Long, Long Way To Go
In order to make sure of our Premiership status City must maintain the creditable work rate they showed against a hardly admirable Chelski team last night.
There's still a long, long way to go this season and we have to take heart from the fact that we held posession against Chelsea for long periods and something resembling a team spirit and willingness to work for each other was emerging. Yet once again, our inability to regularly create chances and open defences up was our downfall. Our team continues to cry out for a Benarbia or a Berkovic type of player that can unlock teams. Tens of thousands of us have bemoaned this for two years but somehow, the management team don't see it. Stevie Ireland worked incredibly hard but shouldering him with the responsibility to make things happen is too much. Didi Hamman was much improved but we deserve more from him.
The inclusion of Emile Mpenza from the off gave the forward line a much improved lift. On the evidence we saw last night he links up play well and works hard. Indeed, he looked twice the striker Corradi, Samaras and Dickov are. You get the feeling that if he can get hold of one, it's going in. Let's hope his fitness increases for the run-in. Vassell was tireless alongside him but he and others had a tendency to take themselves on when the easier options were there to take.
I was pleased to see Abba Isaksson get the start he deserves. He looks to have a cool head on him and again, we are going to need that attitude for the rest of the season.
City's new found commitment last night made the result all the more frustrating. I began to feel as the game wore on what a shame it would be for the backbone of this side to be broken up when inevitable change comes. In front of Isaksson, Richard Dunne was awesome again and I was pleased to see Sylvain Distin looking out for the distraught Micah Richards after the penalty incident. Richards seems mentally knackered and looks like he could do with a break no matter what the Chelsea fawning London hacks say after so many have slated him for that challenge. The trouble is we have no other option and he is going to need all the help he can get from the senior pro's to get him through this. Michael Ball on the other side of the park increasingly looks the business.
Manchester City fans will always reward 100% commitment and they did so with a tremendous show of loyalty and support last night. If only our team had given anywhere near the effort they made last night throughout this season we would certainly be in mid table as opposed to where we are now.
So that's the positives dealt with.
In reality, the same old tactical naivety was there for all to see. Why oh why Joey Barton for every single free kick and corner? Nothing EVER comes from them so why continue with this ridiculous approach? We know he can shoot so why not have him outside the box ready for drop downs?
Once again, the substitutions were questionable. The shape that had amazingly been maintained for much of the match started to go with the inclusion of Samaras which smacked of desperation. That said, it is not his fault that City paid that embarrassing fee for him. I do not believe he should have been ridiculed when he came on. It was painful to see and will get him and ourselves nowhere. As long as the team give it all they've got we must get behind them regardless of what is going on at boardroom and management level.
Meanwhile, the inclusion of Dickov and Dabo on the bench was frankly ridiculous and as far as I am concerned left us two players down, they are that ineffective. Sun Jihai hardly sets the world alight either.
As for Stuart Pearce and co, the optimism I took from last night's efforts has been tempered by the same old post match soundbite quotes such as the 'need to be cuter.' The continued silence from the boardroom is deafening. It could be that the effort last night has provided a stay of execution. Could be it's too little, too late. It's anybody's guess what will happen should we lose yet again at the Riverside. You would be hard pressed to find any top flight club that has held on to a manager with such a poor record as Pearce's for as long as we have. The fact is we need goals Stuart, and if we don't start scoring rapidly, we are going down. Cut the crap and shake things up. Ball to take free kicks for starters.
Finally, Chelsea. Aided and abetted by an over protective referee, they looked as self obsessed, big headed and lazy an outfit as they come. Considering their massive salaries, the majority of them showed Manchester City and their own travelling supporters little or no respect by clearly going through the motions, fully expecting to walk it. Beats me how brave players like Cech and Terry put up with the play acting antics of their team mates. Superstars like the howling Robben, screaming Cole and whingeing Drogba could take a leaf out of young players books like Ishmael Miller's who when clattered or even touched, get up and get on with it. To see those prima donnas go down as if shot with one eye on the referee then immediately get up again was pathetic. I can't imagine how honest, long serving Chelsea fans I've met down the years stomach it.
Not one hack has questioned the so called Champions behaviour last night in their reports. Maybe they are all in favour of football becoming a non body contact sport. Similar thinking saw the Football League chairman call for the abolition of drawn games in favour of penalty shoot outs. Football? Not as we've ever known it.