Newsletter #1516

With the Blues in action for the second leg of the UEFA cup tie against Aalborg we have a brief issue tonight.

News from Alex with reaction to the recent games and future plans, news from the players and the regular transfer rumours.

We also have opinion on team selections, individual performances and our away form.

Next Game: Sunderland, home, 3pm Sunday 22 March 2009


General News

Flying the Flag: With Aston Villa, Everton, Portsmouth and Tottenham Hotspur having all fallen out of Europe’s second competition for various different reasons, it’s the Premier League’s Fair Play side who continue to fly the flag for England. Whilst the country’s ‘Big Four’ continue to exercise their dominance in the Champions’ League, City are taking the opportunity to raise their profile and glean that first trophy for over thirty years: “We only got in the competition because we won the Fairplay League. We’re probably grateful to be in there, but it was an opportunity we wanted to take. Other clubs took a different view of the competition and prioritised the Premier League. We like to think we’ve concentrated on both. We’re proud to be the last English club standing. We’d be even prouder to get to a European final. Did we think we’d do so well? When you looked at it from the start of the campaign there were some fantastic teams in there, even before the UEFA Cup drop-outs came in. So it’s been an achievement up to this point – but we’d like to see something more substantial at the end of it. If we can keep going we will reap the benefit, not just this season but in future in terms of experience.”

Russian Inspiration: Prior to the fixture at Stamford Bridge against Roman Abramavic’s Chelski side, former Chelsea target Robinho spoke of how his City side do not fear the former Premier League winners but in fact see them as a template on which they can base their own success: “A lot of people underestimate us. We may not be the biggest club yet, but let’s not forget what Chelsea were four years ago. We can do as well as they’ve been doing in recent years. Manchester City are after big things and with the wealthy owners, anything is possible. We want to be up there and maybe win the Champions’ League one day. All I want to do is help the club, to repay the trust of the supporters and the team. I’m very pleased with the way things have gone so far and I’m hoping that one day we can rival clubs like Chelsea, and we will.”

Guus’ Gumption: Chelsea and Russian manager Guus Hiddink spoke out before the ‘Battle of the Billionaires’ fixture on Sunday claiming that the spending that City intend on splashing out in the summer is immoral. Despite being the part-time boss of a side that have spent half a billion pounds in five years in order to ascend from UEFA Cup side to Champions’ League finalists, the former Real Madrid manager warned the Blues that throwing huge sums of money at players will lead to a lack of motivation for the City squad: “I cannot see the relation between such a sum of money and performances on the pitch. I cannot see it. Perhaps I’m rather ‘amateur’ in this. It becomes a philosophical question: is a player worth £1 or £100 million to perform? Is it worth spending that kind of money on someone to perform? Some people might think so. It is down to a club’s owners whether they think it’s responsible to invest that kind of money. There are boundaries between what is moral and amoral. But is it £10 million or £100 million? It is difficult to come out and say whether it is amoral to spend £100 million, but that £50 million is moral. City have the possibility to do a lot, but it’s not always a matter of money to make a team. You have to be really smart about who you bring in. And players must ask themselves: ‘Am I going there to play, or is my motivation just to have a beautiful contract that will set me up for the rest of my life?'”

Squad News

Micah-nd of Belief: Despite a rough patch this season in which Micah Richards and fellow centre back Richard Dunne were criticised for not making the step up required of a team searching for UEFA Cup glory, Richards and Dunne have come back much stronger since Christmas and the young England international believes that the club can go on to major success: “We know we can go far in this competition, now we can start believing it a little bit more. We have the players to go as far as we can; now it is down to us. After the Villa game we had a lot of confidence and we wanted to give it 100% against Aalborg. We had a few players missing again, but we worked well as a team and we showed we can play our football whoever is on the pitch. We’ve played a lot of games this season, it has been a tough ride for us, but we just trying to get our bodies and minds right so we can keep going.”

Onuoha On-Top: Whilst Vincent Kompany will take the plaudits for being the major success of the season, it is Nedum Onuoha, who fought back from injury after injury, who has recently made all the headlines. Be it at centre back or full back, the England Under 21 starlet has really made an impression since replacing Pablo Zabaleta on the right and subsequently usurping Richards for the duty of partnering his skipper in the middle. It’s something that Hughes has been quick to flag up: “Nedum has come in and has done really well. Everybody here has a lot of time for him. We knew what a good player he was, but he has been frustrated by injuries in the past. That has held him back but he’s fit and strong now. Let’s hope his run in the team continues, because that’s what Nedum needs now. His ability is there for all to see. He’s a great athlete and not a bad footballer either. He doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves for his ability on the ball, but he’s showing that and we’re really pleased with him.”

Transfer News and Gossip

Time to Bridge the Gap: Former Chelsea left back Wayne Bridge has claimed that the summer transfer window is something that the current squad is truly looking forward to even though it means that some them will drop down in the pecking order. Bridge said that the current financial position of the club means the current residents of CoMS are all upping their game in the hope that they can be a part of the Blue revolution and the spending of multi-millions of pounds will only improve the club’s standing: “When I first went to Chelsea it was like this and it just all changed in a couple of years,” Bridge said. “From the plans that I’ve seen and heard we’re heading that way and I’m just excited to be here. It is going to be interesting to see who they bring in over the next few transfers. I don’t think the speculation affects the players. There’s a bit of banter flying around but everyone just want to get out and do well for the team. But I think, and I hope as well, that there will be a lot of players arriving. He [manager Mark Hughes] wants a big squad and a good squad. I have only heard speculation. I just want to press fast forward and see who we get. I expect Mark Hughes will have all the players he wants and more. If he can get them there will be rotation and that’s good for Man City. I’m excited about who we are going to bring in. At the moment he tends to field the same XI with a few changes here and there but if he gets who he wants there’ll be more rotation.”

Gareth Barry: The former Aston Villa Captain and England midfielder Gareth Barry apparently tops Mark Hughes’ wish list for the summer. With a move for Valencia’s David Villa seemingly over before it began, Hughes will now look closer to home though it is said that the Blues will be willing to offload two Academy graduates in Daniel Sturridge and Michael Johnson in order to prise Barry from Martin O’Neill’s side.

Michael Mancienne: City and Liverpool will go head to head in a battle for Chelsea defender Michael Mancienne this summer as it becomes clear that one of the country’s hottest prospects is not a part of Chelsea’s future plans. The versatile England Under 21 squad member spent the early part of the season at Championship leading Wolves and was also called up to Capello’s latest England senior side. It is believed that Chelsea will demand a fee of around £8 million.

Academy Blues

FA Youth Cup Semi-Final vs. Arsenal: The Young Blues suffered a rare defeat at the hands of an accomplished looking Arsenal side last night in their bid to retain the FA Youth Cup. City’s Under 18s, who had before last night, gone the whole season unbeaten in league and Cup, went down 2-1 at CoMS despite being a goal ahead for the most part of the game. Academy Manager Jim Cassell has expressed his disappointment with the result but knows that the second leg at the Emirates holds the key to the final: “It was a game of two halves in every sense, we could have been 3-0 up at half-time and they could have had three or four after the break. We’ll have a rethink now about how we address the game at the Emirates, but I thought we put in some good performances and on another night it might have been our game. Both sides hit the woodwork, and overall it was another good advert for youth football, but sadly this time it was our turn to come out on the wrong end of the score line. The tie is not over; we will pick ourselves up at the Emirates and give it a real go down there. We’re disappointed but not downhearted; we know there is more in this tie. We have never won a home leg in the semi finals of this competition so let’s hope we can do the business away. We won’t be daunted, we’ll be up for it and if Arsenal think the tie is over, that’s fine, but we will be giving it a real go.”

One of the youngsters who has made the most impressive impact this season is 18 year old Andrew Tutte and he believes that the tie is only at half-time: “We played well in the first half, but they dominated us after the break. It’s not over, and we can still do down at the Emirates. If we can get an early goal then we are right back in it. It’s only half time in the tie, we have got to go there and be confident. We were the better team in the first half; we had a lot of the ball, had the most chances and hit the bar as well. I had a shot but did not get hold of it, but they came back into it and dominated towards the end. We have been unbeaten all season so we’re not used to a situation like this. We’ve got to learn, and the second leg is going to be a test for us. Our team is good enough to get something, so touch wood we can get through.”

Post-Match Reaction

Aalborg: A deserved victory at home has put the Blues within a whisper of the UEFA Cup’s last eight having overcome what was set up to be a tricky tie. Aalborg, who dominated in both their home and away legs against Spanish side Deportivo La Coruna, never really got a hold of the game and the creative force of Robbie, Stevie and SWP ensured that the Danish side would regret playing so defensively. Two-nil was enough for the Blues and although a third goal would have greatly helped the cause, a clean sheet will do wonders for the Blues’ confidence when they travel to Scandinavia: “We had chances to score more goals but the order of the day was a positive result and a clean sheet. That’s what we’ve been able to achieve, so from that point of view it’s been a good performance. Aalborg are a good side and they always try to play the game in the right way but tonight we just had a little bit too much for them. We broke well and that was always going to put them on the back foot. Ideally, you would like to put the game to bed in the first leg to give you the option to possibly rest players in the second. We haven’t got that option because the tie is still very much there for both teams. Given the way we play – we always have a goal threat – and that Aalborg have to come out and be positive, I’m sure we’ll have opportunities to score in Aalborg. If we do, it will be very difficult for them to overcome us.”

Chelsea: The ‘Battle of the Billionaires’ went as expected with Chelski comfortably running out winners against Manchester Sheiky though if ever the Citizens needed an example of where they could be in 5 years’ time then this was it. There were glimpses of brilliance from Robbie, Ireland and Caicedo and yet just not enough in the tank to claim any points from Stamford Bridge. The tie against Aalborg only three days previously had clearly taken a lot out of the lads and Chelsea deservedly took the lead through the returning Michael Essien. From then on the game was for the hosts to lose and City provided little in response though with Bojinov, Petrov and Johnson soon to return alongside Benjani and Daniel Sturridge, the Blues will believe that with a full squad available and transfer funds provided in the summer, it won’t be long until City can challenge at the top of the league. The manager gave his assessment: “I think that our efforts on Thursday took a little bit of sharpness out of us that we needed today. Against a side like Chelsea you have to be dynamic and have a physical presence to drive the game. We did not have that in our play today, and our absentees would have helped in that respect. Maybe we were just a little lightweight in key areas, and as a consequence once we went behind we found it difficult to get behind Chelsea and cause them problems in the attacking third of the pitch. There’s the disappointment of conceding a goal like we did, but we kept going. There was not a great deal of tempo to the game, it was slow and methodical and that suited Chelsea rather than us. We were always trying to get back into the game.”

Alex Rowen <news(at)>


To say that City play away with an inferiority complex against other teams because of the away results would not always be true.

Against Liverpool away City played some excellent football, but did not stay focused for 100% of the game, and so let in Liverpool with a late equalizer.

But against Chelsea City did look like a team with an inferiority complex, and I agree with Glyn Alburquerque that City did do a lot of backing off. We did not harass the Chelsea players enough into making hurried decisions, which at times can be mistakes. But as I made my comments in MCIVTA 1515 we missed De Jong and Kompany who are the best players at doing this.

So why are City not as good away from home this season? Some players do not play away in consistent form, that is true. And in fairness to Robhino, who appears not to be having great games away from home, he is always well marked by the away teams.

To play counter attack football you have got to have fast forwards on the pitch and Caicedo is just not that, he is a bull and not a greyhound.

Sometimes we go forward at speed when it is first touch football, but the moment one player stops, all is lost and the defence has time to get back.

There are times when Micah will win a ball and go forward at speed, but will take his time in passing the ball; he has got to release that ball quicker every time, and the forwards move up fast into open spaces to receive a pass. When no one moves up fast, Micah has no option but to slow down and get time for someone to pass the ball to.

Most teams in the Premier League play counter attack football; the ones who are the most successful are the ones with great and fast passing of the ball. When on song the Gooners are very good at this game.

If City can put on the pitch at the same time, Robhino, SWeeP, Ireland, Bellamy, and Petrov this could be a fast combination; of course they would always need the support of the team to go forward.

I guess I have always been a fan of attacking football, after seeing the great attacking football of the late 60’s and early 70’s. The game was changed forever by Sir Alf Ramsey; just once in a while do we see a team go all out with attacking football: it gave Liverpool results versus Real Madrid and at the Swamp versus the Evil Empire.

If City played all out attacking football can the team win more games? At the end of the day it is after all the team that scores the most goals that wins the games.

The back four have settled into being a better defence now, so why not risk more all out attacking football? Let the other teams worry about us, and not us about them.

Oh well I am very well aware it is so easy for me to make my comments, than for a team to carry them out in a game. Today it’s more like a game of chess with the technical side of the game, but to me fast, attacking football beats everything, don’t give the other team time to think.

Come on you Blues! In Sparky I trust.

Ernie Barrow <britcityblue(at)>


I think Glyn Albuquerque has hit the nail on the head: “I wonder if Hughes has been told he has to pick Robinho, regardless, due to the £32 million we paid for him?” If I was going to find excuses for Mark Hughes’s performances as our manager so far, the first thing I would consider would be his relationship with the owners. It was obvious when Robinho arrived that it had nothing to do with Hughes – he was on the golf course at the time! Neither did the Kaka bid, nor any of the more grandiose/inept (depending on your standpoint!) bids that have been reported.

Managing a team is one thing, but managing it when someone else is telling you who to pick is quite another. Our past under Swales and Franny Lee tells us this. The quickest route to discontent amongst the squad is for players not to be treated fairly (not equally, that is a different matter), and continually selecting someone regardless of form is where it went wrong for many of our previous managers (particularly Keegan). Also, allowing the same player to be treated differently when it comes to club rules and going absent without leave, will only end in tears. I don’t think Hughes is so stupid as to do this deliberately and I sense his hands are tied here. He could get away with not playing, and criticising, Jo because he was bought by the previous regime, and also because Jo failed to contribute much during his time with us. Now that Jo seems to be doing okay at Everton, Hughes is making conciliatory statements about him and his future at City. Is he being told to do this?

Now, my respect for Hughes would rocket immediately if he stood up to this pressure from above, and selected players to win us matches i.e. play Robinho at home where he does contribute something (although I am still holding my breath waiting for him to ever deliver a man-of-the-match performance, and no, against Stoke wasn’t one!) and leave him out away from home. The only impression the current situation fosters is that Hughes enjoys his pay packet too much to cause that level of controversy. This lack of consistency will filter through to the rest of the team, and undermine their efforts. When we went behind to that Essien goal you could see the heads drop; deep down they knew we could not go on and draw or win, with the team including someone who wasn’t going to make the effort. To beat Chelsea away, as Burnley did, requires everyone in the team to fight.

If we do go on and sign more ‘superstars’ in the summer then we need to have a manager in place who will command sufficient respect for all the egos in the squad. Having a man who selects someone because he is told to, will not do. Imagine if he is told to select three or four players in the same way each match we will be on a hiding to nothing.

Steve Burrows <stevieburrows(at)>


If Mark Hughes was a brave man then he would not pick Robhino again regardless of whether it cost him his job; it’s obvious to see why he was only a bench warmer at Real Madrid. Robhino has only performed once since he arrived and that was when we thrashed Pompey. The way I see it is that it won’t matter who we bring to the CoMs; if they are allowed a free meal ticket by a poor manager then we are in for many more years without a trophy.

There was one great moment during the game when we put in a cross that went straight across the penalty area and out of play for a throw; the cross was made without any city player in the penalty area and without any chance of getting to the ball. The look on Shay Given’s face was brilliant. Why when we have the ball do we just punt it forward and end up giving it away?

Sam Duxbury <sammy459(at)>


With regards to the ongoing debate about Mark Hughes’ position. MCIVTA readers might care to read Guillem Balague’s views on the subject:

Balague is a man with a great reputation for knowing the inside take on European, especially Spanish, football and his views are widely respected.

Jack Millington <jack(at)>


League table to 15 March 2009 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  28 12  1  1 31  9  8  4  2 18  7 20  5  3  49  16  33 65
 2 Chelsea         29  8  5  2 24  8 10  2  2 25  8 18  7  4  49  16  33 61
 3 Liverpool       29  8  6  0 22  8  9  4  2 27 13 17 10  2  49  21  28 61
 4 Arsenal         29  8  5  2 22 11  6  5  3 23 15 14 10  5  45  26  19 52
 5 Aston Villa     29  5  7  3 21 17 10  0  4 22 14 15  7  7  43  31  12 52
 6 Everton         29  6  5  4 23 17  7  4  3 16 12 13  9  7  39  29  10 48
 7 West Ham United 28  7  1  6 19 17  4  5  5 15 17 11  6 11  34  34   0 39
 8 Wigan Athletic  29  6  4  4 13 12  4  4  7 16 16 10  8 11  29  28   1 38
 9 Fulham          29  8  3  3 22 12  1  7  7  6 14  9 10 10  28  26   2 37
10 Manchester City 29  9  0  5 30 12  1  5  9 15 25 10  5 14  45  37   8 35
11 Tottenham H.    29  5  5  4 15  9  4  3  8 20 25  9  8 12  35  34   1 35
12 Bolton Wndrs    29  6  2  7 15 18  4  1  9 16 25 10  3 16  31  43 -12 33
13 Hull City       29  3  4  8 16 30  5  5  4 19 21  8  9 12  35  51 -16 33
14 Sunderland      29  5  3  7 17 18  3  5  6 12 20  8  8 13  29  38  -9 32
15 Blackburn R.    29  3  5  6 15 21  4  4  7 17 27  7  9 13  32  48 -16 30
16 Newcastle Utd   29  4  6  4 20 22  2  5  8 15 24  6 11 12  35  46 -11 29
17 Portsmouth      28  5  2  7 18 22  2  6  6 12 23  7  8 13  30  45 -15 29
18 Stoke City      29  7  4  3 17 13  0  4 11 11 34  7  8 14  28  47 -19 29
19 Middlesbrough   29  4  7  4 13 16  2  2 10  8 25  6  9 14  21  41 -20 27
20 West Brom A.    28  5  2  7 19 27  1  2 11  6 27  6  4 18  25  54 -29 22

With thanks to Football 365

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Newsletter #1516