange that we are now scratching our heads and talking about bringing in a replacement.

I suppose it is a fair comment that strikers are relatively thin on the ground, we have Dzeko, Balotelli and Sergio Aguero, but with our wealth of attacking midfield talent and the fact that we generally play one striker with three players behind I think 3 could be enough to see us through comfortably.  The fact that Tevez has barely been used surely demonstrates this fact.  It does appear however that Mancini is keen to bring in a new striker and unsurprisingly the papers have linked us with numerous options.

It could perhaps be lazy journalism, but I am hardly surprised that we have been linked with Arsenal forward Robin Van Persie, he is running down his contract and supposedly has no real interest in renewing it, but at 28, and with his injury record I am hardly full of enthusiasm for that possible signing.  There has been talk of a mega money move for Neymar the Brazilian prodigal genius but again questions about his temperament worry me, and then there was probably the most attractive prospect Edinson Cavani, who is currently tearing it up for Napoli.

None of the prospects are particularly awful, although I do have grave misgivings about Neymar, but I still remain uncertain about the necessity to bring in another striker.  Part of the problem with Tevez was his unwillingness to play second (or fourth) fiddle to other players and quite frankly that makes me question whether we do really need another big name forward.  The depth would be useful, 3 strikers is maybe 1 light but another big name? For me there is a better option.

I would rather see us go for a young kid capable of scoring, or a proven goal scorer playing at a lower level who would be happy to gain experience and play a bit part.  One newspaper in France have linked us and other clubs with a move for young French wonderkid M'Baye Niang.  The 16 year old is currently playing for Caen in Ligue 1 and is expected to be a really top player, that would be the sort of option I would prefer to see us pursuing.  It wouldn't even have to be someone playing in the top flight, not a glamorous choice but Nicky Maynard has scored plenty of goals in the Championship and has been watched by many top flight clubs, he would I am unsure love the opportunity at a big club like City but would also be more than willing to play a smaller part initially, Wilfried Zaha is another youngster in the Championship that has been linked with some top clubs, Barcelona no less.

The bottom line is that I feel we already replaced Tevez this Summer and bringing in a top player now will only cause problems in the attacking ranks since not all of them can play.  I would much prefer us to go for a youngster or someone like Maynard in the Championship, someone who would be a good player but would also be prepared to wait for his chance.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Rumour Mill: Sunday Round Up

It seems that you can't keep City off the back pages, sadly today it is still just one story that those on Fleet Street are focussing on, that is the situation with want-away irritant Carlos Tevez.  Yesterday may have brought a thumping good victory and an exceptional performance from everyones favourite bad boy Mario Balotelli but there is still only one story in town.

I was hoping to have some different topics to bring together, but sadly they are relatively thin on the ground, you can normally count on the Sunday papers for some ridiculous rumours but there is really not a lot going on, so if you are sick of reading about Carlos Tevez, I suggest you move along after the first story.

Let's start with the only non-Tevez story then, and it is back to an old favourite, the future of Adam Johnson.  Despite Roberto Mancini making it abundantly clear in preseason that the young winger is going nowhere, there are still murmurings about his future at the club, and it seems to be Liverpool that he is constantly linked with.  To be fair this story does come from so any shreds of credibility die right there but it's still worth having a (quick) look at.  As far as I know, the website in question is essentially a blogging site for people who are 'in the know' and they really do churn out some rubbish.  The moment this story loses all credibility comes when the writer claims that Johnson has been left out in the cold by Mancini, ignoring the fact that he has been injured for a few weeks and returned to the starting 11 as soon as he was deemed fit enough, quality research right there.  For what its worth, the website report that Liverpool would be prepared to pay around £18million for the England international, it wouldn't be bad money because AJ isn't as good as the media hype machine would lead you to believe, but we won't sell him to Liverpool in January and nor should we.

Right, OK, Tevez then, where to begin?  First up is a story from the Sunday Mirror who are reporting that he will be on the way in January with PSG and Inter Milan the most likely destinations.  There is nothing particularly interesting in that but there is also a transfer fee mentioned, quite where it comes from is unclear, plucked out of the sky I would suggest, but that doesn't mean it isn't hard to agree with.  They are reporting that the bids coming from Italy and/or France would be around £25million, someway short of the £40million that the club was holding out for this Summer.  I think really we would be foolish to expect any more than that, and I also think they are the most likely destinations as well, throw Malaga into the ring and they may not be far off.  The players temperament has ensured we will make a loss on the player but to be honest I just want rid by this point.

In the same newspaper everyone's favourite imbecile has also been talking about City, Joey Barton has branded the club that gave him more opportunities than many would and gave him the career he has today a 'soap opera', sorry Joey, are those grapes a bit too sour for you?  He goes on to claim that the Tevez situation was 'only a matter of time', just like it is 'only a matter of time' before you smack a teenager again Joey?

To continue on Tevez it is perhaps strange to see the Daily Star on Sunday so firmly behind City.  They reveal that the club have stopped the Argentine flying back to his home country this weekend as they prepare for a high level meeting on Monday.  They go on to debunk any myths that the City squad might side with Tevez, and in particular Pablo Zabaleta, they claim these rumours are untrue and nothing more than a smear campaign being put about by certain people in the media as well as the players camp.  Encouragingly they also state that the clubs owners are believed to be firmly behind the manager and disgusted with the actions of the players, lets hope that is the case.

Last by by no means least is Micah Richards who has given an interview to The People stating quite simply that Tevez was in the wrong.  It has become plain to see this week that some sections of the media have struck up some sort of agenda against Mancini and been claiming that the players weren't supporting him, well these quotes from Richards certainly begin to prove that to be the fabrication that it quite clearly is.  The same paper also reckon that Tevez will infact be suspended for 6 weeks and fined upto £1.5million, hearsay, but lets hope its true!

Hopefully next Sunday we will have something other than Tevez, but I expect this one to run on a little bit yet, anyway enjoy your Sunday Roasts and don't forget to check back in the week for more.