City fairly obviously now agree with me about the value of the Champions League but had a much more cunning plan than I had anticipated. They had decided to play in the style of a Scottish Third division side. Slow sideways passing in an ineffective 4-4-2 formation together with several players way out of form led to possible the worst performance since the Sheikh took over and I do include the Wigan cup final and last week’s Newcastle home defeat in that.
This result pretty well guarantees that we won’t make the Europa league never mind the last sixteen of the Champion’s League which is an unexpected bonus if you dislike that diluted apology of a tournament as much as I do. City (by which I really mean Pellegrini) still haven’t yet worked out how to play the beloved 4-4-2 against a side packing the midfield but also hasn’t a plant to counter a swift counter attacking side either. I’m sure it’s possible to have a fluid formation which changes style with possession but City’s players must learn to adapt much more quickly. The front players will need to become midfield workers when the opposition have the ball or we will be outnumbered. CSKA could easily have won 3-1 last night if they’d taken their chances.
The other bit of European football culture we need to come to terms with is the Euro ref. European referees tend to miss things that matter like fouls in the penalty area but will penalise an unavoidable handball as happened for the first free kick leading to the CSKA goal after 3 minutes. It isn’t just a matter of interpretation though. Too many of them make dreadful mistakes and last night the ref booked the wrong CSKA player for a foul which had he done his job correctly would have led to a third sending off, this time for CSKA. We shouldn’t assume that referees will manage matches as well as we are used to in the Premier League so the players’ protests which seem to accompany our horror at refereeing decisions in European competitions need to be more muted. Let the crowd seeth but not the players. The players should try to remain calm and concentrated and leave the idealistic ranting and raving to the professionals – the City fans.
My worry now is the reaction of the players. Even with Silva playing following the Newcastle home defeat we put up a very uninspiring performance away to West Ham the following weekend and lost. I hope the same doesn’t happen against QPR away on Saturday. Pellegrini is quoted as saying there is a crisis of confidence at the club. Well that should be good for confidence shouldn’t it?
But now let me try to be positive about this awful night:
- We’re probably out of Europe altogether – very good in my view.
- The pre match entertainment and fireworks near City square before the game were excellent and must have been very expensive
- Viera’s U19 side won 4-2 in the corresponding UEFA Champion’s League youth competition so are top of the group with 12 points with four wins out of four and have already qualified. They play Bayern next who they beat in Germany.
- It can’t get worse than this surely.