It seems the Italian is feeling the pressure somewhat as he chose to label Stoke as ‘long ball, long ball, long ball’ instead of looking at how half of his players wanted to be anywhere but on the cold Britannia pitch, a number of players even abandoned the pre match walk around with Yaya Toure crying off with a headache, it seems £200k a week can’t buy enough paracetamol. Mancini, who seemed to be on a roll with his entirely random interpretations of the game, then suggested Man City deserved to win?! Rumours he pinched and necked Yaya’s array of headache tablets are as yet unsubstantiated.
Indeed the excuses weren’t limited to the Manager, Joe Hart added his two penneth insisting that he couldn’t feel his hands and that’s why Matty’s shot wasn’t saved, I can therefore safely assume that it was his cold hands that made him stand on his line startled for Rory’s throws too and in general fail to deal convincingly with any ball that went into his area. In a game that perfectly illustrated the often alarming dichotomy of this league, Stoke fans had even taken to ‘snood betting’, and they weren’t to be disappointed as Man City’s players hid their poor necks from the cold Autumnal air en masse. Still, they should be credited with actually wanting to go onto the pitch, although I think Yaya got the headache excuse in before Balotelli, and it showed as the ‘bad boy of Italian football’ stropped around the pitch all afternoon like Kevin the Teenager.
Enough about the moaners from Manchester, let’s look at the talking points from the game…
Team Selection/Approach – TP was lucky to be able to pick the same line up again! That said, it was common knowledge that both Pennant and Wilko were carrying knocks and my concern was that they wouldn’t last and we would lose them part way through which would disrupt the flow and balance, and that’s exactly what happened. The change of Tuncay on the right unbalanced the team and it was plain to see as soon as he was introduced that he didn’t afford Wilko the protection he has come to appreciate from Pennant.
A Family Affair for Matty…
Shawcross – Another game alongside Huth, another Man of the Match performance. Ryan also gave brief glimpses of his ability on the ball as he tricked Tevez with a Cruyff turn as well as bringing the ball out of defence. This is perhaps something that we will see more of with our new more expansive approach, I hope so as you get the feeling one of the reasons he is not picked for England is that this side of his game has never been too prominent under the stricter instructions of old.
Collins – Danny has done well overall this season but he is still making such basic errors, his positioning is poor, he overlaps at the wrong time, his diagonal balls are often wasteful and his passing really isn’t that great. I think we need to be investing in both full back positions in January and in the short term we should bring Higgy back into the fold. Many have argued that Collins brings the best out of Matty but if you actually watch the game he often hinders him with poor passes or suicidal overlaps leaving him to cover the vacated space behind. Higgy’s positioning and talking is going to do more for us in the short term and I can safely say his long passes are a lot more precise and his crossing actually pretty good, he gets a lot more zip on the ball which is easier to attack and harder to defend.
Wilson – Marc got another chance to impress here and whilst I appreciate he came on during a difficult period for us I remain unconvinced at his current ability to fit into a Premier League midfield. I have commented before about how he seems to need a lot more time than most on the ball and perhaps more alarmingly that he is oblivious to people coming to get the ball off him from the opposition. We saw more of the same against Man City as he struggled to impact in the slightest, other than a rash sliding tackle at pace which earned a yellow, this one of his first touches. I’m sure he is one for the future, so it’s important that we work on his sharpness and awareness and perhaps his strength too and it may be that come next season it will be like having a new signing.
Tuncay – I can’t finish the article without a mention for THAT back heel, it was a moment of genius from the Turk to rescue a point for us on the day. However….. for the most part Tuncay struggled after his introduction to proceedings, in fact barely a minute after he came on he meandered about in the final third with a disinterested swagger and pointed finger as Man City ran at Wilko. I love Tunny and I want him to stay but I fear he won’t be happy playing second fiddle from the bench and that’s fine as long as he understands at the moment there are 4 players starting up front and on the flanks who are better than him in their respective positions. That said, one or more of them will naturally lose form, get injured or banned so it’s important for him to keep plugging away and to take his chance when it comes. On his Twitter page he seems happy and even made mention of hoping for a visit to Wembley in the FA Cup so maybe all this worrying is for nothing…
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