Yesterday was a difficult afternoon for City. We were a shambles in the second-half against Spurs and capitulated after being one nil up and looking comfortable. Afterwards, I had an email exchange with Spurs man Jack McInroy. In the post-Wikileaks world of open information, I thought it only fair to share our private message with the world. Jack’s words are in bold.
JMc – Do you think it’s fair yesterday’s game put an end to Manchester City’s slim hopes of winning the title?
RP – No. Our title chances went with defeat to Everton a few weeks back. There was absolutely no way we were going to win the league after that game. Yesterday was desperately disappointing, and once again we’re looking over our shoulders, but in terms of the title this game meant nothing.
JMc – When Spurs scored the third goal, the TV cut to Roberto Mancini standing there in his blue and white scarf on what was quite a warm day. He looked like a man unable to dress appropriately for the weather, let alone manage a football team. You’re always defending Mancini, what will it take for you to concede that Manchester City could have a better manager in his place?
RP – Roberto Mancini has brought us on light years after inheriting a shambles. It’s easy to forget but under Mark Hughes we were nothing short of dreadful. Mancini turned Zabaleta, Kompany and Lescott into the players they are today, and signed Yaya Toure, Aguero and Silva which transformed the style of football we play. If we win the FA Cup this season, he will have secured a major trophy in each of his three full seasons, so I’m not really sure what’s not to like. I also very much enjoy his passion. Whereas every other manager I’ve seen (Peter Reid onwards) has been doing a job of work, Mancini lives the job, and I absolutely love that about him. He’s far from perfect, but he has many attributes which are ignored by the wider football community. He has the backing of the majority of City fans, I can assure you of that.
I also don’t really see who we could realistically get this summer that would be better than him. There are a few candidates, don’t get me wrong, but I’d rather have a manager who knows the club already, and who has proven he cares about City massively, than take a risk hiring someone else.
Spurs look easily capable of securing a top four finish. I think with the squad you have, AVB is doing exceptionally, and he looks immaculate whilst doing it. Is he the man to win a trophy for Spurs?
JMc – He is definitely the man to take Spurs forward. As I said in my match preview for your site, he initially made a few dodgy decisions, but he’s not too proud to admit his mistakes. We’re capable of finishing in the top four, but I wouldn’t say easily. Chelsea have a far superior squad, but luckily they have a trigger-happy chairman, divisive players and a hateful fanbase that refused to back the current manager from the day of his appointment. As poor as Arsenal have been, finishing above them is still a hard task, but AVB has made better than the sum of our parts, which is all that can be asked. Today was a perfect example. The changes the manager made changed the game.
The future is exciting and it’d be really good to be in the Champions League next season to attract a higher calibre of player, possibly keep Bale, and accelerate the progress that under AVB seems inevitable.
RP – Adebayor is absolutely shite, admit it.
JMc – He’s talented, of that there can be no doubt, but the lack of goals this season have tipped over in favour of looking for a replacement. I do think people often ignore the good work that he does though.
It was an evenly matched game for the most part would you agree?
RP – I thought we were much the better side first half. Chances and possession may not suggest so, but we tended to look far more dangerous going forward than Spurs. We lost Milner, which was a big blow (he’s been easily one of our best players this season), and brought Koloarov on (easily the worst first teamer in the squad). After that we were inadequate all over the pitch. We invited pressure on to us, and Spurs deservedly got back into it. Overall, I wouldn’t have any complaints. Mancini had a poor game, the changes weren’t good enough, and we sat back and invited pressure, which is never a good idea.
JMc – How do you think Spurs managed to get three goals in 8 minutes when it looked like City would get away with a narrow win?
RP – We just collapsed; it was inexplicable, really. Barry tying his laces and Lescott going on up front just topped it off, but we’d imploded before those incidents. Your manager out foxed our manager, there’s no doubt about that.
I am not for one minute suggesting Kolarov is to blame for the defeat after playing only 45 minutes, but it’s no coincidence that we weren’t as good when he came on – we never are. He’s not a starter for us – far from it – but he plays more than he should. We also missed Silva and Aguero, who are our best attacking players.
Do you agree with me that we were far better going forward in the first-half?
JMc – Yes, and when the first goal went in, a result poor defending from Vertonghen and Parker, I thought it’d be the first of a few and I definitely didn’t think we had three goals in us.
I thought both sides defended very well (outside of the goals) and it could have gone either way. You might argue that 3-1 flattered Tottenham, but Huddlestone’s through-ball, Bale’s cool finish, Defoe’s curler, they were inspired moments and won us the match.
RP – Hugo Lloris is superb, probably the best in the league this season form-wise. How big a signing has that been?
JMc – I know Manchester United fans get indignant when you suggest David de Gea might not have been their best ever signing, but I think Lloris is an interesting contrast. He cost much less and is already one of the best in Europe, not on his way there. Brad Friedel is not a bad deputy, but he won’t leave his line and that was costing us goals. Conversely Hugo Lloris dominates the box and smothers everything.
What was your opinion of the goals?
RP – Ours was great. I though Tevez did brilliantly in the build up and provided something from nothing, followed by a good ball from Milner, and, credit where it’s due, Nasri finished well.
The equaliser from Dempsey I thought was desperately poor defending from our point of view. We just seemed to allow that overlap between Bale and Walker to happen, and I also thought Kompany could have dealt with the cross rather than leave it to go through to Dempsey’s foot. Defoe’s goal was brilliant; a really great finish. Your third was also good. The ball from Huddlestone and the finish from Bale were both excellent.
JMc – Who in this Spurs team do you think would improve Manchester City?
RP – Bale, obviously, because a) he’s a brilliant player, and b) we lack a bit of pace sometimes. We also desperately need someone who can play wide so that we have an alternative to the narrow system we currently use. When that fails (see QPR away this season as the best example) we have very few ideas of how else to attack.
I know he didn’t play, but I’d most like Sandro from Spurs. He’s absolutely phenomenal.
JMc – What are your expectations for next season?
RP – To win the league and get into the knock-out stage of the Champions League.
JMc – You have to aim a big higher, Rob! The knock-out stages? If that’s all your after maybe Mancini is the man for you.
RP – I don’t think you can just throw money at a side and take on Europe, it needs more than that.
Who are Spurs’ top summer transfer targets?
JMc – We could do with another creative midfielder. Hopefully we won’t have to look for a replacement for Bale, but we do need another winger at the club. Andros Townsend has been good for QPR, but I’m sure AVB will have some money to spend and will want someone who really challenges Lennon’s place and gives us the option of playing Bale more centrally on occasion.
Full-back is starting to look a bit of a problem. As much as I rate Benoit Assou-Ekotto, I don’t think he’s played his best football for AVB and Kyle Walker, our other supposed left-back is dreadful. There’s been talk of Danny Rose playing well for Sunderland, but I find it hard to believe he’s suddenly a player of top four standard.
The biggest area that needs to be improved is up front. Defoe proved his value today, but when he doesn’t score he offers absolutely nothing and the game has moved on from players like that.
RP – Will you ever overtake Arsenal as North London’s highest placed club?
JMc – We’ve finished below them 17 seasons in a row. Last year was particularly hard to take, having blown a ten point lead. This year, despite having been above them for most of the season, we’ve performed at a similar standard. Trying to be level-headed for a minute, the important thing is that we qualify for the Champions League, even if that’s in fourth place below our neighbours. Finishing above Chelsea again would be massive comfort, especially considering the vast amounts of money they continue to spend. That and the fact that they are a club rotten to the core and I hate them more than anything in the world.