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The Vital City Zen: City's Half Term Report

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2008-2009 HALF TERM REPORT

This has been an astonishing 12 months even by Manchester City standards and this has so far proved an erratic season to say the least!

We now stand at a crossroads in the clubs history as His Highness Sheikh Mansour bids to take the club forward under Mark Hughes. JB delivers his MCFC Management and Squad Half Term Report...

Khaldoon Al Mubarak, Chairman

Has come across as a man of great dignity and one who commands respect as many of his Highness Sheikh Mansour's people have done. Wasn't up for Frank's Rocky style public arm waving when he first took his chair at Eastlands. A businessman on a calmly assured mission. Shades of a young David Bernstein. To his credit, he refuses to press the panic button.

Garry Cook, Chief Executive and Paul Aldridge Chief Operating Officer

Not being a businessman, I still don't fully understand their roles, but I recognise the importance of these king makers at Manchester City on a modern day global scale. Aldridge is the more low profile of the pair, but from a purely football fan based point of view, Garry 'Globalised' Cook has had me cringing with some of his statements. I hope he simmers down as he gets to know the club and our fans. His reassurances over the MCFC Academy's future have been welcomed.

Mark Hughes and The Management Team.

Whichever way you look at it, the jury remains out for Bluesy/Leslie/Sparky Hughes and he'd be the first to acknowledge it. We've seen some breathtaking City performances alongside some absolutely appalling ones, encapsulated this Christmas week in smashing Hull and then struggling to cope with Blackburn. He has regularly tinkered with the team unsuccessfully and some of his substitutions and tactics have been mystifying. Many Blues fear he might ditch an attacking formation in favour of a more conservative one. That said, his young, naiive and relatively small City squad have now played 32 competitive games this season, scored 38 league goals and qualified for the last 32 of the UEFA Cup which is no mean feat. To his credit he has given almost every squad member an opportunity to prove himself.

He has promised us a strong second half of the season and it remains to be seen just how successfully he can strengthen the squad in key areas during a January transfer window notorious for a lack of major signings. All eyes on Eastlands' revolving doors.

1. Joe Hart

When you consider the lad's age and what has been asked of him, he's done exceptionally well, saving us from embarrassment on numerous occasions. But he's far from the finished article and still learning. City's hierarchy may still yet move for an experienced international keeper to steady the defence while Harty takes a back seat.

16. Kasper Schmeichel

Has got up a few of our noses this season with repeated media protestations about how good he is. He was bloody awful when his chance came at Brighton but since then he's shown a big improvement when called upon. Needs to stick around and keep working.

3. Michael Ball

A steady professional but has often been over-run this season. Little else to add save to say that his position, like Garrido's is clearly under threat if not in January, then next summer as City look to move ahead. His public refusal to warm up when instructed by Hughes was petulant and he was rightly fined.

26. Tal Ben-Haim

TBH has struggled in a City shirt only occasionally proving to be our best defender which is saying something. His poor distribution and frequent lack of comfort in possession epitomises City's defensive season.

36. Glauber Berti

Decades ago we referred to the ex-Rotherham defender Nigel Johnson as the Scarlet Pimpernel because nobody ever saw him in a City shirt. Glauber Berti has been spied running down the touchline but that's about it for the Brazilian loan star.

22.Richard Dunne

You don't get to win City's Player of The Year four times running without having something about you, but this season Dunney's been bloody awful. Either with poor distribution or visibly not holding the side together vocally, it's been going pear shaped far more often than not. I suggest his position is under review.

15. Javier Garrido

Garrido can best be summed up as 'great going forward, crap going backward.' When overlapping in a 442 as we saw so often with Petrov he can be dynamite and invariably, he's been our best defender on occasions this season which is quite an accolade considering how woeful our defending has been.

30. Shaleum Logan

Shaleum is a talented lad and has been creeping back into the gaffer's thoughts. It will be interesting to see what happens to him as City begin to address an overhaul of the squad.

18. Danny Mills

File under 'Inexplicable.'

4. Nedum Onuoha

Ned's call to be substituted after breaking down again at Blackburn could well signal the beginning of the end for this MCFC Academy graduate's City career. His potential remains enormous but his injuries are becoming relentless and you cannot see City carrying too many passengers if the Sheikh's plans are to be realised.

2. Micah Richards

I think Micah's career is stalling and this is a crucial phase for him. He needs someone to guide him through it, get back to basics and learn his trade. He and the gaffer need to decide what his best position is and stick with it. The lad has a lot to live up to now and it's clear that Fabio Crapello can see something is wrong.

5. Pablo Zabaleta

One of the finds of the season and our most solid right back or many years. The tough Argie has won us over with his battling commitment but he needs to reign in his tendency to dive in which could prove crucial in the big games to come. Myself, like other Vital MCers would like to see Zab tried out in the midfield engine room.

19. Gelson Fernandes

He's gone from Tasmanian Devil at Newcastle one year ago to the Headless Chicken we see now. Far too often he has charged out of position leaving glaring gaps and has proved something of a liability in some clashes. He could well be gone either in January or the Summer.

21. Dietmar Hamann

Didi is one of the great campaigners and showed his European class and credentials in guiding City to that vital UEFA Cup victory over Schalke. But a few days later against the rags he was ruthlessly exposed in a league where you are afforded very little time. Not long now until he calls it quits. Sadly refused to warm up when requested and appropriately fined.

6. Michael Johnson

A worrying situation continues to develop around Johnno. Rumours and sightings of him out on the town living off his future promise have continued, as has his persistent abdominal injury. Mystery surrounds the Academy lad's City career which is utterly on hold. We desperately need a box to box midfielder. How much longer can City wait for him?

33. Vincent Kompany

Alongside Zab and SWP, an inspired Hughes signing who has adapted to the rigours of the Premier League with consumate ease. Vinny's efforts merit a far higher league placing than City have right now, but with the right support alongside him, he could become one of the game's greats.

11. Elano Blumer

Bewildering. Elano is in truth a pale shadow of the player we saw running City's play 15 months ago. His City career has gone of the rails and he was rightly fined by MH for gobbing off when he should be focusing on his game. For all his recent poor performances, we musn't forget what he is capable of. I'm not sure though that the gaffer agrees.

25. Nery Castillo

The Mexican formerly known as 'El Diablo' arrived with so much promise but has been an abject failure. It is simply a matter of time before he leaves The Blues. Get rid.

29. Kelvin Etuhu

Injury has held back the big Academy striker's promising development and rather like Nedum and Shaleum he stands at something of a Manchester City crossroads.

7. Stephen Ireland

The Player Of The First Half Of The Season Award winner. 8 Vital MC Man of The Match Awards across all competitions tell their own story. 'Superman' has been a revelation this season and with age on his side can only get better. The Republic's loss continues to be Manchester City's gain.

17. Martin Petrov

Boy, have we missed Rigsby. What we'd have given to see him standing gloved hands on hips bemoaning a crap refereeing decision, nevermind terrorising defences. His injury is a serious one and he'll be 30 when he returns maybe at the end of the season. Dare I say it, we may have seen the best of his brilliance in a City shirt.

8. Shaun Wright-Phillips

Runner Up for The Player Of The First Half Of The Season Award. MH brought SWP home and the quicksilver Blue battler has not stopped fighting for the cause. He's made a mockery of the old footballing adage 'never go back.' He's tired a little of late but that's hardly surprising. Surely a future City Captain.

14. Jô

Frank Shinawatra's signing from CSKA Moscow when the rest of us had been calling for his berserking team mate Wagner Love. His poor first touch and lost Basketball player image are Samarasesque and he just does not look up for it at all. Worse still. rightly rollocked for off field indiscipline and regularly reporting sick. Rockets have been fired up his arse, indeed financial one's, but nothing doing. Get rid.

10. Robinho

Noel Gallagher once said that there's nothing that Johnny Marr can't do with a guitar. Well, I feel the same way about Robinho and a football. He's sensational, been worth every pound of 'Sheikh Mancity's' outlay and more. A surprisingly team orientated player with an admirable work rate. 11 league goals in 15 appearances has answered the hacks who said he would struggle to adapt to the English game. We love him.

9. Valeri Bojinov

The Boj has had a tragic start to his City career, but that promise still burns bright. In the close season we began to see what the young Bulgarian is capable of before his achilles snapped at Villa. His rappor with the fans was evident. He isn't known as 'Raging Bull' for nothing, and with time on his side, he has stunned the medical staff with his latest comeback. One to hold on to, take care of and then unleash.

20. Felipe Caicedo

A surprise package in recent games after becoming the forgotten man of the City squad. He's been building himself up and could well prove to become a very useful impact player for the Blues squad.

24. Ched Evans

For all his admirable efforts, I don't think Chedwyn has got what it takes to become established at this level. Unless he can start scoring consistently I reckon the Aacdemy star will be sold next summer.

27. Benjani Mwaruwari

A right nice bloke by all accounts but a right Bernardo Crappadi style offside specialist if ever there was one. A tremendously hard worker, but injury prone and not a lone striker as Vital Pompey warned us. What price he returns south?

28. Daniel Sturridge

A class finisher with tremendous goal scoring instinct who had us worried last month with some half arsed performances. His terrific finish at Blackburn and understanding with Robinho reminds us that this is an Academy star to fight tooth and nail to keep.

12. Darius Vassell

If trophies were handed out for tireless running then Vass, another nice fella, would be a living legend. But they aren't and with very little end product to his game, the clock is ticking for his City career. Gone by the summer.

- What do you reckon? Bang On Target or Bollocks? Give us your views on the squad's performance both here and in our City Chat forum.

WHAT'S IN A WORD? THIS WEEK'S QUOTES

'We showed great resolve to keep going. In the past we have struggled to get anything from games like this.'

- Mark Hughes can't hide his delight after lightweight City fight back to draw 2-2 at Blackburn despite a quintessentially rubbish performance up to 88 minutes.

'Hopefully he will get the chance in January to show what he can do in the transfer market. His attitude is pretty chilled and maybe there has been a bit of a panic too soon. I think it will more likely be a few players that will fit in around us who know the Premier League and will strengthen the squad.'

- City Skipper Richard Dunne reckons Bluesy can make things happen in January.

'I was eager to show I belong at first-team level. I know the club might buy players in January but that doesn't worry me as I am willing to fight for my minutes on the pitch. Hopefully in years to come I might be considered a world-class player.'

- The shy and retiring Daniel Sturridge remains determined as ever, so sod off Chelski.

'We have not had the benefit of one transfer window yet. We need to go through three or four before we can even suggest that we are going to challenge at the top end. There will come a point when everybody says 'this is the moment when we can have a real go.' We are nowhere near yet, everybody has to understand that.'

- Bluesy calls for calm before the January transfer window swings open.

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, Roque Santa Cruz - Blackburn Rovers, Matthew Upson - West Ham, Luis Fabiano - Sevilla, Marcos Senna - Villareal, Scott Parker - West Ham, Jermaine Defoe - Portsmouth, Michael Owen - Newcastle, Shay Given - Newcastle………to be continued...

WE WEREN'T REALLY THERE? THE FINAL SCORE THIS WEEK 10 YEARS AGO

FA Cup - Third Round
@ Selhurst Park on 2nd January 1999

MK Dons 1(0) - 0(0) Man City
Scorer: Cort 62

City: Weaver, Whitley, Vaughan, Wiekens, Morrison (sent off 74), Horlock, Brown, Pollock (Russell, 84), Taylor, Goater, Dickov

Subs not used: Wright, Bishop, Whitley, Shelia

Attendance: 11,226

NEXT OPPONENTS:

Nottingham Forest
@ The City of Manchester Stadium

FA Cup Third Round
Saturday 3rdth January 2009 @ 1500 GMT

The Citizens Last 6 PL games: W,L,D,L,W,D

Forest Last 6 Championship games: D,L,D,W,L,W

Internet: www.nottinghamforest.co.uk/ www.forest.vitalfootball.co.uk

- We will be bringing you our FA Cup Mag 7 Fans Q&A with Vital Forest once the New Year has dawned.

Johnny On The Spot?

Forest, one of the great clubs of English football offer us a frightening reminder of the hell City battled to escape from a decade ago. The VCZ's Final Score section gives us another weekly reminder, lest we forget.

In turmoil following Colin Calderwood's sacking, Forest recordered an admirable 2-3 win at Norwich last weekend. We can expect their team and their fans to give it everything at Eastlands this week without the pressure of a relegation dogfight.

However, providing MH remembers what happened at Brighton in the League Cup debacle and does not make wholesale changes, we should see them off.

City 4 Forest 0

VITAL MC INFO:

- When the first whistle blows, don't forget to join the Vital MC Community on our popular Live Match Thread in the Forums on match days.

Vital Manchester City is growing fast and there's more to come - Be Here Now and join our worldwide community:

The journalist

Writer: Johnny Baguette Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday December 29 2008

Time: 6:36PM

Your Comments

Spot on JB with your assessment of the squad. Can't wait to see The Boj back in the firing line.
alphieblues
The word is he is back in training although we have yet to hear from one of our spies in the bushes at Carrington as to whether or not this is pukka. He's reknowned for his fighting spirit.
Johnny Baguette
Great summary JB, although Im not saying sell Jo just yet. I think he will come good in the end, given the chance and a change in his attitude. Bring on 2009!
darryl28
Cheers, D. I fear the worst for the lad, but feel I've seen enough to reckon that we should cut our losses. I bet he goes out on loan....
Johnny Baguette
Another excellent article Mr JB.
Tudor
Great focus JB! Agree with all except Joao. Like darryl28 I still think he can come good 2009.
Sindbad
Loan Jo to everton since they have no strikers and are interested. he gets the experience and a fresh start when he comes back, and we don't lost Ł10+ mill on him
darryl28
Well done again!!! Great article!!! Time for a change!!! Mirobolant!!! ;-) Greetings from Gelsenkirchen!
Markus
Respect going out to all at Schalke who did City fans proud!
Johnny Baguette
excellent article as usual JB......the only thing I have to say about the first half of the season is ......if only........we hadnt had the long term injuries to Petrov...Boj....and MJ........I bet we wouldnt be in the position we are now......all three of those players would get a starting place in any of the current top five teams....never mind at City...!!!
lincolnblue
You and me both lb and cheers. Johnno has so much potential and we know all about Rigsby of course. Certainly where The Boj is concerned, you don't make Juve's first team at 15 without having something about you. To have them all back by Easter would be magic if perhaps unrealistic considering their situations.
Johnny Baguette
Unfortunately I think we might not see Rigsby again this season....or perhaps he might just be fit for the next round of Internationals !!!
alphieblues
I think you are right alphie. At 30, that was a bad, bad injury.
Johnny Baguette
Amazing Analysis JB, Think you , But are you sure about Petrov age ?!, Becouse I remember ( If I not wrong ) in last year when we contract with him, His age was 26!!, And I want ask you about " Shaleum Logan " is he play in left or right foot ?.
city 81
Merci, city 81! First up, Shaleum is a quick right back if my memory serves me correctly. Mr. Petrov will be 30 in two weeks time, born 15 January 1979.
Johnny Baguette
JB, Hughes has indicated a slow build up of players but if we are to be as good as the Sheiks want us to be then I would expect at least one world class player this Jan and at least 2 in the summer. I agree with your squad assessment. We should look at what Benitez has done at Liverpool though in having a huge squad of decent players and keeping them happy. In comparison, we have a long way to go.
Barney Daniels
 

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