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Posts Tagged ‘Man City’

Chelsea end Manchester City’s unbeaten home record

Chelsea have ended Manchester City’s unbeaten home record in the Premier League this season and kept the title race wide open with a 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium. Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic lashed home the only goal of the game in the thirty second minute to lift Jose Mourinho’s team up to fifty three points, leaving them in joint second place with City, only trailing the Manchester club on goal difference. City, who had won all eleven of their previous home league fixtures this campaign, failed to find the net on home turf in the league for the first time since November 2010 and missed out on the chance to go top of the table.

Arsenal have a two point advantage at the top of the table thanks to their 2-0 home win in a London derby against Crystal Palace at the weekend, which came courtesy of two goals from the returning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. However, things could change at the top as early as next weekend with the Gunners facing a difficult looking trip to Anfield to take on fourth placed Liverpool, who could only draw at West Brom on Sunday, and Chelsea and Manchester City having easier looking fixtures against Newcastle and Norwich respectively.

Navas joins Fernandinho at City

Manchester City have completed the signing of Sevilla winger Jesus Navas as they continue to strengthen their squad in preparation for their bid to recapture the Premier League title from cross-town rivals Manchester United next season. Navas joins Shakhtar Donetsk’s Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho as the second big money arrival at the Etihad this summer.

Jesus Navas has just completed his medical in New York, where he played for Spain as a half time substitute, replacing his new team mate David Silva, in their 2-0 friendly win against the Republic of Ireland last night. He will now fly to Brazil with the rest of the Spain squad for the Confederations Cup, which starts this weekend, before joining up with Manchester City after what will have to be a short summer break for the twenty seven year old. Navas, who has two goals in twenty five appearances for Spain, has spent his whole career with his home town club, Sevilla, playing over 280 matches for them and scoring 23 goals. He is best known for providing goals to his team mates through his pacey wing play, trickery and crossing ability. He has successfully overcome the anxiety problems that hampered the early part of his career whenever he travelled away from Seville on away games or to meet up with the international squad and at one times caused him to quit international football. However, the incoming City manager will need to make sure he settles in and makes the transition to his first permanent posting overseas. Navas’ career honours to date include the 2010 World Cup, the 2012 European Championships, the Europa League (twice) and the Copa del Rey (twice).

His £14.9 million purchase takes Manchester City’s summer spending to around £45 million following last week’s signing of Fernandinho for £30 million. The Brazilian, who isn’t part of his country’s Confederations Cup squad, has five caps for his country and spent eight years at Shakhtar Donetsk where he played 184 times scoring 31 goals. He’s an all-round midfielder with strong defensive and attacking attributes who, at 28, should be at the peak of his powers. Both signings have been made without City having a first team manager in place following the departure of Roberto Mancini at the end of last season, but Chilean Manuel Pellegrini is still expected to arrive at the club in the near future.

Friendly Result: Manchester City 4-3 Chelsea

Manchester City and Chelsea kicked off their post-season tours with a topsy turvy seven goal thriller in St Louis, Missouri. The Premier League pair named strong sides for the occasion in front of a sell-out 48,000 plus crowd and provided plenty of entertainment for their American based fans.

It was a game of two halves as Chelsea took control of the first period with Demba Ba giving them the lead in the 14th minute and they made it two just before half time when Cesar Azpilicueta scored a penalty following a foul on Juan Mata.

Both teams made five changes at the interval but it got even worse for the Premier League runners up in the 53rd minute when Brazilian midfielder Oscar further extended the Chelsea lead, having replaced Juan Mata. City then introduced Maicon and Milner and got back into the game with two goals in two minutes from Javi Garcia and substitute Edin Dzeko.

Chelsea clung on to their lead until the 84th minute when Dzeko beat Chelsea substitute goalkeeper Jamal Blackman again to make it three apiece and fellow substitute Micah Richards snatched a last minute winner for the Sky Blues to complete an unlikely turn-around. The two sides meet again at the Yankees Stadium in New York on Saturday.

United hit top spot

Manchester United overhauled their cross-town rivals Manchester City to take top place in the Premier League table with ten games remaining in the 2011-12 season. United eased to victory against West Bromwich Albion with a goal in each half from the on-form Wayne Rooney. The first was diverted in after good work from Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez in the 35th minute and the second was from the penalty spot in the 71st minute. West Brom’s Jonas Olsson was dismissed in the 66th minute for a second bookable offence.

Meanwhile, Manchester City were going down 1-0 against Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium. City domainated possession for long periods but were unable to find the net and succombed to an 83rd minute strike from substitute Luke Moore, only four minutes after he had come off the bench to replace Danny Graham. The Swans could have taken an early lead when they won a penalty in the 7th minute, only for Scott Sinclair’s effort to be well saved by City ‘keeper Joe Hart. It was mainly one-way traffic after that but, for once, City couldn’t find their cutting edge.

In the other game of the day, bottom of the table Wigan Athletic rescued a point from their trip to Carrow Road, having been 1-0 down against Norwich City. Wes Hoolahan gave the Canaries an early lead but the Latics came back strongly after the interval and replied through Victor Moses in the 68th minute. However, time ran out before Wigan could find a winner. The point leaves Wigan at the foot of the table but keeps them in touch with the rest of the teams struggling against relegation.

Manchester United’s win moves them on to 68 points at the top, one clear of Manchester City on 67, although City’s goal difference is still eight better than United’s. There is now a 13 point gap back from City to Spurs in third place.

Premiership Debate: How did Manchester City’s new signings fare against Bolton?

Roberto Mancini elected to start his two new acquisitions in the transfer window in the Premiership victory against Bolton Wanderers.  www.aboutaball.co.uk reviews how Adam Johnson and Patrick Vieira got on.

 After a month of frenzied transfer speculation surrounding Manchester City, the arrivals lounge at Eastlands was actually rather under-populated with just the two new names: Patrick Vieira and Adam Johnson, one a midfielder approaching the veteran stage of his career and the other something of a rookie from the Championship. 

 Both made their debut as substitutes at Hull City at the weekend, and both started against Bolton Wanderers.  Furthermore both introduced themselves to the City fans with a significant part in the two goals that their side scored.  However, their overall impact differed significantly.

A changed Vieira?

The decision to start the former Arsenal midfielder alongside Nigel de Jong at the heart of the City midfield prompted the question whether both were required in the starting XI of a game deemed an easy home win.  Many felt that Vieira’s presence in the midfield (in contrast to Ireland, de Jong and Barry against Hull) put too much emphasis on defending rather than going forward. 

However, noticeably Vieira spent much of his time the other side of the half-way line, leaving de Jong with the majority of the covering duties.  Whilst many City fans will recall the Patrick Vieira of Arsenal with part grimace and part grudging respect as something of a midfield enforcer, he returns to the Premiership after a spell in Italy a slightly changed character in terms of his role on a football pitch.

His evolution started under Roberto Mancini at Inter, who often played him in a similar three-man midfield setup alongside the Argentine pair of Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Zanetti. Both are more comfortable on the back-foot, so much of the responsibility to get Inter moving forward from midfield fell to Vieira.  This subtle shift in emphasis in his game was quite evident against Bolton, as the Frenchman’s forward passes were of a significantly higher standard than his defensive contributions.

His through pass for the second goal was quite magnificent: the perfect amount of back spin applied for the ball to hold up and fall neatly into the path of Adebayor to smash home.  The finish caught much of the media attention, but the pass through from Vieira went rather unheralded, which was a pity because it was a fine ball.

The rest of Vieira’s passing was somewhat understated and not overly ambitious, but tidy enough.  Nevertheless his defensive contribution was a little lacklustre.  He was caught in possession a couple of times during the game, on one occasion in the first half hesitating on the ball outside his own area seemingly uncertain what to do with the ball.  His tackling and closing down will also need to be improved – Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba unleashed a long-range effort from outside of the box at one point, and he really should have been picked up quicker by Vieira and closed down.

After playing the full ninety minutes, something he hasn’t done too much of in recent months at the San Siro, Vieira looked increasingly tired as the game progressed, but at 33 should still be more than able to complete games for City once his full match fitness comes to the fore. 

On the evidence of the performance against Bolton, it looks like he may also have a slightly more attacking role at Manchester City, and if he produces quality through balls like the one for Adebayor on a regular basis, he’ll quickly have Arsenal fans wondering if Sol Campbell wasn’t the only ex-Gooner their side should have picked up in January.

A bit of a wide boy

Whilst Patrick Vieira’s home debut was a bit of a mixed bag, Adam Johnson’s was eye-catching to say the least.  The former Middlesbrough player looks like he might have been a bit of a bargain at £6 million on the basis of the game against Bolton. 

The one time England U-21 international looked a constant menace on either flank and won the penalty from the right side after driving into the Bolton penalty area before being tripped by Paul Robinson.  Interestingly for a wide-man Johnson was equally happy to cut in to the centre of the pitch as try his luck by going down the line, leaving both Bolton full-backs uncertain as to his intentions.

Used as part of a three-man attacking line, Johnson was free to concentrate on influencing the game in the final third, and was at the heart of everything City did positively in the first half.  Employing players with natural width was never part of Mancini’s game at Inter Milan, the Italian preferring a narrow formation that used someone like Dejan Stankovic as a play-maker in the traditional tre-quartista role, what we would refer to as the hole. 

The acquisition of Johnson to come in alongside the existing options of Petrov and Wright-Philips, suggests that Mancini may be prepared to eschew that for an approach based on flank play.  There is going to be plenty of competition of places on the flanks with Johnson’s arrival.  After Shaun Wright-Philips’ rather wild contribution as a second half substitute, it looks like Johnson may be the natural choice to partner Adebayor and Tevez up front, at least for the time being. 

Indeed such was his impact if he can maintain it, then he may be an outside contender for a place at South Africa in Fabio Capello’s England squad.  Quite a change over the course of a season for a player who spent the first month of 2009/10 playing Scunthorpe United and Doncaster Rovers!

Both Vieira and Johnson look like they may have a role to play for City as they look to try and muscle their way into fourth place, or better, for Champions League football next season.  With critical fixtures coming up against both Liverpool and Tottenham in the next five games, not to mention a clash against Chelsea and an FA Cup match against Stoke for a place in the quarter-finals, there will be no shortage of incentive for City to do well.  Adam Johnson in particular could have a key role to play as the final and decisive stages of the season are entered into.

English Debate: Do Manchester City need to smarten up their transfer dealings?

Is too much of this stuff, the problem for City?

In the wake of the failure to sign up Real Madrid’s Fernando Gago, Manchester City have come in for some heavy criticism from both the Spanish side and the player’s agent.  www.aboutaball.co.uk asks whether City need to wise up in the transfer market.

 

The recent activity in attempting to sign the Argentine midfielder Fernando Gago and subsequent welter of abuse that has been directed in the direction of Eastlands has certainly dragged Manchester City’s name somewhat through the muck.  Real Madrid’s bitter words could just be a by-product of an attempt to try and prevent City achieving their status as one of the world’s foremost football teams.

Jorge Valdano, Real Madrid’s Sporting Director, has been the source of much of the ire, and claimed that City weren’t in any position to sign the midfielder citing a lack of any preparation and paperwork, even hinting at an illegal approach to the player before consulting his club.  It rather suggests that Valdano believes that City were somewhat amateurish in the way they handled the approach, but perhaps one needs to delve further into the time-line of the transfer before reaching any conclusion.

It would appear that City were looking at Fernando Gago as a possible transfer target for some time and identified the out of favour former Boca Juniors player early in the window.  Reports indicate that they were quoted a staggering £21 million to acquire Gago, despite the fact that the fee represented a 50% mark-up on what Real paid his former Argentine side when they swooped for him in a double deal with an agency to bring Gago and compatriot Gonzalo Higuain to the club.

Manchester City tax

Rebuffed City sought other transfer targets, but after the deal to sign the Kenyan Mariga evaporated, they returned to Real and were quoted a more reasonable price of around £15 million.  This indicates that Real Madrid, like AC Milan in the Kaka deal previously, simply hiked up the price because it was Manchester City who came calling. 

Could Kaka have been wearing the light-blue of City if it hadn't been for AC Milan?

There is certainly a lesson to be learnt for City, in that they need to bide their time when making offers for players, and they may need to be prepared to identify another target if their initial choice falls through.  Chelsea suffered the same issue in the immediate aftermath of the Abramovich take-over, and City will need to go through the same process. 

However, given the fact that Real substantially reduced their asking price at the second time of asking with time running out to conclude the deal suggests that the reason it failed to go through was because of their own greed.  They had hoped to exploit City’s nouveau-riche status, and when Real lost the chance to move on a player who hasn’t featured much this season at a profit, they simply spat the dummy out and blamed everyone else but themselves.

Always City’s fault?

Valdano’s comments therefore smack of frustration at their inability to fleece City, but also petty-minded parochialism.  There is no doubt that City’s rapid emergence in the past couple of seasons has ruffled a few feathers amongst the elite of European football, who are more interested in preserving their own status at the top rather than encouraging competition. 

Manchester City were the target of much vilification from AC Milan and now Real Madrid over transfer dealings, accusing City of amateurism and unsettling players, an accusation Real Madrid in particular should steer clear of making given their conduct in the Cristiano Ronaldo transfer.  Clearly there is an attempt to sully City’s name, as they attempt to financially muscle their way into what has been largely a closed-shop for many years.

 There is certainly something in this theory; ultimately AC Milan accepted a bid of nearly half what City had offered for Kaka when the talented Brazilian made the move to Spain in the summer.  Were AC Milan willing to accept susbstanially less just to ensure that Kaka didn’t move to Eastlands?  Most suggest that Kaka didn’t fancy the move to City in the end, and that might have been so.  But why then did AC Milan accept a much lower bid subsequently from Real, when their asking price when City enquired was nearly double that?

City themselves have refrained from letting themselves get dragged into a slanging match with Real Madrid after trading public remarks with AC Milan over the failed-Kaka deal.  Internally though, City may need to switch their targets away from the bigger sides and instead concentrate on acquiring promising players, who can fulfil their potential at Eastlands. 

Returning to the example of Chelsea, the unfortunate incident of Gael Kakuta aside, they too were often criticised for the way they conduced transfer dealings, most notably by Manchester United after they failed to secure Jon Obi Mikel after Chelsea trumped them for the player.  City may also need to go through the same process before being able to conduct transfer business without provoking the wrath of other elite sides from around Europe.

Bolton and West Ham to face German competition for Man City winger?

Reports today suggest that Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United may have to fend off German competition if they are to secure the loan deal of Manchester City starlet Vladimir Weiss.  The Slovakian right-winger could be allowed to leave Eastlands on a loan deal, to gain some further experience, alerting the interests of the struggling German side to his availability.

The 18-year-old has caught the eye for City in their cup ties, but is yet to start a Premiership match, and with the resurgence in form of Martin Petrov, chances for Weiss look limited in the second half of the season.

Despite his tender age, Weiss is already part of the full Slovakian set-up, and showed his potential when he helped his side overcome Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in a crucial victory, which helped book their ticket to South Africa.  Weiss is in need of regular first team football to ensure that he doesn’t slip too far down the pecking order, and miss out on potentially his only ever chance to participate at a World Cup.

Bolton and West Ham have already been linked with a move for the player’s signature, but Manchester City may be more open to a deal that takes the player abroad.

1. FC Köln have been struggling near the foot of the Bundesliga all season, and despite the arrival of home-town hero Lukas Podolski after a troubled time at Bayern Munich, they have been unable to lift themselves away from the final third.  The arrival of Weiss would therefore be a huge bonus before they re-start the season by hosting Borussia Dortmund, a match UK readers can see live on ESPN UK at 16.30 GMT.

Yaya Toure Spotted in Man City shirt

This was following a chat with Kolo about his future, the pair implied that he could shortly be heading to England to join Toure at Man City? It would most likely happen in the summer once Vieira’s short term deal expires. Finally the Toure brothers would be paired together as Wenger should have done a number of years ago at Arsenal. Picture here

Vieira over the hill?

Patrick Vieira has wanted a move back to The Premiership for a while now and it seems Manchester City chief, Roberto Mancini wants to give him that opportunity.

In my view this is completely the wrong move.

Arsene Wenger sold him for £13.5 million in the summer of 2005 when he was 29 and at the peak of his career. Vieira hasn’t been the same player since even though he moved to Serie A as he thought this might preserve his ageing legs.

Juventus sold him after a year, clearly believing he was past his best so Mancini stepped in and brought him to Inter Milan. The French international won back-to-back league titles but he was very much a squad player and not the vital clog he once was in Wenger’s Arsenal side.

The 33-year-old was heavily linked with The Gunners and Tottenham in the summer but Wenger and Redknapp decided against signing him so surely they had their doubts? If a 33-year-old defensive midfielder couldn’t keep up with the slow pace of Serie A then he certainly couldn’t keep up with the lightning fast pace of The Premiership. The Senegalese born giant was once a formidable player but it is hard to see what he would bring to a Man City side that already has good players in that position.

Nigel De Jong is probably seen as the first choice to play in the hole of that three man midfield and since his move from Hamburg 12 months ago he has been quite impressive. The Dutch international can defiantly keep up with the pace of The Premiership and at the age of 26 he still has another couple of years to reach his prime. De Jong certainly offers more than Vieira. Vincent Kompany can also play the holding role and the Belgian star has looked no mug in doing so. Kompany is like another De Jong with his height, strength, stamina and a bit of pace. His age is also great at 24. Again he has more to offer than Vieira due to his ability to adapt to playing centre-back.

City have long been linked with Barcelona’s Yaya Toure. He is a World Class defensive midfielder something De Jong and Kompany aren’t. Toure would be bringing something to the table because he would be strengthening the City team.

The 27-year-old is just approaching his prime so City would be getting the best years out of the Ivorian plus his Brother Kolo is captain so Yaya would quite happily join. Yaya is out of favour at Barcelona and they have made no secret of the fact that they would like to sell Toure. A Robinho-Toure swap deal makes perfect sense.

Mancini obviously still sees something in his former player and it would be hard to disagree with a man who has made such an impressive start to his tenure at Eastland’s but what’s the point of signing players who are no better than the ones you already have?

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