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Sunderland 1 Manchester City 0: Some Thoughts

November 11, 2013
  • So for the fourth season in a row we witnessed abject failure at the Stadium of Light. Every year we manage to lose a different way, and the referee is often their man of the match, but as usual we only have ourselves to blame.
  • Oh how my colleagues laughed when I predicted a 1-0 win for Sunderland in the work predictions league. Well they’re not laughing now. And to be honest, nor am I.
  • And whilst Sunderland should have been down to ten men for most of the match, and whilst there was a foul leading up to the goal, thus giving credence to the argument that a draw was deserved, the inability to score against a depleted and out-of-form Sunderland is quite simply unacceptable.
  • And to state the obvious – what a frustrating, annoying, gut-wrenching, insipid performance.
  • And to state another obvious point – HOW DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING??!
  • One obvious problem is that we are too reliant on key players, with insufficient cover should they be absent. In previous weeks the loss of Vincent Kompany has been felt heavily and this weekend it was clear to see the drop in the level of the performance without David Silva. Add Sergio Aguero to the mix and you probably have a spine there that City need to keep fit to perform at their best. This has to change.
  • And all this against a side with two players suspended, barely a fit left-back at the club, and two dinosaurs patrolling the centre of defence, one of whom has been injured for 22 months. And despite all that, and all the domination of the ball, and the numerous shots, the keeper was only really tested once.
  • And thus we gift Sunderland’s first clean sheet of the league campaign. Only Peterborough have failed to score against Sunderland before yesterday. Though whilst they had only one victory from the previous ten games, most of those winless games were watched over by an angry fascist.
  • When you lose various players to injury all at once, is it really sensible to swap round other players also? Why did Pellegrini feel the need to swap round the full backs? Zabaleta has not had his greatest season, but he is still a better option than Richards at the moment. The Daily Star (yes, I know) reported yesterday that Arsenal are to revive their interest in Richards. I’m not sure how to feel about that.
  • Javi Garcia – the ultimate stick to beat Pellegrini with. The Chilean does not help himself when he continues to pick this player. The stats show him as one of the most accurate passers in all of Europe, but that somewhat masks his many other deficiencies. We can surely do better. Yes the manager’s hand was forced somewhat by the raft of injuries, but there were still numerous options available to him. Milner in the middle, Navas stretching them out wide, even Kolarov in a more advanced left-sided role. Anything.
  • Still, Javi Garcia isn’t to blame for City failing to score. Or for the goal that they did either.
  • And what great timing for Yaya Toure to have one of his “can’t-be-arsed” days. For all his immense class, he has days where you want to throttle him. It’s a shame no manager seems prepared to substitute him.
  • I’m a staunch supporter of Pellegrini (hey, I staunchly supported Alan Ball for almost a fortnight), but for the first time I doubt some of his actions. The tinkering is too common for me, and he had not yet got the whole squad to apply his ethos – but these things can take time.
  • The away form must improve – will we still be chanting this mantra in March? The problem slowly dawns that the unthinkable could happen – finishing outside the top four. It’s a bit early to be panicking on that front, but if the away form doesn’t pick up soon…
  • And has there ever been a great dichotomy between our home and away form?
  • Still crap at corners. As you were.
  • As an aside, however, studies show the in-swinger corner to be the most dangerous. Roberto Mancini eventually realised this and as a result City scored from 15 corners in one season, more than anyone. Do we not have a single player who can curl a ball in (with pace)?
  • With every poor away performance comes extra pressure in the following match. And that match is Spurs, who whilst also having their own rough patch, are above City in the table and have an excellent squad. In the meantime the players and fans alike have a fortnight to stew over the defeat. The defeat also puts extra pressure on maintaining the excellent home form. If that tails off at any point, then City really are in trouble.
  • And yet the league remains wide open. It was a weekend of big teams falling over in spectacular fashion. It was also a weekend of sterile domination. City, Spurs and Arsenal all dominated in the stats, with greater possession, shots and passes and all lost. And whilst no City fan should ever support United at any point, their victory has helped keep the pack close. The clubs with new managers have had troublesome starts as three new men attempt to impose their new ideals on the team, whilst the longest-serving manager sees his team at the top. This may not be a coincidence.
  • (Of course many City fans wouldn’t allow Pellegrini six months of failure, let alone eight years.)
  • And perhaps linked to the above, City remain favourites for the title. So whatever the bookies know that we don’t, let’s keep calm for now. At least the international break has come at a good time considering the injury list. God bless the World Cup play-offs.
  • I didn’t watch the match live due to a christening, for a beautiful little girl with her own battles ahead in life. It was all the perspective I needed – it is, after all just a football match, and sometimes we’d all do well to remember that.
  • I’m still p***ed off though.

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  1. Graham Ward permalink

    Yes, our home form is currently digging us out of a potenially very large hole. I can remember a time, back in the day, when we were superb at Maine Road, but poor away….in the two points for a win era!
    Time to take a step back and have a good, long, think. We’ll all have examples to keep in mind that puts the situation into perspective. We’re still in the mix.

  2. nick g permalink

    I think pretty much all of that is spot on.
    There seemed to be logic in some of Pelli’s choices yesterday:
    1. There is much to criticise about Garcia but his role at Chelsea was important and he did well there, so there was logic in him replacing Fernandinho.
    2. A slightly more defensive set up using Milner and Garcia rather than, say Navas and Kolarov, was logical after shortcomings away from home against other supposedly weaker opposition
    3. Three injuries this week (seemingly from nowhere) – Fernandinho, Nastasic and of course Silva – did us no favours and forced changes.

    BUT – with that many changes forced upon him, WHY bring Richards in for Zaba. Zaba’s contribution in an attacking role is important, and under-played by many. Perhaps Zaba+ Milner was the more balanced option down the right, rather than Zaba + Navas, or Richds+Milner.
    Richards seems more out of his depth than ever under Pelli. For the first time I also wonder what his contribution will be for City in the future.

    And why on earth rest players before an international break? Insane.

    Navas for Garcia was a good change at half time, but it seemed to result in Yaya dropping further back, which we know to be a hopeless idea that should never happen again. I thought Pelli had learned this lesson.

    So we had a poor starting 11 and a woeful start to the game in which we were at our aimless worst, and invited Sunderland to give it a go.
    Yet again we concede from a simple long ball over the top (yes it was a foul) and with them nicking a goal and parking the bus, the task of scoring is 10 times harder.

    Pelli should have had the courage of his convictions and stuck with all the fit players that had demolished Norwich and CSKA.

    Another horrible setback. And yes, we are still well within touching distance of the top of the table, but if you take a look at how hard our last 8 or 9 fixtures are this season, you will see just how hard the task of a top 2 finish is becoming.

    Finally, I find it hard to criticise Dean after his role in 13.5.12 but he seemed very keen to favour the home underdogs here – perhaps a backlash that we suffered from Mariner’s ineptitude at Chelsea the day before??
    I await with baited breath the retrospective review of Larson’s challenge, and the 3 match ban……

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