Sunday, 28 March 2010

Now its win or bust against Wigan

To say that the next game is always the most important is to repeat an over used phrase in football, but that phrase applies to Manchester City now probably more than at any other point this season.

Everton and form

Whilst far from being our worst performance of the season, the Everton defeat felt very much like the defeat against Spurs at White Hart Lane earlier in the season. As a supporter, there was very, very little in the way of positives that you could take from the game. There is no other way to say it other than to say that we were just well beat. Everton more than matched us in every single department. When it doesn’t go for our two talisman – Tevez and Bellamy – we fast run out of attacking ideas.

The outcome last Wednesday was a frustrating and alarming result. Frustrating because we never really got a grip of Everton – even more so because we allowed the dreaded head of Tim Cahill to deflect a free kick beyond Shay Given and we should’ve been all over Cahill in the box. Alarming because the defeat once again demonstrates that we are clearly not the form team going into the 4th place run in. The last convincing performance I can think of was the win at Stamford Bridge, and even then we weren’t at the races in the first 45 minutes.

In some ways this has been a strange season. We certainly haven’t been consistent, we’ve never quite got it right at the back and I don’t believe we’ve hit the heights of our attacking talent – we’ve not given anyone a good hidingfor example - but we are still up there in the European places with a chance of Champions League football, and in terms of our final points total, the result will probably be a lot more rosy that previous seasons’ efforts.

For all our talent, there is still something missing within the team, something that is very difficult to measure and put your finger on. Its probably something like togetherness. David Moyes spoke about our deficiencies in the team spirit department. I think he’s right. Who has a real affinity for the club? I don't want to sound negative but there can't be that many, if for no other reason than that we are still a relatively new team.

Togetherness and spirit are things that are developed over the long term, through thick and thin but always on the basis of stability. The trouble is, we still don’t have stability at the club. There’s been a lot of personnel changes, and equally worrying is the growing sense that Mancini will fall by the wayside if we do not make fourth place. I think its highly likely, given that the Board sacked Hughes because they thought he was unable to deliver this finishing position.

Implications of yesterday’s results

This weekend’s games have gone both for and against us. Villa’s drubbing at the hands of Chelsea was a welcome surprise. I’ve had O’Neill’s men as favourites to land that fourth spot for a while now, but this 7-1 defeat makes me not so sure. The margin of loss speaks of a team that gave up, unusual for this Aston Villa side, which I have always associated with endeavour and steel. There is still a stretch to go of course, but they may now be out of the mix. Even if they claw it back, goal difference will also now count against them.

The more troublesome result was Tottenham’s 2-0 win over Portsmouth. It opens up a five point gap between ourselves and Redknapp’s men. I didn’t think Spurs would have the mettle to keep going at this stage of the season. Portsmouth are dangerous opponents these days – whilst not outstanding they are men who have nothing to lose, but Spurs despatched them easily.

And of course this now means that we have to take three points when we meet Wigan at Eastlands on Monday night. If we win, the pressure on Spurs will be kept up, and the longer we keep the pressure on the Londoners, the better chance we will have to succeed. If we are still in touch by the time they come to Eastlands, then 4th place will be ours to lose – I am sure of this. But I am equally sure that should we fail to despatch Wigan (anything less than a win is failure), then we will crash out of the race for 4th place on Monday evening.

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