Friday, February 22, 2008

City's Reverse Striker Issue Conundrum

Talk about famine and feast, it wasn't so long ago that City's firepower looked like it was going to have to rely on academy lads still green behind the ears and not well acquainted with the daily bathroom encounter with Mr Gillette or Mr Wilkinson.

Now, by a combination of new signings and players return from injury, Sven has got quite a problem choosing his best strike partnership from what now looks almost like a bottomless pit of forwards.

I say strike partnership, but Sven's favoured formation so far has been one up front, which if he sticks that line-up will make the problem of what to do with all the forwards much more acute. Strikers tend to be a highly strung lot by nature and none will relish the prospect of keeping the bench warm.

By my reckoning, the following are now all vying for two or maybe just one place:

- Bojinov

- Mpenza

- Benjani

- Vassell

- Caicedo

- Castillo

- Sturridge

Add to that list the strikers out on loan and you have the likes of Bianchi, Samaras, Dickov & Corradi, plus the precocious talent of academy graduate Ched Evans, who to me has top premiership striker written all over him, and you get a sense of scale of the issue City now have. Oh, and I forgot Etuhu.

Granted, some of the loan strikers are unlikely to return, but nothing is certain and City will have to do some serious thinning out of the herd in the summer, especially if Sven fancies other players during the transfer window.

I guess, after all we've been through over the last few years, it's a nice problem to have for a change, however, we've still yet to find our regular 20+ goals per season striker. Once we do that, I think we can start talking more realistically about trophies and a successful European campaign.

It'll be good to see City adopt a more attacking formation for the rest of the season, now that we seem to have an abundance of riches up front. Let's park the 4-5-1 formation and go back to a 4-4-2, maybe even throw the boat out and try a 4-3-3.

As for the best strike partnership, I haven't got a clue, but Sven needs to find it quick and stick with it. Any ideas ?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Time To Resume Normal Service

It's been a strange couple of weeks.

All the rubbish media hype about the inevitable disruption to the minute's silence by loutish City fans never materialised, much to the disgust of the gutter press who I'm sure already had articles penned in advance about what a load of low-life scum all us City fans are..... well, we're not, but we knew that anyway, and now that whole world knows it as well.

I've got to say I felt a bit more emotional about it during the event than I thought I would. For me, the lingering shot of Bobby Charlton's face captured the moment with his obvious pain, and from what he's said about it himself, lingering guilt about how he survived yet others around him didn't. It's clear that the passing of half a century has done little to heal any of his emotional scars judging by the sadness etched in his face - it was very moving indeed.

Anyway, going back to the strangeness thing. First of all doing the double over United is pretty strange enough - I'd just entered my teenage years the last time it happened and had almost forgotten what it was like. I hope I won't be drawing my pension before the next time it happens!

Then there has also been this recognition in the ranks of some United fans that City played well and actually deserved to win, with absolutely no suggestion that the referee had cost them the game; dare I say it, but we heard grudging admiration of what City achieved on Sunday.... and rightly so.

I don't know, all this appreciation from United makes one feel slightly uncomfortable; it's not something we're used to. I must admit it was nice to see our lads being applauded down at the Stretford End after the game - that must be a first !

Now that it's all thankfully over I'm just looking forward to getting back to normal service with the re-instatement of that peculiar Mancunian rivalry in all its incisively brutal cruelty yet at the same time affectionately humorous splendour - long may it continue !

Finally, for those of you who haven't seen this explanation of United's performance, click here ..... it's a classic !

Sunday, February 10, 2008

City Give Reds The Blues

Well, what can you say ?

After all the media specultion about whether City fans would or wouldn't be respectful to the memory of the victims of the Munich tragedy, the team confounded everyone, including themselves probably with an unlikely, but yet typically City victory against all the odds.

I could write volumes about the game, but all that really needs to be said is that the players and the fans were just magnificent and every Blue can be immensely proud of their Club tonight.

As it was a wonderful all round team performance, it's a bit unfair to single out individuals, but Dunny and Richards were simply a different class today. In many ways, we did to United what Arsenal did to us at home last Saturday and played a tactically smart game for which Sven and the rest of the backroom need to be given a lot of credit.

Nobody gave us a chance today and it was expected that we'd just turn up to be fodder for United in this higher-profile than normal derby game, but I think we've stunned the world today. I'm sure the various media will be disappointed about the fact we won and that our fans did us proud, but 'twas ever thus !

Well there you go, we've taken six points off United this season and it doesn't get much better than that !

Friday, February 08, 2008

A Final Word on Munich

So much has been said and written about the Munich disaster and as a result the emotion levels surrounding the Manchester derby on Sunday have already gone up a few notches - god knows what it'll be like just before kick off time.

I haven't got a ticket for the match, but like the vast majority of City fans, I will be respectfully observing the silent tribute to those poor souls who perished so tragically half a century ago.

I'm absolutely sure most Blues at the game will behave impeccably during the minute's silence, although it does seem likely that there will be a few mindless idiots (not necessarily City fans) who will try to hijack this very public event - worryingly it happened during the tribute at Wembley this week where the minutes silence was brought to a premature end by the referee to avoid an embarrassing situation.

I must admit, It'll be a big relief when they whole thing is over. However, I got to say what crass stupidity it was by some anonymous football bureaucrats to schedule the Old Trafford Manchester derby to coincide the the Munich tragedy. Of all the dates it could have been played, what on earth made them pick that date when it's obvious events and emotions could trigger something very ugly.

I'm really sad that if there is an incident by some idiots, then all of us, as City fans are going to be tarnished with the same brush and our Club's reputation will be rubbished all around the world; we ( and United ) should never have been put in this situation.

Lest we forget, there also the small matter of a football match to consider on Sunday and our best response will be to let the players do the talking on the pitch.

To all City fans, please show silent respect to the occasion, but once the whistle goes, let normal service resume... somehow I just feel a draw would fit the occasion.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Benjani Training At Carrington

My spies at City tell me that Benjani Mwaruwari has been seen training at Carrington today.

The Club have just announced that he has been signed for an initial fee of £3.87m, which looks a whole load better than the £7m+ quoted as the transfer window closed.

Benjani is likely to go straight into the squad for this weekend's emotionally charged derby against United where he is desperately needed up front to sharpen up City's currently depleted forward line.

Welcome aboard son..... just do the business at the weekend please and stay fit please?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

City Still A Class Apart

City 1 - 3 Gooners

If a reminder were needed about just how far City need to develop before becoming one of the regular Premiership "Top Four", it was evident on today's performance.

Now I've always had a loathing for Arsenal, but not just because they play in red and white. I guess it goes back to the boring and dirty sides they had during my formative years in the late '60s and '70s. Those of you who were around will know exactly what I'm talking about.

However, I've got to say that at the moment Arsenal play some wonderful stuff with pinpoint passing and silky-smooth touches and were miles ahead of City this afternoon in every department (including time-wasting !).

As is becoming worrying familiar at the moment, City keep on giving the ball away sloppily time after time. Arsenal however kept possession with ease, but more impressively always looked so comfortable on the ball with time and space to pick their passes.

Despite another awful performance by the referee, there was no question that the Gooners didn't deserve to win; quite simply they were a class apart. Lets hope that City will have watched and learned and apply themselves in the same way next week the other side of town.

It's fair to say that despite a great start to the season, City have hit a bit of a wall since before Xmas and our lack of quality in some positions is beginning to hurt us badly. The unbeaten home Premiership record is now gone, but being unbeaten at home until February is something none of us would have believed this time last season.

The transfer window hasn't really been kind to us and it's difficult to see what difference a 19 year old, swiss based Ecuadorian striker is going to make to our season, but let's wish
Felipe Caicedo all the best when he pulls on a blue shirt - if he scores the winner against the Heathens from Newton Heath next week he'll be a legend before he hits 20 !

On the plus side today despite a toothless first 20 minutes, City battled back and almost looked comfortable for long periods of the game without ever really looking threatening - the propspect of Vassell & Mpenza aren't going to give many defences sleepless nights, although Sturridge did show tantalising glimpses of class even though he's miles away from being match fit.

Fernandes probably had his best game for City so far and Elano's contribution was a lot better than is has been for quite a few weeks. It's still baffling that Geovanni is keeping the bench warm most of the time, because whenever he comes on he give us a bit punch and guile; the fans know it and their calls for "Geeeeeeoooooohh" were answered swiftly in middle of the 2nd half, but by then it was really too late to make a difference by then.

The next two games against United and Everton will be a tough test for City and for Sven's managerial and motivational skills. On recent performance, it's hard to see where the points are going to come from in those matches, but City being City are just as likely to confound everyone (including themselves) and pull a surprise or two out the bag. Studying Arsenal carefully in a tape of today's game would be a good starting point.