Blackburn Rovers 1 Manchester City 1: Some Thoughts
So yet again – phew. The bottom line as always after a cup game irrespective of the performance is whether your team is still in the hat for the next round draw. And City are and should in theory progress easily to the next round.
And I will try and excuse the performance by pointing to City’s Cup-winning run of three years ago, when Edin Dzeko had to salvage a draw at Notts County on the way to the final.
As I got off the train in Blackburn I thought to myself that this was all very nice but what I and my bank balance needed was more City games, as I felt like I had hardly seen them over the past few weeks. Thanks a lot City.
For the players, the ultimate punishment – a jaunt to Abu Dhabi canned for a replay in front of a half-empty stadium in wintry Manchester. The jaunt should never have happened anyway, so every cloud and that…
The team picked by Pellegrini was not unexpected, as significant changes were inevitable, but perhaps Pellegrini has not learned from previous poor performances when resting players, in that you cannot take out virtually all the key players in a team (and what’s more, the spine of the team) and still expect a good performance. City cannot start a game without any of Zabaleta, Kompany, Toure or Aguero. Pellegrini had three of the four available.
And my opinion on the squad depth is this: we do have the strongest squad, but like any team, you cannot play a 2nd XI and still expect a top performance as they tend to play as strangers, as was witnessed yesterday. Outside the first XI, there are probably seven or eight players that could come in if not part of wholesale changes and the team quality would not dip noticeably. But there are still weak areas in the squad and areas therefore to strengthen, plus a few players who will either be forever injured or are simply not good enough.
And boy did the team play as strangers. The play was plodding, the counter-attacks slow, the passing often sideways and non-threatening, whilst intelligent off-the-ball running was scarce and when made never rewarded. Worst of the lot was probably James Milner, who had a nightmare. It was a bad way to mark his birthday, which seemed to distract him. Of course Milner is a model professional who would have approached the game in the same manner as any other, but you do wonder if some rum had been slipped into his birthday cake.
The thing with Milner is he always has a bad game in him, as was seen at Southampton, when everything seems to go against him. The nadir against Blackburn was the launch of a counter-attack when he kicked the ball straight out of touch. Away to Bayern Munich I was bemoaning him after 10 minutes, concluding he just wasn’t good enough for where City wanted to be. By full-time I had completely changed my mind, and that is Milner for you. He has so many qualities and is a vital member of the squad but when he’s bad…
Still, what can we expect from a player who seems destined to play out the rest of his career playing away from his preferred position?
There are certain partnerships that just don’t work. Aguero and Negredo does, but I doubt Dzeko and Negredo ever will. What’s more, Negredo seems untouchable for criticism when it has been Dzeko who has probably performed better in recent weeks. On the flip-side, Negredo has probably never had to play so many games in such a short space of time and is suffering as a result. The team’s tika-taka approach doesn’t help when you have two big lumps up front who would thrive on crosses yet you have two full-backs who can’t whip a cross in, especially Clichy who repeatedly checks back when receiving the ball out wide. Once more, the team struggled against a team with men behind the ball and the play was all very congested.
The team as a whole looks tired though. It’s a brave City fan who would moan about that of course as every team has the same problem and most of them have far fewer resources than us, but it shouldn’t be a crime to point it out. The worrying aspect is that Pellegrini does not have a single youth player that he trusts to fill in – this week would have been the perfect time to play the likes of Guidetti or Lopes. And all the while we have a youth player out on loan captaining PSV.
I think the Blackburn goal ends the goalkeeping debate for now (hopefully).
And as for Dedryck Boyata – again a player out of position, but I think the kindest thing to say is that I will never think he is good enough and I will leave it at that.
The replay ticket prices had better be £15 at most.
And then of course there is the small matter of Joleon Lescott. As you probably know by now, Lescott went on to Twitter (minus his spellchecker, like me now) to apologise to City fans for not acknowledging them at the end of the match as he had been personally abused by a minority of City fans, presumably related to his appearance. It is saddening to hear such stories, but then hardly surprising, as with any club there are a minority that follow the club that are morons, cretins, buffoons and/or pin-headed semi-alcoholic self-pleasers. As a collective we have been so spoiled too that some can simply not handle a poor performance and thus react rather badly to it all. The away days around Lancashire towns also seems to attract a certain breed of young scrotes, so I am told. Apologies if you are one of them.
But. But. I am sorry Joleon, but the abuse is no excuse not to acknowledge the fans. The abuse will have come from a few people at most, or to put it another way – 99.9% of the away support didn’t abuse you. These fans travel all over the country and many all over Europe following the team, at great expense, often forced under duress to consume vast quantities of alcohol. But seriously, many of us have been doing it for decades, home and away (less away for me nowadays) and it shouldn’t be too much to ask to clap the fans that have sung your name or cheered you on, even if the atmosphere was rather flat yesterday and even if we are all fickle souls liable to moan if a player so much as misplaces a pass.
Now it doesn’t matter to me whether players clap the fans and it doesn’t matter to many others. But it DOES matter for huge numbers of fans and it is hardly putting yourself out to spend 5 seconds clapping. I went to a fans’ forum at City a few months ago and someone suggested, as a discussion formed about how to improve the atmosphere, that the players should be told in no uncertain terms to clap the fans at the end of games, as a collective unit, as it would help bridge the gap between players and fans that clearly exists in the modern game. As is often the case, the example cited of a better world was from the Bundesliga, where players often link up and acknowledge the fans at the end of a match, in a league where there seems to be a far better connection between players ans fans (Borussia Dortmund being an obvious example). Now of course the players shouldn’t have to be told to acknowledge the fans anyway, but it would be nice if they did so even if it is under duress. Show some bloody respect for the people who effectively pay your wages.
One final point away from yesterday. It’s often pointed out that we shouldn’t get upset at some of the drivel written in the media about our club, as it doesn’t matter. Yesterday i was reminded how lies printed about our club does matter and does trickle into the psyche. I was sat in a pub in Manchester after the match when two Sheffield Wednesday fans came into the pub. Apart from one’s laughable claim that Sheffield Wednesday should have been taken over not City as they were a bigger club and his obvious pride at missing the birth of his daughter because he was at a pre-season friendly against Bury, they tried to be complimentary about the four of us as we were “proper fans” who went to matches and that we were all alike as “we never sell out any games”. There then followed a 20-minute argument about the excrement that was flowing out of his mouth and he was adamant that City never sell out any matches. I expect this sort of c**p from United fans, but when Sheffield Wednesday fans are parroting the same rubbish, then I realise why we as fans must correct the lies often spread about our club. You may still not care if people think such things, which is fair enough and probably the logical approach, but it will never cease to wind me up.