City v Birmingham Preview & More
Pedmachine sent VMC the following.
If you don't play in midweek what could be quieter than a Thursday for football news?
The Academy team beat LA Galaxy yesterday at Platt Lane 2-1, leaving their coaches bemused at the quality of footballer (or soccer player) that they were up against and we learned that Bert Trautmann is in town to host a dinner to celebrate 60 years since he signed for City. Sadly he couldn't make it earlier in the season when St Helens Town hosted a Manchester City ex-players team at the Regional Athletics Arena, but at least I managed to get my hands on one of the special match programmes, which I will get Bert to sign during his stay.
Bert actually played in the first City match I saw (I think we lost 4-2 to Arsenal) and I went with my entire family to see his Benefit Match which featured a Manchester XI against an England XI where Law & Charlton played alongside Bert and a host of City players at the time.
We had a pretty non-descript team at the time as George Poyser was getting set to hand over to Joe Mercer but I think players like Alex Harley was getting close to the end of his City career and Alan Oakes and Neil Young had just started theirs.
So we move on to this weekend's fixture against Birmingham City and the start of a very tricky run-in where each match gets more difficult. Birmingham haven't been spectacular on the road, beating the bottom feeders, Southampton in the Carling Cup, Derby and surprisingly Everton in the FA Cup. But even without their player of the season (Joe Hart) they proved quite a handful for us at St Andrews and without Shay Given's magnificent penalty save, would and should have beaten us.
They seem to defend a little bit like a basketball team. They seem happy to surrender the wide and deep, between the lateral edges of the penalty area and the touch and by-lines and resolutely defend the 18-yard box believing that they can get the first head to a crossed ball, bodily block any second-phase shots and failing that Joe Hart will bail them out.
Their matches are not high scoring generally. There is a 3-2 win away to Wigan and a 2-2 draw at Anfield but most games average only one or two goals. So City need to get in amongst these defenders. Adebayor is a 'must' selection and he must be looking to disturb their defenders from the crosses that will no doubt abound from Johnson and Bellers. Tevez will need to be hunting on the floor and get his customary goal.
We need to be robust in midfield and not conceded to many free kicks which present Birmingham with threatening set pieces or provide them with a springboard for a counter-attack. Given will need to be alert and for me more commanding in his 6-yard box. Birmingham will play on the fact that he doesn't come out all that often and try to load the area as much as possible but it is the back line that will need to be it's toes and for me that back line must include Onuoha.
I have always thought that had it not been for injury Nedum would have become a first team player ahead of Richards. He is more articulate, faster, just as strong and has better positional sense be that in the centre or at right back. In addition he could be the one to nullify the late threat of Kevin Phillips who nearly always comes on a late impact sub. So for me Nedum at right back is a must. He was the most solid defender in the second half of last season and together with the influx of new players was one of the reasons Mark Hughes felt he could do without Richard Dunne.
Much has been said over the last number of months as to whether Joe Hart will move permanently to Birmingham or return to City and for me, if there is no intent to sign another goalkeeper I would bring him back. His season long loan to Birmingham has seen this young man's game improve immeasurable and like all City fans I would love to see him get a berth in South Africa. He is comfortably the best performing English goalkeeper week-in week-out in the Premier League. Thankfully he cannot remind us on Sunday just how good he is and we must hope that Maik Taylor is ring rusty and visiting the back of his net regularly throughout the afternoon.
If we are fully in focus with this match we will win but we must not surrender to the kind of anti-football tactics deployed by Everton, should Birmingham decide that that could be a route to a result. Birmingham's only real sound beatings were by Chelsea 0-3, Arsenal 1-3 and of all teams Sunderland 1-3. Most of their matches finish with 1s & 2s in the goals columns. So maybe following on the back of our win against Burnley, maybe we can improve on that.
It might be on Sky but get yourselves along there, fill the house and let's get the world prepared for Manchester City in the Champions League!!