The defeat of Arsenal
The real high so far has been the 4-2 defeat of Arsenal, a match that will go down in Eastlands history because of the intensity in which it was played and controversy that it produced. The skill, pace and power of Emmanuel Adebayor is something that City fans should cherish. Such a shame for these talents to be dampened by the attack on Robin van Persie. I am not fully convinced that the Arsenal striker’s head was the intended target, but that Adebayor went for some part of van Persie is not in doubt. Seen in the longue duree of the game, the actions of the former Arsenal man become a bit more understandable. The intensity that Wenger’s men directed towards Adebayor was there for all to see. But stamping on another player is not the way to do business and I have no qualms over his ban.
The hatred that existed between Adebayor and the Arsenal fans before the game has now surely been increased tenfold by that infamous goal celebration. Lost in the rhythms of a highly charged game it was a stupid thing to do, but also I think excusable. Of course, that is much easier to say when you are on the winning side. And I will always be biased of course.
The mainstay of our success
If the goals of Adebayor represent the icing on the cake of a season that has started so well, it has been the energy, concentration and pure footballing savvy of players like Gareth Barry that represent the foundation upon which this early success has been built.
Clearly this is an area in which the team has massively improved. Grinding out wins against the likes of Blackburn, Portsmouth, Crystal Palace and Fulham means that the team is already displaying a resilience that I have never seen in twenty-odd years of supporting City. Barry’s ball pursuit, ball retention and ball distribution skills are not only of a very high quality but are also consistent. Moreover, they seem to have spread throughout the team. Although it was against lesser opposition, the Palace game is the best example of this new kind of tenacity. Palace gave us a hell of a game, and attacked with bags of energy and speed. City teams of old would have withered under this style of play – that this City team didn’t is highly encouraging.
What a match. I disagreed with all the media hype surrounding this fixture – that it was a judgement on whether we were going to be real challengers to United’s title. People forget that
Irrespective of the injury time (or should that be Taggart Time) controversy, I really believe that this was a game that we should have got more out of. After a shaky start, we equalised and ended up dominating the first half. After the break we were our own worst enemy, with the very qualities that have brought us so much success (ball pursuit, retention and distribution) deserting us for the best part of the second half. In this desertion lay the real reason for our defeat, not the supposedly sublime attacking talent of United. They are clearly a top side, but the mistakes we made coupled with our inability to keep hold of the ball meant that United were able to press and press. Goals were thus inevitable.
The real sublime attacking talent of this game came in the form of Craig Bellamy. The Welshman was already on blob with his fizzing strike against Arsenal, but his goals at Old Trafford were a step up again. It will be interesting to see what happens when Robinho returns to the squad. For me, the Brazillian will need to do something to warrant starting ahead of Bellamy. Still, this is what we want – competition for places all over the pitch.
Having come back for the third time it was difficult to stomach coming away from Old Trafford with nothing. For Owen to score the winner will go some way towards justifying
The departure of Richard Dunne
From the moment our new owners were installed, the future of Richard Dunne, one of City’s most reliable servants of recent times, was in doubt. His move to Aston Villa on transfer deadline day was unsurprising, but for me was tinged with a little bit of sadness at the way in which he exited the club.
There is little room for sentimentality in football, and I accept that in footballing terms Richard Dunne was not the long term answer for the
Cook may well have been speaking the truth, but his comments were reckless and potentially highly disruptive. Speaking about the club captain in this way also showed a complete lack of respect – a word that City’s current owners seem to quite big on. Finally, Cook’s comments showed a lack of understanding. Dunne was the best thing about City up until very recently, with four player of the year awards in a row telling a story. The defender was a rock of stability in what was, at times, an extremely volatile and turbulent environment.
If Dunne is right, and Cook was trying to force a move behind the Irishman’s back, then this shows poor form. It is also surprising, given how savvy and in-touch the club seems to have been with everything else.
Good luck Dunney. You were good, but in the end you were the victim of wider machinations. Thanks for the massive effort over the years.
Our newfound prominence in the English game has given rise to some fantastic City analysis in the papers, coming in the shape of three big articles from The Guardian’s David Conn. Here’s some points I found interesting from
The New Owners: for big business, for prestige, and for the love of the game
The other motivation sounds much more realistic: to develop a business capable of reaping a long term (and probably lucrative) returns. But it doesn’t end there.
Khaldoon goes on to describe how the new Manchester-Abu Dhabi connection is much more than about football: “The reception from day one, from the fans, has been absolutely incredible. There is an element of bridge-building, of understanding, between the Arab world and
Disarray and disrepair: how we almost lost everything
The revelation here comes in the form of Hughes’ naivety, and his admission that he nearly walked away from the club. Then Chairman Thaksin Shinawatra was clearly a wealthy man – perhaps even a billionaire – but his murky political background meant that he was facing corruption charges in his home country of
“The reality wasn’t exactly what was described and sold to me,” said the Welshman. That may be so, but one would’ve thought that one could work things out. As
Then there was the club infrastructure. Hughes quickly realised that the training facilities were shot and in addition was having to address suspicious goings-on within the club in the form of attempts to sell players behind his back.
The bottom line is that there was no money. The by now infamous cash flow story – when former chairman John Wardle has to loan the club £2M in order to pay playing personnel – it completely true. We were on the edge of a precipice, the worst debacle in the club’s history.
Should we be surprised? Probably not. We were living up to the ‘typical-City’ tag after all. The difference this time was that instead of there being mistakes made on the field, there was mistake after mistake made off it – and with a good deal of stupidity thrown into the pot.
The cacophony of errors carried on with Cook. “I deeply regretted my failure to do proper research on Thaksin,” said the City Chief Exec. I cannot understand how a former Nike Brand
The real twist of it all is this – would there have been Mansour without Shinawatra? Indirectly, Wardle and Makin may have just delivered us into the most financially powerful football club on earth. And there’s a twist with Hughes and Cook too. Despite their naiveties Shinawatra actually delivered the club two very talented individuals. I doubt whether Mansour would’ve appointed either, but as it happens the Sheikh has stuck by both because of the qualities they bring to the club.
We shouldn’t be surprised, for the simple reason that this was City – ‘typical City’ – a club capable of plundering the depths and touching the heavens in the same sentence. But strangely enough, things have somehow fallen into place.
Culture wars: the exorcism of ‘typical City’
For Hughes, it is about stamping out the bad habits of the previous regime. These include eradicating a cliquey dressing room that had been allowed to become so through Eriksson’s signings. Of course, here we are talking about Elano. Part of Hughes’ solution to this has already been well documented – offering the squad a ‘no-excuses culture’ – or in other words giving them everything they need to perform to best of their ability in every game so that there is no opportunity for them to whine. It is also about developing greater linkage between the youth academy and the senior squad, giving our younger players key opportunities to learn from top quality professionals in the first team. There are certainly a lot of latter about at present.
For Cook and Khaldoon, it is about thinking big off the field – something City have never done. In
Cook’s role in the exorcism comes in the form of thinking globally, something that was embodied by the audacious move for Kaka. A big buzz word for Cook must be ‘ambition’. We may have ultimately failed, but as a club we showed massive ambition by lodging a bid for probably the most talented player in the world at the height of his powers. Moreover, the bid was credible and could’ve gone through given the right climate. Off the pitch,
This exercise in exorcism is about mobilising the resources of the club to achieve three interlocking objectives: making big money, winning big trophies and projecting a positive image of
All of this seems light years away from the days of Peter Swales. And it is.