The view from Abu Dhabi: Manchester City – champions elect

Nick March* is a man of few words, at least by comparison with our first City previewer, Martin Haworth. But six of those words – his projected top four order: Man City, Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal – will delight Martin’s New Age critics who saw his sense of proportion as belonging to another, pre-Abu Dhabi world. Nick, himself living and working in the UAE capital, casts a long-distance eye over the Eastlands revolution …

Salut! Sunderland Tell us whether it suddenly felt different being a Man City fan in Abu Dhabi after the takeover

It didn’t feel any different until Roberto Mancini took over as City boss last December. Up until then we were still just the same old City, albeit with a few decent players in the squad. The change of manager seems only to have heightened expectations.

And is this the season when City simply must step up to the plate and deliver, after all that Arabian gold?

Top four would appear to be the absolute minimum and a decent run in at least one cup competition is essential. It’s been 30 years since we last made an appearance in a Wembley cup final of any substance. Now is the time to start putting that record right. But, as ever with City, we hope for the best and fear the worst.

Does the club’s development excite or worry you?

You can only be excited by what’s going on and anyone who says otherwise must be fibbing. City are very lucky to have such a benevolent owner.

Were you a Hughes man? In what way has his departure affected City’s play and progress and how will he do at Fulham?

It was a very sad day when he left the club. Mind you, I’m not sure our season would have ended differently if Hughes had been in charge, I think fifth was a fair reflection of our form. I’m sure he will do well at Fulham, he is a proven manager in the Premiership.

Name the best players you’ve seen in City shirts – and worst

The best is a bit of a moveable feast but at the moment I’d have to say Carlos Tevez, Paul Lake, Uwe Rosler, Colin Bell and Georgi Kinkladze. The worst? Too many to mention, fortunately not too many have appeared recently.

Any thoughts on individual SAFC players, or City-Sunderland clashes of the past?

Can’t help thinking back to the final game of the 1990-91 season and a 3-2 home victory over your boys courtesy of a Niall Quinn double. You packed the old Platt Lane stand too. What a great day and I was sorry to see you go down.

Hand of heart, where will you finish this season and what about Sunderland and Newcastle?

Has to be top four. Sunderland and Newcastle both in the bottom half.

Give us the season’s top four in order, and the bottom three.

Man City, Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal (why not?)

Wigan, Blackpool, West Ham

Everyone wants a wealthy benefactor to come along and propel their club to great things. But does all the money sloshing around in football, with the attendant risk in current economic climes of a really spectacular collapse by a big name, disturb you in any way?

Of course it does, too many clubs are living way beyond their means. Then again, that has always been the case hasn’t it?

And what about the World Cup? Was it as dreadful as we tend to recall, or even worse?

It was terrible, wasn’t it? Don’t even want to think about it. As ever, the tournament got better when England went home.

Showsport for you on Sunday?. Do you have a favourite place to watch live footie and what will be the score?

Not any more. Abu Dhabi Media Company has acquired the Premier League rights for the next three seasons so I’ll be buying a new satellite box to watch the match. Generally I watch the footie at home on the sofa now. As for the score, I’m sticking my neck out for a 2-0 win for City this weekend.

Nick March on Nick March
– I work for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi. Been a City fan for far too long and over the years watched my team beat Barcelona and lose to Stockport County. I blog about City at

Interview:Colin Randall

3 thoughts on “The view from Abu Dhabi: Manchester City – champions elect”

  1. I’ve just read your post Tom. I missed it before. We don’t have wide players who can get past the full back in a conventional way to the dead ball line and deliver a cross. Henderson has proven the most capable at delivering balls to the box, and Zenden showed glimpses of what he may be able to contribute against WBA. Jones might have been altogether more effective if we could provide this service. For me, Jones simply didn’t know how to play with a partner (but was in the team most weeks), as he is always too far away from the other striker. 12-15 yards should be the limit, almost without exception. The majority of DB’s goals have come in spite of the lack of service. Partly in response to this Jones would wander wider and deeper to get the ball, but didn’t have the pace to trouble defenders from a standing start.

    We’ve been without the best passer of the ball for 6 months in Andy Reid, and have a midfield with Clatter ’em all whose passing is on par with that of Shaun Elliott, and Malbranque who doesn’t get in and around those areas in and at the edge of the box where opportunities can be created. Bent will keep on doing his thing, but we have seen that Campbell doesn’t seem to fit. He looks like a wide player that has been asked to play down the middle to me, and Welbeck is the same. We don’t have a proper pair of strikers and the midfield blend isn’t creative enough for me. Reid is the only potential provider, so it’s a good thing that he is back.

  2. That really is an awful away top Nick! Is that quite an old one now? I don’t recall seeing that one for some time.

  3. We could easily be so much better – isn’t obvious?

    I read and contribute to debates on Salut!Sunderland because of the balanced nature of the contributions overall, and I have been waiting for someone to address the fundamental issue preventing our progress; in my view this is our playing style. I can guess that, like me, most people feel that there are far more knowledgeable people out there to comment on this technical matter, but in the absence of such comment I tentatively offer this analysis.
    Much has been made recently about our poor away form, and the point has been made that this problem goes back five years or more. As we all know, this is only true with regard to our Premiership form; in the Championship under Roy Keane, we had a strong away record. Although we have been far more successful at home, I see the same underlying problem in our playing style, at home, that destroys us in away matches, and that is simply our inability to keep and control the ball when pressured.
    My observation is that the team has been set up to play fast, counter-attacking football. The way we implement this tactic is generally to hit long balls (not passes note) into the channels, or over the top of the opposition defence, or, with or without the former Jones’s presence, high balls up to the unfortunate centre forward. As we all know, the result of this tactic is to present the opposition with possession of the ball we had earlier fought so hard to win, since in all cases we put their defenders in a more favourable position than our forwards to take possession. Top teams do not use these tactics as their main attacking approach, instead, there is a focus on keeping the ball. Counter-attacking sides like Man Utd pass the ball to the feet of their quick forwards who will run with the ball at their feet, or stop the attacking move if progress cannot be made, or they are in danger of losing possession. The World Cup winners, Spain, used a different tactic of moving the ball quickly between players, who were almost always on the move when they received possession; again though, they would hold the ball up if the original move was in danger of breaking down. I could go on, but you know what I mean here.
    The Birmingham and West Brom games this season are clear examples of why we are struggling. In the Birmingham game, we looked like a very good side in the first half. Sure there were not many chances created, but we controlled the ball and thus the game, and that is how it is at the highest level. Looking back at the extended highlights of that game you can see how our play was to feet, and mainly through our central midfielder, Catts. When we went down to 10 men, we obviously needed to slow the game down, but, by adopting a switch of tactics to the long ball for poor Bent and Campbell to chase, we surrendered possession and actually increased the pace of the game. We could all feel the game slipping away as a result. The West Brom game highlighted the same point, in reverse chronological order, whilst they passed the ball to feet and controlled the game throughout the first 75 minutes, we assisted them by using our quick long ball tactic to ensure that they were provided with easy possession from which to start their passing moves. As every midfield player knows, trying to stop a good player who is in possession and moving with support in the middle of the pitch, is a difficult job and can make you look very foolish. It was only when Zenden came on and started to pass the ball to feet that we cut off their supply of easy possession and briefly looked as though we might sneak a win.
    I do believe that we have good players who are capable of playing passing football with good decision-making (sometimes you do need the long ball); I also rate our current management and coaching team, so I am at a loss to explain why we play the way we do – anybody out there got a clue?

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