September 19, 2020
by siepod
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City head to Wolves looking for a winning start

It has largely been a summer of discontent for the many Blues who take to Twitter to voice their displeasure at what has been perceived as a lack of activity in the transfer market. With the expected departure of Leroy Sané, who headed back to Germany to join Bayern, and the move to pastures new for club legend David Silva, many expected the club to go big and hard in the transfer window this summer, with an alleged £300 million war chest being muted by some. The club began brightly, securing the captures of Ferran Torres and Nathan Aké within days of each other. Then there was the long running and very public courtship with arguably the world’s best player, Lionel Messi, which left fans salivating with expectation. Despite the mercurial Argentinian making it clear he wanted to end his long-term marriage to Barcelona and head for pastures new, a likely reunion with Pep, internal politics and contract wrangles mean the end result is he will now see out his final year at the Camp Nou.

Since then, many expected the floodgates to open as the money earmarked to fund Messi’s huge financial demands would instead be invested elsewhere, but despite the very long running speculation around Kalidou Koulibaly among others, has yet to materialise any more new faces. Perhaps it is the pursuit of the 29 year old central defender that sums up the problem most. With media scrutiny on every move, there is even a conflict between outlets around whether an actual bid even existed as of yet. And with Pep heading into the final year of his contract, there seems to be a certain inevitability about it all. All this just seems to add to the frustration of the fans, with other clubs seeming to go about their business with far more efficiency and success, from the outside at least. Then there’s the City tax, which has once again been proven as clearly evident in some of the fees paid by other clubs this window.

On to the positives, however, it is perhaps largely unfair that the above has overshadowed the 2 new arrivals, both who have the potential and promise to add something to the already talented squad Pep has at his disposal, though for how much longer time will tell. Ferran Torres is an exciting young winger, who became the first millennial to feature in La Liga when he broke into the Valencia first team back in 2017. Since then he became a mainstay in the Valencia team, making more senior appearances year on year, and also becoming their youngest ever Champions League goalscorer when he netted against Lille. Since his arrival in Manchester, where he will don the number 21 shirt made famous by his fellow countryman David Silva, he has graduated to the Spanish national team, appearing against Germany and Ukraine, and netting his first international goal against the latter.

Fellow new arrival Aké is no stranger to these shores, having originally arrived to the Chelsea youth set up back in 2010. Since then, after shining on a number of loan spells, he eventually signed permanently for Bournemouth for a fee believed to be around £20 million. He immediately became a key cornerstone of a Bournemouth team who were largely respected for their intention to play football the right way. A fully fledged Dutch International, Aké made over 100 Premier League appearances for Bournemouth before their relegation at the end of last season. The fee of £40 million appears good business in the current climate, for a player who should hit the ground running. His natural ability and versatility, along with his calmness in possession, earmark him as a perfect Pep player who should fit right in and flourish at his new club.

The key difficulty coming into the opening fixture, for me at least, is preparation, or lack of it. Bar those players who featured for their respective countries in the last round of International fixtures, the team have not played since crashing out of Champions League against Lyon, a huge disappointment for all involved. That, combined with the lack of any meaningful pre-season and what is already a confusingly condensed fixture list for the new season, and it further blurs the lines between pre-season, postseason and the season proper. Added to that Wolves, who proved to be a thorn in City’s side last season, have already played 2 competitive games, underlines why I think it will be another tough fixture here. City have already been dealt a further blow in their preparations for the coming season with news that Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte both tested positive for Covid-19, meaning Laporte, at least, is unlikely to feature against Wolves, while talismanic striker Sergio Agüero is still on the road to recovery following the knee injury he picked up against Burnley during project restart. On the plus, however, during the back end of last season Foden was more frequently involved, showing his undoubted talent, while João Cancelo also seems to be showing more of the ability that we all know he has, as he becomes more settled to life in Manchester and the Premier League.

For their part, Wolves opened the season with an impressive 2-0 win away at Sheffield United last Monday evening, both goals coming in the opening 6 minutes of the game, before then crashing out of the Carabou Cup in a 1-0 defeat at home to Stoke City with a massively changed line-up. In the transfer market, they’ve added to their ever growing Portuguese contingent with the arrival of highly rated wonderkid Fábio Silva from Porto, while fellow compatriot Vitinha also made the switch on loan. Marçal, who featured for Lyon in that quarter-final victory against City in the Champions League has also joined. Perhaps more worryingly, Adama Traoré, constant thorn in the City side, remains with the club, although there is speculation around further departures in the transfer window, notably Dioga Jota potentially heading to Anfield.

City will hope to get their campaign to reclaim the title off to a winning start in the clash at Molineux on Monday night, which will again sadly be in front of an empty house, while Wolves will be hoping to continue their form against the Blues from last season, where they won 2-0 on the road and secured a dramatic 3-2 victory at home with City being reduced to 10-men. Being of the old school though, where typical City is (and always will be) still a thing for me, when the club tweets things like this I am left with a sudden feeling of inevitability about it all.

Regardless of the outcome, I am glad the Blues are finally back in action (despite last season feeling a stone’s throw away). Less excited and enthusiastic than previous years, in large due to the current pandemic sadly blighting the world and the impact that is therefore having on everything, not just spectator sport, but happy nonetheless. A winning start would be the perfect tonic to get the new season underway, with hopefully some positives and form to take into the return to football at the Etihad 3 days later, when we begin our defence of the Carabou Cup against Bournemouth, the fixture gods throwing up a tie that will make Nathan Aké almost immediately face his former club, as can often happen in football. Whatever happens though, stay positive blues. There are some things more important that football, although I know it doesn’t feel like that many a time, and the season is long and hard and the dynamics in theory should be shifted even further this year due to the competition and scheduling changes, so although a poor start would not be ideal, at this stage it would be far from detrimental as perhaps in some seasons.

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March 7, 2020
by siepod
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Are you going to Scarborough fair? (A Football Manager 2020 story)

After the new update messed my journeyman save up, I decided to start a new game in the lower leagues of England, outside the normal selectable leagues. I wanted a club either with a historic past, or at least linked with one. When I was a young bairn growing up, kicking a ball around the back streets pretending I was David White, Scarborough were a Football League Club, thanks in part to the efforts of a certain Neil Warnock. They also went on a cup run of sorts, dumping out Chelsea in the league cup before being thumped by Oldham Athletic 7-0, Frankie Bunn doing the damage with 6 goals. Oldham, under Joe Royle, also thumped West Ham 6-0 in the semi-final first leg, eventually succumbing to a solitary goal from Nigel Jemson in the final.

Anyway, enough of the past. Scarborough FC were officially wound up on 20th June 2007, with debts around £2.5 million (that won’t even by you the left leg of a decent championship striker nowadays). 5 days later, Scarborough Athletic FC applied to membership of the North Counties East League, starting their revival at rival town Bridlington due to no suitable stadium availability in the area. Since then, Scarborough have finally moved back home to the Flamingo Land Stadium, which is eerily close to where the Theatre Of Chips (McCain Stadium), the old Scarborough stadium, once stood (housing and a budget supermarket now stand where former greats like Kevin Blackwell, Tommy Mooney, Darren Foreman and Jason “Jasper” White plied their trade). They have also managed to earn several promotions up to the Northern Premier League Premier Division, where this story begins (finishing 8th last year).

Upon meeting the chairman Trevor Bull, I could tell my work was already cut-out. Limited money for transfers (£2k) and minimal available for wages. The squad looked ok on paper, but the fact the requirement was to avoid relegation, something the media (and players after my first meeting) thought was a real possibility, didn’t fill me with confidence. Not sure what Trevor Bull does, a Google search leads me to some nice holiday cottages near Scarborough, and if they are his I think I need to revisit my deal to include accommodation in the near future. Let’s get some grace in the bank first though, after all I’ve already hit him up with a request to continue my coaching badges and find a senior affiliate for the team (to which he both agreed).

Despite the negativity, on first glance there looks to be some ability and a fair bit of potential in the current crop. Kieran Glynn looks a gifted right-winger, although he is only on loan from Salford City (and we are paying his wages, who agreed to that). Of the players we own, Walshaw and Coulson are best rated, although both now the wrong side of 30. Coulson is also club captain, and I don’t envisage that changing as I want to keep the squad on side. We also have Connor Thompson on loan from Gateshead, who can also play down the right or up front. Again, we are paying his wages though (he’s our highest earner at the moment, although I have put in a few contract offers for some released players, so that may change). Hopefully if we do find an affiliate club soon, I can fill the squad with loan players we don’t pay for, to release some of the pressure on the club finances.

Regarding incomings, I’ve brought in a couple of staff so far and am looking for a few more as the current team is bare bones to say the least. Reserve keeper Tom Morgan is my goalkeeping coach, while assistant manager Dave Merris is also a player. Pre-season sees us travelling to face Bottesford Town, then Cambridge Under-23’s at home, before another road trip to face Harrogate Railway. Back at home we then welcome Oldham Under-23’s (hopefully not another 7-0 incoming), before travelling to Billingham Town then finally a showdown with local rivals Bridlington Town. The season proper kicks off with a home game against Lancaster, in which I’m hoping we may have a few more new faces in by then.

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September 20, 2018
by siepod
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Disappointing defeat, more the manner than the outcome – player notes

A couple of quick notes/thoughts on the performances of the players last night:

Ederson – good from a possession point of view but frustrating that he never fully extended for either goal. Kudos for the great save from “Nodad” though

Walker – looked more like a 50 pence player than £50 million. Sloppy in possession and offered no real width down the right all game.

Delph – horrendous mistake for the goal and never really recovered. Some sloppy passing again and a few wild speculative shots in attempt to make amends.

Laporte – thought he looked solid again, grown into the team and Pep style of play. Got undone in behind a few times though, needs to be wary of space when pushing forward

Stones – another standard Stones performance, looking confident and assured on the ball but sometimes wasn’t switched on to space in behind

Dinho – not often we say this but he was very poor. Lost ball several times, looked tired and out of sorts a lot of the game. Hopefully the decision not to by a new DM won’t bite us in the ass.

Sterling – ran his heart out and first half was the only one really trying anything. Unlucky to be just offside for the ruled out goal. Didn’t get much service nor have many options.

Bernardo – terrible down the wing. In a game crying out for width he did little to offer it, and slowed down many attacks in the process. Better when moved inside and a tidy finish

Silva – rare out of sorts game for the genius. Usually when we play bad it’s because more than a few players have an off day, and this was one of those occasions. To be fair to him though, the lack of movement into space from others made his job harder

Gündoğan – terrible. Not much else I can say. Had that special CL night against Barca but that was just a distant memory last night. Slow in possession, offered little, and looked like a lesser league player unable to make the step up in that performance

Jesus – appropriate that his name is often associated with the exclamation used against him. Seems to offer lots of movement, dropping deep, making options etc until the final third then puts cement boots on. In the box his movement into space is non existent, and I think sometimes he is looking for the penalty more than the chance to score. Great raw talent but still needs plenty of work and a million miles away from Agüero

Sane – did well when he came on, beating Rafael to create the goal, but then seemed to cut inside every time. Needs to work on his decision making (shades of a young Ronaldo making the wrong choices) as he undoubtedly has all the makings of a star. Should have done far better with the header too.

Agüero – the fact his first touch went out for a throw summed up the night. Did ok when he came on, offered far more movement and options than Jesus, but should perhaps have done better than put it straight down the throat of the keeper with his one good chance.

Mahrez – as I seem to say every time I see him at City, what was the point. Again I was left more confused by why we signed him. Game cried out for width, but then he proceeded to cut inside, slow play down and try and see how many crosses he could bend in from the edge of the area despite the box being packed. In the days of Džeko we could have had a few, but he needs to play with the team.

Overall the passing was poor, the play was lethargic and we were again undone by a classic pacy counter-attack. I still think we’ll win the group (not that I’m as concerned about CL as our owners/some) but there was definitely some cause for concern. Need a strong performance at the weekend (when we’ll no doubt be hacked all over) to get back to winning ways straight away.

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September 5, 2016
by siepod
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Silva can’t stop scoring

David Silva helped himself to another 2 goals as Spain crushed Liechtenstein 8-0 in their opening World Cup qualification game. The Manchester City midfielder, who grabbed both goals in a 2-0 win against Belgium the other night, gave Spain a 3-0 lead following a neat assist from Vitolo:
 

 
Silva then thought he had grabbed his 2nd at 7-0, only to be denied by the referee:

 
Not to be denied, he did manage to grab his second moments later, after a smart lay-off from Manchester City team-mate Nolito allowed him the chance to produce a smart finish from close range:

 
Added to his 2 goals against Belgium, David has now scored 28 for Spain, taking him into 5th overall in the all-time top goalscorers, 1 ahead of former Liverpool man Fernando Morientes and one behind Fernando Hierro.
 

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April 12, 2016
by siepod
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Manchester City 2-1 West Bromwich Albion: Match Report

City managed to grab only their first back to back Premier League wins since October as they saw off West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, although they were forced to work for the result. As I suggested, Samir Nasri was handed his first start since being injured in October, while Pellegrini made several other changes with an eye on the return clash against PSG, including changes at both full-backs and Fabian Delph coming into midfield. Wilfried Bony was also handed a start as Pellegrini opted for his preferred 4-4-2 attacking formation. Despite the attacking line-up, City found themselves under the cosh early on and were inexplicably 1-0 behind after only 6 minutes when Stéphane Sessegnon gave the visitors the lead. Kolarov failed to block the speculative effort from the edge of the box, and an unsighted Joe Hart completely failed to react as the ball flew beyond him at the near post, a goal that will have to go down as a goalkeeper error for me.

Thankfully the goal woke City up as they began to string some possession together, and it was no surprise when they found a way back into the game, after they were quite rightly awarded a penalty after Kolarov was felled in the box. The ref could have stopped the play sooner after Agüero was crudely brought down by Sandro, but allowing play to go on, he was left with no option but to blow up the second time after goalscorer Sessegnon brought down Kolarov in the area. Agüero, still looking slightly uneasy at the earlier tackle, picked himself up to deliver a confident spot kick beyond the outstretched reach of Ben Foster, who went the right way.

City began to dominate possession, but were largely limited to blocked shots as they failed to take an advantage into the break, while West Brom lost Salomón Rondón to injury, Craig Gardner taking his place. The second half continued in a similar manner, City creating few opportunities, and making several changes in personnel, but struggling to beat the well organised West Brom defensive line until a moment of brilliance from Kevin De Bruyne gave the hosts the lead. A sublime piece of skill and quick thinking pass picked out Navas in the box, who in turn was able to turn the ball over to Agüero. Some last ditch defending prevented the Argentinean claiming his second of the game, but in came the returning Nasri on the follow up to slot the ball home from close range.Samir NasriSamir Nasri

 

Despite taking the lead, City seemed to dip in confidence, and West Brom were creating the better of the chances in the closing quarter, and should perhaps have drawn level right at the death when James McClean dragged his shot just wide of the post with everyone beaten. Thankfully for the City faithful, the hosts were able to hold on to final put to bed that absolutely embarrassing stat regarding back to back Premier League games. With the result interjected with the impressive and potentially valuable 2-2 draw away at Paris in the Champions League, all eyes will now be on the return leg on Tuesday evening to see if they can continue their recent improved form, and make history in qualifying for the Champions’ League semi-final for the first time in their history. Personally, I feel the away result gives them a great opportunity, but the outcome depends on which City turn up, and more importantly whether they can shake of the defensive frailties and the Champions League insecurities of recent seasons.

MOTM: Samir Nasri – the returning Frenchman seemed almost single-handedly intent on changing the game at times, and was duly rewarded when on hand to claim his goal. Added to his impressive work rate and passing stats, this game was a great advert for what City have been missing for so long.

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