Yesterday evening’s win at Eastlands against Manchester Citeh was deeply gratifying. I still have a nice warm glow inside. But. I’m afraid there are still buts.
First the positives. There’s little doubt that City having Dedryck Boyata sent off in the fourth minute of the game shaped the rest proceedings in Manchester. The referee had it right. He had to go for a last man foul. Marouane Chamakh would have been in on goal if he hadn’t been upended.
I’m not a big fan of referee Mark Clattenburg but some of the comments made by City fans on BBC Radio 5 Live’s 6.06 phone-in after the game verged on the paranoid. For what it’s worth I thought Clattenburg got almost all of the big decisions right. Credit where credit’s due. One of the rants reminded me of the sort of paranoid conspiracy theories one hears spouted on right-wing American talk shows. I was just waiting to throw one about how Arsčne Wenger was a closet Maoist and that secret concentration camps were being set up by civil defence forces all over Britain to incarcerate dissident City fans. All nonsense.
I’ve had a lot of time for City fans over the years. They’ve been loud and proud in periods of their club’s history when on-field ineptness would have significant numbers of Gooners outside the ground throwing petrol bombs and burning effigies. Talk radio, especially under the current editorial policy of the BBC as far as 6.06 goes, tends to attract the entertaining at the expense of the informed and rational. Oh, and Alan Green is one of the all-time great football bell-ends. His ignorance is only exceeded by his arrogance.
Contrast him to the excellent Tim Vickery, Sean Wheelock and Andy Brassell who appear regularly on the World Football Phone-In on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Up All Night in the early hours of each Saturday morning. I always listen to the weekly podcast of this show (just Google BBC World Football Phone-In). Each week I’m better informed than I was before I listened to the podcast. Tim Vickery, a Brit who lives in Rio de Janeiro and speaks fluent Portuguese, Sean Wheelock, encyclopaedic and passionate about the game in North America from his base in Kansas City and Andy Brassell, a unique Brit in that he speaks three languages other than his native English and lives in France, commenting on football across Europe are three excellent and informed pundits. A pity that the show is “parked” in the middle of the night but that’s the advantage of podcasts. You can listen when you want.
Tim Vickery also writes an excellent weekly blog on all aspects of South American football on the BBC website. He’s VERY well informed. Living proof that not all Spuds fans are bell-ends. He was recently back in Blighty for an extended stay before returning home to Brazil (where he is married to a Brazilian woman).
I thoroughly recommend his work and the World Football Phone-In. The only slight fly in the ointment for me is the presenter Dotun Adebayo who tends to indulge in “in-jokes” and like the sound of his own voice a bit too much for my personal taste, although he can be funny at times. He also has a wide range of interests and tastes which make him more interesting than some radio presenters.
Back to yesterday and the negatives. Our team defending continues to give me concern. Johan Djourou in particular looked vulnerable at times, although I still think he has a lot of promise. He needs to stay on his feet more though and improve his tactical awareness and reading of the game. One bright spot in the last few weeks has been the form of Łukasz Fabiański since he came into the side for Manuel Almunia. I’ve blogged frequently that I don’t think the bloke is up to it at the top level. He’s proving with his performances that I might just be wrong about that. I hope so. He’s certainly done enough to keep his place in the side. He made some excellent saves yesterday.
He did flap at one cross into the box but aside from that he played well, as he has in all his most recent games. Long may it continue. Nobody would be more content eating a large portion of humble pie in respect of his goalkeeping abilities and temperament than me.
On the negative side of the ledger I wasn’t happy to see Cesc Fàbregas waving an imaginary card before Boyata’s dismissal yesterday evening. UEFA has clamped down on this in their competitions. The FA needs to do likewise. It’s gamesmanship of the worst sort. The referees need to be left to referee the game. A caution for any player waving imaginary cards would soon cut it out. Managers simply wouldn’t stand for it.
All that said, and credit to Manchester City for sticking at it with ten men, I thought we deserved our win yesterday, although 3-0 did perhaps flatter us a little. We need to keep on winning whilst keeping more clean sheets. In that context the continued injury absence of Thomas Vermaelen is a worry. He was my player of the season last term. A great buy. A real warrior at the back. I hope we can detect and cure what ails him quickly.
It was nice to see Nicklas Bendtner coming off the bench and taking his goal so well yesterday too. The club’s fashion police need to have a very serious word with him about the hat he was wearing during his post-match interview on Match of the Day 2 last night though. Good grief! He must have been wearing it for a bet! Again on the plus side of the ledger Cesc Fàbregas and Samir Nasri were again outstanding. Well played guys, just cut out the imaginary card waving though Cesc.
Now we need to turn our attention to Wednesday night’s visit to Tyneside for the Carling Cup game against Toon. I hope that the manager continues with his policy of selecting stronger sides than he has in the past in this tournament, whilst still giving the yoof a chance.
Keep the faith!