My first, My Last, My Everything
Avid readers of Corazon will notice there’s been an absence of content since last season’s climax at home to West Ham, when we lifted our second Premier League title. And it’s been due to the shame I’ve had to conceal, that I know support a different team.
Well, I now support another team and in fairness, and they are a ‘City of sorts, just the one 10,550 miles from Manchester. This new team that will hope to capture mi Corazon is Melbourne City, as I moved down there this week.
These last few weeks have been bizarre to say the least. I suspected, when news came through the move was on that, Liverpool, and perhaps Stoke would be my last games. Foolish of me not to collect my season ticket (that hadn’t arrived in the post) before last year’s champions (see any deluded Liverpool fan’s twitter timeline) visited Eastlands. Being stuck at Harry Potter World (long story), at quarter to six with a down pour flooding the M40 and M6 meant it was going to be tight making kick off for the first home game of the season.
Half time I landed at the ground, and I’ve never sprinted as fast up the side of those tram lines in the eleven years we moved atop of Bradford pit.
Ticket store open? No. Lenient steward turning a blind eye? Nope, not at my gate, not at the main entrance and a security guard on his first day manning the City At Home desk meant it was going to be less than a fairy tale end for me. Hopeless, driving breakneck speed in conditions Lewis Hamilton excels in, all in vein.
I did make it in to the game in the end, via a disabled door between a couple of the spirals, not before reeling off my season card and seat details like it was my phone number or date of birth. As my bum hit my seat I was back on my feet celebrating Sergio Aguero rounding Simon Mignolet to put daylight between Liverpool and ourselves.
It was the “come on mate, I’ll see the rest of this game and Saturday and then I’ll never see them again” that tugged on that steward’s heart strings, and I’ll be eternally grateful for his looking the other way. I’m reluctant to say anyone takes City for granted, but I’m sure people must from time to time.
These last few weeks have been pure soaking up – from people joking in the concourses, the abuse hurled at referees, the smell of the food, the rush for the tram, the familiar “….we are the lads who are playing to win…” singing from the PA, thousands of people mumbling the words under their breath as they make their way up the steps, each time they do it, the sky a little darker, and the air a little cooler until we come out of the other side of the Christmas programme.
There’s many games I could write about that are now cherished memories; ’99, winning Division 1, countless derbies home and away, our FA Cup triumph, and our League one too, winning in Munich, Wembley with my Dad. Often it’s the obscure ones you don’t forget, for instance a 1-0 home defeat to Stoke in what I thought was my last visit to the ground for a good long time.
The day just smacks of ‘typical City’. All those great games I mentioned above, and the one I thought I’d be signing off at was a 1-0 home defeat to Stoke!
A last game very much like my first, a 2-2 home draw with Villa, where City lead at the break through an Uwe Rosler brace, only to throw it away. As I say, ‘typical City.’
All those familiarities I mentioned about a match day, the smells, the atmosphere, the jokes, songs, it’s a constant that just keeps evolving, and has done for me since 1995 when my Dad first took me to sit on the Main Stand, a few rows down from the control room and my Grandad sat somewhere in between.
They are things I’ll never forget, and things I will miss sorely.
I didn’t think I’d miss the football, having a busy summer with the move, and not following pre-season. How wrong was I when, late for that Liverpool game, the radio commentary painted a very vivid picture of the rain in the air, the slickness of the pitch and floodlights beaming down on stands swelled with fans singing, almost drowning out the commentary itself – wishing I was there, frustrated that I wasn’t.
My final game was the frantic encounter with Spurs, and it was a little emotional, walking up those tramlines I mentioned early, to take my seat for the final time. With missing the start of the Liverpool game I don’t actually count having seen a win this year, so it was good to witness one (against Spurs) before I boarded that plane.
Although many games don’t feature four penalties, there was something very ‘City’ about the whole thing.
I’ll be back soon, as my Dad will be keeping my seat warm, and the ground I imagine will be unrecognisable, another mark of how this club keeps changing. But at the heart of it all, it will still be the same old City.
Nine games in and we’re five points adrift of where we were last season. Crisis? Time to panic? Will history repeat itself?
Arsenal shot straight out of the blocks in the opening stages of last season, look what happened in the end. Those first few games were a slight cause for concern, but the last few were almost a formality in the end.
The opening nine games of last year saw defeats to Aston Villa, who eventually staved off relegation, a loss at newly promoted Cardiff, who didn’t manage to beat the drop and a draw at Stoke.
Defeats so far this year have come away at rejuvenated West Ham, who look all the better for Alex Song’s introduction to the side, and the only other anomaly is the 1-0 home loss to Stoke.
Let’s not forget we’ve gone away and drawn to Arsenal (as we did last year), drawn with Chelsea (playing large parts of the game unjustly with ten men) who did the double over us last season. We’ve comfortably beaten Liverpool, who at the time, represented a huge challenge, looking to continue last years high achievements by setting a marker down during their visit to East Manchester.
I’ve every faith in Manuel Pellegrini, but I’m not sure he knows what his best side is yet. He’s doubts over Joe Hart reamin, who Sergio Aguero aside, won us the Spurs game. Tinkering with the defence has made us look vulnerable at the back; granted, Pablo Zabaleta needs a rest when the opportunity arises, but there’s indecision over who occupies the left back role. Often Gael Clichy will be selected when there is a bigger need to consolidate, and Aleks Kolorov when the opportunity to attack presents itself but the Spurs game saw three changes at the back, and it showed. When there’s so much rotation in the front six, we can ill afford it in the back four.
If Yaya Toure can be selected for Capital One Cup games, with a view to being played in to form, then so can Equalium Mangala. Superb against Chelsea, we need to see the young Frenchman reach those heights again, it will take time, but it will take games time too.
Martin Demichelis is no scape goat these days, on the contrary, he’s an accomplished player, but €32m on a defender who has featured as little as Mangala is questionable.
As expected, we’ve looked steady in the League Cup, and Newcastle’s upcoming visit shouldn’t pose too many problems. City should defend the Cup as best we can, with only Spurs, Chelsea and perhaps Southampton standing in our way. If we can defeat Newcastle and avoid any of these in the quarter finals (away at least) then we are capable of beating any side in England over two legs.
|West Ham||A||Fernando||Yaya Toure||L|
Where the rotation isn’t seamless is in the middle of the park. 12 games (excluding the League Cup) and City are collecting an average of 1.58 points per game. Excluding the pairings of Lampard with either Fernando and Fernandinho (one each) then only one partnership returns better points per game; Yaya Toure and Fernandinho.
Fernando initially looked, and eventually will be a quality addition to the squad, but with Yaya Toure far from his best, the two together aren’t providing the foundation City need to be both solid at the back, and potent in attack.
Fernando’s performance at home to Spurs didn’t warrant him keeping his place for CSKA. 2-0 up, the midfield should be shutting the game down. For he and Yaya Toure to remain in the side for West Ham, given the cameo Fernandinho made against Spurs, and his performance against Chelsea (arguably the pick of the central midfielders this season) begs the question, what does the best side look like?
David Silva and James Milner have fortunately carried the burden Yaya Toure has imposed. I thought next season would see Fernando and Fernandinho hold those central berths, and although form should be rediscovered, I don’t know what team I’d pick for the derby.
There are standout performers in the team, Hart, Milner, Silva, Aguero and you’d expect Stevan Jovetic and Samir Nasri to bolster that list when fully fit, as well as Fernandinho and Kolorov when given the chance.
What Vincent Kompany said after the capitulation in Moscow (regarding UEFA turning a blind eye to 500 CSKA fans gaining entry to the ground, and some inconsistent refereeing) most players in England’s top flight would be concerned if they were facing City next yet, it was more than enough to have his ten team mates pumping.
That didn’t show at the trip to The Boleyn Ground, and it didn’t look like 11 players fighting for a derby day berth next week.
Ask yourself this, do we look like the team we want to be take on Europe yet? Do we look a shoe in to retain the League this time?
Great teams need more than one leader, and if this is the blip, we need a few more to drag us out of it. I’m not sure if Yaya Toure can prove me wrong again, not this side of Christmas and not the other side of yet another African Cup of Nations.
Great teams change, evolve even. Although, there’s no disaster, signs are this may be closer than you think.