Manchester City Preview: Squeaky Bum Time

I doubt Enos even cares that we’ve got a game this afternoon. His beloved Rams are in action later on and that can give him some glory. Sean McVay knows he’s got to deliver; Kroenke’s own bucks are invested in the team. I say team but that really means the stadium. Los Angeles sports fans would do well to look at Arsenal and see how little Enos cares for the sports side of things once the real estate is in place and earning.

He might do well not to watch. Our rickety defence moves north to the Etihad to face a team which has scored against us in every game in the last four years; 19 goals in 9 games. We’ve netted 10 in the same period and none in the last three. We’ve lost the last four and I don’t have a lot of hope we’ll end that run, despite City’s woes in midweek. Those Newcastle goals were the first they conceded in six matches. They scored 28 in the process.

OK, so Burton and Rotherham accounted for 17 of those 28 which means City scored a woeful nine (11, YW, you useless twat) in three Premier League games. The point is not how many they scored, simply the frequency, irrespective of competition. Did I mention our fractured defence faces a team which has scored in every home game so far this season.

No, I’m not feeling entirely hopeful this afternoon.

Injuries don’t help but in all honesty, I expected better from our defence than we’re seeing this season. Knowing their own limitations, discipline is the most important part of the game. Marking conscientiously, diligent positional play, complete awareness of where they and their opponents are; these are the things we should be showing but are noticeably absent.

Willingness and Desire To Improve

Some of that rests with the training but an awful lot of it is the players themselves. Certainly the concentration; how does a coach get players to develop that. Mental exercise, of course, but there must be a willingness and desire to improve on their part.

Can they lift themselves to the required level this afterrnoon? Neither Wembley or revenge inspired them in four days last spring so why expect any better this time around?

Hope is why. Without that, why watch football at all? Even the slither which remains in my mind tantalises the prospect of victory; cruel fates may dictate otherwise but football has a habit of turning despair into joy by the final whistle.

And kicking you when you’re down.

The win over Cardiff City served its’ purpose in giving us three points and a quick return to winning ways, no matter how unconvincing the performance. Alexandre Lacazette’s barreling run for the second reflected his importance to the side and the nomination for Premier League player of the month highlights his current form. Sadly, I think he is the one who will make way if Emery decides to play this ultra-conservatively. Which I think he will.

He may not be wrong in that overall philosophy in this instance but if we’re down to choosing between Laca or Aubameyang, today call for hard work for the team. Plus, instinctively, I think the Frenchman is a more clinical finisher, requiring fewer chances to score than his strike partner.

Meanwhile, Emery has decisions to make in defence. On the right, is Lichtsteiner the lesser of two evils if Ainsley Maitland-Niles doesn’t return? Rumours abounded last night that he wouldn’t so it’s the Swiss who is the big cheese. Experience and a lack of pace over a quicker but inexperienced Jenkinson.

A Lot Of Buccaneering

On the left, the buccaneering Kolasinac or sensible Monreal. I have no issue with Kolasinac buccaneering. Except he’s mainly buccaneer when we want him buccinthere. However, Emery does like his full-backs to attack and that seems to be the raison d’etre behind Kola’s inclusion. His lumbering returns to defensive positions do infuriate, however.

We haven’t won at the Etihad since January 2015 and we went there that day with the same sense of foreboding. However, employing a midfield diamond as we did against Chelsea may serve us more of a purpose than three at the back. Does that mean a start for Denis Suarez? I’d be surprised in convential football thinking if it did but Emery made it clear that he wanted the player so I won’t be surprised if he does.

I’ll be genuinely surprised if Ozil starts, especially in a diamond. It’s a game where Emery will demand a high-tempo and energetic performance with lots of closing down. That’s not Mesut’s forte by a long shot.

Which leaves us with a starting line-up of:

Leno; Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Ramsey, Torreira, Xhaka, Iwobi; Lacazette, Aubameyang

With Lacazette sacrificed for Suarez on this occasion if Emery decides to pack the midfield.

However much I may fear the outcome, I’ll always hope for the best before kick-off. If we can nick the first goal, that gives us something to hold onto. Is that enough? It’s a start, that’s all.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

120 thoughts on “Manchester City Preview: Squeaky Bum Time

  1. LSG says:

    Paulie Walnuts,

    Saw Suarez shaken off the ball deep in our corner by Aguero too. First impression, unfair as it is: lightweight.

    I am sure KSE’s lesson from Liverpool’s improvement is that you can finance three players by selling a Coutinho to Barcelona. Or just pocket the money!

  2. Alex Ice Cream says:

    Bill

    Guendouzi has potential?! Potential? He is already our best player and will very soon be good enough to play for pretty much anyone.

    Matty G is a great player already. He was head and shoulders above anyone else on our team.

    This kid has everything. The problem is that at this rate we will not be able to keep him.

  3. LSG says:

    C,

    I certainly don’t see a reason to play Suarez and leave Ozil on the bench. From a football perspective. If KSE cared at all, I’d say Emery was putting himself under some pressure with such decisions.

  4. LSG says:

    C:
    LSG,

    Of course he’s young. Which means things could go either way. But he is impressive. But if we were a real top 4 side, he wouldn’t be playing quite this much, I think. He’ll bring a nice price as we sink into being a development club under KSE.

    Agreed but he will learn, we have to remember this is his first season in the PL and at 19, is still learning with it being his only year in any firat division.

  5. Alex Ice Cream says:

    Sorry but I see nothing in Emery to say that he is an upgrade on a 10 year past it Wenger.

    He picked the wrong team today. We needed 5 in midfield today to try and stifle their midfield. Ramsey should have played instead of Auba who, as usual was irrelevant without the goals. He should not play in tough away games from the start – its him or Laca and Laca gives much more to the team.

    We were being outnumbered in midfield despite the manful efforts from Lucas and Matty G, yet Emery did nothing to change it. Leno was also excellent.

    We criticised Wenger for poor team set-ups and a lack of proactivity from the bench so the same has to apply to Emery. He is meant to be a tactical manager but I see no evidence of this.

  6. Bill says:

    AIC

    Saying that Guendouzi is our best player is a reasonably heavy dose of hyperbole but he has definitely been better then expected. He certainly plays with a lot of energy. Hopefully that energy will not fade as he matures. It shows just how much we need a squad rebuild if we really believe he should be challenging for the team lead in minutes played.

  7. Alex Ice Cream says:

    Bill

    I totally disagree. This kid is special and is easily good enough to play in a top 6 side which is what we are. In fact he is better than that. No hyperbole at all. I just don’t want him overplayed as he might get injured/burnt out by overplaying him too early (like Jack).

    Cesc was good enough at 17, Anelka at 19, Vieira was 19, Rocastle was also a regular at 19. Jack played 49 games as 19 yr old.

    If you are good enough, age is irrelevant. Matty G is easily good enough. A superstar in the making.

  8. Bill says:

    Guendouzi is a tweener. Not really a creative midfielder but not really a defensive player either.

  9. Bill says:

    Alex

    “If you are good enough, age is irrelevant. Matty G is easily good enough. A superstar in the making.”

    I hope you are right and may be this time will be different but we have heard that same thing said several dozen times in the past

  10. Alex Ice Cream says:

    True – but he maybe more towards the creative side. He has the vision and a great weight of pass. I think he can develop into a box to box player or a creative hub.It will be exciting to watch but make no mistake this kid is seriously talented and also brave. He never hides and always demands the ball. He reminds me of Cesc in this regard.

  11. Alex Ice Cream says:

    Bill

    This kid is different. I will say so right now. Unless he gets crocked there is no limit to what he could achieve.

  12. C says:

    Bill,

    So your saying Guendouzi is playing the Vieira role?!!??!

  13. C says:

    LSG,

    Agreed, the match waa open and even Dixon was wondering if this was the match Ozil should come in with the match being so open.

  14. Bill says:

    Alex

    I hope you are right but we have been there done that more times then we can count.

    Guendouzi is not a creative player in the fabregas or ozil mold and he doesn’t strike me as a defensive minded midfielder and at least so far he hasn’t really shown any eye for goal and he is not really a dribbler. His best position might be deep lying playmaker but would need to be paired with a top quality defensive mid

    I have always said we don’t need a 1 dimensional technical creative genius in the #10 position. Perhaps he can morph into a player who can thrive in that type of position

  15. Bill says:

    C
    A Vieira type role would be awesome and that makes sense based on what we have seen. However, it’s way way to early to anoint him the next Vieira. Time will tell

  16. MikeSA says:

    On the positive side, I was seriously concerned that we were in for a hiding.

    Imo we held our own for a while (apart from the first minute, that is), and weren’t completely swatted like Pool did to us.

    Once again, however, 3 at the back killed our attack off completely.

    We had one shot at goal that I can recall: it was a set piece from a corner, and we scored from it, so on another positive note, we seem to have had close to a 100% conversion of shots on target.

    The other side of the coin is that we were once again unable to create anything from open play.

    I’m not a fan of dribblers.

    Carrying the ball at your feet is the slowest method of moving it around the pitch.

    You might “beat your man”, but you give the rest of their team time to get in position and cover, so it’s not really the only way to beat a man and create opportunities, is merely one of them.

    Yes, there’s a time and place for it, but if that’s what you do 99% of the time you receive the ball, then you’re in the way and slowing down our attack (The caveat to that is that other players have to move into space for you to pass to, another of our many, many failings).

    The flip side of that is of course the long ball game, favoured by those who feel that the midfield is just a waste of bodies on the pitch unless they either join the defensive line, or score goals, with no real purpose in that large section of the pitch between the two 18 yard boxes.

    The long ball game results in a loss of possession more often than not, and the only way to improve on your retention is to hire players like Fellaini and call your team Man United so you don’t get yellow cards when you barge people over to get on the ed of the hoof (so not really an option for us at this stage then).

    I don’t buy the “its not his team” drivel, especially regarding the defence.

    He arrived for his interview with an analysis of each player and what he intended to do to coach and improve them.

    And yes, a coach, including a head coach, does actually coach the players and work on improving them – the clue is in the job title.

    Other teams have players of a far lower caliber than ours but are still able to be organised and put in a defensive shift.

    I can understand us conceding against good teams, and even poor teams from time to time, but our inability to keep very many clean sheets, even against turgid opposition, is not down to personnel, its down to poor organisation and tactics.

    I said at the beginning of the season we’d do well to just tread water, as long as we see some signs of improvement: so we’re 6th at the moment, which is treading water.

    However, I don’t see any improvement in the team, despite having added to our squad, and I especially don’t see an improvement in our defence.

    I see a few comments about the new addition looking disinterested: the same claim made about another player in our squad.

    Hmmmm – this is Emery’s addition, so what does that say?

    Those of us who are so fond of Occum’s razor might think of applying the same logic in this case: just like Wenger, if you have the exact same problems emanating from completely different personnel, then maybe the problem doesn’t lie with the specific personnel?

    Oh well, we have a few opportunities over the next few weeks to try and right the ship, so I hope we get on a bit of a run again.

    We aren’t going to do it if we keep on with 3 at the back and leave out our creative players though (btw, Iwobi is NOT an example of a creative player – just to make that clear).

  17. MikeSA says:

    The key to fast movement and attacking play that catches the opposition out of position (and thus leads to goals), is speed and quick passing.

    There are two aspects to quick passing : the player with the ball must already be aware of where his team mates are and where they’re likely to move to BEFORE he gets the ball (if he waits until he’s got the ball, he’s already wasting time).

    The players running into space have a very limited window to catch their marker out.

    They need to move suddenly and at speed onto the pass to escape their marker and disrupt the opposition’s defence.

    Once you’ve stopped or start trying to “trick” your opponent and dribble around them, the rest of their team have already cut off our runners and have closed down any space that was available.

    A good analogy for this is an artillery or mortar barrage: 80% of the effectiveness of a barrage occurs in the first 15 seconds, that’s why it has to be accurate and concentrated from the first round, to achieve surprise, otherwise it’s just a waste (unless you’re just trying to keep their heads down).

    On the pitch, a player has that initial advantage of surprise for only a split second.

    If the player with the ball is busy fucking around, then any runs the other players try and make off the ball achieve nothing except expend unnecessary effort because the advantage is lost by then.

    That’s one of our biggest problems, and I’m surprised more don’t realise and understand that.

  18. MikeSA says:

    It also has to be relentless.

    To illustrate: for example, an artillery gun is firing at a target 25 kms away. If the first shell is fired and the observer waits to see it land before calling a correction in and firing the next round, the 15 second window is long gone.

    The second round must be in the air before the first has even detonated, and the third should be on its way by the time the first does actually detonate.

    That means that the initial targeting must be accurate from the off in order for it to be effective.

    Take that analogy into what I said about the person receiving the ball already having his pass and movement planned before he gets the ball.

    Likewise for the person he’s passing to, and the other players should be moving into position and space as the recipient gets the ball.

    Continual, relentless: that’s how it works.

  19. theskywalker says:

    @ Alex and Mike SA
    I agree with you both. But, we could be keep on discussing what could have been and what Emery should have done, but the fact we would stay at the position 6 in the PL table. We have no improved the defence and we are not showing any improvement at all, despite Emery presenting at the time of the interview, how , he would improve each player.
    Guen and Torreira were the best picks/
    IMO, it appeared Emery did not have a clue looking at the team selection and tactics. He seems totally unsuited to the PL, watching at the recent defeats. Agree with Alex that he is not an improvement over Wenger. But the problem is , there is Spanish mafia build up at the Club, with Raul becoming the Godfather, and we are in for years of decline. This is not knee-jerk observation, but the summative view of those closely linked to the Club feel. We will be stuck at 6.

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