Thursday, January 05, 2006

No festive cheer.

A tricky period of games ended with last nights 2-0 defeat at home to Tottenham and a yield of one point from four games was hardly on the festive wish list of any Blues.
Perhaps more worrying though from last nights game with future fixtures in mind was the performance itself. Gone was the spirit shown in an attempted comeback at Wigan, and the endeavour shown against Chelsea and Middlesbrough.

Stuart Pearce admitted after the game that there was a lack of confidence and belief in the side at the moment and that was clearly evident from last nights display. However, I believe much of that lack of belief last night was translated from the tactics employed by Pearce. There looked to be a static bank of four for the defence and midfield around ten-fifteen yards apart. This appeared to stifle any creativity and attacking impetus, neutralising Stephen Ireland out on the left in particular. I would liked to have seen him playing in the centre alongside Barton, with Sun Jihai on the left who would have been better suited in containing the sprightly Aaron Lennon.
With Joey Barton looking jaded after virtually carrying the midfield over the last couple of games, the only outlet of attack came through Trevor Sinclair who continued to display his impressive form of late. However, there appeared to be little cohesion and fluidity with either of the strikers and unsuprisingly this resulted in little or nothing of note being created.

Contrast with Tottenham (who were missing key players Davids and King) in that whilst they hardly pushed themselves to create chances, they were content to be patient, showing far better movement than City did and always appeared to have time and space on the ball.
Their use of the ball was also more impressive, and this was a particularly poor aspect of City's game in that the distribution (in particular from the defence) was of poor quality and this was surely the reason that Onouha was substituted, whilst Richard Dunne is struggling to recapture the form he has showed the previous eighteen months.
Sun Jihai in particular though can only be best described as inept in a central midfield role as time and time again he continued to give the ball away.

Without shooting ourselves in the foot with the first goal, the game could have easily petered out into a scoreless draw but Distin though, whilst correctly shepherding the ball out for a goal kick, inexplicably failed to get his body in the way and shield it out of play allowing Lennon to pull the ball back for Mido to easily slot home.
In truth, the game was as good as over at that stage and the home crowd knew it. In fact, it wasn't until after Tottenham scored the second after a long punt downfield was some allowed to fall to Robbie Keane (who else?) to fire past James.
The introduction of Wright-Phillips and Croft saw us carve out a couple of half chances, but Robinson was only really forced into action on one occasion late on with a smart save from Cole.

The recent festive period results and performances have in truth probably signalled the end of the end of Stuart Pearce's 'honeymoon period', one which was fully deserved given the run at the end of last season and how the team performed at the start of this season. Pearce to his credit admitted as such and it has become apparant that perhaps the current squad at times have played above and beyond their potential rather than merely fulfilling it.

Last nights game to me merely illustrated the loss to the side from last season of both Nicolas Anelka and Shaun Wright-Phillips. Wright-Phillips for the creative outlet and the ability to spark the team at any given moment, whilst (for all his detractors) Anelka was willing to drop deep and look for the ball to create things for both himself and the team.

The transfer window now takes on added significance as fans will be looking to see who is brought in to strengthen the current line up as although I think it is conceivable we will drop out of the top ten at any time this season, to have a realistic run at European qualification, all areas of the team do need to be strengthened over the coming month.

Match reports:
Manchester Online
Sky Sports
BBC
Fox Sports
Official Tottenham website

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

We appreciate the 3 points - thank you very much for not making things too difficult last night by trying to play football and be competitive etc.

Regards,

Martin Jol

Anonymous said...

I think Stuart Pearce will make Man Citeh hard to beat eventually. Good luck the rest of the way - except when you come to White Hart Lane when we would appreciate a similar performance please so we can practice our scoring!!

Wigan Blue said...

Excuse me.....

Anelka "willing to drop deep and look for the ball" ???

Well there's where you have been going wrong straight away - you've been going to the wrong match every week!

The most bone idle striker ever to set foot on a football pitch. If he was played up front on his own you could guarantee he would be caught offside at least 20 times in a match - and as far as going back and looking for the ball was concerned - it never ever, ever, happened.