Thursday, August 24, 2006

City 0 Portsmouth 0

Any optimism that made it's way to the ground tonight must have been washed away by a performance which indicated nothing but frustration lies ahead this season.

Coming up against a Portsmouth side who clearly set their stall out for a point - and to their credit backed this up with some solid play, and could have sneaked it if not for a couple of smart saves from Nicky Weaver and Dermot Gallagher failing to spot Micah Richards handball.

If truth to be told though, it was a game that was there to win, but instead City put in a performance that was no improvement confidence or performance wise from how last season ended with a side that personnel wise only added Paul Dickov to that of last season - a worry considering the general concensus was that we have strengthened on last season.

Team wise, we had a new pairing up front with Vassell and Dickov getting the nod, whilst Samaras moved out left as Reyna played in the middle alongside Barton seeing Dabo drop to the bench. Tactically was a big concern for me, and the approach could have only been instructed by Pearce and the coaching staff. Time and again, the first ball by a City player (namely Weaver or the defence) was a long, diagonal ball across field to either Samaras or Sinclair out wide on the touchline.

Why this approach was adopted is a mystery as I don't see this as playing to our strengths, and I don't see who was in place to win the second ball. This only served to play into Portsmouth's hands as they could get men deep behind the ball and clear their lines time and again.

There weren't a great deal of positives individually to take from this. Weaver made a couple of crucial saves and defensively as a unit we were solid - without being placed under too much pressure. Barton improved from Sunday and I have hope that his partnership with Hamman can spark some much needed creativity.

Negatives? Plenty. Samaras is wasted on the left, as much for the fact he offers nothing defensively. He should have played up front and Vassell withdrawn for Miller - who has not impressed thus far in that role. Sinclair played in fits and starts but offered little in the way of attacking threat.

Special mention must be made for Ben Thatcher though. Poor positioning and distribution was augmented by an attitude that bordered on disinterested, but as I've read reports when I got back it seems his challenge on Pedro Mendes was not merely 'clumsy' and unnecessary as I thought at the time, but a deliberate one in which he led with his elbow. I've still not seen replays but the Portsmouth camp are incensed with it and it may not be a surprise if the FA get involved.

We undoubtedly miss Cole from the side, and Hamman should make a difference - but we still lack that 'game breaker' - someone who can turn a game on their own with a moment of magic. A player such as Wright-Phillips or Anelka. We don't suffer from a lack of hard work and graft, but they ultimately do not win you Premiership games.

And won't win back the fans who are seemingly voting with their feet.

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