Needless to say, no one is giving us much hope of winning at the Etihad Stadium this weekend but if history tells us anything about clubs like NUFC and Manchester City, it is that when one team hasn’t beaten the other for 11 games and are the only team in English professional leagues not to have scored an away goal, then they are going to score and win.
It’s a long shot, though City and the Toon are historically very similar clubs there is currently a difference between the way they are run, one determined for instant success with ambition to create foundations for lasting prosperity, the other being Newcastle United.
At the start of the season, both managers Manuel Pellegrini and Steve McClaren were full of hope.
“We’re going to see a new Manchester City this season – a team involved in four competitions. I have a lot of trust,” said Pellegrini.
Who this week nearly missed the Champions League flight to Germany because he had taken the wrong passport to the airport.
Steve McClaren on the other hand is only allowed one passport but fat lot of use it is to him at the moment, the only thing he’ll need it for is to go to France to find the real Florian Thauvin, the one who turned up at SJP looked like someone who had eaten Hugo Viana.
Both managers have had their problems this season so far, while City won their first five games in glorious form, a 4-1 humping at Spurs at the weekend caused Pellegrini to storm out of a press conference suggesting that:
“If you want to talk about stupid things then I do not answer stupid things.”
Doesn’t roll off the tongue that one Manuel, I prefer McClaren’s witticisms, yesterday our leader suggesting that there has been ‘an acceptance by the crowd of Nufc style of play as demonstrated at 2-0 up v Chelsea’, which made me laugh.
First of all we didn’t have a style of play until the Chelsea game, when he was virtually forced to play 4-4-2 by fan pressure and secondly, I much preferred our style of play to get to 2-0 up against Chelsea than the style of play after we had got there.
One major difference between the two teams this season has been the state of the goalkeepers. City conceded 4 goals in their last league game, with Willy Caballero in goal, twice as many as they had conceded in the first 6 league games with Joe Hart and there is no doubt that Hart has been outstanding this season, Head & Shoulders above everyone else in fact.
Perhaps the Psychologist Hart has been seeing, supposedly to improve his life both on and off the pitch, has really worked and Hart is reaping the rewards to a 21st century approach to mental health.
‘I’ll take you to The Candy Shop, I’ll take you to the hairdressers’
The same can’t be said for Tim Krul, a couple of years ago Hart’s equal, now almost achieving equality with Rob Elliot. Krul seems to let a soft goal in virtually every game, even the second against Chelsea made me wonder if he would have saved it two years ago. If we are to get anything at the Etihad today we need the old Tim Krul to turn up and that Psychologist to tell Joe Hart he is Willy Caballero as he runs onto the pitch at ten to three.
Once again our defence picks itself, Kevin Mbabu welcome in a left back slot where Haidara has been appalling. With only one clean sheet so far this season our defensive frailties have been largely over-looked in our clamour for more attacking football but undoubtedly we’ll need to be more solid today.
Our thanks to Gary Neville
Once again, thanks to Gary Neville for telling us fans that we need to be more pragmatic in our approach to our team, no doubt City will have more of the ball and we’ll need to be strong in defence to not let their possession turn to goals, as fans, presumably Gary we’ll need to be strong enough to watch City destroy us for the umpteenth time on the trot without any sort of a fight and not let it bother us too much. Still, we’ve got the pundits to re-educate us with their tactical wisdom.
For City, although they have missed the most consistent right back in the country in Pablo Zabaleta, they have missed Vincent Kompany more. It is likely that neither will play today and while Sagna is a reasonable replacement for Zabaleta, the cover at centre half is less reliable.
Two out of three of DeMichelis, Mangala and Otamendi will play today, all of them unreliable for different reasons, Mangala gets caught so far out of position sometimes you’d need satellite tracking to find out where he is, while DeMichelis is better positionally but lacks pace. Both will be vulnerable to Ayoze’s intelligence today. Otamendi was a recent buy from Valencia and will enjoy a physical battle with Mitrovic, Otamendi loved a good tub-thump in Spain, always shaking his fist at the fans to gee them up.
The trouble is that La Liga centre forwards are built more like Amy Winehouse than Billy Whitehurst and Otamendi will have a harder job bullying the likes of Carroll, Benteke and Kane. And he isn’t that good anyway. He had one great season at Valencia and a few bad ones. By that yardstick Cheick Tiote is worth £30million.
In midfield, with injuries blighting both teams it is likely that the greatest league in the world will be deprived of its best players, Jack Colback and Ya Ya Toure both out injured.
NUFC would probably have started with the midfield which finished the Chelsea game but with Obertan injured Steve McClaren can choose between Cheick the Poisonous or Flaurin the Useless.
Both would be a gamble, Thauvin a gamble because it would look like McClaren was rewarding mediocrity, Tiote a gamble because he’s been hopeless for as long as we can remember. McClaren may be tempted to move Perez onto the wing and bring the lumbering De Jong in up front, again not a popular move but one thing is for certain, Sissoko will play. Well he’ll be on the pitch anyway.
For City, Jesus Navas, the new Franz Carr, will hopefully give the ball boys something to do, which will give us more players to mark the brilliant Silva and De Bruyne.
Up front, hopefully we’ll continue with the more attacking approach which saw us play two strikers against Chelsea. It may not make tactical sense according to Sky Sports, but I pay to watch Newcastle United and I pay to watch Newcastle United scoring goals or going down trying, not playing with 10 men behind the ball in the hope of nicking a goal.
Playing 4-4-2 with two strikers doesn’t always mean pushing up and leaving the opposition more space to play, something which City undoubtedly can do and with Bony fit up front, City have three forwards available who love to score against the Toon in Bony, Sterling and Aguero. It just means that when you go forward, you go forward with attacking players looking to score goals.
As Steve McClaren has said:
“After seven games we are starting to get a little closer to our starting XI, our system of play and our style.”
Let’s hope that includes more of the attacking intent we showed against Chelsea and less of the shot-shy garbage he explained away as tactics before that.
I would like to see the team line up 4-4-2 with the following (available) team selection…
On a personal note, I’ve always liked Manchester City and Manchester in general.
Back in the day I always enjoyed a trip to Maine Road, always liked The Smiths, The Stone Roses and Oasis.
Both Manchester and Manchester City are not the same now, both more glamorous and romanced by money.
In the words of Morrissey:
“In the days when you were hopelessly poor, I just liked you more.”
I’ll like City a lot more tonight if we beat them.
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