Manchester City away. This was a game where we expected nothing and got precisely that, nothing.
The unfortunate side of that was we wandered around like Sergeant Schultz (“I know nothing”), hapless and incompetent. Adrian Durham on TalkSport described us as turning up and rolling over to get our tummy tickled.
I watched the first half online and it was men against boys. An early start gave me the excuse to switch off and go to bed at half time, so forgive the incomplete nature of this analysis. Before I start on the game though the first thing to say is that the Yohan Cabaye fiasco was used as an excuse for the disarray that we found ourselves in.
Let’s face it a bid arriving for our top player and hour or two before kick-off could well be unsettling and so it could be a factor, if you ignore the fact that Fellaini, Baines, Rooney and so on all played at the weekend despite their futures being uncertain. Professionalism is the word I’m looking for. It is also appearing that the bid was submitted on Friday. If so there is no excuse at all.
Lets look at the game, or at least try to, it may take some getting to. This was a clash between two sides both playing 4-2-3-1 and City gave a masterclass on how it works. Mind you there is a gulf in the resources that each side has available. City released or sold, Bridge, Maicon, Santa Cruz, Tevez and Toure, and five squad players this summer and replaced them with four superstars, two of which started. In an age where Financial Fair Play is kicking in they are reducing their wage bill despite the large transfer fees being paid.
How FFP impacts on us is simple we can only realistically increase our wage bill by £4m this season. That’s £75kpw. Or Loic Remy. Anything else has to be covered by outgoings. We have sold or released Harper, Simpson and Perch. That would have covered Gomis, if agents didn’t mess it up, and Gosling’s move to Crystal Palace would have freed up a move for another player. These rules only really apply to the top eight or nine clubs in the Premier League. The others can play catch up and dramatically increase their wage bill enabling the spending spree that we have seen lower down and the strangulation at the top.
Anyway back to the match. And 4-2-3-1. First things first Edin Dzeko. He’s what you need to play this system a decent target man, someone who creates space, occupies defenders and scores goals. The closest to that that we have is Shola. Who like Heskey on his day can look like the real Ronaldo – overweight and past it. We could or even should have Andy Carroll or Gomis but we haven’t. So we put a poacher in there and then fail to feed him the way he needs to be fed.
Next they have Navas, Silva and Aquero. Three very different fast mobile players, one an out and out winger who completed ten crosses with 100% success completion. One creator and one poacher. We had Jonas, Gouffran and Hatem Ben Arfa. Ideally we would be playing Remy, Cisse and Ben Arfa which at least on paper looks a bit better balanced. Other than creating and taking a lot of chances these four forward players worked their socks off for City. What they succeeded in doing was to ensure that any attempted breakout was stifled. When they had the ball they created chances when the lost the ball they prevented a breakout. What this means is that the two defensively minded midfielders, Toure and Fernandinho, could sit back and watch any breakout and kill it.
Our defence had two choices; hoof it up to a lone striker or try and play it out of defence. We failed in that because we had players in our faces and our passing under pressure simply was not good enough. This meant we struggled to break out which meant their attack and defence was comfortable. Their full-backs could join the attack and now our defence was under so much pressure it struggled badly.
Two years ago Tiote and Cabaye were as good a midfield partnership as any in the league and would have been able to force their way out of defence. However, without Cabaye we struggle and Sissoko has yet to establish himself.
The real problem was the back four. Coloccini is a great defender but he needs the space to see what is happening in front of him, he’s not the fastest and so he can get beaten, especially when he is trying to do three jobs. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa at right-back is ok because he is another good reader of the game, and once he has learned the way the Premier League works he will be great, but at right-back he needed watching. This means Colo is supporting him and Jonas covering in front. When Paul Dummett came on and Yanga-Mbiwa moved to centre of defence I understand things improved. It’s the other two that have me in despair.
What Steven Taylor is thinking of, I have no idea. I have a hyperactive 10-year-old and a whippet puppy both of whom have more sense than that idiot. He seems to think that professional football is all a big joke and he is chief comedian. It was Neil Kinnock who said you can’t make a wit from two half wits, which brings me nicely to Debuchy.
Myself, Kim and one or two others said at the time he was defensively a liability, apt to get booked and all we could hope for was that he would make up for it going forward. Defensively he’s not as good as Simpson was, but the boo boys who though Simmo was crap got their wishes and I hope they are happy. If they are successful with their other campaigns they can switch the lights out when owner, manager, Director of Football, and all the players have left.
Tim Krul was outstanding. MOTM. We are very lucky to have him.
Alan Pardew put out a team and was badly let down, especially by Taylor. Lets hope Taylor is replaced by someone who knows that football is a competitive professional sport. Pardew made too much of the Cabaye situation as we would have got beat anyway, and more worryingly for me he has obviously been happy with Taylor’s behaviour and not dealt with it.
Oh and the positives. As Sgt Schultz said, “I know nothing”. Apart from Krul there aren’t any…