Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Has Sven Gone Too Far ?

It's great to see City flying high so far this season; after the lows of the last few years the fans have at last got something to cheer about.

Although I'm naturally chuffed to see City in the top 4 and obviously hope we stay there, all this heady success is causing me what is perhaps a strange problem ...... apart from bulk standard match reports (which I don't tend to do as everyone else seems to re-cycle the same thing), there isn't that much else to write about City these days.

I don't know what my fellow regular City chroniclers such as Danny @ Bitterandblue and Andy, Gavin and Johnny Baguette @ Vital Football think, but these days it's hard finding something different, challenging or provocative to write about as everythings going so swimmingly, just like a well oiled machine. Even the output from the excellent Purelymancity and KoTK doesn't seem to be as prolific as it was just a few months ago.

For so long, City fans have had such a rollercaster existence swaying from one crisis to another, but now it's so different, and I have to say quite disconcerting that we have very little to moan about these days, such is the impact that Sven and the new regime have made - I can't remember the last dig I had at the Club it's so long ago.

Is it just me or does anyone else feel the same anxiety that all this is too good to be true and can't last or is that just a typcial City thing?

If things don't start getting worse very soon, I may have to knock this blog on the head and get a life :-)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Don't Blame Corluka - He Was Right !

Comments made to the press by City's Croatian defender, Vedran Corluka after his team humiliated England at Wembley this week have raised a few eyebrows and there's been speculation about the reception he'll get at Saturday's game against Reading.

However, when you think about it, you realise that he was absolutely right. Corluka is reported to have said: "England got just what they deserved because they were unbelievably arrogant !". They were unbelievably shite as well, but I guess he couldn't say that, be we all know they were.

Vedran, you are spot on mate. England have overall, been an embarrassing shambles during the Euro2008 qualification phase and the team got what they deserved .... absolutely nothing!

The fans, however didn't deserve such a gutless, defeatist performance and have every right to be incensed by the players, the (ex) manager and those useless buffoons in FA Hq who haven't even got the decency to step aside and give people who really understand the game and care about it, the chance to put their sorry house in order. No guesses who will emerge blameless from their "investigation" !

In the end, Croatia have probably done us a big favour by signaling the death knell of the current FA regime; this is probably one failure too far, even for them! However, when you then hear that the FA are heading up the investigation into themselves, you just have to wonder whether they've learnt anything at all from a catalogue of failures with previous appointments and a history of failure in major tournaments.

Craig Johnston on Sky Sports News this morning, an Aussie for Christ's sake, showed more passion and emotion about the state of the English game than the mandarins in the FA. Why doesn't the FA use the experience and passion of people like this? The answer is that the truth hurts and they just seem quite content to paper over the cracks and deflect any criticism and responsibility away from themselves and onto others.

Good on Corluka for telling it how it is - he deserves praise rather than stick !

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Two Extremes Of Sven's Problem

There's no doubt that the Sven effect has transformed City into a confident and professional outfit this season.

The football is unrecognisable from the dire spectacle City fans had the misfortune to watch in the last 3 or 4 seasons and thank goodness for that. City are riding high in 3rd place and playing some stuff, although I have to say the awful performance against Sunderland on Monday night took me right back to the darkest Pearce and KK days - I suspect that was just a blip on an otherwise wonderful season so far.

As I've said, the performances are a vast improvement, but they can and must still get better and more consistent if we're serious about challenging for Europe.

Sven's forays into the transfer market have been very successful on the whole, but there are two areas that still need to be sorted out, namely the 'keepers jersey and the forward line. The top and the bottom of the team, if you like, have been problematic since Sven took over and even now, they look far from being resolved. The bit in the middle, i.e the back four and the midfield are solid enough, but don't be surprised to see some additional strengthening in January.

Now that Kaspar is away on loan, it's a straight fight between Hart and Isaksson with Hart just edging it at the moment for the green jersey. Joe has done very well for a young lad, but he does obviously lack experience which has shown a few times this season. He will develop into a top, probably future England 'keeper, but it's a big ask for him to play at this level every week at his age.

As for Isaksson, despite him being here for 18 months, we still haven't seen enough of him to make up our minds. It's obviously an uneasy relationship between him and the club as neither Pearce or Eriksson have shown total faith in him - why, I really don't know.

Up front, we are clearly lacking a 20 goal per season striker. Bianchi may be that person, but like Isaksson, we just don't know. Mpenza has toiled hard on his own up front, but he's clearly not cut out to be a lone striker, something that showed against Sunderland, when he didn't win a ball all night. Enough's already been said about Samaras and the best think for him and City would be an early exit elsewhere to rebuild his career. Of the three, I'd probably only keep Bianchi and persevere with him.

Where does that leave us then? Well, with money to spend we need a top international 'keeper and two proven strikers at this level. With the transfer window looming Sven will be linked with every player under the sun and if true to form will buy none of them and pull off a surprise or two when he does eventually dip into the market.

Let's hope he and the backroom team have been hitting YouTube a lot over the last few weeks and have spotted some more talent ;-)

Good luck to the team and the travelling support today - Fratton Park is an awful place to go to at the best of times; I think I'd settle for a draw if I could.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ireland Strike Illuminates An Otherwise Dull Evening

Just got back in time from the game tonight to post a quick report, but I don't think I'll be stopping up to watch any highlights on TV which could probably be shown in full during a commercial break.

After the hammering we got from Chelsea, it was important that City responded with a big performance and a win. We got the latter, but the it certainly wasn't the classic that many City fans are coming to expect these days.

A lot of players were clearly struggling tonight with only Dunne, Corluka, Garrido and Hamann having anywhere near a decent game. Even match winner Stephen Ireland drifted in and out of the game, but it was a great, almost Elano like finish that illuminated a dull spectacle on a cold November night. For me, Corluka was man of the match and he looks to be getting better and better with each game.

Petrov and even Elano looked out of sorts, but we can forgive them an off night now and again. Johnson looked jaded and we forget that he's still just a young lad being asked to do a man's job, which for the most part he's done admirably, but it was no surprise that Sven replaced him a the break, as he was clearly struggling with some kind of problem.

I was expecting to see Geovanni, but Vassell came on instead and did a pretty good job despite his lack of match fitness and battled well to set up the goal for Ireland.

Nice also to see Bianchi come on for over half an hour and despite giving the ball away sloppily with his first touch, he looked more of a threat than Mpenza in that lone striker role.

Sun Jihai probably gave Sven all the necessary ammunition to go back to Thaksin to strengthen the squad in the January window. Despite his effort and enthusiasm, Sun looks increasingly lacking in Premiership quality alongside his new team mates.

Couple of things that puzzled me this evening:

  • Why so many back passes to Hart from the halfway line?
  • Why did Sven switch Petrov onto the right in the 2nd half when he is such a left sided player. It just didn't work or make sense.
Apart from Ireland's classy winner the highlight of the evening was the "warm" reception given to Roy Keane when he strayed into the technical area. It wasn't just because of his obvious United connections, but many in the crowd this evening would have vividly remembered the way he pretty much ended Alf-Inge Haaland's career with a typically cynical and brutal challenge in April 2001.

On a more positive note, Sunderland brought some decent away support with them and showed enough to suggest that they may just survive the drop this season.

No such worries for City this season as talk continues about European qualification.... any why not? We're just 2 points away from the top of the table and hopefully over the shock of the 6 - 0 result at the Bridge. Pompey away on Sunday will be a sterner test than the Mackems were tonight, but this is just the sort of game City have to get something from to be serious contenders for honours.