Friday, December 28, 2007

Santa Draws City's Home Run To An End

City 2 - 2 Rovers

Well it had to happen sometime I guess, and City's 100% home record is sadly no more.

It was a shame however, that the eventual result of yesterday's game was settled by a controversial decision by the referee and his linesman - something that is quite a common thing at Eastlands these days.

Was it offside or wasn't it? Was David Dunn "active" or was he not? What's clear is that the offside law is a mess and needs sorting out so that the match officials are not put into the unenviable position of making a split second judgment on something that is a purely subjective matter.

This "active" and "inactive" nonsense is completely unworkable and leaves little scope for consistency for big decisions, something the players, managers and fans are all desperately craving.

As for the game itself, if I'm being totally objective (something that doesn't naturally come easy), I guess you'd have to say that a draw was a fair result on the balance of play. City looked good in short spells with Petrov at last showing what he's capable of, but Rovers dominated the 2nd half with City struggling to win and keep hold of the ball.

Having extolled Bianchi's virtues in my previous article, he was pretty disappointing up front and how he missed that goal line tap-in I will still never know. Somehow, I fear his City career will not be a long one!

I was surprised not to see Geovanni again as he's looked quality in his few cameo appearances to date. City were crying out for a bit on invention in the centre of midfield and you would have thought that resting Hamann and Elano would have given Geo his chance - I really don't understand that at all.

Next up is another tough game against Liverpool - never an easy match.

Even if we draw, that will mean a disappointing three points from the Xmas fixtures; a win of course would make things look a whole lot better !

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Bianchi Proves His Worth

No doubt there will be a flurry of activity in the transfer window in the New Year and endless, rubbish rumours, but I wouldn't be too surprised if Sven doesn't turn out to be that active in the market.

It's been clear that we've been struggling up front this season and have been fortunate that the midfield have been able to score some extremely valuable goals. Despite a lot of work rate, Mpenza doesn't look as good as he was last season, now that he's surrounded by much better players. For me, he's too much like Vassell, but without the blistering pace and bullish strength.

It's been hard to be critical of Sven so far, but his handling of Bianchi has been poor - he even admitted it himself in a recent interview and said lessons had been learned. In the last few games, "Rolandinho" has showed just why Sven forked out £8.8m for him in the summer.

It looks like Bianchi is finally settling down in his new surroundings and is now playing with a confidence that we haven't seen before. It does beg the question about what he could have achieved and where we might be in the table if Sven had picked him every week (when he was fit of course).

The exciting arrival of Castillo will I'm sure spur Rolando on even more and competition for what could be only one striker's position will hot up intensely. it's easy to forget that Bojinov is poised to return and when he does, it will be like having a whole new pool of forwards to choose from.

With more forwards available, it would be nice to see Sven make the most of his attacking options and use a more orthodox 4-4-2 formation, maybe even a 4-3-3 for the right occasion. We've looked much more threatening in recent weeks when Sven's used two strikers.

So, for me it's Mpenza and Samaras that need to be the movers in January. Despite only a handful of appearances, Bianchi has shown that he has got quality and at just 23, City will have him at Eastlands during his prime and that could be worth an awful lot.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Xmas Roast? ...... That's My Boy !!!

It was only a matter of time before one of the young City players with too much time and money on their hands ended up featuring in a tabloid scandal and sadly Micah has managed to "score" a big own goal if the reports doing the rounds at the moment are true.

You can just picture the scene in the manager's office with a furtive and uncomfortable-looking Sven, with years of personal experience in these matters giving Micah some fatherly advice about off the field etiquette and acceptable behaviour from high-profile footballers.

Sven is reported to have "had a word" with him about it, probably with a glint in his eye and with some mild admiration. Micah is lucky that his boss just happens to be the most qualified person on this delicate subject - just ask Nancy, Faria, Ulrike etc..etc..

I just hope the other premiership player alleged to be involved isn't Rio Ferdinand.... now that really would kill his reputation !!

Grow up Micah !

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sven Makes A Good Point

With the unenviable home record City have this season, a point yesterday at Villa Park was a decent enough result.

It could have been better after Bianchi fired City into an early lead, but it could have been a whole lot worse if Villa had converted more of their many chances. On the balance of play, Villa dominated without being able to produce a killer finish.

City held firm and I guess rode their luck a little, but we'll take that - it is the season of goodwill after all! That said, most of the away fans would have headed back up the M6 with a bit of early Christmas cheer savouring a well earned point.

I couldn't quite work out some of the team changes though. Dropping both Garrido and Corluka to the bench seemed a bit strange; clearly they were both fit and both had decent enough performances in the Spurs game on Tuesday night. I wonder whether there was an element of Sven making a point after some sort of internal misdemeanor? All a bit strange if you ask me.

To be fair though, Ball came in and was probably man of the match. His block against Reo-Coker in the final moments denied Agbonlahor an easy tap in and meant City came away with a share of the spoils.

After slating Steve Bennett in my last report (available here), once again the referee (Lee Mason) in my opinion was far to keen to get his card out - 6 bookings was inappropriate for what was good match played in the right spirit. It just makes you wonder when common sense is going to prevail in football matches.... sadly, probably never is the answer to that one!

Merry Christmas to you all and thanks for reading this Blog!

Next game: Blackburn Rovers at CoMS on 27th December - k.o 7.45pm

Prediction: another bruising game - they always are against Rovers, but City to shade it with another trademark 1-0 home win

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Horse Called It Right !

City 0 - 2 Spurs

I don' t know why, but I had a sense of foreboding driving to Eastlands this evening; I think it's just something about playing Spurs in the Cup, a fixture that always seems to be a highly charged affair.

My anxiety about the game was heightened as we approached the Spurs end outside the stadium when a Police horse scraped its hoof twice on the ground just as we walked past.

My lad and I looked at each other and were reminded Soccer AM's " Mystic Ed" and simultaneously came to the same conclusion - this could only mean a two nil away win, and so it came to pass. I only wish I'd gone straight round to Ladbrokes instead of stopping off for my usual pre-match chips and gravy.

So what did we learn tonight ?

1) Spurs and City fans agreeing in loud chorus that Steve Bennett is "not fit to be a referee"; a truly shocking performance from the man in black tonight. By the time Zokora had been sent off in the middle of the 1st half, he'd already lost control of the game. Malbranque should have been red carded as well for what seemed a worse tackle than Zokora's. Dunne and Johnson should have had penalties, but to add insult to injury, Johnson was yellow carded for a dive, when it was clearly a foul - I was right in line with it.

2) We looked blunt up front again. nice to see Nery Castillo come out on the pitch before the kick off - shame he wasn't available to play tonight as we're crying out for a regular goal scorer. I'm really looking forward to seeing him in a blue shirt in January. Bianchi is still a better option than Mpenza and Samaras though !

3) Sven needs to get the players down to Carrington early tomorrow and do some intensive passing practice. I lost count of how many times we gave the ball away with sloppy passes and poor positioning - real schoolboy stuff.

4) We missed Stevie Ireland in midfield, although when Geo came on we looked a different team and he really should start a few games now and get his chance to cement his place. He looks so strong and comfortable on the ball.

5) Berbatov is a real class act; he was outstanding tonight and if Mr Shinawatra has still got some cash left, sign him up quick!

Disappointing that the home record went tonight, but it wasn't our best performance - lots of effort, but little quality on display.

I must try and find that horse again for the next match though !