Opposing View: Manchester City
Hopes, fears & expectations for the season?
Hope - To win the league again, get out of the "Group of Death" in the Champions League and possibly the FA cup. Greedy, moi?
Fears - We seem to be going through a bit of a Groundhog day moment when it comes to referees. Most of us were pretty disappointed with a lot of the big decisions that went against us last season particularly Kompany`s sending off against united in the FA Cup (Only to see an even worse foul against us in the next game against Liverpool go unpunished!). This season, we have been undone by a handball goal against Stoke, a clear penalty on Aguero not given against Arsenal, a blatant dive by Riise outside the box given and two better shouts for pens against Fulham not given. Whether the refs have a psychological thing about "sticking it to the upstarts" is debateable, but these things are supposed to even themselves out over the course of a season - they don`t.
Expectations - Expect to finish in the top 3 in the League, get out of the group stages in the Champions League and have a decent FA cup run. Also expect every team in the league to raise their game against us as though it was the cup final!
No 'star name' additions this summer - indicative of a longer-term policy or a case of the right players not being available at the right-price?
Think a lot of agents and clubs out there saw City as a bit of a soft touch, IE "They`ve got loads of money, let`s take the piss" The general perception in the media seems to be that we somehow missed out on our main targets, but I disagree. Hazard went to Chelsea and looks a prospect, but they paid a huge amount for him, gave his agent £6m as a sweetener and made him one of their highest paid players. Glad we didn`t take the risk. Ditto RVP. £24m plus £250k per week for someone nearing their 30`s and with his injury record is totally ridiculous, and shows how desparate Ferguson is to try and reclaim the title. I think RVP was only ever likely to become a City player in the event Tevez left anyway, so good luck to him (NOT!) Other targets were meant to be De Rossi at Roma, but what people seem to have missed is the statement by the Roma president that we made no contact! Javi Martinez would also have been a decent addition, but once again, the fee was just silly, so we ended up with a young English international in Rodwell who IMO will go on to be one of the best midfielders in the league, and Javi Garcia, a young Spanish international who we virtually stole from Benfica. Garcia later confirmed that we`d contacted his agent as long ago as last January, so my suspicion is that he was a main target all along. We are well stocked with superstars and internationals, what we really needed was strength in depth and as far as I`m concerned we got it, all without breaking the bank. Job done.
What do you make of Roberto Mancini's tactics - switching between three and four at the back?
Not sure what to make of it if I`m honest. I like the idea of playing 3 at the back with wing-backs, and on the occasions when it`s worked, it`s worked really well. Still think our defenders are struggling to cope with the change in formation at times, although that should improve with time. Playing 4 at the back is certainly more secure at the moment, but leads to us being too narrow, and as last season proved, when teams try to park the bus, we often struggled to break them down through the middle. Suspect Mancini will continue to adapt his tactics according to the opposition, and as I said, the more the players get to know the different systems, the better they`ll get.
The Mario Balotelli/Mancini relationship - what's a fan's take on it?
Occasionally, our fans tend to think that Balotelli is over indulged by Mancini, i.e. he gets an arm around the shoulder when what he needs is a boot up his arse. Balotelli is clearly a huge talent, and can virtually change a game on his own when he`s in the mood. I think the "Balotelli circus" sells a lot of papers, hence the huge amount of attention he gets, and a lot of what you read about him and his relationship with Mancini is quite simply fabrication. Don`t believe the hype!
Who will be the key man on Saturday?
For me, David Silva is showing signs of getting over his Euro hangover and is rapidly approaching his best form. IMO he is one of the top 5 midfielders in the world, and if he`s on form he`ll destroy any defence in the league.
One player you'd drive to his next club & why?
At the moment, the only player who I can`t see fitting in is Kolo Toure. I like him, and he was an integral reason for his brother coming to the club. But he is definitely on the wane, and is a relatively high wage earner, so it`s Taxi for Kolo time. Technically, Wayne Bridge is still a City player, but as he`s on loan at Brighton I won`t go there!
One player you would pinch from Sunderland and why?
Stephane Sessegnon looks a very decent player, and always looks capable of turning up with a goal or two. Now we`re pretty well-stocked in the midfield play-maker/attacker positions, but I feel that Sessegnon`s bite in midfield is something we miss with Nasri and Silva. He`d be a useful player to have on those "Cold winter nights" in Stoke, and would surely get a few goals in our midfield. Believe we were linked to him not so long ago, but who knows what to believe when it comes to the media?!
How will you line-up Saturday?
Mancini will aim to keep things solid away from home, then open you up later on. I expect something like Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, Garcia, Barry, Nasri, Milner, Tevez, Aguero. Much of who plays will depend on who plays against Dortmund though, and second guessing mancini is never easy!
I`m going for a 0-2 away win. You`ve not managed many shots on target so far this season, nor have you managed many corners. We have the curse of the ex-player to deal with in Adam Johnson, and Fletcher has a one goal/shot ratio, but that`s got to end soon. Martin O`Neil will set you up to be hard to beat, so we`ll probably have to stay patient, but in the end I feel our attacking threat will come out on top. And here`s to no dubious last minute goals this time eh? ;)
Cheers FifthColumnBlue, I half expected your answer to the 'who would you pinch question to be Adam Johnson! We`re more than happy that he`s come home though!