We've arrived at the end of the international break and it is almost time to renew hostilities in the North East. As we move into a crucial stage of our season, we look to City Manager Mark Hughes for the leadership required to take us to the next level.
If we take what has been achieved and played out so far as if it were a mini season, then it's clear that Bluesy wins most of the plaudits hands down. From the outset of his appointment at a club shipwrecked with renewed uncertainty and instability post Svengate, he led from the front. While Thaksin Shinawatra and Garry Cook were elsewhere, he gave the impression that he was running the club single handed as he faced down the hacks with alarming yet admirable regularity, stamping his authority on the situation. At the same time he was charged with the task of re-energising a playing squad lacking in fitness, discipline and morale.
A German boot camp and a siege mentality at Carrington ensuring that was done, the results out on the pitch have been absolutely swashbuckling! The side attack in numbers, from all angles and on their day can take any team apart. But at the back and through the side, City look as if they have forgotten how to get men behind the ball. Recent games really have given the impression that we have become something of a "We'll score one more than you" side.
In 14 competitive games in all competitions City have rattled in 29 goals and conceded only 17 times. However, 12 of those goals have come against us in the Premier League. Terrific entertainment of course, but for all that endeavour, we still only have 9 points from a possible 21. Bluesy acknowledged "There's a lot of excitement around our games at the moment."
Hughes still has work to do in winning over many of us who remain rag-sceptic but he`s already touched swords with Taggart in the media over signings, showing his intent. He's made a solid, dignified and widely respected start to his City career. Going into games against uncompromising sides you get the feeling we have a more streetwise general than we had under Sven.
So here comes the crunch phase as we chase a European glory run and a sustained Premier League unbeaten streak. I'm more than sure our manager is equal to the challenge:
"On our day we can give anyone a game because of the attacking and technical ability that we have in the side, but if we are going to be considered a challenge to the top four clubs then we have to win on a consistent basis.
"We have not got that capacity at this moment in time, but we're working on that in as much as we need to put a run of wins on the trot together. We have not been able to do that but I think we are building in the right way.
"We have to make sure we can create chances, score goals, not concede and see games out to their conclusion. We need to take something out of every game that we play, that's a prerequisite because of the focus that we are under. We understand that, and we are working hard to that end."
LOOKING FOR A CERTAIN EXPERIENCE
Bluesy has ruled out City jetting around Europe on a crazy transfer binge this January and instead is preparing a measured approach which will be greatly appreciated by Blues who understand that building a squad with the flair and strength necessary to compete at the highest European level will take time.
If he can pull off more masterstroke's like the signing of Vincent Kompany, we'll be on the right road!
"An older element would certainly help the team and its development. We are good to watch, but we frustrate the fans sometimes because we still do have frailties and I understand that. Come January we will try to address those frailties but along the way we will still produce good football.
"We have had some harsh lessons already this season and realise that Premier League points are not given out but are precious commodities. We have shown good signs so far and we have ability in the team, but what we need to show more of is real strength of character to see games out to a conclusion and then perhaps we would have got something from the Chelsea match and certainly the game against Liverpool.
"We will be better in the future if the same situations arise because at the moment we are young in both experience and development terms."
LISTEN UP ROUND UP
Probably the worst of Svennis' City signings, the frankly pisspoor Felipe Caicedo could be off the pay roll any day now. Since his stunning £5m signing from FC Basle last January, he has only turned out for us on 10 occasions. And he came off the bench for each appearance. Bluesy has alledgedly seen enough and so the Ecuadorian teenager is being touted around Europe for a loan deal. Our UEFA Cup opponents Paris Saint-Germain are rumoured to be daft enough to be interested.
City's new ownership has begun to lead to new kit sponsorship discussions. The Blues are alledged to be currently involved in negotiations with a number of kit manufacturers about a new £6m per year deal. Puma and Umbro are said to be already at the table.
City are about to release the notorious three Thailand internationals bought under Frank Shinawatra`s leadership. Suree Sukha, Teerasil Dangda and Kiatprawut Saiwaew have proved to be nowhere near the quality required at a Premier League club, let alone a Unibond Premier League club.
WHAT'S IN A WORD - WHAT THEY SAID THIS WEEK
"He had only had 10 minutes in one game and 20 minutes in another prior to then playing 90 minutes for his country. It's a big ask for these players, and they are at risk if they have not had the required amount of time before going away to an international. Our problem is that we have to allow them to go."
- Mark Hughes sums up the blow of losing Martin Petrov for "a significant time." The question we're asking at Vital MC is would Taggart have accepted the release of the player in similar circumstances?
"When I got injured I didn`t think it was going to take so long, but as time went on and the physios got to work on me, I realised that it was a very, very bad injury. I need to be careful, I tore a thigh muscle so it's a difficult one. We're being cautious because if I come back too soon and break down, I'll be out for a long time."
- The hard working yet unfortunate Benjani speaks out over his continued absence, dispelling rumours around town that he isn't up for the fight.
"The most important thing now is to stay injury-free because of all the things that are happening with the Club, if you're not going to be playing and fit, then they're going to look somewhere else for someone who can do it."
- The increasingly perma- injured Michael Johnson may as well be speaking for Nedum Onouha at the same time as his treatment table residence continues.
"I will keep on doing what I do at Blackburn but if the coach of Manchester City is interested in me I would like to join Robinho in that team."
- Oh yes he will...Blackburn`s Roque Santa Cruz tells a Paraguayan radio station who he fancies playing for.
"He is very happy at Blackburn and has no reason to be looking for a move away. We believe a lot of things written are rubbish."
- Oh no he won't...JB Sports2Business, Santa Cruz`s German agents, say no chance. You know and we know that their are better strikers out there, too.
"There is one thing that is clear: We must stop talking about Manchester City."
- Thierry Henry fends off the hacks at a French squad press conference as his Barcelona future continues to hang in the balance.
"My English so far is two out of 10. I haven't started my language classes yet as I'm still living in a hotel. But as soon as I move to my own place, I will have more time for that. In six months' time, my English will be 10 out of 10."
- The quicksilver Robinho declares his intent on the language front. Vital MC recommends a subscription to Viz for all new signings in order to better integrate them into our culture...
"We have to look at a Champions League place first and then go from there. This club will win the Premier League. I hope we can bring the spirit of samba to Man City! That's what our fans want to see. Many players at Man City can play beautiful football and they've already shown that. It's fun to watch when we play in this way, but we also understand that the Premier League is a tough competition and sometimes we can't play as prettily and will need to adapt our style."
- Jo aims for the stars but also accepts that City must be prepared to slug some games out this season.
WE WEREN'T REALLY THERE? THE FINAL SCORE THIS WEEK 10 YEARS AGO
Lincoln 2 (Battersby 4, Austin 33) Man City 1 (Holmes 83 og) Sincil Bank 20-10-1998 Att: 7,338
Newcastle at Saint James's Park FA Premier League: Monday 20th October @ 2000 GMT +1
Citizens Form: Last six PL games: W,W,L,W,L,L
Geordies Form: Last six PL games: W,L,L,L,L,D
Johnny On The Spot?:
Nevermind Newcastle needing a win, City need a win big time to get us back in amongst the pack. For all the tremendous play we've witnessed this season, too many soft goals given away have seen us drop into the bottom half of the table. It's vital we get something here to ensure we stay on track. Bluesy must get the team fired up because Joe Kinnear, who loves the role of perennial underdog will certainly have his squad revved up for his first home game in charge of The Barcodes.
Their tourettes symptomed gaffer has had two weeks to work with his temporary charges and we can expect to see uncompromising tactics to the fore. He will be without Michael Owen but will welcome back Habib Beye, Obafemi Martins and Jonas Gutierrez. City meanwhile, will be sweating on Robinho's dead leg, but of greater concern is the hammer blow of Martin Petrov's knee injury who we are missing badly down that left wing. City have to take the intiative from the off in order to snuff out any Newcastle revival built upon their recent Everton fightback. City have the Liverpool throwaway ghost to see off and we can't afford to go into this one lacking self belief. But in reality, we should have enough in the tank to win at Sid James's Park again, providing our defence have sharpened up.
Newcastle 0 City 2
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