Newsletter #1583

News and plenty opinion tonight on the recent set of games, squad and the international break.

There’s also a further update on this weekend’s charity game at CoMS.

Next Game: Liverpool, away, 12.45pm Saturday 21 November


General News

Global Domination: It was revealed this week that Middle Eastern company Etisalat is set to sign a three year sponsorship deal with Manchester City having signed a memorandum of union this week. Etisalat, the region’s leading telecommunications company, provides land and mobile service to over ninety million people in eighteen different countries and the deal is set to be completed later in the year. It is hoped that the deal will help both parties to conquer their respective fields as, whilst City fight to join football’s elite names, Etisalat plan to become one of the world’s top ten communication services over the next decade. The service does have a wealth of experience within sport, having sponsored both the UAE national football team and league in recent years and Etisalat’s Group Chief Marketing Officer Essa Al Haddad has expressed his company’s delight at having signed such a high profile deal: “Etisalat’s agreement with Manchester City reflects our passionate commitment to football, in the UAE and internationally, and to our growing global customer base. Our objective is to create, nurture and develop the young talent in UAE, and position UAE as a leading country on the world sports map. Towards this intention, we are not only supporting our National Team, but also multiple clubs and their international participation. We have shown unstinting support to grassroots football in the UAE, through sponsorship of the President’s Cup, the UAE national team, the Etisalat First and Second Leagues, and now the Etisalat Pro League.”

Executive Chairman Garry Cook explained that the Etisalat deal is a huge step forward for the club: “The profile of the club is already growing globally, and the ability to effectively expand this growth with tailored communications forms the core of our agreement with Etisalat. This strategic opportunity allows us to connect to passionate football fans around the Middle East and African regions, providing customized Manchester City content through mobile communications channels.”

It’s All Right for Some! In a trip that Mark Hughes hopes will become a part of the club’s annual calendar, Sparky and his squad are currently over in Abu Dhabi preparing to take on the United Arab Emirates national side. With some of the club’s more renowned stars being out on international duty, the likes of Stuart Taylor, Sylvinho and Javan Vidal are expected to be given the chance to shine and it is hoped that Nedum Onuoha will also return after six weeks out on the sidelines with a thigh injury. Hughes has stressed that the lads will not be given an easy ride in the Middle East with all players vying for the place in the first team but hopes that the club will soon become the UAE’s favourite football club: “We expect it to be beneficial to everybody concerned. As well as playing we will be out in the community meeting people.The Premier League is now a global attraction, watched by followers from more than 200 countries worldwide. We have experienced the effect the presence of Manchester City can bring in different countries. We visited South Africa in the summer for the Vodacom Challenge, and the reception we got there was phenomenal. I think our visit to Abu Dhabi can help us to harness the undoubted enthusiasm the people of Abu Dhabi have for our club and football in general. We hope to become the club of choice for the people of Abu Dhabi to follow, and make them proud of the football we play in the same way we aim to do with our supporters in Manchester. We’ll make ourselves accessible during the week. Our main focus is to train, play the game and win, but we’ll go there representing Manchester City, which is a big honour. We’ll make sure everybody appreciates how we feel about playing and working for a great club.”

Sheikh, Rattle and Roll: City owner Sheikh Mansour met members of City’s squad for the first time since his 2008 takeover this week ahead of a training session in Abu Dhabi. Mansour, who funded the signings of Robinho, Tevez, Adebayor and co., has transformed the face of Manchester City and has fans excited about the club’s future for the first time in years. This week, Stephen Ireland introduced the owner to familiar faces such as Nedum Onuoha, Javier Garrido and Pablo Zabaleta as well as the group of youngsters who have joined City’s big names for the game against U.A.E. Hughes spoke of his appreciation for Mansour’s involvement and declared that the relations between club and country could see opportunities for young Abu Dhabi nationals being given a chance at City: “Ever since Sheikh Mansour’s involvement, the club has only gone in one direction. We will always be grateful for that. From our point of view at the club, knowing that the owner and people who have made the vision happen for him are looking long-term is a major plus. It is not about just hoping to make a profit. It is about building a partnership between Manchester City and Abu Dhabi. That is key to everything that has happened to our club. It is really positive. With the mindset we have and the knowledge that we will gain, I am sure there will be players from Abu Dhabi wearing the blue shirt of Manchester City at some point in the future.”

In Remembrance: To mark Remembrance Sunday, Manchester City invited representatives of the Royal British Legion to CoMS last weekend for the the home clash against Burnley. Before kick off, an excerpt from “For the Fallen” was read to the match’s sell-out crowd before a two minute silence was reverently observed by the fans of both sides. The kits that City’s players wore, which were especially embroidered with the image of a poppy, will now be auctioned off. The auction shall be sealed and carried out by post, the deadline for bids is the 27th November and further details may be found on the club’s official website.

Not the Time or Place: Due to various unforeseen circumstances and television commitments, a number of City’s Premier League fixtures in January have been altered. Hughes, Bellamy and Santa Cruz will now go head to head with former club Blackburn Rovers on January 11th at 8pm though if either side is involved in an FA Cup replay, this match will be moved to the preceding Saturday. Joleon Lescott’s return to Goodison Park will be played on Saturday 16th at 5.30pm and the Blues will host Paul Hart’s struggling Portsmouth side on Sunday January 31st at 1.30pm.

Squad News

Stevie Still Superman: Despite winning last season’s Player of the Year award, City’s creative midfielder Stevie Ireland has struggled for some early season form. The Irishman reminded City fans of what they’d been missing with a good second half display against Burnley but the Academy graduate is yet to find his feet again since scoring at Ewood Park back on the opening day. The addition of Gareth Barry and excellent form of Nigel de Jong has meant Hughes dropping Ireland from recent first team line ups but the manager knows exactly what Stevie is capable of and expects him to be back to top form when the squad re-unites after the international break: “We have changed the shape of the team, in fairness to Stevie. For the majority of last season we played 4-3-3, but more often than not this year we have changed to 4-4-2, with Nigel and Gareth becoming a pair after Stevie went out of the team. They have done well, so he has found it difficult to get back into the team but it’s not reflection on how he is playing. He’s playing exceptionally well in training games on a daily basis, he’s getting back to where he knows he is comfortable with and he is a great option for us to have. But, he needs to be patient and bide his time. He will get opportunities, he knows that, he is too good a player to be out of the team for too long.”

Stevie also took time out to praise the new batch of youngsters coming through at City and stated that many of them could be pushing for a first team place in the coming years if this week in Abu Dhabi is anything to go off: “Our youths and reserves are good. There are a lot of good players here and the younger players are strong as a unit having played a lot together in the past. This game is a great chance for them to stake their claims for the first-team and show the manager and everyone watching what they can do. Some of them won an FA Youth Cup final so they will not be fazed. It is important as a club that we keep producing our own talent as we have done for the past ten years or so. You have to have the blend right.”

Last Chance Saloon: Brazilian left back Sylvinho may have played second fiddle to Wayne Bridge so far this season but the 35-year-old admits that given the opportunity to sign an extension to his current one year deal with the club, he’d take it no questions asked. The Champions’ League winner made his name playing under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and went on to join Barcelona where he played alongside Henry, Messi and Puyol but Sylvinho asserts that City have the quality to be just as good, if not better than both sides and he hopes to be a part of it: “It is an amazing and exciting thing to be at a club that has such ambition. Of course I would like to play football every week but I understand how to handle these things. I am really excited by what I see at City and if I feel good, and feel strong at the end of the season, and the club asks me then I would be delighted to extend my stay. I would definitely like to remain longer. The project to make this club one of the best in Europe and the World cannot be completed in six months or a year and would like to be part of it for as long as possible.”

“Even when you are an experienced player, and not young any more, changing the country where you live is not easy. The first month and a half was difficult to set the family up in Manchester and I was worried about my young daughter and school because she was speaking only Catalan and Portuguese but she is very clever and has picked up English very well and we have settled well. The club helped a great deal in us settling in and so did the other players. What really pleased me was finding how big this club was already and that everyone around it is working hard to make it even bigger. We have a lot of good players and an intelligent and good man in manager in Mark Hughes but the key is to make sure the mentality in the dressing room is right.”

“Every minute of the day in every week has to be geared towards thinking about winning three points in the next game. Top sides never think they might lose or even draw – of course they do – but they are single minded in the pursuit of victory and that is what we have to be. We need to make people believe that we can do that. It is very important. Mentality is very important. Whatever we are aiming for, be it, top four, top three or top two, it is going to be difficult but easier if the mentality is there.”

City Chief Hughes has hinted that Sylvinho has a long term future at the club and may be offered the chance to join his backroom staff when the Brazilian chooses to hang up his boots: “He is a great guy. We do our homework on players and obviously his ability is not in question but we also knew that he is not only a good footballer but a fantastic individual. We knew that he would help the dynamic in the dressing room. His manner is fantastic. I can see him as a coach when he stops playing. He spends quite a bit of time speaking to guys during training sessions, passing on his experience. He has the personality that lends itself to a coaching rôle.”

Point to Prove: No doubt all eyes will be on City’s £25 million striker Emmanuel Adebayor when the blues come up against Arsenal in the quarter finals of the Carling Cup next month but the Togolese forward has promised to be on his best form and behaviour when the Gunners visit CoMS. Adebayor was fined for violent conduct and warned about improper conduct when Wenger last brought his side to Eastlands back in September and now hopes to make amends by putting the Blues one step closer to Wembley. Manu described the huge amount of respect he feels towards his former boss Arsene Wenger and has assured fans that he will bring his ‘A’ game to the table: “I love Arsene Wenger, and I will always keep that love for Arsene – he is the person who made me what I am today. I just want to show him what he has taught me in the three years that I was there, and that is the main thing I will keep in mind for the quarter-final next month. Arsenal is a good Carling Cup draw for us. Now we have to focus on our job, because we can do it. We want to be in the Carling Cup final. We have beaten them once, we have to beat them again. We have a a good team spirit and we have to believe we can do it – we’re at home, we can win if we really want it enough.”

When asked about the last Citizen-Gunner clash, Adebayor explained: “What happened last time is gone. I’ve told everybody I am sorry for the incident. I made a mistake. We all make mistakes, then you correct them. It won’t happen again. I was at Arsenal for years and I have nothing against them, the emotion just took over. I have so many good memories of my time there. It’s going to be a good feeling for me to play against them.”

Transfer Speculation

The Robinho Saga: Speculation reigned again this week that the club’s Brazilian playmaker is set for a move to Barcelona as reports suggested that City officials were travelling to Spain for talks about a possible transfer. Hughes moved quickly to condemn such reports as “without foundation” and reiterated once again that the club’s record signing is still very much a part of his future plans and will not be sold to the Catalan side: “We are concentrating on getting Robinho fit. We are looking to integrate him back into sessions. He will be checked by the Brazil national team doctors tomorrow and then we fully expect to have him released back to us. I am quite clear and Robinho should be quite clear that his future is very much with City. There is no reason to think that will change any time soon. All those stories do not originate from anyone from City. Then he can come back with us and get back up to speed for when the rest of the group returns after the international break. He has been out for a significant amount of time so he needs training and game time as well so we will not be putting a date on when he might play. As soon as he is ready he will be a great option for us.”

Executive Chairman Garry Cook, who it was reported was leading the talks on behalf of the Manchester club, has backed his manager’s stance: “There are no plans to meet Barcelona here this week to talk about Robinho. I think some people are trying to make mischief when they talk about him leaving. I don’t know where these things are coming from. They’re not coming from us. We want to talk to him this week but only about getting him fit to play for us again. We have had no conversations whatsoever with Barcelona with regards to the loan or transfer of Robinho. Any suggestion to the contrary is totally and utterly without foundation.”

Robbie’s team mate Stephen Ireland says that he expects the Brazilian to stay at CoMS and blames the influence that Elano had last season for any speculation: “I’ve no indication where this speculation is coming from. Maybe because he’s a big name player. No way does he seem to want to go somewhere else, definitely not. We were warming up last night before training and we were talking about all the speculation. I told him I was really looking forward to him coming back into the team because last season he set up most of my goals. ‘I can’t wait to get back into the team, either’, he said, which didn’t sound like someone who wants to get away. I think he is very happy here. I don’t see why he would want to go back to Spain anyway. And I don’t see why the club would just let him go. He is the type of player that when he dwells on the ball and takes more touches, all players are moving towards him and opening gaps. He’s only had one season here so why would he move now? There are so many indications it’s not going to happen. I’m not being harsh on Elano and players like that, who were good people and good friends to me when they were here, but them leaving has been a real blessing for Robinho because he has really come out of his shell. They all used to stay in this little clan and you didn’t see much of Robinho, but now he’s different. We were actually having a conversation last night about the club. He really thinks deeply about the club. He seems really happy and contented. Even his family seems settled and he seems to be really at home. I’ve seen it more this season. Since he came back in the summer he’s been a different person. He’s really been a character in the dressing room and around the training ground.”

Gaga About Yaya: If any deal were to ever materialise between City and Barça, the more likely transfer would be that of Yaya Toure to Eastlands. The brother of Blues’ skipper Kolo Toure is currently unsettled in Spain having fallen down the pecking order with the European Champions. Kolo expressed his wish to one day play alongside his brother and the centre back believes that a move to CoMS would be perfect for Yaya who helped Barcelona beat United in last year’s Champions’ League final: “He is a good player, and if he could come to our team that would be great. He has had a few hard times in Barcelona. He doesn’t play a lot, and he loves football and loves to play. If he can come, especially to a club in England, he would be really happy because the Premier League is a fantastic place to play football. Technically he is very good and can hold up the ball, and is a great passer with great vision. He also has a great desire to win.”

Post-Match Reaction

Hung, Drawn, and Quartered: The Blues stumbled to yet another draw last weekend as the fans were taken on a roller coaster of emotions during the 3-3 draw with Burnley. The game started slowly with the Blues focussing on possession rather than attacking flair and when Joleon Lescott raised his arms in the box, there was only ever going to be one outcome as Graham Alexander put the away side in front from the spot. Burnley scored a controversial second just after the half hour mark when former Hibernian striker Steven Fletcher tapped home despite suspicions of offside. Shaun Wright Phillips scored a superb solo effort just before half time and this seemed to spring the Blues into action after the break. When Kolo Toure equalised in the 54th minute, relief filled the City of Manchester Stadium and this relief quickly turned to jubilation as the Blues went 3-2 in front thanks to Craig Bellamy. It all seemed done and dusted until, with four minutes left on the clock, the City defence seemed to disperse and substitute Kevin McDonald was left to finish in front of the travelling support. Hughes was disappointed to have lost the game but praised this side for their temporary comeback: “First half we never really imposed ourselves as I know we can and conceded two poor goals. But then we picked ourselves up and showed some of the qualities I expected from the start. For the vast majority of the second half I thought we were excellent. It was a huge effort on our part, but then we shot ourselves in the foot again and switched off. At the moment we are struggling to to take the sting out of things. You have to give the opposition no encouragement – you have to see them off, discourage them. You have to make them think there is nothing for them. Defending is a collective duty. We have to stop things at source before they develop. Maybe we have to work exceptionally hard to stop balls coming in to their front men. That’s a part of our game we are not doing very well at. It’s about working hard and making sure we improve. We started the season like a house on fire – we knew there would be games where we didn’t function like that. But we are still picking up points. Obviously we are disappointed today, but credit to the lads, they nearly turned it round. Ten or 11 games in, I think we’re doing OK, no more and no less than that. There will be times when we look like what we are – a team still coming together and trying to gel. There are things we need to tighten up on.”

Skipper Kolo Toure admitted that his back line were letting the squad down and promised to ensure that if his side scored three in one game again, they would come away with all three points: “We know we dropped two points – we have to improve our defending. We need time and work and there’s still a long way to go. The manager has highlighted a few things. We have top-class players, and we have to take responsibility at the back. As defenders, we need to work like brothers. We feel vulnerable at the moment, which isn’t good. We have to be stronger. When the opposition score three goals like that, it’s difficult to take. It’s killing me. We’re very, very disappointed because we came back so well in the second half to score three goals. But at the end we left some space at the back again, and that’s the second home game where we have not defended well. As captain I’ll take the responsibility, but we’ll all work on it when we are all back in training. It is something we have to address if we are to be a top four team. Having the break is not great, but it could be good for us in that it gives us time to think and analyse everything. We’ve got a huge game against Liverpool when we come back, and we need show a new face to our game when we play them. We have the team to do well there, especially if we play like we did in the second half on Saturday. We’ll work really hard, but we need to take responsibility for what’s happened, especially at the back.”

Alex Rowen <news(at)>


A couple of thoughts.

Having had the luxury of watching nearly every City match on TV this season, it’s clear that opposing clubs are slowly working us out, and we will not reach the top four, or maybe even the top six, if the tactical weaknesses are not addressed. City have the quality in their squad to finish top four, but they have to deliver it on the pitch.

First of all, City have had trouble with sides playing a pressing game high up the pitch. Birmingham City and Burnley both proved that not giving the City back four and deep-lying midfielders any time on the ball pays big dividends. Without Barry or Ireland on the ball with their heads up, City have trouble setting up an effective attack. The ball tends to up at the feet of Lescott or Given who have only enough time to take a quick look upfield and hit it long. The problem is the inability to move the ball along quick enough to escape the press and find the open area of the pitch that the opposition pressing players have left open. To my mind City have to risk more and try to move the ball along the ground quickly before giving up and going for the long ball, or play the back four deeper when in possession and make space for the midfielders receiving the ball. It comes down to the quality of the passing at the back, and right now it’s not there.

When City come up against the likes of Arsenal and Villa, they do better because these clubs are happy to open the game up and let the City attack come at them. City have to learn to deal with the press, because on the strength of recent results every manager who doesn’t fancy an open game will set up like Burnley and Birmingham.

With a great selection of wide players, I think City could do more to switch the point of attack before entering the final third. Most of the use of the wide players seems to be vertical, where wide midfielder goes on a run for the corner, supported by an overlapping full back and a forward coming over for a short pass inside. When the game gets crowded near the corner, the tendency is to try and work it through the tight spaces and come up with a cross or shot from a position where City do not have an extra man (e.g. the first goal against Burnley, which owed as much to a ‘perfect’ deflection in a crowded penalty area as it did to SWP’s skill). Instead of trying this nearly every time, they could pull the ball back and get it quickly to the opposite wing, moving the opposing back four across, making the defensive midfielders chase the ball and maybe causing a positional mistake. Again it comes down to the quality of the passing and the ability to move the ball quickly.

The choice of substitutes has not been quite right. How Petrov can replace Tevez with City a goal up to Burnley is beyond me, especially with de Jong on the bench. It has to be time to shut up shop, and Hughes needs to back his players to defend a one-goal lead over the last 20 minutes. Going for the 4th goal was reckless and it backfired. The safer bet would have been de Jong for Ireland and moving to 4-2-3-1 with Adebayor alone in front of SWP-Tevez-Bellamy and Barry-de Jong protecting the back four, maybe even pulling Bellamy deeper to help out Bridge. Otherwise Richards on for Ireland, moving Richards to right back and Zabaleta to defensive midfield alongside Barry, then further reinforcing in the last 10 minutes with de Jong coming on for SWP or Tevez, making a 4-3-2-1 with 7 players forming 2 defensive lines. Honestly, if we don’t have the confidence in the defence to batten down the hatches against Burnley at home, we don’t really have a plan to win matches at Anfield etc.

Finally, the replacement of Dunne with Lescott has been our biggest mis-step in the transfer market. The rule should be only bring in a player that is definitely a better player than the one you currently have. Despite Dunne’s run of poor form before his departure, Lescott has already shown he is no better when in a slump. Dunne should have been kept and made to fight for his spot (which he would already have won back no doubt) and Onuoha sent out on loan to a club like Burnley to play more at Premier League level. Even more frightening is the thought that we will lose Toure for African Cup of Nations for a month early next year and we will have a choice of Lescott, Richards and Onuoha for 2 central defence positions.

Over the course of a season you can only assume individual brilliance, individual errors, bad officiating and the bounce of the ball will even themselves out, and you can’t plan for them anyway, but the way the manager sets the team up and gets them to play will be the biggest factor in the number of wins we get.

Paul Calder <p.s.calder(at)>


I was at the Burnley game on Saturday but I won’t submit a match report, as other contributors have summed it up rather well already. I would like instead to make a couple of observations concerning the day.

  • We have a fundamental problem in defence, and the Burnley game in particularhas exposed its root. Full back, and particularly left back, is de-stabilisingthe whole defensive line. Wayne Bridge is the current obvious culprit, but he’snot the only one. Zab is a decent full back but when he’s out and replaced byMicah then we’re in the same bag of poo on the right. What that invariably doesis to cause one of the central defenders to be drawn out of position to cover, leavingholes behind him and his central partner with too much to do. This happenedtime and again last season with Dickie Dunne attempting to cover for Micah, andit’s happening again with (mainly) Lescott having to do the same for Bridge.I’m an old centre-half myself so I know acutely how this works. I can see thenervousness in Lescott – he’s largely pre-occupied with the permanent threat onhis left hand side, and he can’t properly concentrate on his own game. He’s notbeen the best since he came to us but Bridge’s shortcomings are in my opiniona large part of that. We need a solution until the January window, andthankfully we have a ready-made one. Let Lescott replace Bridge at left full,and put Kompany in at centre-back alongside Kolo. Phil Banerjee makes thispoint also in his excellent match report in MCIVTA 1582.
  • The Burnley fans were great for their team, amongst the best I’ve seen atthe COMs.
  • The linesman on the Colin Bell side had a shocker.
  • Both Barry and Ireland were below par, and Tevez looked just a little lost.
  • Why the long ball tactics? We have enough talent in midfield and up front tocarve sides apart but other than Ade we’re a small side. Constant puzzle thatone.
  • Adebayor works exceptionally hard, has done in every game I’ve seen him in.
  • The Old Wellington beside the Wheel is a grand spot for a bit of grub and apint.
  • The guy in the OK greasy spoon on Piccadilly should really take off hisserving gloves before washing the windows with a dirty rag.

John Breen <Breen(at)>


Even Ernie Barrow is starting to see the light; it used to be In Sparky We Trust, but not any more. We now have the worst two defenders we have ever had; the art of a good Manager is to realise when a team makes a player look good and that the player is poor. In Lescott and Bridge, Hughes has not done this. Although they can’t be blamed for Petrov’s poor shot when he could have passed for Adebayor to score.

Sam Duxbury <Sammy459(at)>


After the bad spell that City have had from not producing a win in the league for five games, the spell in Abu Dhabi should help them come back after the break into winning ways as we have seen from the team earlier in the season.

Good to see Garry Cook confirm Robinho will be staying at City; we need some magic, although Bellamy and Petrov who have been playing in the same position that Robinho plays, have been two of the better players in the last few weeks.

I, like other City supporters and fans, want to see the team come back with more passion, commitment, and playing for one another, for the cause of getting City into the top four.

We look forward to the future to see the team play like they did versus the Gooners and better.

For Mark Hughes to prove himself as the manager/coach of City he has got to be able to motivate his players into playing with a team spirit, and a never say die attitude.

Maybe Sparky should play a recording of Winston Churchill in his speech of never surrendering or quitting to his players. Remind all players it is no longer a 90 minute game, but a 97 minute game.

I think that Mark Hughes is going to be tested between now and Christmas, as other clubs are all after City’s scalp because of the money spent on the players. No game will be an easy one and the big test for City will be on Nov 21 as City travel to Anfield to meet Liverpool, who are about to say “City you are not taking our place in the top four”; come on City prove them wrong!

The trip to Abu Dhabi should be a bonding trip, and to Shay Given “good luck” playing for Ireland in the play off games vs. France.

I would like to see Nedum (True Blue) playing in the defence now that he is fit.

Come on you Blues!

Ernie Barrow <Britcityblue(at)>


I haven’t contributed to MCIVTA since the season started because unfortunately I’m having to do two jobs to keep going through the current recession, and also because, like many other ‘post foamers’ (a great description for all of us who were unhappy with Hughes but really enjoyed the summer spending spree!) I wanted to see how the new signings would do, and whether we’d see as a result a true ‘Mark Hughes team’.

As I’ve said many times before, the one saving grace for Hughes from last season was that his transfer policy was spot on. Added to last year’s squad we now have players of even greater quality so obviously the expectations have increased too. I am also aware that mid-November is perhaps still a little too early to write off the season, but unfortunately the good start does now seem a long time ago and there are worrying repetitions of the faults from last season that are starting to appear. These include the following, which I pointed out as ‘targets’ for Hughes (to be considered as successful progress) in my reply to MCIVTA 1534:

  1. Win a game where the opposition score first. Well, we have managed this inthe League Cup game against Fulham. We have also come back from every othertime we’ve been behind to draw, except for the derby, so I suppose this is somekind of progress.
  2. Develop a Plan B, and possibly Plan C, for when things don’t go our way. Nowthat we have the personnel for a number of different systems I thought we mighthave developed more variety in the way we play. The changes made in a match arenow more positive because of the quality on the subs’ bench, but still don’treally involve a change in system and tend to be ‘like-for-like’, or bizarrelyagainst Burnley, bringing Petrov on and then playing the two wingers on theirleast effective wing.
  3. Stop playing one man up front and two defensive midfielders at home.Starting the season with a more positive 4-4-2, we now seem to have regressedto Hughes’ favourite system from last season with two defensive midfielderseven when one of them is out of form, which as before isn’t working, anddoesn’t play our strongest team. The best part of Stephen Ireland’s game hasgone this season because seemingly he is not allowed to play so offensively andis more often to be found in our half than in the opposition box.
  4. Be honest in post-match interviews and don’t try and hide behind refereeingdecisions, blame the previous regime, make false promises or dodge thequestion; this hasn’t changed at all. Now that the going is getting tougherHughes has retreated to his defensive position of making excuses and blamingdecisions. Little he says rings true any more, such as his comments that havingthe whole squad together for longer before the Burnley match would reap itsrewards! Judging by the performance in that match it would be better if Hughesdidn’t have them in for any training prior to a match!
  5. Make a match-winning substitution! This hasn’t improved. Despite the greaterquality on the bench, substitutions are still too late, generally ‘like-for-like’and make little difference to the course of the match. Also, he oftenleaves on a player who is clearly having a bad game (recently this has includedAde, Tevez, Barry, Bridge and Lescott) and substitutes someone else. He alsodoesn’t bring on an ‘impact player’ like Weiss who could make a difference.

Hughes has removed everything that he said stood in his way of making City a great team last season, so now he should be proving it. However, despite the odd £200 million spent this summer we seem to be further behind Villa and Spurs in terms of progress, which in anyone’s books is an unforgivable waste of money. Don’t get me wrong, I think we have a better squad than Villa, Spurs, Everton and even Liverpool, but we don’t appear to be playing to our potential. Now, whose fault can that be?!

We still have the same glaring tactical problems from last year and that can only be down to one man and his support team. Our full backs have no idea how to defend or keep their position, our centre backs are forever pulled out of position as a result, we still hoof long balls up the pitch when inappropriate, and we don’t put anyone on the goal line for corners or attack the ball when it is whipped in. We are one-dimensional in our own set pieces and seem just as unable to defend a set-piece as we were last year.

Wayne Bridge won the league with Chelsea as a very good left back but now looks an absolute shambles open to ridicule on national television. Joleon Lescott was a very good solid defender at Everton who now looks like a rabbit in the headlights every time he has to defend. Barry oozed class at the start of the season but now he is all over the shop and seems bizarrely to be running on empty even at the start of games. The second half appearance of Tevez in the friendly against Celtic completely changed the dynamic of the team (much as Kinkladze and Benarbia did in previous times) but now the United fans’ warnings about him seem to be coming true as he looks more and more like a pub player. Adebayor is now beginning to look like the player the Arsenal fans loved to boo for his lack of effort, and Santa Cruz is clearly still a long way from being match fit. Thank God for Bellamy, because without him so far this season we would be a lot further down the league. And yet, none of these players are bad players and I was happy to see them all come to City.

As for Micah Richards, I have struggled since the Fulham game to think of an occasion where I can remember a young City player publicly arguing with his captain about leaving his position to join the attack, and then, as if in a strop, continuing to remain out of position for the rest of the match ignoring everything Toure was saying to him. Even on the occasions, when by chance he was caught in position, the opposition made mincemeat of him, going past him as if he wasn’t there. I believe players can improve, and normally I would say take him out of the firing line, but as I remember him having an equally immature strop when Stuart Pearce substituted him in one of his very early games, then it doesn’t seem like his attitude is ever going to improve. He has the ability to defend, as was shown in the season under Sven alongside Dunne, but without the right attitude he will never get better. Maybe his attitude will change, but do leopards ever lose their spots? I suspect the early ‘success’ has well and truly gone to Micah’s head, as it did with one of his contemporaries, Joey Barton. I firmly believe that his playing at RB last season helped cause the huge dip in Dunne’s form, and without a big change the same thing will happen to Toure. This requires man management from Mark Hughes, but as he hasn’t managed this with anyone else it is hard to see how Micah can ever improve at City under Hughes. Isn’t it funny that Dunne is playing out of his skin at Villa now, whilst Lescott who ‘replaced’ him doesn’t even look to have one-tenth of the defending ability of Dunne. What exactly do they do in the way of defensive training at City these days?!

Just as I thought last year that we had a squad of great potential that wasn’t realised, we appear to have a squad of even greater potential that will fall short. I was pleased that the owners set a target for Hughes of achieving a top six position this season, but the new acquisitions and the money spent have raised that bar even higher. However, the same old problems are still there and maybe it is now time for all those that have previously supported Hughes to realise that he is not the man to take us to the promised land, and at the soonest opportunity that a manager of quality becomes available we should snap them up. After all, it works for Chelsea, even without giving them time to achieve anything. All their managers have got them to play at a standard good enough to keep them in a Champions’ League place, and I don’t believe our squad is far behind theirs in quality. What would Ancelotti have managed with our squad, I wonder? We have never had a better team to break the stranglehold of the top four with Liverpool out of sorts and U****d unable to replace Ronaldo and Tevez, but it looks like we’re going to blow it yet again.

Hughes out!

Steve Burrows <stevieburrows(at)>


A Manchester City Former Players XI will play St Helens Town for the Bert Trautmann Trophy on November 15th, kicking off at 1pm.

David and Ian Brightwell, Andy Morrison, Andy May, Asa Hartford, Andy Dibble, kit-man Les Chapman and Steve Redmond are among those in the squad, coached by Paul Lake, that take on a side from the club that Bert Trautmann spent a season with before joining City in 1949.

Proceeds from the event will be shared between the Trautmann Foundation, St. Helens Town and a charity nominated by the Legends team.

Tickets are now on sale to personal callers to the Stadium Box Office. Prices are:
£4 general sale
£2 Seasoncard & Citycard holders
£2 over 65s and under 16s.

Free parking will be available in the North Car Park.



9 November 2009

Liverpool             2 - 2  Birmingham City       42,560

League table to 11 November 2009 inclusive

                             HOME          AWAY        OVERALL
                    P  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F   A   GD Pts
 1 Chelsea         12  6  0  0 16  1  4  0  2 13  7 10  0  2  29   8  21  30
 2 Arsenal         11  5  0  0 20  4  3  1  2 16 10  8  1  2  36  14  22  25
 3 Manchester Utd  12  5  1  0 13  7  3  0  3 10  5  8  1  3  23  12  11  25
 4 Tottenham H.    12  4  0  2 12  6  3  1  2 11 11  7  1  4  23  17   6  22
 5 Aston Villa     12  4  1  1 12  5  2  2  2  8  7  6  3  3  20  12   8  21
 6 Manchester City 11  3  2  0 13  8  2  3  1  8  6  5  5  1  21  14   7  20
 7 Liverpool       12  4  1  1 19  6  2  0  4  8 12  6  1  5  27  18   9  19
 8 Sunderland      12  4  1  1 15  9  1  1  4  5 10  5  2  5  20  19   1  17
 9 Stoke City      12  3  1  2  8  7  1  3  2  4  8  4  4  4  12  15  -3  16
10 Burnley         12  5  0  1 10  5  0  1  5  5 20  5  1  6  15  25 -10  16
11 Fulham          11  3  0  2  7  5  1  3  2  7  9  4  3  4  14  14   0  15
12 Everton         11  2  3  1  9 10  2  0  3  6  7  4  3  4  15  17  -2  15
13 Wigan Athletic  12  2  2  2  6  9  2  0  4  7 13  4  2  6  13  22  -9  14
14 Blackburn R.    11  4  1  1 11  7  0  0  5  3 18  4  1  6  14  25 -11  13
15 Birmingham City 12  2  2  2  4  4  1  1  4  6 10  3  3  6  10  14  -4  12
16 Bolton Wndrs    11  1  2  3  8 13  2  0  3  7 11  3  2  6  15  24  -9  11
17 Hull City       12  3  1  2  6  8  0  1  5  4 17  3  2  7  10  25 -15  11
18 West Ham United 12  1  2  3 10 12  1  2  3  6  8  2  4  6  16  20  -4  10
19 Wolves          12  1  2  3  5 10  1  2  3  7 12  2  4  6  12  22 -10  10
20 Portsmouth      12  1  0  5  7  8  1  1  4  3 10  2  1  9  10  18  -8   7

With thanks to Football 365

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