The footballing situation Manchester City finds itself in this week is bizarre, but also undeniably worrying for the good people of Planet Blue.
We now know for sure that the combined long term losses of Martin Petrov, Valeri Bojinov and an on form Michael Johnson have hit us hard because the senior squad is so small and has very little top quality strength in depth.
It was the same precarious situation under Svennis. Various recent injuries and suspensions to vital personnel like Zabaleta, Robinho, Kompany, Richards, Garrido and Sturridge have further exposed the problem and left Mark Hughes with a distinct lack of options.
But the question this week as the dust settles upon the fixture intensity of Arsenal, Schalke, rags, PSG and Fulham is are City playing to the strengths that the existing squad has?
For example, the gaffer persists with one striker up front. In my opinion we don't currently have a striker on the books who can adequately fulfill that role.
Furthermore, outside of Pablo Zabaleta's lung bursting efforts we're not getting in behind full backs and are constantly trying to walk our way through packed central defences, playing without any width.
That tactic has failed against the rags, PSG and now Fulham. We've been sussed out and become easy to deal with. Shaun Wright-Phillips is absolutely wasted in the centre of midfield and Darius Vassell, for all his work rate looks to be in the side only because Bluesy has nobody else of sufficient Premier Leaugue experience.
In short, I suggest that the manager has adopted a damage limitation policy following the amount of goals we shipped ahead of the Arsenal result. Noticeably, we have only conceded 2 goals in the last 5 games.
The most bizarre aspect is how we are the only side from Hull downwards outside of Villa and Fulham to have a positive goal difference! We are second in the scoring charts to Chelsea, but many of those goals were made by playing boldly which right now isn't happening and I think it's either due to the manager's caution or the fact that the squad is wiped out after so many games.
Tellingly, Stephen Ireland has begun to look bollocksed in his last two outings. The team are crying out for new Blue blood and increasingly flag during the last 15 minutes of a game.
Now here's the rub. Time for some realism as we look to the boardroom for solutions.
January will not provide international mega star reinforcements for obvious mid season reasons. We must not forget either that this City squad will have to continue to play on through that month. Bedding in foreign stars will take time. We need greater Premier League experience on board.
There is a very real possibility that as the side runs out of steam, we could find ourselves in a big hole by New Years Eve.
City should surely move for proven top quality Premier League players and pay whatever it takes. Lassana Diarra, Wayne Bridge, Gareth Barry and Roque Santa Cruz would be big plusses when you consider our current form.
The time to look further afield has to be next summer.
City's 26th competitive fixture of the season came at Fulham. By stark contrast, our visit realised only The Cottagers 17th game.
A not uncommon situation for our opposition this season and when you consider the size of City's squad and it's lack of experience, it's easy to see how this season's UEFA campaign has stretched Mark Hughes playing staff to the limit.
The squad have a precious midweek free now to regroup, recharge batteries and get ready for the remaining 5 games of the year in what is now 'Decisive December.'
The games against Everton, Racing Santander, West Brom, Hull and Blackburn are all now incredibly important for the club's immediate future.
THE JANUARY MEN: THE PLANE LOAD OF SPORTS HACKS TRUTH OR DARES EXPANDS
………Kolo Toure - Arsenal, Ginaluigi Buffon - Juventus, Ashley Cole - Z List Celebrities, Ricardo Oliveira - Real Zaragoza, Wayne Bridge - Chelsea, Clarence Seedorf - AC Milan, Michael Turner - Hull City, Lucas Podolski - Bayern Munich, Chris Samba - Blackburn Rovers, Mario Balotelli - Inter Milan, Lassana Diarra - Portsmouth, Franck Ribery - Bayern Munich, David Villa - Valencia, Gareth Barry - Aston Villa……………....to be continued
PSG FANS LET DOWN FRANCE AGAIN
No strangers to bringing shame upon their club and country, Paris Saint-Germain's generally bizarre support let everyone down again with pathetic shows of hooliganism in Manchester last Wednesday night.
Sure, we laughed at their entertaining buffoonery throughout the game which at least generated plenty of atmosphere, but there is always a sinister undercurrent to PSG's support. An undercurrent that ensured former club owners French satellite giants Canal+ sold the club off sharpish a season or so ago.
I'm personally very thankful City did not have to play PSG in Paris as the game would have been a powder keg. I fear for the FC Twente fans safety when they visit the increasingly notorious Parc des Princes next week.
UEFA GROUP RIVALS WATCH
Racing Santander 1 v Athletic Bilbao 1:
Our next opponents Santander are continuing to look fairly 'City-ish' and their draw with Bilbao has left them similarly placed to City in the Primera Liga, only 3 points off the relegation zone.
PSG 3 v Le Mans 1:
The Parisians cemented their place in the top five of Ligue 1 with a straight forward dismissal of Le Mans on sunday evening. Paul Le Guen has prioritised league form whilst grinding out UEFA results and that policy might serve PSG well and set them up for 2009 if they can beat FC Twente.
Schalke 04 1 v Hertha Berlin 0:
Recently beleaguered Schalke got their Bundesliga season back on track with a narrow win over Hertha knowing that there is nothing more they can do about their disappointing UEFA Group A campaign.
FC Twente 6 v Sparta 2:
Four wins in a row now for Steve McClaren's men who thrashed Sparta out of sight on Saturday. To say their upcoming clash against a desperate PSG will be fascinating is an understatement.
WHAT'S IN A WORD? THIS WEEK'S QUOTES
'It's a little bit hysterical and ludicrous at the moment, to be perfectly honest. When we go to the market, we'll discuss players with the clubs directly and if we can do some business, if we generate the resources to do that, and if we can bring in a bit of quality to the club then that's what we'll try to do.'
- Bluesy again calls for realism as the January transfer window countdown commences in earnest.
'I'm very happy here, as I wanted to go to Manchester City and had no doubts when the time to sign came. The league is tough and demanding. I am enjoying every moment because I am aware of the fact this is a unique opportunity. The club have the possibility to sign stars and each week is like a test. Mark Hughes relies on me, which is huge because you have to be at your best to establish yourself here. I feel like the fans believe in me.'
- You're not wrong there Pablo! Our increasingly influential powerhouse Pablo Zabaleta reveals his determination. Alongside Vinny Kompany he looks to be a superb signing by Mark Hughes.
'We had 12 or so senior players out and played in midweek but I think that's the first point after a European date so we are reasonably happy. It's a good point, they've had a decent run of late.'
- Bluesy expresses a degree of relief following yet another tired looking and uninspiring City performance in the 1-1 draw at Fulham.
'The experience of playing in England is always good. There is always a positive atmosphere there. The Premier League is a good competition but I have always said that I am a Milan player. If I do leave one day it will be because my ambitions are different to the club's and the Premier League could be the place where I will end up. Robinho has told me that Manchester City have a great project for the future.'
-The rather good Brazilian forward Kaka talks up MCFC again.
WE WEREN'T REALLY THERE? THE FINAL SCORE THIS WEEK 10 YEARS AGO
Football League Division One
Man City 0 (0) - 0 (0) Bristol R @ Maine Road, 12th December 1998
Vital MC hopes to be bringing you a Mag 7 Fans interview with Everton before Saturday's must win clash.
Johnny On The Spot?
Bizarrely, Everton have won only one home league game all season but won 5 games on the road! They sit in a comfortable top half of the table position and outside of home defeats, especially the last minute-er at home to Villa are in far greater shape than City from wise.
It will be interesting to see how David Moyes' squad responds to that cruel Villa result.
City will at least have the luxury of having an extra days break ahead of their rivals for this fixture and that's something we haven't had too often this season!
This looks like another 'too close to call' job, but home advantage could just give a jaded looking City the edge. Everything depends upon what options MH has at his disposal. The defence is at least looking a little more solid and I'm expecting another cautious approach to this crucial clash.
City 1 Everton 0
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