Writer: Johnny Baguette
Date:Thursday April 2 2009
The Vital City Zen
LAST OF THE FAMOUS INTERNATIONAL BREAKS
...for this season at least! Time to get back to business with The Vital City Zen...
...as Mark Hughes prepares to welcome back City`s travelling stars at the end of the latest international break...
As the team stuttered somewhat towards the end of our last league game, the win over Sunderland, many of us were full of relief that the City squad had the chance of a break from a hectic season. That hasn't proved to be the case for a lot of our players who have been on international duty.
The game at Arsenal was always going to be daunting, but the sick list at City is threatening to expand again.
Robinho limped off injured in Brazil's 3-0 win over Peru, Wales' Craig Bellamy's worrying knee problems persist and Vinny Kompany, SWP, Valeri Bojinov, Shay Given and Richard Dunne have all had discomfort and inability to train with their countries this week. Meanwhile, Wayne Bridge will be touch and go for Saturday.
Elano and Robinho's knackering jetlag can't be of help to the situation, either.
These international breaks are quite often contentious and you have to question the international fixture planning that has seen this latest break fall at such a crucial time of the European season.
Furthermore, most of the players mentioned above all went into the break carrying injuries so should they have been allowed to travel? You only have to look outside the city to consider what Sir Taggart would have done.
In the meantime, Benjani and Danny Sturridge are back in full training and likely to play a part on Saturday should the likes of Bellamy and Robinho fail to make it.
Encouraging news comes in the form of Michael Johnson and Martin Petrov's increasingly successful comebacks. Rigsby will be appearing in the reserves any game now.
KIT BAG MATTERS
April Fool's tomfoolery aside, there has been plenty of City kit and shirt sponsorship debate knocking about this past week or so.
There have been some dazzling and dreadful images of potential kits posted out there.
We've seen Umbro, Nike, Adidas and Etihad Airways all thrown into the mix. The smart money remains on an Umbro and Etihad tie up as Le Coq Sportif and Thomas Cook end their City contracts. Whatever happens, I can't see Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon al Mubarak's high standards allowing the side to take the field in some of the chavvish imagery we've seen this week!
THE CLEAR OUT: TAXI, MINIBUS OR DOUBLE DECKER?
The small matter of a double full house fever pitch UEFA Cup Quarter Final and a battle for a seventh place Premier League finish aside, thoughts have been turning to who is offski from Eastlands as Mark Hughes prepares for his first full summer as City's gaffer.
Danny Mills, Didi Hamman and Darius Vassell are dead certs for the off, but reports suggest that the clear out could be far reaching. Javier Garrido, Gelson Fernandes, Benjani, Felipe Caicedo and City Academy graduates Kelvin Etuhu, Kasper Schmeichel, Ched Evans and Danny Sturridge could all be up the road.
And of course, the question marks remain over the futures of samba stars Jo, Robinho and Elano.
The fact is that events and results between now and the final game of this long season will dictate exactly who stays and goes. The players will know that they must perform in order to stay on board the Eastlands rollercoaster.
WHAT'S IN A WORD? THIS WEEK'S QUOTES
'It will not be a case of us trying to stop them playing, because I have a lot of talent at my disposal. It is about having a game plan that will prevent Arsenal dictating the tempo of the play for 90 minutes. It isn't a matter of getting in the faces of the Arsenal players and being physical, it is about having an effect on their game that enhances your own game. And we have more tools at our disposal than when we beat them at home earlier in the season.'
- Mark Hughes prepares to do battle with Arsenal.
'He wants to be involved in everything that we are doing and he is also a proud Englishman who wants to be part of that international set-up as much as he can. Shaun just loves playing football, that is the top and bottom of it. He has a love of the game that is plain for everyone to see.'
- Sparky sings the praises of City`s Blueheart, Shaun Wright-Phillips.
'We will have to see at the end of the season. I'm not a regular in the City team and I'm really not happy about that, and also about my own form.'
- Gelson Fernandes, for all his early promise prepares to bow to the inevitable.
'I am used to being moved around the team in Spain and Argentina. I can play wherever I need to - midfield is no problem and it adds to the experience of my first season here. Right-back is my natural position but I have no problem in midfield even if it means a different workload. I enjoy it. I want to be at City for a long time, and if international recognition comes with that, then perfect.'
- Pablo Zabaleta, one of the revelations of our season looks to drop anchor in Manchester.
'Squad planning still goes on, because after a transfer window has closed you look at what you feel are the strengths and weaknesses of the squad as it now stands, and then you plan accordingly. It's not an exact science. Sometimes the players you feel will help the cause are not available; some players already at the club will be coming to the end of their contracts, and you have to make a decision on them. But it's also about what talent is coming up through the ranks. You have to make sure that the progress of your younger players is in place, so there are a lot of factors to throw into the mix when planning.'
- Mark Hughes reaffirms his commitment to the MCFC Academy...
'My focus is totally on making Manchester City a success in the future. I work all the hours that God gives us to make sure that happens.'
...and to Manchester City.
WE WEREN'T REALLY THERE? THE FINAL SCORE THIS WEEK 10 YEARS AGO
Football League Division One
Deepdale, Preston, 5th April 1999
Preston 1 (1) - 1 (1) CITY
Scorer: Brown 2
City: Weaver, Crooks, Edghill, Vaughan, Morrison, Pollock (Bishop,64), Brown, Horlock, Gareth Taylor (Robins,57), Goater, Cooke
Sub not used: Allsopp
Attendance: 20, 857
10 Year Match Facts: A mid-day kick off saw City fall behind to a Preston goal after only 52 seconds! City saviour Joe Royle announced afterwards that the side had to aim to win their last six game in a bid to make the top two and get out of our third tier hell.
@ The Emirates Stadium, Laandaarn Taarn.
FA Premier League
Saturday 4th April 2009 @ 1500 GMT+1 BST
The Citizens Last 6 PL games: LDLWLW
Arsenal Last 6 PL games: DDDWWW
Vital MC aims to be bringing you our Magnificent Seven Fans Q&A with Arsenal before the game.
Johnny On The Spot?
The Blues head south in search of our second double of the season, dare I say it, but the opponents don't come much tougher than an Arsenal side who have struck 10 goals in their last 3 league games.
If fit, City's defensive midfield pairing of Vinny Kompany and Nigel De Jong will be absolutely key in City maintaining a recently much improved defensive record.
Both sides will be hoping their international stars all return home fit and well for the big end of season run-in. City already have major doubts over a number of players whereas The Arsenal will be welcoming back Captain Cesc Fabregas.
I think we have it in us to come away with a valuable point. The laws of probability say we can't go on for ever winless on the road, either.
There's a good spirit about the side and the fanbase with plenty of positive noises coming out of interviews. If City aim to play instead of opting for the containment plan that failed at Chelski, we could catch Arsenal cold.
Arsenal 1 City 1
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Date:Thursday April 2 2009
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