Newsletter #1397

A poor peformance on Sunday, in which we were lucky to come away with honours even, leaving little doubt the areas that need addressing during the transfer window.

We have match reports tonight thanks to Colin and Phil, and continued debate on the gulf crisis.

Next up, the Blades away as we continue our Cup campaign.

Next Game: Sunday 27 January 2008, 4pm, Sheffield United (away), FA Cup 4th round


Or Wham, the reprise!

Joe Hart underlined why he is England’s most promising young goalkeeper with a five star performance that earned a vital point for City in the quest for European football. City’s need for reinforcements in the January transfer window was clearly highlighted in this game. We were out-muscled and out-passed in midfield by a niggly West Ham side, who can argue with some justification that they deserved to win. We miss Michael Johnson’s presence and poise, but it is unfair to expect too much of this fine young player. If City are to rediscover their autumn zest that dazzled us all, then we need a quality striker and a powerful midfield player who can orchestrate attacks.

Having met us twice previously in the last 2 weeks, and failed to beat us in three previous meetings this season, West Ham started off like a team with a score to settle and they weren’t going to be rolled over easily. They took the game early to City, forcing Ball to cover across to make a telling interception. It was clear that our defence was not going to have an easy ride, with Carlton Cole giving Richard Dunne a tough time with his pace and physical presence. With Mark Noble pulling the strings in midfield, Ljungberg and the irritating Boa Morte on the flanks, it was clear that we were not going to have it all our own way, and the visitors were soon ahead: Cole scoring with a skilful overhead kick from close range in the 9th minute after Dunne had lost the ball in a dangerous area.

City looked stale, and passes went astray far too often. Even the normally deadly accurate Hamann didn’t always find his man. West Ham’s five man midfield also cut off the supply line to Petrov, who had destroyed Neill in the previous two games. When the left winger did get past him, the Hammers’ full back gave the Bulgarian a thuggish whack. It was the only way that he was going to stop him, on the evidence of Petrov’s demolition job in the previous two games.

The Blues weren’t deterred by Neill’s literal application of the ‘hammer’ and applied some pressure, forcing a corner on the right. Petrov’s searching low cross from his rebounded corner was swept home by Vassell after confusion in the visitors’ defence, much to our relief. Not that Vassell’s opportunism stopped a minority of boo-boys having a go at him and their other favourite scapegoat, Stephen Ireland. In one passage of play, some of these half-wits berated Vassell when it was actually Micah who misplaced a pass! Football is all about opinions. However, these cretins give the impression that they want some of our players to fail, and if that is their definition of ‘support’, then they would be better off staying at home.

City then huffed and puffed with Ireland having a shot blocked and then had an effort easily saved by Green. West Ham were undeterred, though, and it took a combination of Richards and Dunne to thwart a rampaging Carlton Cole run.

The second half continued in the same vein as the first, with the passing not being top drawer on both sides, but with West Ham making a better fist of it than City. The Blues’ passing was laboured: when it wasn’t under- or over-hit it was often predictable. The visitors continued to carry the greater threat: and Mullins’ shot was saved by Hart after clever build-up play from Noble and Ljungberg. Bianchi then did well to out-muscle Upson and shoot from distance but Green was equal to the Italian’s powerful drive.

As well as they played, this is a physical West Ham side, and that physicality strays into nastiness in the cases of Boa Morte, who put in a bad challenge on Vassell and was substituted for the second time in five days before he was going to be sent off; the aforementioned Lucas Neill who confuses tackling with Aussie Rules scragging; and Lee Bowyer who got himself into a kicking match with Geovanni. Well, what a surprise that Bowyer should get involved like that with the Brazilian! ‘You’re supposed to be in jail” chimed the Kippax corner to the ‘orrible little scrote who continued to argue after his booking. It was poor refereeing: Boa Morte and Bowyer should both have walked in this game.

West Ham’s best player, Noble, instigated their best move of the match with incisive interplay through our defence and Hart made a brilliant block to thwart the England Under-21 midfielder. Richards thrillingly then went straight down the other end at pace, fed substitute Geovanni on the right and Hamann’s cross was headed over by Elano. West Ham definitely carried the greater menace and City were hanging onto our unbeaten league home record. Ljungberg twice shot into the side netting from the left. Hart again saved City in the very last minute of stoppage time when he tipped over Cole’s bullet header. It was all the better because it seemed to take a deflection on the way. It was, indeed, a relief when the final whistle went.

The point earned was a testimony to City’s grit and determination rather than the quality of our play, but looking on the bright side, we are officially safe from relegation. Who’d have thought, eh? 40 points by the end of January!

Of course our ambitions are much loftier these days, and if we have the money then we should be looking at players like young Mark Noble. He ran this game and with the dangerous Cole, was the best outfield player on the pitch in this match. If we had more players of that standard in our squad then we would be a better team. Prizing such players away from West Ham may not be easy, but City need such quality reinforcements if we are to regain momentum and maintain our European challenge. Indeed it will be a surprise if Sven doesn’t bring in quality signings.

Hart: Absolutely outstanding. Two match winning saves, good decision making and great handling throughout. 9
Corluka: Solid in defence and decent going forward. 7
Dunne: Found Cole a real handful, taking one or two whacks in the mouth and his distribution wasn’t up to his usual standard. 6
Richards: Read the game well and used his pace to good effect. 7
Ball: Solid enough in defence. 7
Vassell: His hard work was rewarded with his goal. 7
Ireland: Worked hard, but struggled to impose himself as an attacking force. 6
Hamann: A lot of good interceptions but his passing wasn’t up to his usual standards. 6
Petrov: Some good combination play despite being more tightly marked than the Cup game. He could show a little more courage in defence though. 7
Elano: Some nice touches in the first but faded in the face of West Ham’s physical challenge. 6
Bianchi: Worked hard up front, but went down a little too easily, forgetting to get up quickly enough. 6
Fernandes: Good workrate. Passed up the opportunity to shoot in a good position. 6
Geovanni: Inventive and hard working. 7
Garrido: No real impact. 6

Phil Banerjee <Phil.banerjee(at)>


“Can we play you every week” we often sing but it was the third times in two weeks for the Hammers. This was the return leg of our first Premiership game of the Sven era that so amazed those of us that were there that day. It was the now familiar line-up that might be described as 4-1-3-1-1, with Elano in the advanced midfield position behind Bianchi. Corluka, after his excursions into midfield, was returned to the back four.

The cup replay had been a largely tedious affair but this game opened brightly when, after 5 minutes, Vassell received the ball in space but, as so often seems to happen with him, failed to keep it under control. A couple of minutes later it was West Ham’s turn to attack and Richard Dunne did really well to win a crucial tackle on the edge of the area. However, he undid all that good work when he inexplicably played the ball straight to Mark Noble. He played it out to Ljungberg who put an early low ball into Carlton Cole who had his back to goal. It didn’t look overly dangerous but Cole did well to hook the ball towards goal, where it crept past a startled Joe Hart for their first strike against us in a good few games.

City went straight after an equaliser and a Petrov free-kick hit the wall at went for a corner. The corner was cleared only as far as Hamann but his shot from a good position was woeful. At the other end City struggled to clear a West Ham corner as Hart fumbled although it did look as though the ball had been kicked from his hands. In a free flowing game, Corluka came through from the back but just pushed the ball too far ahead when a good touch would have given him some options.

On 16 minutes, City forced one corner, then another, which was cleared out to the City right. Petrov swung a great ball in and Vassell bundled it in for the equaliser. City were starting to get into their stride now and Petrov picked the ball up deep then surged forward, only to dally just outside the box and lose it. Then it was time for some Elano magic as he played a great ball up to Bianchi. The pass was so good that it allowed Bianchi to twist past his marker but then he tried and failed miserably to lob Green.

Ball and Petrov then combined well but Neill hacked down the winger and received a yellow card for his trouble. Elano produced a wonderful pass to Petrov that was hit slightly too long and was put out for a throw. From that Ireland had a couple of chances but failed to put either away. He was nearly in again as Petrov beat Neill and played the ball to Hamann but his pass to Ireland, who was free on the right, was over-hit. City then put themselves under pressure in defence, not for the first time, and Hart had to race out, grabbing the ball just inside the area. However, they came to life for the last few minutes of the first half with Bianchi failing to make use of the ball in a good position with Richards clear on his left. Another couple of promising moves also broke down as the result of poor passes from Hamann and Ireland. It had been a good first half for City in general although the spark and rhythm of that first game at Upton Park were never really apparent.

The second half started badly for City when yet more sloppy defending let in Noble who shot just over. Sloppy work yet again involving Hamann, let in West Ham. City rescued the situation but Boa Morte put in what looked suspiciously like a two footed lunge on Richards but only received a yellow. After his escape on Wednesday he could again consider himself fortunate to be on the field. It took ten minutes before City had their first decent move of the half. A low ball in from Petrov to Ireland was intercepted for a corner but it was wasted.

West Ham were looking more dangerous and a shot from just outside the “D” had to be parried out for a corner by Hart. Bianchi had another chance but his powerful shot was straight at Green, who saved easily. Boa Morte seemed to catch Hamann in the face as the City player came away with the ball and referee Dowd blew for a free kick but took no further action against Boa Morte, who was substituted soon afterwards. Dunne did well to just get to the ball first in the six yard box following a dangerous West Ham attack. The visitors had the ball in the net from the resultant throw but there had been a foul on Dunne so it didn’t count.

The City defence wasn’t looking too solid at all and yet again West Ham had a good chance when Hart had to make a reflex save from Noble, flattening the West Ham man in the process. City then had one of their few attempts on target of the half when Bianchi headed a free-kick goalwards but Green managed to clutch it. Geovanni then tangled with Bowyer, the latter appearing to kick the Brazilian. Both got yellow cards but then there was some outrageous time-wasting from the free kick for which Noble was also booked. City tried to look for a winner as the match went into injury time but it was West Ham that nearly stole the points when a fine ball in found Cole and Hart had to make another fine save, tipping the ball over for a corner. In truth, we could have had no complaints if we’d lost as West Ham had by far the better of the second half. It was a far cry from that August day that had been so glorious both in terms of the weather and the football.


Hart 9. The youngster seems to be growing more confident by the week.
Corluka 7. Reasonably solid in defence and got forward well a few times.
Dunne 6. Bad mistake for their goal but did OK from then.
Richards 6. Under much more pressure than in the Cup games.
Ball 6. No great problems but Ljungberg had one of his better games.
Vassell 6. Got the goal and worked hard but doesn’t frighten defences these days.
Ireland 4. Rarely seemed to be in the game and didn’t do much when he was.
Hamann 5. Uncharacteristically poor with some sloppy passing.
Elano 6. Some fine moments but little impact overall.
Petrov 7. Prodigious effort but West Ham had done their homework.
Bianchi 6. Saw plenty of the ball but never really presented a danger.
Fernandes 7. Finding his feet well and always involved.
Geovanni 6. Worked hard but didn’t really spark anything.
Garrido 5. Not really enough time to make a contribution.

Overall Out-of-the-Seat Factor 6. Better than the Cup games but not one of City’s better days at the office.

Colin Savage <colin(at)>


I’m unsure why anyone would feel the need to compare ourselves to anyone else? There’s no jealousy in football. You are what you are. Born and bred. Highs and lows.

You don’t look at other results with green eyes do you? Results may irritate you. You may calculate a win prior to a match where a win wasn’t forthcoming – but so what? Some clubs may be better off financially than us. So? They may play wonderfully pretty football but it won’t make you support ’em.

Supporting City is practically the only form of devotion that is unconditional. If there were conditions, after what we’ve been through with the boys, we wouldn’t be here now. Well we are. I’m here (or not really) and so are you.

And this guff talk, I mean gulf, let it widen. I’d rather be me and following what I follow, than him or her and following what they follow. It’s who you are.

So follow me follow, past the Apollo where we can wallow in (that) glory-less whatever.

Attractive footie, glamour and haircuts are not what supporting Manchester City is about man.

Identity is, coolness, style and truth. That’s success, that’s class and that’s what separates us.

Success will be nice when it comes to our pitch but I’m certainly not going to worry about what some other two-bit firm from over the road is doing.

What’s the point in gauging or referencing against something that won’t affect you, or is of no consequence?

There is no point. Not a jot. I would, however, be gutted if ‘someone else’ got Berbatov me.

Joel Perry <j.perry(at)>


Response to Steven Gerrard (MCIVTA 1396); I trust your blood has now returned to room temperature and you are now not so hot-under-the-collar? I had presumed it would have been apparent to most that my comments related to this season, so far.

“Trafford Rovers” bombarded us on our home turf and we were fortunate to get away with our skins. On the day the result is what mattered but we were hardly a force to be reckoned with in that game. We should have done better at Everton.

Not exactly a tremendous display against West Ham midweek, surely? A dreadful 1st half, at least. How many of Petrov’s excellent crosses were our players (once again!) not able to get onto the end of, to finish off (answer: nearly all of them!)? Our finishing in front of the opposition’s goal was, and remains, futile, to say the least. Though, perhaps you are one who believes our forwards “terrorise” opposition defences? Definitely not so, sorry to say.

I find it quite odd you choose you deem to criticise me, when similar comments readily emanate from our manager, Sven. You are entitled to your opinion, though, certainly, and I shall not criticise you, as a result.

That United “occasionally play attractive football” is laughable and surely an understatement. This comment from you just cannot be taken seriously if, indeed, it is meant to be taken seriously? I’m not too sure, anymore. No matter.

We had remained 4th in the league for a while, however, I maintain this has not been a truly realistic position for us. As things are today, I see us closer to being between 7th-9th Premiership side. Not bad in itself, when one considers last season but I am one who refuses to look at the situation with blind bias, as do others.

Realistically, I do not believe we are as good as many have purported us to be, right now. As I have saying for months, we are lacking in midfield, and we are missing two quality strikers. And, with more than half of the current transfer window behind us, we’re a squad seemingly ever-more fragile.

Whilst I am patiently waiting for success to return to our club, neither am I too reckless to simply grasp at straws, unlike others. Rightly or wrongly, I prefer a more tempered and measured approach.

My own blood remains at an even temperature, Steven, cannot be a bad thing, really.

Graham Mills <gkm_5(at)>


20 January 2008

Wigan Athletic        1 - 2  Everton               18,820
Manchester City       1 - 1  West Ham United       39,042

19 January 2008

Birmingham City       0 - 1  Chelsea               26,567
Blackburn Rovers      1 - 1  Middlesbrough         21,687
Fulham                0 - 3  Arsenal               25,297
Newcastle United      0 - 0  Bolton Wanderers      52,250
Portsmouth            3 - 1  Derby County          19,401
Reading               0 - 2  Manchester United     24,135
Tottenham Hotspur     2 - 0  Sunderland            36,070

League table to 07 December 2008 inclusive

                             HOME          AWAY        OVERALL
                    P  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F   A   GD Pts
 1 Manchester Utd  23 11  1  0 29  3  6  2  3 17  8 17  3  3  46  11  35  54
 2 Arsenal         23 10  2  0 26  8  6  4  1 20  9 16  6  1  46  17  29  54
 3 Chelsea         23  7  4  0 22  8  8  1  3 14  8 15  5  3  36  16  20  50
 4 Everton         23  7  1  3 23 11  6  2  4 17 12 13  3  7  40  23  17  42
 5 Manchester City 23  9  3  0 20  8  2  4  5 10 16 11  7  5  30  24   6  40
 6 Liverpool       21  4  5  1 21  7  6  4  1 14  7 10  9  2  35  14  21  39
 7 Aston Villa     22  7  1  4 19 15  4  5  1 21 13 11  6  5  40  28  12  39
 8 Portsmouth      23  3  6  2 14  9  7  1  4 20 14 10  7  6  34  23  11  37
 9 Blackburn R.    23  5  3  4 13 13  5  4  2 18 17 10  7  6  31  30   1  37
10 West Ham United 22  4  4  3 14 12  5  2  4 14  9  9  6  7  28  21   7  33
11 Tottenham H.    23  6  1  4 32 21  1  5  6 12 19  7  6 10  44  40   4  27
12 Newcastle Utd   23  5  4  3 16 17  2  2  7 11 22  7  6 10  27  39 -12  27
13 Middlesbrough   23  2  4  5 12 18  3  3  6  8 19  5  7 11  20  37 -17  22
14 Reading         23  6  1  5 14 17  0  3  8 16 32  6  4 13  30  49 -19  22
15 Bolton Wndrs    23  5  3  4 17 11  0  3  8  7 23  5  6 12  24  34 -10  21
16 Birmingham City 23  3  3  5 12 13  2  2  8 11 21  5  5 13  23  34 -11  20
17 Wigan Athletic  23  4  2  5 14 14  1  3  8  9 25  5  5 13  23  39 -16  20
18 Sunderland      23  5  3  3 13 13  0  2 10  9 29  5  5 13  22  42 -20  20
19 Fulham          23  2  5  5 16 21  0  4  7  7 21  2  9 12  23  42 -19  15
20 Derby County    23  1  2  8  7 20  0  2 10  4 30  1  4 18  11  50 -39   7

With thanks to Football 365

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Newsletter #1397