Writer: Johnny Baguette
Date:Friday February 16 2007
Stuart Pearce and his management team will have had their work cut out this week. Paul Simpson's Preston North End away present a stern challenge in the FA Cup 5th round and a City team lacking confidence and a comfortable playing system needs to improve dramatically if we are to win at Deepdale. Once again, the onus is on the senior players, many of whom have let us down so badly this season to keep their heads and lead the Academy players through as difficult a cup tie as they come.
Surprise package of the week has to be the arrival of Belgian international striker Emile Mpenza at SportCity. The package is not quite so surprising when we realise he easily fulfils the Pearce & Wigley 'Consistently Injured' prerequisite for most of their signings. Outside of his time with Al Rayyan in Qatar, through five seasons with Schalke 04, Hamburg SV and the Belgian national side he has started only 68 games, a record that beats City crock legends Reyna and Sinclair by a Dumbo Dabo backpass come cross and shot into outer space.
Judging by last summer's, and this January's panic buy barrel scraping is this yet another shoulder sagging MCFC reality check of where we stand financially? Maybe, maybe not. Having packed it in at Al Rayyan, Mpenza's agent has been circulating in the North West and I'd say City's willingness to meet his wage demands could have drawn him towards Ashton New Road.
It's not all bad news though. Those 68 starts realised 23 goals and he's scored 17 goals in 52 international appearances so he certainly knows where the onion bag is. The lad says he has a point to prove back home so let's hope for a mid season impact that combines the guts and effort of an Uwe Rosler and the presence of a Shaun Goater!!
There seems little point in debating the other team news, bemoaning the likelihood of missing the tireless Darius Vassell, guessing which tactical system will be employed or whether or not the likes of Djamel Abdoun or Daniel Sturridge will be selected ahead of the senior failures Pearce has signed. The squad know what they have to do and they had better start delivering quickly.
Defeat at Deepdale is unthinkable for Stuart Pearce and his backroom staff. Their positions would surely become untenable should that happen. Unavoidable facts will stare them in the face when the team next take the field in the Premiership at Arsenal. A dreadful 33 points have been accrued in the last 38 league games. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and the rags have to be played inside our last 12 fixtures. Other sides we face are gunning for Europe.
The nightmare scenario of a continued nosedive in results and the likes of the Hammers or Charlton putting together a run would combine to see us relegated. This remains a distinct possibility.
Stuart Pearce can consider himself fortunate that football management nemesis Peter Swales is no longer the Chairman at Manchester City, otherwise he would have been dispensed with months ago. It could be that John Wardle's rudderless board will continue to ride their luck and keep faith with him until an amicable parting of the England Under 21 ways in the summer. They'll be hoping we manage to stay up and keep going in the cup. On the other hand, continued failure leading to increasingly dwindling attendances, crowd unrest and flagging seasoncard sales may well dictate that they must bow to the inevitable and sack him in an effort to save our Premiership status. Who they could recruit with the neccessary experience at this stage of the season is debatable and big money would have to come into that equation. The Manchester City board know they dug us into this hole and they must get us out of it unless there is a miracle turnaround in results.
Blues, our season rests on a knife edge.
Date:Friday February 16 2007
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