Published on January 25th, 2015 | by Ian Cheeseman13
“What’s going wrong?” | Ian Cheeseman
I have written many complimentary things about Manchester City during the last eighteen months, and at times people might have thought I was going “over the top”, but I stand by every word; much deserved. At their best, City are an absolute joy to watch and are capable of beating any team in Europe.
When things go wrong, it would only be fair that I am honest in my opinions, in just the same way.
I’ve watched City for a lifetime and there have been many ups and downs, and I know that there are many fans with different attitudes. There are those that defend the team and club, whatever the performances and results, and that’s admirable. There are those who see fault in everything and expect nothing less than perfection. Both types of fans are entitled to those views.
I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a City supporter, always have been, but I’m also a sports journalist who attempts to be honest, fair and without agenda, so I offer my opinion on that basis.
City are now regarded as one of the biggest and best clubs in Europe. The Etihad Stadium is developing into one of the very best. The City Football Academy is outstanding, the facilities are second to none and of course the new CFA Stadium is wonderful.
During the last few years the first team has played football the “right way”, creative and free flowing, full of goals and magic moments. They’ve won all the game’s top domestic honours with style and flair. There’s now also a Cup winning Women’s team and the Youth Team and Elite Development Squad are turning on the style too. There’s lots to anticipate for the future.
The bar has been raised, expectation levels have never been higher, and that’s without considering the huge wages paid, the transfer fees and general investment made in playing talent and infrastructure.
And yet, while not a million miles away from the perfection for which they strive, I have to say this, at first team level, all is not as it should be, for now at least.
The team, in my humble opinion, seems to have declined in quality during the last six months. Since winning the Premier League one or two players are not performing to the same high standards. What is happening to Vincent Kompany? I’m a huge fan of the City skipper but I have to admit that his performances this season have not been as good as they previously were. He seems to have become more impulsive, more emotional. I don’t know if that’s been due to his injuries, his lack of confidence in the players around him or something else. Eliaquim Mangala has been uncertain, indecisive and has looked out of his depth in most of his appearances, and Martin Demichelis is an experienced defender, who played his best days at Bayern Munich.
In midfield, is Fernando an improvement on Garcia? Is Sagna an improvement on Richards or how about Navas compared to Adam Johnson, and Caballero compared to Pantillimon?
I used to talk about a “super eight” at City, but during the last twelve months, I have not felt any of the newer players should be added to my chosen group, in fact two or three are close to slipping out of it.
My “Super Four” are Aguero, Silva, Yaya Toure & Nasri, with Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany and Fernandinho making up the aforementioned eight. After those eight, I have question marks over the special qualities that the other players possess.
I’ve just watched extended highlights of the Middlesbrough FACup defeat, and with the option to freeze frame at every attack and defensive situation, without the emotion of the game to confuse my mind, I was alarmed by the poor positional play of Fernando and Milner, of the weak crossing and general involvement in the game of Jesus Navas, of Stevan Jovetic’s cheap losing of possession….. I could go on, but I’d be accused of over exaggerating. After all, City are in the last 16 of the Champions League and lie second in the Premier League table.
Next week a City win at Chelsea, which we know is not out of the question, would leave the Blues just two points behind the table toppers, and all will be well with the world. I can’t and won’t make a judgement on Wilfried Bony until I’ve seem him play for City, but he seems a promising addition to the squad, but the return of a fully motivated Yaya Toure and a fully fit Samir Nasri will make a HUGE difference to City’s ambitions for the rest of this season.
For those who say, #believe, and “we’ve caught big leads back before” ie the eternal optimists, I love your attitude, after all football is a game to us, a passion, an entertainment, win or lose we’ll still love it and share the ups and downs, but the club I loved just as much when it was down in the doldrums now has higher expectations.
It’s a WorldWide brand that HAS to go to Abu Dhabi mid season, New York at the end of the season and Australia in preseason, and sees itself on a par with Bayern, Barcelona, Milan and Real Madrid, not to mention Chelsea, United, Arsenal and Liverpool.
You have to get all criticism into perspective, but surely a fan is allowed to debate the ups and downs of the team?
Here’s another debating point then; are the players signed by City during the Pellegrini era, of the same standard as those signed under Mancini and Hughes? Of my Super Eight only Fernandinho is a Pellegrini signing, and he doesn’t seem as convincing this season as last.
City’s players are such stars now that talking to the media after a defeat is now something they can avoid if they chose to. City is HUGE, but with that comes an expectation of greatness.
As I used to tell City Supporters at branch meetings, when City were not the club they are today, ‘be careful what you wish for!’ We can keep saying, “15 years ago we were playing York” but this is almost a different club now, different staff, different hopes and different aims.
I love this rocket ride, but the club has put itself in a position to be shot at, so the tepid failure against Middlesbrough, as with the home defeat by Newcastle in the League Cup, are no longer good enough for the Manchester City of 2015.
Still the great thing about football, and City in particular, is that one good win next Saturday and all the above listed concerns are wiped out (well put to the back of the mind)!
Don’t you just love football!