Blues report - The week of hard knocks
The Blues hadn’t started back after the international break with the best of luck as injuries were picked up by star performers Fernando and Stevan Jovetic. They were going to need all the luck they could get as they faced two difficult trips away this week.
Jekyll & Hyde…
Manuel Pellegrini cut a rather furious figure in the post-match interview last Saturday afternoon after the Blues drew 2-2 at Arsenal; in fact, there was little streak of feisty Italian etched across the 61 year olds face when answering questions regarding Mark Clattenburg’s conduct. The Chilean pointed out, with obvious contempt that the referee was off the mark on three key decisions: “We have very difficult decisions with the referee…today was unbelievable”. Rather than struggle in the murky debate of whether the decisions made were the correct ones, it would be wiser for City fans to analyse Pellegrini’s bullish repos.
Second season syndrome is a condition that has struck many an experienced manager; a plague transmitted by oppositions craving blood and the willingness of the other nineteen clubs baying for the champions to fall. Second season syndrome slayed Roberto Mancini, will Manuel Pellegrini fall on the same sword? Arguments can be made to suggest that this could well be the case. The Engineer spent most of his post-match interview bemoaning the referee and the bad luck his team have had this season: “This year will be very difficult to retain the title because all teams want to win us” stated the manager. Blues fans may well see this as Pellegrini hiding behind factors he cannot control and prematurely creating excuses as to why results may not go our way this year. After all, many City fans will struggle to recall the boss focusing so much on the referee after any game last year. Instead, he tended to highlight how he intended to improve and battle on. Could a flustered post-match interview be a symptom of second season syndrome?
Nevertheless, City fans can view this in a very different light. Winning two trophies in his first year of Premier League management proves that Manuel is a winner. He won with a composed, calm and measured style last year but last weekend suggested he’s willing to change this year, as long as it leads to a medal around his neck. Pellegrini fired a warning shot to his rivals with this interview, illustrating that he has the tenacity, determination and dogged resolve to fight to the very end to retain this title. There are no second season syndrome symptoms but instead, Manuel’s dark side has emerged.
From one testing away day to the next, City travelled to Munich on Wednesday night and were unlucky not to come away with a point after a cruel deflection sent Jerome Boateng’s effort sailing into the top corner just before the final whistle. It was a night that will have both pleased and irritated City fans. On the plus side, it seems Manuel really is improving tactically and is no longer insisting on playing two up top against world class opponents, as was punished in last year’s home fixture to Bayern. In addition, it was refreshing to witness Joe Hart reproducing a near best performance again.
However, irritation rises when the negatives of the match are analysed. The goal for example, albeit an unlucky one to concede, could have easily been prevented. To begin with, James Milner was left in a two on one situation after the corner was cleared which allowed Robben to slip a ball into Lahm who could then cross. A further mistake was made by Kolarov, who was originally marking Boateng at the corner, only to drift to the opposite side of the penalty area leaving the German with space to shoot. Certainly though, the largest negative of the game was Yaya Toure’s performance. The Ivorian has been slammed by fans and professionals alike for his lacklustre, heavy-legged and lethargic performance against the German champions. There were countless times where either Lahm or Alaba were left free in the middle of the park and when found, had the time and space to turn and run at our defence because Toure wasn’t disciplined enough. It’s clear that the Ivorian had no interest in carrying out the manager’s request of playing a defensive role and that really is worrying for the dressing room dynamic.
Strike out Nike….
Finally, a word on this seasons kits. On Monday, our new cup away shirt was launched. It can only be described as a monstrosity: there are no traditional club colours on display and the fluorescent yellow trim surrounding a ghastly purple colour make the kit look more like a tacky kebab shop sign. Add to that the severe lack of colour variation throughout our three kits, this seasons selection may be one of the worst in the clubs backlog.