Newsletter #1856

Two Champions’ League games. Two sets of absolutely conflicting emotions. The trauma of last minute defeat balanced by the relief of a last minute draw against Dortmund.

Concern over our defensive frailties, balanced by a simply astonishing performance from Big Joe.

Who can recall a better goalkeeping display by a City ‘keeper?

It may be by our fingertips but we are hanging to the cliff of Champions’ League qualification so let’s keep the faith.

There is certainly no time to brood. It’s Blunderland next, formerly of Joker Park. Let’s hope the joke doesn’t end on us against the only team to take a point from the Etihad last season.

Enjoy it if you are there.

Next Game: Sunderland, Etihad Stadium, 6 October 2012, 12.45


City’s quest to qualify from this group became that bit harder as we gained a very fortunate late point against a highly accomplished Dortmund side who were more cohesive as a team and demonstrated greater fluidity for much of this game.

Indeed, it took a truly world class display from Joe Hart to prevent City from being thrashed on our own turf.

It was a very high quality attacking performance by the visitors but they were almost as vulnerable as City at times. We could have been in front in 30 seconds but Nasri’s goal-bound shot drew a fine save from Weidenfeller (is there a more appropriate name for a goalkeeper).

In fact there were two excellent goalkeeping performances by Joe Hart and Roman Weidenfeller.

In that thoroughly exciting first half, Hart pushed rasping efforts from the excellent Mario Götze onto bar and post respectively. In between those two saves City had very good chances to take the lead. Silva played Sergio Agüero in with a defence splitting pass after 26 minutes, but clean through and with time on his side, Sergio shot too early at Weidenfeller who saved well. Silva was playing some excellent football by this time. After an exquisite double pirouette that bamboozled three Borussia players, Silva again fed Agüero 25 yards out and it took an outstanding save by Weidenfeller to tip over Sergio’s powerful dipping drive. Then Dzeko forced another save from the Dortmund ‘keeper.

Silva almost blotted his copybook with an uncharacteristic poor clearance from defence but Subotic fired just wide much to his relief. The little magician visibly berated himself.

The main problem was that City’s defence was all at sea with Kompany lacking in confidence, and we were carved open again just before the break. Lewandowski literally saw the whites of Hart’s eyes when the City goalie crucially smothered the Pole’s shot.

City’s goal was leading a charmed life but there again we could have said that about Dortmund. A great Zabaleta cross from the right presented Silva with a gilt-edged chance but he spooned his volley over and wide.

Dortmund had just shaded a pulsating first half in which both sides had very good chances, but they were far superior to us in the second half. Götze, Reus in particular and, to a lesser degree, Gundogan teased and tormented us with their quick passing game. In front of them, Lewandowski was a huge, mobile physical presence who was waited to pounce on any chances they created. Make no mistake, this was an excellent Dortmund side.

Dortmund pressed us in midfield, far up the pitch, hunting for the ball in packs. Their midfield five outnumbered our four all night. In the second half they stepped up their pressing further, closing down the options for our defence. As a consequence, The City back four couldn’t find a way to start attacks, resorting to too many sideways passes in defence. When we did try to progress, too often it was long balls that squandered possession. Dortmund found it easier to get at our defence because of our continual gifting of the ball to them, and because they outnumbered us in midfield.

Our best hopes of a goal were the combination of Silva and Zabaleta down the right, but the problem was getting the ball to them. At times we just could not get out of our own half, so well did Dortmund press us. They certainly worked harder than us in this aspect.

Last season when we were at our very best, we played a 4-3-3 formation that was so fluid that it was 4-5-1 when we didn’t have the ball or when were starting off attacks. It gave us the options that we lacked here with our rigid 4-4-2 against Dortmund. It was a surprise that Roberto Mancini didn’t try this especially after a hybrid 4-3-3/4-5-1 had worked at Fulham with Agüero in a wider rôle. Call it whatever you like, Dortmund were playing such a fluid 4-3-3/4-5-1 and their passing and movement was far superior to ours. We have to find way to regain that fluidity and stop ourselves from being outnumbered like we were here.

It was no surprise when Dortmund took a deserved lead on the hour, but it was presented to them on a plate. Jack Rodwell, who was a first half substitute for the injured Garcia (thigh), played a pass without looking, which was intercepted by the dangerous Reus who drove forward a few yards before hitting an unstoppable shot past Joe Hart.

“You only sing when you’re winning” came the chant from the Dortmunders. But we had never been winning in this match, and there were one or two choruses of Blue Moon.

Like a groggy boxer on the ropes, City tottered around for a few minutes. City heads went down and Dortmund smelled blood, buzzing around us, trying to deliver the killer punch. Götze carved open our left hand side again and forced another good save from Hart. Lewandowski also went close with an effort.

Then Mario Balotelli was brought on for Clichy and sub. Kolarov moved to left back from his midfield rôle. As the clock ticked down to a close Silva released Zabaleta down the right and his pinpoint cross was headed goalwards by Agüero, only for Weidenfeller to make a superb save to deny him.

We were very fortunate to get the penalty from the resultant corner when Agüero’s goal-bound overhead kick hit Subotic’s hand at point blank range in the 89th minute. Whilst it was a harsh decision, his arm was raised up by his side, and that will, more often than not make a referee’s mind up. We’ll certainly take that bit of fortune, but if that penalty had been given against us we would not have been happy! Reus and Weidenfeller protested long and loud, but to no avail, and the German goalie did his best to psyche Mario Balotelli out by getting in his face and whispering a few words. He was wasting his time as Mario again showed nerves of steel to calmly cast Weidenfeller and his gamesmanship aside and coolly slot home. It wasn’t over with that and Hart was forced to make another full stretch save to deny Lewandowski.

Full credit must go to Dortmund who played beautiful football. Too many lazy journalists and pundits never give German teams their dues, trotting out a stream of clichés about “efficiency” and being “organised”. They never say that German teams play beautiful football, even when they do, which Dortmund most certainly did here. If we had been watching them on the television against anybody else, particularly United, we could enjoy it, but the fact that they were tearing our beloved City to pieces made that impossible. With Götze, Reus and Lewandowski in particular intelligently making darting runs in piercing attacks, and their whole team playing superb football, their noisy, superbly choreographed, if rather repetitive fans, will have been disappointed not to win.

In the aftermath to this game, Roberto Mancini said our players should have run more. He is right but wouldn’t we have more running power and effort in the team if Gareth Barry were in the side? Barry, with his driving presence, covers a lot of ground, makes tackles and would allow us to play a higher tempo pressing game. He and Garcia in tandem would allow Yaya Touré to do what he is best at further forward. If Roberto thinks Barry is too tired then why not play James Milner in central midfield? He has barely had a chance in that rôle after he excelled there for Aston Villa and like Barry has a superb attitude and work ethic and he would run and run and run. There is no logical reason for him to be overlooked. Surely with his experience he is a better option than the rather green Rodwell right now, and possibly even Garcia? City suffered from this rotation policy and Yaya’s wings were clipped by having to anchor midfield. Roberto Mancini is an excellent manager who brought us our first title but he has to stop messing about the team with this rotation policy. If someone is tired in a game then substitute him but why not put our best team out?

Roberto stated that he knows the problem and that he is going to resolve it. He needs to if we are to challenge in the League and progress in Europe, because we do not look as strong as we did last year in either competition, and we do not look like we have learned from last year’s Champions’ League lessons.

Nastasic did well here, but I don’t understand why our solid central defensive pairing of last season has been broken up with changes of personnel and formation this season. Kompany was very poor here and looked like a player lacking in confidence. A confidence that has been eroded by not playing in settled partnership or settled formation. The wasted time in pre-season with him playing as a spare man in a back three has not helped him or us at all. Playing that rôle is very different to playing as a centre back in a pairing. Lescott and Kompany are a very good pairing: a Championship winning pairing, which is no mean feat, and Nastasic should have had to fight for that place. We are paying the price for too much tinkering and I hope that Roberto does not undo the good work that he has done here in his time at Manchester City.

Reus (61)
Balotelli (89, pen)

Att: 43,657

Hart: His best game so far for City amongst many. Single-handedly he kept City in the Champions’ League. He made at least 6 brilliant saves and without him, this would have been a rout: 10 (Man of the match)
Zabaleta: Great covering, superb overlapping runs in a very good all round performance. His highlights were the cross for Agüero at the end, a superb block with his body to deny Schmelzer in the first half and a superb tackle to thwart Reus: 8
Kompany: This was his worst game by far in a City shirt. Uncharacteristically lacked confidence, his decision making was poor, sometimes getting too close to his man, and sometimes diving in. Had a tendency to take too many touches that slowed down City moves. He would benefit from having a settled partner at centre back with no changes of defensive shape: 5
Nastasic: His passing was not always accurate but he showed good composure and read the game well. Promising: 7
Clichy: Had his work cut out against the waves of Dortmund attacks, with Götze in particular a real handful at inside right, but he battled on: 6
Nasri: Was thwarted by Weidenfeller in the first minute but didn’t really get into the game: 5
Yaya Touré: Held the midfield together but it didn’t help that he was playing a deeper rôle and we were outnumbered in midfield. Worryingly limped for the last half hour, and hopefully he will not be out injured for long: 6
Garcia: Steadying influence until he got injured but he didn’t look as mobile as Dortmund’s quick thinking midfield, who darted behind him. In time he may offer more going forward than Nigel de Jong, but he does not offer us the same defensive abilities thus far: 6
Silva: City’s chief creator, he set up our best chances and worked well with Zaba down the right: 8
Agüero: Always a threat when we attacked and went close on three occasions and really should have scored when released by Silva in the first half. 7
Dzeko: Starved of decent service here, but didn’t do enough to get into the game. 5
Rodwell (for Garcia 33): Without wishing to be hard on the boy, having already given away two goals this season through sloppy passes, young Rodwell (for Garcia ) clearly has a lot to learn, and he must know it. Needs to up his game significantly: 4
Kolarov (for Nasri 55): Competed hard down the left: 6
Balotelli (for Clichy 80): Coolness under pressure… again: 7

Best Oppo: Götze for his superb vision, passing, interplay and cleverly timed runs. Such an intelligent player, and one we should be looking at: 9

Ref: Pavel Kralovec (Czech Republic): Adequate but let a few Dortmund challenges go, and the penalty was harsh (no extra marks for that, honest!): 6

Phil Banerjee <philban65(at)>


Been a while since I last commented on the team, but after watching last night’s very lucky point against Dortmund, felt I needed to say something!

Why, oh why, did we let Nigel go and replace him with the totally useless and overrated and overpriced (and definitely overpaid) Javi Garcia!

Does anyone have an explanation to this?

Also not too impressed with Jack Rodwell either. We need to get two more quality attacking midfielders pretty darn quick or we will be in serious trouble. We just didn’t know how to move the ball!

What is it with this square passing game that we have started to play?

We are still not good enough to compete with the likes of Madrid and Dortmund as our two games so far has shown. I’m afraid it is probably going to have to be another tilt at the Europa League unless we change it up!

Andy Armstrong <and_arm(at)>


I am beginning to doubt whether City will be able to win another league title, let alone the Champions’ League, with Mancini at the helm.

His team selections and constant tinkering with what could be – and sometimes is – a well-tuned engine are impossible to fathom.

There is some (but not a lot) of justification for resting players and rotating through the squad for week-to-week league games but key European encounters are not the place for unnecessary experiment. It’s where you want all your attacking guns blazing and your defensive as impenetrable as you can make it.

Captain Kompany, seemingly so comfortable in his evolved partnership with Lescott, is clearly unnerved by inexperienced Serbian teenager Matija Nastasic and well he might be. The boy isn’t up to the job just yet and European competition isn’t the place for an apprentice unless, of course, injury or suspension offers no alternative. Kompany has taken some stick in the last two or three games without any consideration for the situation Mancini forces him into.

I guess if you spend big on players you have to play them in an effort to prove you spent wisely.

Rodwell replaced an ailing Javi García on Wednesday and you wonder yet again what attracted Mancini to either of them. Well, maybe García will prove himself but right now he looks lost. Rodwell simply looks like he’s in the wrong team.

Seeing the strength that Mancini left on the bench before the Dortmund kick off left me with another, justified feeling of impending doom.

Thankfully we have Joe Hart but he can’t perform with such brilliance game after game. He needs a confident, solid unit in front of him.

Bring back Lescott and let’s not forget Micah.

And Roberto: If it ain’t broke stop trying to fix it.

Chris Cobb <cobsun(at)>


I’m not going to say much, Joe Hart played a fantastic game, Man of the Match!

Mario came on and scored a cool penalty, has to be the greatest penalty kicker in this time of football; in the late 60’s early 70’s it was Francis Lee, he picked his spot and then kicked it like a mule on steroids.

Tough to see Garcia go off injured.

Jack Rodwell: I have now seen him make the same mistake twice, giving the ball away for the other team to score. Grr (still a young player with a lot to offer). David Silva and Kun Sergio had their moments.

Overall this was nothing like a City team we saw play last season and Yaya, sorry, but you were way off form tonight. City were lucky to come away with a draw, after all the attacking and quickness that Dortmund showed.

City bring in all the players last day of the season, when all the team needed was a darn good defender, and RvP or Hazard, or someone else of that class!

Just two class players that is all we needed; was Brian Marwood asleep at the wheel? Trying to make up for it with five?

Roberto Mancini has got a job on his hands, and we are not out of Europe yet. Sorry, but I was very disappointed with the City performance in this game especially playing in the Etihad Stadium.

Come on you Blues!

Ernie Barrow <Britcityblue(at)>


I really enjoyed Barry Tench’s piece in the last edition. I quite agree that we risk losing ourselves in the hysteria of winning. Only two years ago, MCIVTA was blessed with raging disagreements about who was good and who was bad and what we needed to do and what was wrong with the world. Now it is getting thin.

What I miss most is the disparaging contempt we regularly voiced for the unbridled greed of the Chimps’ League.

It bleeds our national game with its greedy, over-populated, tediously drawn out formula designed to leech money from national leagues. Now, it seems our fan base has lost such principles and bought into it big time, presumably because we can afford to win it (eventually). It is icing on the cake, not the be-all and end-all.

Our priority should always be League Championship, FA Cup, Mickey Mouse Cup (Disney must be the only one that hasn’t sponsored it yet) and then Europe.

Sadly, money talks and the game is (and always will be) secondary to profit. Thus, the financial imperative to follow the money distorts our aspirations. We put reserves out in domestic competitions to protect the “stars” for Europe (and we would lose said stars if we didn’t play in Europe). However, if we win the domestics, we get to play in Europe every year, or has that obvious route been completely forgotten?

The Premier League itself was designed to fleece the fans and create a privileged few clubs at the expense of the game and was gleefully led by our very own Peter Swales. I still hate it, but it’s what we’re left with. The Chimps’ League is one odious step beyond that. Yes, it is great to play the likes of Madrid, Bayern and Ajax, but it should not be our main focus. I fear our fans have lost sight of what really matters. For God’s sake don’t turn into arrogant gits, like those Cayman Island tax dodgers we criticise with such fervour.

As Barry says, enjoy the ride!

Martin Hunt <Martinhuntctid(at)>


Looking for one ticket for the away game at WBA on the 20th October if any subscriber has a spare.

Mike Carr <mike(at)>


Ed is a long-standing MCIVTA follower and is off to Afghanistan imminently.

From all here at MCIVTA… Good luck and safe return.

Phil Alcock <philipalcock(at)>


League table as at 2 October 2012

                    P  GD Pts
 1 Chelsea          6   8  16
 2 Everton          6   6  13
 3 Manchester Utd   6   5  12
 4 Manchester City  6   4  12
 5 Tottenham H.     6   3  11
 6 West Brom A.     6   3  11
 7 West Ham Utd     6   2  11
 8 Arsenal          6   6   9
 9 Fulham           6   4   9
10 Newcastle Utd    6   0   9
11 Swansea City     6   1   7
12 Stoke City       6   1   7
13 Sunderland       5   1   7
14 Liverpool        6  -3   5
15 Aston Villa      6  -4   5
16 Wigan Athletic   6  -6   4
17 Southampton      6  -8   3
18 Norwich City     6  -9   3
19 Reading          5  -5   2
20 QPR              6  -9   2

With thanks to Football 365

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Newsletter #1856