Blogs Manchester City 0-2 Middlesbrough

Published on January 25th, 2015 | by Ian Cheeseman


“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!

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13 Responses to “What’s going wrong?” | Ian Cheeseman

  1. Travis C says:

    Negredo leaving hurt us more than people think. Since, city have tried to go through a half a season (4 competitions) with 3 forwards who are injury-prone and who play similarly when compared to negredo. He was a battering-ram, a source of power and energy that gave the side balance and a true focal point. He completed the spine of the team, back to front: hart, kompany, yaya, negredo. Sometimes the slick passing doesn’t come off and more direct approaches are required but the answer is missing. Anyway, win a few matches and we’re unstoppable again!!

  2. Spot on Ian!

    It’s worrying that quite a few of the super 8 are not performing at present. Fernandinho can’t even get in the team.

    As much as I thought Garcia wasn’t up to the standard City want to be at he would have dealt with the long ball that Fernando missed for Boro’s first goal. We need to sign some players who are going to break into your top 8.

    Hopefully the FFP challenge at the end of Feb will be in our favour and we can spend some big bucks in the summer!

  3. dave jones says:

    I think Cheesys comments will resonate with most city fans.

    As a fan of 50+ years we’ve had the benefit of the late 60s era , the quality of most of the seventies and the heartache attached to much of the eighties and nineties. As a fan, I enjoyed the thought that before the money we were a lot of peoples ‘second’ teams.

    We tried to play positive football and on our day were capable of losing to the worst and beating the best.
    That the Sheik chose City I’m pleased. It’s allowed an acceleration of quality and we’ve seen some great highs. that in itself makes the lows…Wigan twice in the cup,Boro, Newcastle league cup etc…all the harder to take when they arrive.

    My son at 23 has seen some fantastic times over the last 4 years….QPR 2012 simply will never be topped. My generation have no problem in taking defeat on the chin…I doubt we’ll ever get used to the fact we are in the market for any player on the planet.
    But we now have a new generation of fans who are conditioned to success and that has to be managed.

    I agree that given what we have paid for the likes of Mangala, Fernando,Garcia,Rodwell,Navas, the question has to be asjked have they been that much better than the guys they’ve replaced…de Jong, Barry, nastasic,Lescott, etc.

    On the evidence to date the simple answer is ‘no’.

    Within the club, I truly hope that Viera is being groomed to take over from pellegribni some time next season . appointment from within with a guy that has presence and stature and , critically, knows the true caliber of the guys he is managing daily at the Academy.

    I look at the likes of Barker etc and am genuinely excited about the future but we have to blend the nurture of this talent with spending money smartly on real quality, as we have done previously with the likes Silva, Aguero, nasri etc.

    But Kompany, Zab and hart are good examples that you don’t have to spend zillions to attract top players…..we have a scouting network. maybe we should use it a damsight better.

  4. maineman1963 says:

    Well balanced article Ian. Expectations are higher these days. We bought badly after the 2012 title and we seem to have done likewise in 2014. Fernando Navas and Mangala need to up their game the latter to justify how we spent the quoted £40m. Vinny hopefully will be back to his imperious best soon we need him. Let’s see how the rest of the season pans out.

  5. David says:

    Great perspective Ian! I agree with you. Lack of pace and tiempo and a vulnerable defence have encouraged teams to park the bus and counter attack us. You can’t win matches just on tippy tappy possession, play must be creative and quicker. Win Sunday and City have lots to play for.
    C’mon City!

  6. Tony Higgs says:

    The best blog you have written for a while. Spot on!

  7. Phil Banerjee says:

    An excellent piece. I share those concerns. Garcia spent two years getting up to speed with the English football then we bring in someone who has to go through the same process again. I don’t want to see a hasty change of manager, or a wholesale change of players, but something is not right. Is it a lack of energy due to a hangover from last season and the World Cup? But isn’t that same for everyone else? The disrupted pre-season has possibly had an effect on the players preparation and fitness.

  8. Jacques says:

    City’s performance was “Typical City” of old, our embarresement only lessened because other top flight teams did badly as well. Changes were made too late and Navas doesn’t even have a first touch. I hope we do better in the next few weeks where we come up against Chelsea and Barcelona. Kind of a bitter taste if we beat both teams but lost to Middlesborough. The FA Cup is still important and has a rich history unique to England and I think the international managers don’t value it enough. I still love City and know we can’t win every game, that there will be uspets etc. Luckily our manager is not as unproffesional as Van Gaal who blamed the referee. A pro plays for his own points! MCFC We still love you!

  9. Pingback: Manchester City FC Supporters ClubManchester City 0-2 Middlesbrough | Daniel Cheeseman

  10. I agree with you totally, but your big 8 should have the first four include zabaleta and nasri drow to the first 8. I love city and always will. We have a good squad but at times complacency comes in, we need a management team that will be up and doing at all times, a motivational or inspiration speaker or psychologist of repute to ginger these player back to champions tempo. they have dropped in forms, due to a lot of reasons, injuries, slow recovery, recurrent injuries, match rustiness, and lack of firebrand management team.

  11. Steven says:

    Really good piece, I completely agree. My big issue lately has been how utterly rubbish our corner taking has been. Throughout the season I can’t count the times the ball never made it past first man – and if it did actually manage to get into the box it was lofty and ineffective. Considering the way we play, we get plenty of corners, but they seem to pose absolutely no threat. What I find strange is it’s been talked about and it’s an obvious problem, (against Arsenal it was embarrassing that we did bugger all with 16 corners) yet it doesn’t seem to look like its being assessed on the training ground.

  12. brian says:

    The key was the departure of Negredo. With Aguero he formed an attacking partnership that struck at speed and with a power that defences struggled to contain. That is lacking now and the build up is mainly slow, deliberate and very predictable. If City don’t score in the early stages they seem to run out of ideas and their game slows to a walking pace. It becomes like a training match and lacks urgency
    until things go wrong. Lets hope the arrival of Mr. Bony puts us back on track. Jovetic and Dzeko are achieving very little at present

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