The Manchester City Soapbox: a shambles from start to finish

Steve Bruce knows it, Niall Quinn knows it and you can bet your life Ellis Short will leave neither of them in any doubt that he knows it, too. This was a catastrophic apology for a performance and came tailor-made for extending a dismal run of games that has brought one point, no goals since Gyan’s against Spurs and considerable despair. Pete Sixsmith endured the Eastlands massacre …

Up until 4pm Sunday had been a very pleasant day. A new coach to take us there, good company, an early arrival in Uppermill and a stroll along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to the Diggle Inn, where a lovely pint of Copper Dragon Golden Pippin was consumed. Back to the Wagon, a half of Ginger Tom and off to Eastlands hoping for a point.

Then it all went wrong – and wrong in huge capital letters as we capitulated to a very good Manchester City side.

Let’s deal with City first. They looked Champions League material, although they were helped by our impersonation of qualifiers from San Marino. They knew that the Saturday results gave them an ideal opportunity to secure a top four place and they were motivated, focused and determined to show their fans that they had it in them to move up a level.

I couldn’t see a weakness in them. The back four is huge, and they played as a unit. The midfield is strong, and they played like a unit with pace and imagination. Up front, they played like a unit with Balotelli’s strength complementing Tevez’s pace. It was an outstanding performance, with Toure and Johnson the pick of the bunch.

You may have noticed the word “unit” getting a good airing in the previous paragraph. My Collins Dictionary defines the word as “a team of people that performs a specific function”.

You know what is coming next.

We were not, at any time in this debacle, a unit. Rabble is an appropriate word. A sentence to describe it would be “A disorganised, feeble and gutless showing that once again made us the laughing stock of the Premier League”. Not pretty words, but for anyone who witnessed this live, on Sky TV or on a scratchy video link in other parts of the world, I defy them to pick fault with any of them.

Defy is something we didn’t do. After the first couple of minutes, when we competed a little bit, we just folded. The first goal came after defending that would have shamed a poor Sunday morning side. Bardsley and Mensah were nowhere to be seen as Johnson and Toure skipped past them.

Five minutes later, Bardsley gave away a penalty and Howard Webb got it right, despite my assertion that he hadn’t. End of game, City eased up a little and we at least had some possession – which we wasted at just about every opportunity.

Henderson, Muntari, Ferdinand, Bardsley consistently gave the ball away. Nobody won it on a regular basis while the forwards had to look for scraps. Gyan worked hard up front, created the sole chance we had in the first half and looked a frustrated figure at the end as yet another good run into space was not spotted by those behind him.

The second half was damage limitation time. A team that could perform as a unit would have dug in and kept the score respectable. A team that had some basic tactical nous would have denied City’s runners space and would have gone forward to tackle them.

We did neither. It was a craven surrender at the end, typified by the ludicrous pass from Cattermole that gave Toure his (deserved) goal. Cattermole was pushed back, nobody came to help him and he failed to take the easy way out by conceding a throw in. Result: a goal of incredible stupidity and a pass that typifies our current form.

We have taken 11 points in 2011 and have gone from Europa League possibilities into relegation candidates. There is always a team that gets sucked into a relegation battle and that is us. One point out of the last 21, one goal in the last five games and a run-in that looked comfortable in January, is now full of elephant traps just waiting for us to fall into.

Changes are needed in the first team and in the complacent mind set of players, management and supporters – this one included. The signings of Muntari and Sessegnon, heralded in some quarters,(ok, by me) as a major breakthrough, have been disastrous and have actually weakened us. Henderson is going through a terrible time, Mensah looks short of pace and confidence, we have a centre half playing at right back and a right back playing at left back and the forwards look as if they couldn’t shoot fish in a barrel.

Tactically, we have no variation and I had the feeling on Sunday that players were playing their own game rather than to any agreed team pattern. Surely Muntari must realize that playing the same pass all the time won’t work. Surely the full backs must realise that a high ball to Gyan is pointless as he needs the ball at his feet. Someone tell them we sold Kenwyne Jones in August.

Managers dictate tactics and if a game is a tactical shambles, they must take the blame.

It’s all well and good shooting off e-mails after the game and apologising, but this is the third game out of four when the tome from the Press Officer who writes Bruce’s message has said that it was an unacceptable performance. So, what is he (Bruce, not the Press Officer – although after Sunday, he (isn’t it a she – ed?) might actually do better than Bruce) going to do about it?

Some suggestions: restore Malbranque and Zenden to the midfield at the expense of Henderson and Muntari and consider using Colback as well. Use Elmohamady as a full back who can push forward and go to the by-line as Kolarov did, as Johnson did last time out, as Baines did at Goodison; play Onuoha at centre back with Turner; try to use the quality that Gyan and Welbeck bring to the team by actually giving them something they can work with and so they don’t have to chase all over the park looking for scraps.

If that fails hand the reins to the Press Officer.

West Brom up next in the first of the “easy run-in” fixtures. I await the visit of the Baggies with the same kind of trepidation that Prince William must have when he thinks about his Uncle Andrew’s attendance at his wedding. It could be bloody by 5pm on Saturday.

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17 thoughts on “The Manchester City Soapbox: a shambles from start to finish”

  1. Superb (penultimate post) Malcolm. Our war vet will possibly think that’s a reference to the front post.

    Somebody may have put a gun against his head when he got to Iraq, but sure as hell they didn’t in the Recruitment Office.

  2. Let me know when and where! Was at the Burton Bridge on Saturday before the Brewers lost to Barnet. Now I’m just off to fill a barrow with manure!

  3. Malcolm – I’m organising a tasting trip to a local micro brewery in the near future. Fancy a look along?

  4. Sorry but it’s driving me mad! Yanktoonsouljah!

    k(K)eith you(‘)r(e) an idiot,(!) i(I’)m not a religious biggot i(I’)m an i(I)raq war vet who has seen the difference between radical m(M)uslims and G(g)ood God F(f)earing P(p)eaceful m(M)uslims, (-) and as for my respect and hatred for s(S)underland (-) a (space) lot of fans from s(S)underland feel the same way (.) and (superfluous)m(M)y comments about your manager and heartless players were spot on. n(N)ow if you wan(t to)na call me a big(g)ot for my comments then i(I) suggest you man up and serve your country in battle and then you’ll understand. It was not malicious it was a joke and that(‘)s the problem with this world today,(.) p(P)eople are afraid of touchy subjects and everything has to be political(l)y correct.

    By the way I do not endorse these comments and whilst I respect all of our armed forces for the work that they do, in these post National Service Days, I’m not sure why being a member of the Armed Forces should automatically deserve extra respect. It is a career choice. It’s a tough job sure, but so is being a nurse, a social worker, a fire fighter etc. etc.

    There are better ways of getting a point across than stereotyping. Maybe you know not all Muslims are terrorists but such comments only add to the log pile of intolerance that decent Muslims face in this country every day. You could have chosen a different analogy that would have got your point across.

    How about – Steve Bruce couldn’t motivate a group of CAMRA enthusiasts to go to a free Micro Brewery tasting weekend or a load of flies to hang around a barrow load of horse manure?

  5. At least Elmo knows where the white line down the side of the pitch is and as such stretches the defence. We are missing Onohua in that wide full back role – Ferdinand hasn’t the pace to play there. Steed often flatters to deceive but again he turns defenders and stretches the opposition’s back line.

    A midfield of Catttermole, Henderson, Sessignon and Muntari allow the bck line to stay tight and compact.

    We seem to struggle to break defences down what ever the combination and (apart from two games when Richardson got into positions) we never look a goalscoring threat from midfield.

    He may be a Mag but we could do with a Kevin Nolan type player. Now I’m off to eat a bar of soap!

  6. “Use Elmohamady as a full back who can push forward and go to the by-line as Kolarov did”

    Your hope that Elmo will do this must be simply that; “hope,” as you can certainly have no expectation that he is capable of reaching the dead ball line. As a winger you can hope that your player will at least reach the dead ball line and make a cross. Failing to make the cross you may get a corner (a favourite trick of a former favourite Kilbane. who also struggled to beat his man with any regularity. Compared to Elmo (“Forrest Gump”), Kilbane starts to remind me of John Robertson.

    Whilst seemingly blessed with pace, Elmo appears remarkably poor at using it to any effect. He barely reaches spitting distance of the opponent’s box before knocking balls in hope(lessness) into the box, rarely if ever to any effect. I don’t think Elmo actually actually knows where the dead ball line is. Either that or he thinks that the white line is marked out with mustard gas contaminant, such is his aversion to it.

    I can fully understand your desperation and recalling Elmo is the mark of the most sheer desperation. To continue the warfare and weaponry metaphor, he’s about as dangerous as one of Saddam’s Scuds.

  7. Yanktoon I have obviously hit a nerve, you call me an idiot and say I must man up. You know absolutley nothing about me nor I you, only the thoughts and ideas which you voice and the image you attempt to portray through you words. I find those word offensive and interpret them as intolerant and discrimitory because that is what they are. If I am an idiot then you must have been an officer in the forces and lead men into battle. I am is judged by how he reflects the world and your bitterness is there for all to see.

  8. keith your an idiot, im not a religious biggot im an iraq war vet who has seen the difference between radical muslims and Good God Fearing Peaceful muslims, and as for my respect and hatred for sunderland alot of fans from sunderland feel the same way and my comments about your manager and heartless players were spot on. now if you wanna call me a biggot for my comments then i suggest you man up and serve your country in battle and then you’ll understand. It was not malicious it was a joke and thats the problem with this world today, people are afraid of touchy subjects and everything has to be politicaly correct.

  9. The nonesense about hatred and respect is meaningless drivel, this is a site for people with thoughtful comment based on facts and a love of football and mostly a deeply ingrained love of SAFC. The pathetic comment revolving around religous bigotry (belatedly edited – Salut! Sunderland) turns me cold with disgust, stay on your own site and keep your intolerant predujice away from decent people we abhor it.

  10. I came to this site to see what you sunderland fans thoughts were on your sides gutless performance and your managers hopeless tactics. The reason is, as a toon army soldier i cant bare nother season like last year where we dont have at least two derby’s. I hate sunderland with a passion as your lot hate us but my hate is a respectable hate. I respect your lot and as yall are in the northeast i hope yall do well enough to survive for the reason mentioned above. From my point of view your lot have two main problems. Number 1 your players look like newcastles players 2 seasons ago when the unthinkable relegation happened. They are showing no heart at all and are not playing for each other. When newcastle went down we had a bunch of gutless over paid nancy’s in our squad. Anytime we went down a goal it was over, our side would fold like a lawnchair. I see alot of that in your side. The other big problem is bruce the exciled geordie who is never welcome back on tyneside. He is hopeless as a manger. His tactics are pure ***** Sometimes a manager can be succesful without great tactics if he is a great motivater. Sir Chrissy Hughton was a great example of that. His tactics were ok, not great, but his players would assault hell for him looking for icewater. They would litteraly spill their guts for the man. Bruce is none of that. His tactics are hopeless. He is hopeless. Hope yall survive so we can have two great derby’s next year but im afraid it’s gonna be a big ask with bruce at the reigns. If i was yall i would hope that wigan, hammers, wba, and blackpool and wolves dont pick up many points. Good luck

  11. It is said that it is not the losing but how you lose and we were not only well beaten but totally useless.

    It is a bit concerning that we seem to be having a form slump just when the prizes are being handed out but by my limited arithmetic I reckon we need one more win to be safe for this season.

    The bottom line is that if we can’t get 3 points from our next 3 home games against WBA, Wigan & Fulham then we don’t deserve to be in this league next season.

    It was humiliating and gut wrenching to watch our team quite simply taken apart by what was all be it an excellent City team. It is however it is not the first time this season we have been subjected to a horror show. At the risk of giving some readers nightmares I won’t recall them but I had hoped that the spending level we had attained in the game would have rendered the aforementioned horror shows a bit more sporadic. Never cease to amaze me this lot.

    Dare I say it by our poor form has gained momentum after the departure of Judas Bent. I think we desperately miss him and had he stayed I suspect we would by now be nearing a Europa league place. The £24m must have been difficult to turn down and the benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing but we look so inept up front without his presence.

    It is always darkest before the dawn I keep telling myself , we can’t possibly play as badly again….

  12. Pete;

    In the cold afterglow of yet another disapointment I could not agree more with your comments. I think I hinted at this in my earlier post (Man City (2) 5 SAFC (0) 0: the Premier’s soft touches) which was written just after the final whistle, where to be honest I was furious at our display. Embarassment yet again.

    If you read the comments posted sub my own, then they are largely supportive of your own views stressed here ( nice to see City fans expressing their own views) and I am sure we all not on a Bruce ‘witch hunt’. But there are big questions being asked of Mr Bruce and he really does have to step up to the plate.

  13. Really good honest article which must be really difficult to write about your own team.

    You SUnderland fans deserve much better, at least your not delusional like the bar codes are.

    Personally I think you need to get rid of that tranny of a manager.

    NQ must get MON for you IMO.

  14. Spot on, changes are needed where do we start and with whom.
    Freewheeling happens at this time of the season but the players are not giving value for money. What next?

  15. Money makes a difference? Depends who spends it, who on and what those players are then asked to do. We’ve spent quite a bit in last 4 seasons, and the improvements don’t reflect the amount, by any stretch of the imagination.

  16. Hi Man City fan here. Hey do not despair too much, we City fans have a soft spot fo Sunderalnd, not only the Niall Quinn conncection but your fans are no-nonsense and straightforward.

    Yep, yesterday was a disappointment but you will be in the Premiership next year and you have some good players. Problem seemed to me was the attitude of some of the players eg Ferdinand (didn’t run back or help his colleagues) and some of the African contingenet who capitualted too easily.

    Onuaha is a great asset and you should sign him up and use him as a centre half with Turner. Anyway best of luck for the rest of the season and do not despair, you will beat WBA and have some reasonable games to come. Mid table finish – just like we used to be before the good Sheikh – money makes a hell of a difference.

  17. gotta admit, as a city fan, very honest piece, always liked you sunderland fans, passionate and genuine, really hope you guys stay up, good luck lads

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