Saturday, 21 July 2012

Besiktas V City Report

Regular readers will notice that I never did a summation of my thoughts on the Dynamo Dresden game, so here they are now:

Right, onto Besiktas.  It is pretty reasonable to say that our 3 games in Austria have hardly set the world alight, in fact quite the opposite, the only thing they have really been suitable for was curing insomnia.  As each game as passed however, City have started to look a bit more with it, there is still a clear element of ring rust, but things are improving from a technical point of view.  Fitness wise there has been an improvement as well, during the first game no player was on the pitch more than about 45 minutes where as now we are seeing players gets over an hour on the clock, and in some cases whole games.  The initial 11 that began against the Turkish giants was:

The first half was definitely at a slightly higher tempo than previous games, but it was still a half that we didn't really come close to dominating, in fact Besiktas had the better of the it and caused us some real problems.  It is never nice to say it, but as each game passes it is becoming more obvious to me that Kolo Toure is not the player that he once was.  He was again full of willing and energy, but he doesn't seem to have the mobility that a player needs if he wants to perform at the top end of the game, he was troubled repeatedly and if it weren't for Kompany and a particularly brilliant double save by Pantilimon, City would have conceded a couple of goals.  That brings me onto our 2nd keeper who played the whole game, and for the first team in a while I am starting to think that maybe we do have an adequate cover for Joe Hart, his double save was superb, and even though it could be argued the strikes weren't the best, it was still impressive reactions for a tall man.  Granted at times he still looks a bit weak on crosses (surprising for a man with that frame), but there are definitely signs of improvement and he looks a decent backup to me.

Some passes are still going astray, and at times the first touch of some players was questionable, but that is to be expected after the break, and a problem that will no doubt be eradicated over the coming month.  Adam Johnson, after recovering from illness that kept him out of the Dresden game, was sharp and worked hard both going forwards and backwards.  Abdul Razak once again demonstrated what immense potential he possesses, he still has a knack of over complicating things at times, and he tried to ping a few 40 yard passes that didn't come off, but at other times he was neat and tidy and a good presence in the midfield.  One particular thing of note was that Yaya Toure was constantly talking to the youngster, and encouraging him and clearly passing on advice, that sort of thing is always good to see.

Lopes the youngest player on the pitch was given another 45 minute run out, and to be fair, the occasion still seemed a little too big for him.  That is not a criticism, the kid has barely played at reserve and youth level, so to suddenly be thrusted into the first team picture will obviously be a massive step.  This exposure though will only be of assistance moving forwards, playing with the likes of Aguero and Tevez will clearly help his game, and hopefully we will see more of him throughout preseason and playing for the EDS this coming season in the nextgen tournament.  

The first half goal came from the weaker left foot of Sergio Aguero, a drilled Tevez pass was cleverly dummied by Razak, allowing it to run to Aguero who calmly and cooly slotted it into the back of the net.  As I say, it was really against the run of play, and came not long after the Pantilimon double save heroics, but it was a nice move and showed that key players are starting to get back to what we know they are capable of.

The second half kicked off with only one change, Vladimir Weiss with a point to prove replacing the ineffective Lopes.  Weiss is a player that really divides opinion amongst City fans, there are some that think he should definitely be involved, and there are more sceptical people who think that he is a bit of a one trick pony, I firmly fit in the second category.  I admit that over the course of the 3 friendlies, he has been one of our better players, but I just see him as a second rate Adam Johnson.  When AJ first arrived, we were blinded to the inadequacies in his game because of his tricky feet, and I think it is the same with Weiss.  He is by no means a bad players, but I genuinely don't believe he has what it takes to be a decent player at a team with title aspirations.  He was lively again, and worked hard, but I am still not sold.

The second half was overall similar to the first, Besiktas were perhaps the better team again, but it was City that increased their lead.  Just before the hour mark, Adam Johnson played a truly superb through ball that split the defence and found the forward run of a marauding Vincent Kompany who beautifully chipped the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper, it was a brilliant goal and if it had been scored in the Premier League we'd be seeing it for years to come.

That goal signalled whole sale changes, and to be honest that killed the game.  They didn't occur in one go, but between then and the final whistle Savic, Rekik, Boyata, Helan, Mancini, Evans, Jelavic and Scapuzzi were all introduced.  Of the substitutes it was Karim Rekik that again stole the show; this youngster looks absolute class and for me he has to be involved this season, I said it after the Al-Hilal game and I say it again now, he looks twice the player Savic is and yet hes much much younger.  The 'Scapuzzi Experiment' continued and still mystifies me, I hate to criticise a young player, but I just don't know what Mancini sees in this kid, he barely touched the ball and didn't really contribute anything in the 25 minutes he was on the field.  

The only other event in the second half worth noting was an altercation between both teams towards the end of the game.  Youngster George Evans committed, what was to be fair a pretty woeful challenge/lunge on former Everton man Manuel Fernandes, the Portuguese man jumped to his feet and initiated an altercation with the City academy player that in a competitive game would have resulted in him seeing red (although the initial challenge would almost certainly have resulted in dismissal as well).  It was Aleks Kolarov that jumped in to defend his young team mate, and although we don't like to see these incidents in the game, it was good to see a senior player defending one of his young team mates, further goes to demonstrate the idiocy of people that claim there is no team spirit within the City camp.

For me it was Adam Johnson and Abdul Razak that deserve the most credit.  The Englishman was not at his scintillating best, but he got a superb assist for the 2nd and really worked hard to impress his manager.  Razak as I said earlier was at his best when he was keeping it simple, it is wrong to compare him to the imperious Yaya Toure at such a young age, but he has great potential, and if he is willing to listen to those trying to help him, he could go along way in the game.

With that our preseason in Austria comes to an end, next stop China, the Birds Nest Stadium and possibly a couple of new signings, exciting times.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Al-Hilal V City Report

I generally don't do reports for league games because all of you will either have watched the game live, or seen the highlights, friendlies are different though, a lot of City supporters won't see any of our games before we kick off the competitive season against Chelsea in the Community Shield.

I remembered about 20 minutes into yesterdays game that these warm up fixtures are more or less totally irrelevant with regards to the result.  I remember thinking the same last year, seeing players, who lets be frank, had no chance of getting in the first team in the near future, running about taking on the likes of the LA Galaxy.  They are really just an opportunity for players to get some minutes on the clock and to start approaching match fitness.  So don't let the fact that we lost the game 1-0 bother you in any way shape or form, this run out was never about the result.  The 11 that started the game was a mixed bag of regulars and fresh faces:

Arguably there were 6 players in that team that have a chance of starting against Southampton in just over a months time.  For those players it is fair to say that relatively few of them ever looked like taking the game by the scruff of the neck.  Kompany led by example and worked hard, Zabaleta only has one way to play, and well, Kolarov was Kolarov, a threat coming forward but he did get caught out of position a couple of times defensively.  Toure sprayed the ball around nicely, but never really threatened to break into his top gear.  Tevez worked hard and played with energy, but as with the rest of the team he was clearly playing in a relatively low gear.  Perhaps the biggest surprise was Adam Johnson, now as many of you know, his future at the club is very much up in the air, this preseason could be vital to his future with City, I thought he might be the one player to really try to shine, but no, he was much the same as the rest.  It is a shame that the one experienced player with something to prove failed to grasp the opportunity.

In terms of chances or things of note, there was honestly very little to write about.  Other than some wayward shots we never looked like scoring in the first half.  So what of the less recognisable names? Lets do a bit of a roll call; a lot is expected of youngster Karim Rekik, the defender looks solid and for me is a better option on the bench than Stefan Savic, the kid has bags of potential and I think we should be involving him sooner.  Israeli trialist Nir Biton looked nervy, and I suppose that is to be expected, he sat in front of the defence and worked hard, some passes did go astray, but he showed commitment, one thing is for sure though, if he is to be signed on a permanent basis he does need to bulk up somewhat.  Luca Scapuzzi has appeared a couple of times in the league cup, and to be honest I have no idea if he has the potential to make a name for himself at City, he was perhaps our most effective forward on the night, but to be quite honest, that isn't saying a huge amount.  Youngster Marcos Lopes was perhaps the least known player, but could potentially have the biggest future ahead of him.  I will hold my hands up and admit I don't know a huge amount about the 16 year old.  He flew out to replace Gareth Barry who departed to Germany for treatment on his abdominal injury.  The Portuguese wideman is regarded extremely highly at Carrington and Platt Lane and he was given a chance to start.  The pacey and tricky wide-man however struggled to really influence the game, I personally hope to see more of him in later friendlies to give him more opportunities to learn and develop.  

It is probably best to treat the 2nd half as a separate game as it was more or less a totally different 11, the team that reemerged was this:

Scapuzzi was the only player to begin the 2nd half that appeared in the first, and the lineup suddenly had a much younger look to it.  There was the opportunity for fringe players to prove their worth, and one of those, Vladimir Weiss did his best with the chance he was given.  He was really the only threat we posed in the second half, and arguably the only threat we possessed in the whole game.  Having said that however, the issues that have blighted his career were still present, he still has a tendency to over complicate matters and there is still that selfish streak in him, I doubt he has a future at City, but for what its worth he was probably the best performer we had.  Boyata a player I had such high hopes for did alright, but whether he has enough to play a part this season remains unclear.  Kolo Toure came close to scoring from a couple of set pieces, you know what you get with Toure, he is solid if not spectacular.  The only other players worth mentioning really are French full back Helan and the impossible to spell Elabdellaoui, another player who has much expected of him, he looked a decent threat and is another player I hope we get a further look at in later games.  Razak mopped up defensively, although he did sadly over complicate in a couple of instances.  Trialist Jelavic had a game to forget, he was hooked off after 30mins, whether he appears again I am unsure, but it didn't look great for his future with the club.

The goal did come in the 2nd half, and it was literally men against boys.  The City kids worked hard, but other than a few set pieces never really looked like creating much against their much more experienced opposition.  So whilst it was a pretty poor performance there was a couple of encouraging signs from youngsters i'd like to see more of, Lopes, Biton, Rekik, Helan, Razak, Weiss and Elabdellaoui did enough for me to think i'd like to see them given more opportunities as we progress through preseason.  The likelihood is that as each game passes we will be fielding stronger and stronger line ups, and that is obviously a good thing, but there are still reasons to give some of these youngsters and trialists a chance.

The most important thing though, is that I urge everyone to not read anything into this result.  I hope that by showing the players we used in the 2nd half it is evident that this was a game we were never likely to win.  Preseason is about getting match sharpness back, giving more junior players a chance to shine, and that is perhaps the only real disappointment.   This was an opportunity for some fringe players to prove their worth, sadly some of them didn't take it this first time, but I am sure there will be plenty more chances to come before the Community Shield.