Johnny On The Spot - August Review
Happy tedious International Break, Planet Blue!
It was the month that almost had it all. Some strange comings and goings on and off various parks, long journeys for our travelling army and City being on the receiving end yet again of domestic and European draw ready ups.
It was an odd few weeks all told. We not only saw some predictably unpredictable Pep Guardiola team selections but also some predictably unpredictable Premier League refereeing. I'll run the rule over Pep's approach towards the end of this review, but firstly, those refs. The men in the middle are already struggling to keep up the pace and quite frankly, aside of the justifiable frustration of many a Blue conspiracy theorist, it looks to me as if guess work has become a major part of an English referee's make up. Already in this fledgling season we have seen clear and present last defender dismissals denied and ludicrous sending offs for Kyle Walker and Raz Sterling. The former for body contact, the latter for celebrating a last minute goal up close with his fans. The sanitisation of the game is reaching ridiculous proportions, aided and abetted by bandwaggoning hacks and pundits whose moralising shrieks against anyone but their undisguised personal favourites is truly lamentable. I see no sign of this stopping any time soon unless technology is brought in. We've already seen in Europe how pathetic goal line liners are.
Some of the strangest activity last month revolved around Chile and hapless Arsenal's for not much longer Alexis Sanchez. Somebody, somewhere, most probably his agent, leaked the ball rolling months ago that City were in for the Tevez-ish forward but bizarrely, after a series of Arsehole Whinger denials, City bids didn't come in until the last day of a 1.4 billion pounds summer transfer window (which should certainly close at the end of July as it renders the actual football almost incidental). There than followed a three way ping-pong of activity that involved Monaco, City and the Ashburton Grove Bottling Factory (copyright The Pedmachine) over an agreed fee for wantCity Sanchez and Arsenal's desperate bid to secure Thomas Lemar. Operation Lemar duly failed and word reached Ashton New Road that the Sanchez deal was er, off. Cue a crestfallen Alexis and Guardiola kicking the family cat. Only himself and the City board know why Sanchez, if so key to our aspirations was not pursued earlier. This episode and an inexplicable and unseemly Tony Pulis publicly declared pursuit of West Brom's Jonny Evans served to tarnish what had been an excellent transfer window for City. Having brought in some shrewd acquistions, the Blues had registered a 133 million quid net spend having offloaded 93 million quid's worth of outgoing players. It will be interesting to see what Pep says at this week's Liverpool presser, but I would expect Sanchez to make his City debut in January.
Then there were the cup draws. What's all that about, then?! Yet again, 'moneybags City' found themselves delivered tricky assignments early in a campaign. The Carabao League Cup shenanigans pitted us again with Premier League away opposition in the shape of Johnny 'Effing' Evans's West Brom for starters. As for our next European adventures, it obviously could have been much worse because we have avoided the UEFA cartel clubs, but I think we have a tougher group than many might say. Every away fixture will provide stiff challenges and I see Napoli as bonafide contenders to win the group.
As City must continually do things the hard way, it doesn't help matters when the all of a sudden cash splurging once more Stretford Galacticos bag another fortuitous round of cup draws. Since Austerity Taggart stepped down the way has again been paved for the rags in all areas. As their playing fortunes have sagged to the tune of a barometer busting 3 league derby wins across 7 seasons, it's all been much of a coincidence with the FA and UEFA. The best the Europa League could throw at them last season was Stalybridge Celtic Vigo and an underwhelming Curzon Ajax. Their back door return to the Champions League could not have been kinder, either.
The contrast is startling. Domestically across 3 seasons including this one, and excluding Semi-Finals and Finals at Wembley, in 16 cup draws City have copped for 14 Premier League opponents and 12 away fixtures. United meanwhile have street partied through 17 draws to the tune of 5 top flight sides and a measly 6 away trips! Their league fixtures are rather favourable to boot!
The ongoing difference in our European fortunes needs no introduction, but it really is quite extraordinary. One wonders whether David Gill, Stretford board member, FA Vice Chairman and both a FIFA and UEFA Executive Committee member could shed any light on these happenings?
Group F: Shakhtar Donetsk, Manchester City, Napoli, Feyenoord
MCFC in Europe Squad
Claudio Bravo, Ederson, Aro Muric
Danilo, Vincent Kompany, Eliaquim Mangala, Benjamin Mendy, Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones, Kyle Walker
Fabian Delph, Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Yaya Toure
Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus
And so to the footy. Hmm and then some. I suggest that throughout these opening exchanges the Blues have resembled a work in progress and for me, that shouldn't be the case. There's been the look of real venom about us sidewindering forward at pace but all too often we've come up toothless. The results have been too close for comfort and it's all been a bit Groundhog Day. A repeated score of shots with a handful on target belie a lack of directness and resemble the statistics that generated so much frustration in the last campaign.
I think Pep overly tinkers with his selections. Am I wrong in suggesting he should try sending out a settled side for a series of games and see where it takes us? Whatever strategy El Boss decides upon, we are embarked upon a run of matches that will see us lock horns with numerous top sides and we are going to find out an awful lot more about our revamped side and how much we have progressed. To their absolute credit, despite not quite finding their mojo yet, the Blues have shown battling qualities to realise the points secured thus far. This factor alone lends weight for much optimism. Once we click, and I am certain we will, someone will cop for a right pasting. I particularly like the look of Danilo and Blue Mendy.
Star Man in August Gabriel de Jesus. The kid has got something about him that screams all time great. His work off the ball is persistent and tireless. He makes things happen.
How Did Johnny Do?
Brighton 0 City 4 W
Girona 0 City 3 W
City 2 Everton 1 W
Bournemouth 1 City 3 W
And Lo It Came To Pass…
Brighton 0 City 2 W
Girona 1 City 0 L
City 1 Everton 1 D
Bournemouth 1 City 2 W