The VCZ: You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, City
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YOU JUST HAVEN'T EARNED IT YET CITY
So much for a playing week off for a change. Once again City were unable to break down a packed defence, this time Everton's and ended up beaten by a side that did not include a recognised striker. You couldn't make it up. Again.
Defeats, especially five at home in the league before Christmas would have alarm bells ringing loudly at any Premier League side and the likes of West Brom, Newcastle, Stoke, West Ham, Sunderland, Blackburn and Tottenham have all to lesser and greater extents accepted that they are already involved in a relegation battle.
Not so Manchester City, especially our manager Mark Hughes. Admirable intent or deluded ambition? Time of course will tell, but right now we find ourselves outside the relegation zone because of a slowly shrinking goal difference.
Outside of the 'Big Four,' the majority of the Premier League is shaping up to be ruled by big, physical sides who are prepared to scrap tooth and nail to get the results that will steer them clear of relegation. City remain lightweight in comparison and clearly ill equipped to 'mix it' when required.
Relegation is not seen as unthinkable for many of our opponents and I suggest it is time City's players collectively shook their heads of the hype surrounding our new found financial status and woke up to harsh reality. They have no right to turn up and expect to win at this level.
Considering his track record, I still find it hard to believe that Mark Hughes' side is not playing with steel, conviction or a siege mentality. We continue to flag in the last fifteen minutes of each game. It's as if the club and the team are operating in a dreamland, the dreamland we have all been inhabiting since Sheikh Mansour gave ADUG the go ahead to purchase the club last summer.
Mark Hughes needs to start dealing in facts and some straight talking is long overdue. We need to hear some urgency.
There should be acceptance that January will not provide an immediate solution to the squad's shortcomings because the nucleus of this squad has to keep on playing even after the intensity of the fixtures that they have struggled to cope with this side of Christmas.
Secondly, we should remind ourselves that that same nucleus is the one that all but gave up at the end of last season culminating in a total disgrace at Middlesborough. Not only do we need stronger competitors but a continued clear out still remains an absolute requirement.
Finally and above all else, this is a results business. I know Hughes has been dealt some terrible injury blows and has inherited a young, generally inexperienced and relatively small squad who have evidently begun to lose their way despite some scinitillating displays earlier in the season. I maintain that it is better to have this wretched run now rather than later in the season. Whether it is fatigue, rumoured problems within the dressing room responsible or the fact that City rebuilding is stil a work in progress, regular defeat will be eroding the squad's confidence further still.
When assessing the performance of the man whom the buck stops with and whether or not the club should persist with him at the helm should the nosedive continue, we should dismiss comparisons with Taggart's beleaguered 1989 rags squad as football is a very different, much more highly staked sport than it was back then.
Hughes himself was appointed by Thaksin Shinawatra, now long gone. City Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak and Chief Executive Garry Cook who this week has again publicly backed him, have both nailed their colours firmly to Hughes's mast. But if the defeats and the manner of them continue, they will be faced with an increasingly dissatisfied City faithful who could well force their hand if the results and league position don't.
In the immediate future, we need to win some football matches and for that to happen it's time to get those heads out of the clouds and give this season the mother of all kick starts.
BRING IN VAN BOMMEL
In The Baguette's opinion, Bayern Munich's experienced, combative skipper Mark Van Bommel is the ideal man to take City's squad by the scruff of the neck and get it firing. The battling 31 year old is in the final year of his contract at Bayern and a host of European clubs, most notably the club where he made his name PSV Eindhoven, are monitoring the situation.
The Dutch enforcer has the qualities and European experience we are crying out for. His big engine is showing no signs of slowing up and his rocket powered shots would be well appreciated by an Eastlands faithful increasingly groaning at City pussyfooting around packed defences instead of having a go at them. I'll be interested to read what Vital MCers make of this suggestion.
DIARRA BIDDING WAR?
Now this could get silly and could prove the acid test for not only Manchester City's future transfer dealings and pulling power, but for those across European football to boot.
City have been widely reported to be after Portsmouth's prize midfield asset for some time and boy could we use his drive and Premier League experience in the Eastland's engine room.
But. Ex Spurs two pointer Juande Ramos is now at the controls at Real Madrid and is an admirer of the former Gooners and Chelski defensive midfielder.
This could come down to Bernabeu v Eastlands for the Frenchman and money is sure to talk. But will City's hierarchy be prepared to be held to ransom?
BENJANIGATE FALL OUT CONTINUES
Rewind 12 months to that desperate night at the end of January when what we know now was a heavily underfunded Svennis battled to rest Benjani from Portsmouth under the watchful eye of every City fan's favourite agent Willie McKay.
In fairness, as Mark Hughes would say, Benjani has worked hard at City and has hardly ever worked alongside a strike partner. He is hopelessly unsuited to a loan striker roll as our pals at Vital Pompey warned us. Now dodgy injuries and age are combining against him to slowly stifle his City career and ensure Pompey will never get the full whack for his transfer.
I digress. Hard up Portsmouth have been fined £15,000 by the Football Association with a further £15,000 fine suspended for two years following an investigation by an independent regulatory commission into the striker's transfers to and from the south coast.Willie McKay has been given a suspended suspension of his overseas registration.
The story goes that McKay acted on behalf of AJ Auxerre in the transfer of Benjani from the French club to Pompey in January 2006 and then again on Pompey's when Benjani reluctantly left for Manchester.
FA regulations prohibit agents from acting for two different clubs in two consecutive transactions involving the same player. Pompey are gobsmacked at the fine.
- What price Benjani returning south again having played his last game in sky blue?
UEFA CUP KNOCKOUT DRAW FRIDAY
The Draw for the UEFA Cup Knockout Round of 32 will take place in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday, 19th December @ 1300 CET / 1200 GMT.
The First leg will take place on 24th/25th February with the return fixture to be played on 10th/ 11th March.
For full details go to: www.uefa.com/competitions/uefacup/index.html
WHAT'S IN A WORD? THIS WEEK'S QUOTES
'Did I expect us to be where we are? No. Did Mark? No. But you get back on the training ground and figure it out. I don't think that anybody in this club - Khaldoon al-Mubarak and Sheikh Mansour - is having those thoughts (about Hughes' future) at this time and nor should we. We can't predict the results and we can't predict the future. What we can predict is that today and for the foreseeable future, Mark Hughes is our manager. What we don't do is sit around worrying about what happens if it goes wrong.'
- City Chief Exective Garry Cook publicly backs City's manager again.
'It is not a problem with our morale. The mixing between the boys is great, there is no problem. We know results have not gone well. We have a chat after every game and the manager just says we have to up our work-rate and things will turn for us. You look at the table and it doesn't look good at the moment, but we know ourselves we are not playing terribly. It is just things aren't going for us at the moment and we have enough belief in ourselves things will turn around.'
- City skipper Richard Dunne remains defiant despite his unnecessary injury time corner clearance header against Everton.
'We're going to add to the quality of what we've got here. The list of supposed targets keeps on growing and it will no doubt be bigger before we go into the market. The only thing I can assure people is we won't be buying them all.'
- Mark Hughes fends off questions over January's transfer window yet again with many hacks questioning if he will still be in place to spend at that time, or if he'll get his cards should he fail to adequately recruit.
'We're a little bit light on numbers at the moment. A number of the guys are carrying injuries, so that will have an impact, and that's difficult when you've got games coming up thick and fast you have to have a fit and able squad. At the moment we're just struggling a little bit in that respect. We've lost Benjani again at the weekend with a hamstring and he'll probably be out for a number of weeks. We're a bit threadbare in fairness, but we'll see.'
- MH tries to reason why City lost at home for the 5th league game this season.
'It's hard, but the only way to deal with it is to keep our heads up and work hard in training and focus on the next game. We've had it against Liverpool and the last thing we should do is start doubting in ourselves. We still believe strongly and I'm sure the next game will confirm the fact that mentally we are strong.'
- One of our few regular performers Vincent Kompany joins his skipper in sounding a battle cry. Let's hope the rest of the squad are listening Vinny.
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, Craig Bellamy - West Ham, Thierry Henry - Barcelona, Fernando Torres - Liverpool………to be continued…..
UEFA GROUP RIVALS WATCH
Almeria 1 Racing Santander 1: Our next opponents pretty dreary, inconsistent City-ish form continues with a draw on the road. They remain in the bottom half of the La Liga Table.
TSG Hoffenheim 1 Schalke 04 1: Schalke continue to stutter, remaining in mid table. They could well be out of both the European competitions they have taken part in later this week.
Auxerre 1 PSG 2: Yet another league win for PSG. Paul Le Guen's policy of prioritising Ligue 1 in favour of scraping through in Europe may yet pay off in Paris this week if he finally decides to go for it in what could be a cracker with FC Twente. PSG are now only 3 points behind league leaders Olympique Lyon.
FC Groningen 1 FC Twente 4: McClueless? Since that unlucky defeat against City FC Twente have gone mad for it, dishing out another thrashing last weekend, this time on the road in the Eredivisie. Twente have rocketed to third in the league. Though Paris will be a nasty place to be this week, on current form Twente are surely sound bets to win the group and avoid sides knocked out of the Champions League.
WE WEREN'T REALLY THERE? THE FINAL SCORE THIS WEEK 10 YEARS AGO -
THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ALL TIME LOW POINT - LEST WE FORGET
Football League Division One
@ Bootham Crescent, 19TH December 1998
York 2 (1) - 1(1) Man City
Scorers: Connelly 2, Dawson 86 / Russell 33
Man City: Weaver, Horlock, Edghill, Fenton, Vaughan, Crooks, Brown, Pollock (Whitley, 69), Taylor, Bishop, Russell (Allsopp, 79)
Sub not used: Mason
Attendance: 7, 527
Real Racing Club de Santander
@ Estadio El Sardinero
UEFA Cup Group A
Thursday 18th December 2008 @ 1945 GMT
The Citizens Last 6 PL games: L,D,W,L,D,L
Racinguistas Last 6 La Liga games: W,L,W,L,D,D
Internet: (Site in English)http://www.realracingclub.es/en/
Johnny On The Spot?
Based on the lack of drive or enthusiasm the majority of Mark Hughes' squad are currently displaying, I think we will go down again here. Racing have more to play for and I cannot imagine that a half-arsed City side knowing they are already qualified will be that motivated to win the Group and avoid ex Champions League opposition. Prove me wrong, Blues.
Racing 1 City 0
NEXT OPPONENTS BUT ONE:
West Bromwich Albion
@ The Hawthorns
FA Premier League
Sunday 21st December 2008 @ 1330 GMT
The Citizens Last 6 PL games: L,D,W,L,D,L
The Baggies Last 6 PL games: L,L,L,L,D,L
Internet: www.wba.premiumtv.co.uk/ www.wba.vitalfootball.co.uk
Vital MC hopes to be bringing you a Mag 7 Fans interview with WBA before Sunday's latest must win clash.
Johnny On The Spot?
Surely City can beat West Brom. Surely? The Baggies have gone into freefall, as City are threatening to do, but lie only 6 points behind us in the league. Without wishing to offend West Brom fans, there is very little to be added to what has been said and agonized over before. Defeat would be as unacceptable as any that we have suffered thus far in what has become a grueling campaign. On current form and options available, I can only foresee a drab relegation battle draw.
WBA 0 City 0
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