The Vital City Zen: Combat Fatigue
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It's not uncommon to roll out the excuses after a Manchester Derby defeat, but this excuse has already been used or highlighted as a concern throughout November...
Facts are facts and by the time December dawned, City had played 24 competitive matches this season. At the same stage last season, they'd played 17 fixtures without the distraction of European and International level travelling.
To be brutally honest, City looked jaded and off the pace against the rags on Sunday from the first whistle having worked very hard to secure qualification from the UEFA Cup group stages on Thursday night in Germany.
It's important to say that I still have no complaints over the Derby result. The team selection was initially wrong and we did not compete or get in their faces enough.
I maintain that all things considered such as the long term injuries the squad has sustained through the first third of the season Mark Hughes and his backroom staff have done admirably well in getting the side through to the UEFA last 32 next year.
That's something we can all look forward to with relish as we continue our journey into decades old unchartered waters.
But our league position remains a serious cause for concern. We may well be the Premier League's second top scorers with 29 goals and be the only side in the bottom half of the table with a positive goal difference, but we have won only a glaring 17 points from 15 games.
It could be that the combined effects of the lack of strength in depth in the squad which led to City turning up in Schalke with only 18 available senior players and injuries and fixture intensity have made our league form suffer.
But right now Mark Hughes and the squad are going to have to find some extra energy resources and quickly if we are to be in contention for a European place by the turn of the year. The relegation zone remains far too close for comfort.
REALITY CHECK FOR THE RAGS
Before Manchester united supporters hang out too much bunting in the Home Counties following their 1-0 Derby victory over wealthy City, they should take a step back and consider the fact that to date, City have only been able to sign Robinho since Sheikh Mansour secured the club. City are a club and a playing squad in transition, rebuilding with the promise of much more to come.
Since The Blues were promoted back to the Premier League in 2002, City squads assembled on a pittance compared to the massive fees lashed out at the swamp have matched united repeatedly in League competition.
In 13 league games since that promotion, both united and City have won 5 derby's each, with 3 drawn. Hardly the 'dominance' that the hacks say they have supposedly reasserted upon us this week!
In truth, City have faired magnificently against the rags considering the gulf in resources these past six seasons.
The clock continues to tick for Taggart and co and it will be interesting to see how the rags and their struggling American backers cope in the coming years as their ageing squad will require an overhaul whereas City's young squad should come of age bolstered with top quality reinforcements.
City are more than contenders now and every rag should know it.
We need Robinho at Manchester City and he's made a tremendous start to his career in Sky Blue.
But his interview with 'Setanta Football Matters' programme lends weight to the media rumours that he is unhappy post Mark Hughes double disciplinary fining of his pals Elano and Jo.
Only time will tell as to how this all pans out but one thing is for sure. Robinho has become absolutely key to City's future under Sheikh Mansour`s ownership.
Not only that, we need the lad to be played only when fit. I understood that his largely anonymous performance against the rags followed him having received pain killing injections in the ankle he injured during City's defeat of Arsenal. We'll know for sure what the fitness story is if he fails to make the team against PSG on Wednesday night.
Robinho has urged City to continue to think big and has questioned the City team's mentality. This story has only just broken but my gut feeling is that these comments could be received either positively or negatively with no inbetweens:
'City have good players but the mentality of a small side. They are content with just finishing fifth or sixth. They are content with little, thinking just a draw might be good enough. They lack the mentality of champions. I have learnt that being second is worthless so I want to inspire a winning mentality. You can only be content with winning. You need to want to beat Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool. Maybe I have changed this a bit but now City have a project to become big, the mentality has to change.'
City have scored a shedload of goals this season, but it could have been much, much more. In some games, such as facing the rags packed defence in the second half of the Derby, the team have a tendency to try to 'do an Arsenal' and walk the ball in. Incredibly frustrating. This correspondent is calling on Bluesy to issue 'Shoot On Sight' instructions to the team against PSG and Fulham and see where it takes us.
UEFA GROUP RIVALS WATCH
This week only UEFA Cup Group A's FC Twente recorded a win in their national league:
Atletico Madrid 4 Racing Santander 1
- Racing's recent run of stability has come to an end with a tonking at the hands of Atletico. They remain in the bottom half of the Spanish Liga.
VfB Stuttgart 2 Schalke 04 0
- Schalke's season is starting to nosedive and defeat against City has been swiftly followed with a repeat scoreline at Stuttgart. Schalke have now slipped to mid-table in the Bundesliga.
Rennes 1 PSG 0
- PSG's own run of form has also ground to a halt at Rennes. The defeat leaves them in a UEFA position in Ligue 1, but their inconsistency is pegging them back this season.
ADO Den Haag 1 FC Twente 2
- Twente have embarked upon a fine run since UEFA defeat at Eastlands and now sit 4th in the Eredivisie.
WHAT'S IN A WORD? THIS WEEK'S QUOTES
'We have to compete against Manchester United and in the near future we will. But at the moment they are a better team than us. We are going in the right direction but this is not going to happen overnight for us and in the first-half we showed them too much respect.'
- Bluesy underlines the fact that City failed to compete against the rags but the times are changing.
'Cristiano was trying to protect himself from the ball hitting him in the face. He got a little push as well. It is not as if he punched the ball. If that had been outside the box it would have been a free-kick and nothing else. The crowd played a part and have got him sent off.'
- Taggart deludedly confirms that The Ladyboy Riverdancer was trying to protect his eyeliner in getting sent off against City, got shoved in the back and the City fans were responsible as well. File under 'You couldn't make it up again.'
'The richest club in the world played the Champions of England and Europe today. Well we say played, more turned out against really. Despite the fact the Champions of Europe and England had to give up a man with a quarter of the game still left, they still won. Add Champions of Manchester therefore to that of England and Europe....'
- Frighteningly arrogant rag website UWS online goes into 'gloat overdrive' post their 1-0 win. Those five league defeats since 2002 against 'liddle ciddy' must have hurt.
'We were not outclassed in any way and we are keeping our heads up. It wasn't to be and even their goal was a little scrappy. On another day we either boom it up the other end or I save it on to one of our lads and it is cleared.'
- Joe Hart maintains that all is not lost post Derby defeat.
'If I were the administrator of Manchester City and had proprietors who are willing to give me money to sign players, I would buy Messi in the January transfer window. He is the best young player in the world and there aren`t many clubs that can afford to make a signing such as this.'
- Sir Bobby Robson recommends Barcelona's Lionel Messi to the Eastlands hierarchy.
WE WEREN'T REALLY THERE? THE FINAL SCORE THIS WEEK 10 YEARS AGO
FA Cup Second Round,
4th December 1998 @ Feethams
Darlington 1(1) - 1(0) Man City
Bennett 16 Dickov 77
Man City: Weaver, Edghill, Vaughan, Morrison, Wiekens, Crooks, Mason (Dickov,60), Pollock, Goater, Taylor, Russell
Subs not used: Wright, Brown, Bishop, Tiatto
@ The City of Manchester Stadium
UEFA CUP Group A: Wednesday 3rd December @ 1945 GMT
Last six PL games: L,L,L,D,W,L
Last six Ligue 1 games: L,L,W,W,W,L
Internet: PSG website in English: www.psg.fr/en/Accueil/0/Home
Vital MC has been unable to secure a Fan's interview with PSG as part of the big match build up.
Johnny On The Spot?
PSG are a wealthy club formed only in 1970 and even though they have won a good number of titles are pretty much detested throughout the French Republic as a result of their big business origins. It's not often I hear them coming in for praise outside the Paris area.
After an atrocious last season under Paul Le Guen which almost resulted in relegation, Le Guen has brought in some experienced old stagers like Claude Makelele and Ludovic Giuly to steady the ship. And they've done just that with the Parisians now lying sixth in Ligue 1.
November was a good month for PSG as they strung together three consecutive wins to cement their place in the top half of the table. However, defeat at Rennes this past weekend means they will be arriving in Manchester a little more subdued than of late.
It's vitally important that City bounce right back from the disappointing lack of fight they showed against the rags. Bluesy has already made it clear that he wants City to win UEFA Group A and were we to do that, it can only aid the cause of attracting more big name players to the club in January.
I'm banking on home territory, the need to erase the derby defeat and PSG's poor UEFA showing thus far to combine in The Blues making it three Group A wins in a row. Danger man? Striker Guillaume Hoarau.
City 3 PSG 0
NEXT OPPONENTS BUT ONE
@ Craven Cottage
FA Premier League: Saturday 6th December @ 1245 GMT
Last six PL games: L,L,L,D,W,L
Last six PL games: W,L,W,W,D,D
Vital MC hopes to be bringing you a Mag 7 Fans interview with Fulham after the UEFA game. The only fan sites who have chosen not to take part in our Q&A`s this season have been Manchester united`s.
Johnny On The Spot?
Fulham under Roy Hodgson have one thing City don't under Mark Hughes and that is some consistency. Even though they have only managed to score 12 goals in 14 league games. They have lost only once at Craven Cottage this season so City will have a tough task in striving to secure what is once again an incredibly important three points.
Fulham aren't conceding many which makes that challenge all the harder to see through. My heart hopes for a City win but considering our current erratic league form I`m predicting a draw.
Fulham 1 City 1
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