Manchester City: The October 2015 Review

As per Typical City tradition each month Ciaran Murray and Rob Toole sit down and discuss the month that has just passed. The month of October was a busy month for Manchester City and on the agenda this month are Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfried Bony, Jesus Navas and much more…

Rob Toole: October has been a kind month to City with five wins and just one draw. With a hatful of goals scored along the way what was your highlight of the month? 

Ciaran Murray: My highlight of the month, and one of my highlights of the season so far, was the Crystal Palace game in the League Cup. It was just really enjoyable. We rolled Palace over, saw two youth players on the scoresheet and have found ourselves in the quarter final of a Cup competition with a winnable tie next up against Hull. It was all very pleasant on the night and with the tickets priced at £15, it worked out at just £2.50 a goal. You do the math!

It’s been said before but Pellegrini really is playing the League Cup perfectly, so far this season. Injuries are forcing his hand a little bit but he’s managing to give squad players a run out, have enough key players featuring and at their best to brush teams aside and, when he’s comfortable the job’s done he introduces the young players. That’s Iheanacho, Garcia, Roberts and Evans all featuring – and impressing – when called into action.

Iheanacho’s performance, and the goal he set up for de Bruyne are up there with my highlights of the month, for sure. He’s just so incredibly technically gifted and skilful, both on and off the ball. His introduction this season has given the place a lift. His name got cheered the loudest as the team-sheet was read out. It’s clear he’s got a big future at City.

I’m a massive fan of those little triangular interchanges we’ve seen a lot of under Pellegrini. Weaving in and out of defenders and sucking them in perfect angular tandem. It’s Bony to Iheanacho to Bony to Zabaleta who picks a perfect pass to set the young Nigerian away. We’re right behind that goal and thought surely he’d fancy a whack on his full home debut. No, and what he did was even better. He angled his run and his body like he was going to shoot, drawing every defender and the ‘keeper his way, and buying De Bruyne an absolute acre of space. The vision to see his teammate, the skill to fool everyone in the ground that he was going to shoot, the maturity to selflessly set up KDB and the ability to play a perfect pass was just wonderful to watch. You could see from De Bruyne’s celebration with him that he appreciated it and he even returned the favour in the second half; Kelechi with an excellently taken goal for 3-0. City were sensational that night and it feels like both the present and the future are extremely bright.

Wilfried Bony has come in for a lot of criticism from City fans lately and seems to be the target for our collective scorn. Is the criticism fair in your eye? What are your views on the Ivorian’s performances for City?

Rob: Without wishing to sit on the fence about the issue, I think some of the criticism of Bony is fair and some of it isn’t. This little run of games he has been given in October, thanks to Aguero’s injury, is really the first time he has had a proper run of games so I think on that basis he should be afforded a little bit more patience from the supporters. His absences from the side since joining in January can’t have helped his progress and the news that he contracted malaria in the summer go some way to explaining his sometimes sluggish performances. I don’t know what effect having malaria can have on someone but having to contend with that and missing pre-season entirely means he has been constantly playing catch up since the start of the season. Take into account his injury troubles and the African Cup of Nations last season, too and it is obvious that is has been an unsettling time for him. Most professional footballers would suffer from missing pre-season alone and Bony has had that and a hell of a lot more to deal with, to say the least.

Like I said, I understand the gripes. Sometimes his movement is slow, his passing sluggish and his finishing wayward but when all things are considered he has still chipped away, making valuable contributions to the team. He has scored three goals and had a hand in a few others since Aguero’s injury at the beginning of the month and, on the face of it, you can’t ask for much more. In my opinion, there are more reasons to give him support than to criticise him. A lot of City fans love a scapegoat: look at the treatment the likes of Navas, Toure and Dzeko have received in the past and it clear to see that many supporter’s feel, rightly or wrongly, that there should always be one individual to blame for all the team’s ills. I feel it is much the same case with Bony. He needs more time to prove himself, ultimately, and I think some fans could do well to remember other players that have taken time to get to grips with life at City. Javi Garcia and Eliaquim Mangala both spent pretty much a full season adjusting and under-performing before proving their worth and even Fernando is beginning to show much improved form after a less than flattering debut season. When Bony signed for City I was excited as I thought we could have a really good player on our hands. I admit, I had expected more from him by now but given his unique set of circumstances, not least competing for place in the team with Sergio Aguero, I am happy to give him more time before writing him off. One of the most boring games of the season took place in October against Manchester United. Despite that we are obliged to mention it (I think, maybe not?). What was your take on the game? Can you draw and meaningful conclusion from it

Ciaran: You know, I have to say I enjoyed it in a way. Everyone hates Derby Day, don’t they? This one just kind of came and went. No Twitter meltdown, no aerial pictures of Manchester where someone’s just posted a photo of a red coloured square, no attack on one of our women’s team for posting a photo. It was an awful game but the feelings attached to it weren’t as awful as they usually are and that was ok with me. Does the game itself warrant talking about? I suppose but only to say it was quite clear that the teams were clearly set up to cancel one another out. De Bruyne was ineffective because every time he touched the ball he was swamped by at least two United players. Otamendi and Kompany absolutely bossed every United attack. Bringing on Demichelis was perhaps a negative tactic but the game was a negative one and, inversely, a lot of positives can be taken from how Pellegrini set up and tried to kill off the game.

For such a wisened, weather-beaten elder statesman type manager, he sometimes displayed a naivety that belied his age and experience. He is learning. He’s gone from being dogmatic with his tactics, formation and approach to being more of a pragmatic, reactive game manager. I’ve found it refreshing to see the side adapt to games and opponents and I’d take an away point at all of our rivals’ grounds if we could afford to. Better than the pasting we took at Old Trafford last season – or at White Hart Lane in September of this. We at Typical City have long fought the corner of Jesús Navas, even if at times we noted his limitations. I think October may have been one of his best months since he moved to City from Sevilla and I think he’s having a tremendous season. How do you think the little Spaniard has fared of late? What can he do to get some sections of the supporters off his back?

Rob: I think he has had a great month. What I love is that, despite the omnipresent groaning of some of the supporters, Pellegrini continues to pick him most weeks. Of course, sometimes he does have the odd wayward cross but when you consider everything else he brings to the team he should be valued a little bit more. He gives us tremendous width and helps stretch the opposition so that the likes of De Bruyne and Silva have more space to operate in the middle. He also works immensely hard defensively and given how attacking Pellegrini likes to set up that is invaluable.

I find it funny, in a way, that he attracts so much vitriol for seemingly the odd misplaced cross or being a little bit hesitant sometimes. The game against West Ham was an extreme example of one of his less flattering performances and to see grown men apoplectic with rage at him was rather embarrassing. I kind of feel sorry for folk like that. I’m not sure what Navas can do to win over those type of fans as their opinion of him is so irrational. Whilst I acknowledge that Navas has his downfalls those who criticise him are irrational in the sense that all of his faults are blown out of proportion and anything positive he does is conveniently ignored. I remember Richard Burns talking on the Blue Moon Podcast about Navas and the crossing “issue”. He spoke about the nature of crossing and that most are not necessarily delivered to hit a specific target, rather they are aimed at a certain danger area, like the edge of the six yard box, for other players to attack. In essence, he was saying that the very nature of crossing is bound to result in the occasional loss ball or easy clearance for the defender. I agree with him and you only have to look at Navas’ assist for De Bruyne in the 6-1 win over Newcastle to know the guy can cross a ball. It was perfect in weight and trajectory and resulted in one of the goals of the month. I know you’ve mentioned that De Bruyne’s goal, and particularly Kelechi’s role in it, against Palace was one of your highlights of the month. In terms of the Premier League, what was your favourite goal we scored this month and why? 

Ciaran: Almost every time you’ve asked me to pinpoint a goal I’ll have gone for a slick, well worked team goal. However, I’ve got purely for spectacular finish for this one and chose De Bruyne’s goal against Newcastle.

Now, admittedly, it looked better at the ground in real time. I just kept saying “Oh my god” over and over again. Thought it was stunning. Perhaps, though after seeing the replays, it wasn’t as cleanly struck as I’d originally thought.

But who cares? It was still an exceptional finish and you’d have to be a bad, joyless pedant to take anything away from Denton Kev. A great little cross from Navas (I thought he could never find a man!) but De Bruyne still had it all to do. He found himself in space, set himself, watched the ball the whole way, angled his body and then managed to hit the ball on the volley, from a really awkward angle, across and over Tim Krul. I mean, it’s these players, who pull off the seemingly impossible (like when Aguero got the better of Pepe Reina against Liverpool in 12/13), that make City such an absolute joy to watch. Alan Shearer called De Bruyne’s goal a fluke which seemed to be a bitter pundit taking the defeat on his own club personally and needlessly finding gripes. It wasn’t a fluke; it was ostentatious and he was probably surprised it ended up nestled in the net, but he definitely meant it. Such a talent. Ive said it before, but I’ll never not be excited to watch him play.

Nicolas Otamendi picked up a man of the match award in the Derby and achieved the same feat in his next match against Norwich. It looks as though we may  have found ourselves quite a player. What’s your take on the Argentine hipster? Is he the perfect partner for Vincent Kompany?

Rob: I am steadily becoming more impressed with him after each passing game. Initially, I found him to be rash and some of his passing was not entirely convincing. Particularly in the Bournemouth game his passing seemed a little too casual for my liking. That said, he has steadily improved and is proving to be a great player. Like you say, he picked up two consecutive man of the match awards in the Derby and the Norwich game and it is hard disagree with such judgements.

The way the Derby panned out meant he was able to show his quality time and time again: it was the type of game he was built for. Considering he is not the tallest centre-half at 6ft he is fantastic in the air. The timing of his jump is almost always perfect and he seems to deal with taller opposing players with a surprising level of ease. Of course, his goal against Norwich was superb. It is not often that a goal from a corner gets my juices flowing, so to speak, but this one did. The way he pulls his neck back to get maximum power whilst leaping like a salmon was a sight to behold. In the context of the game as well, it relieved a lot of tension in the crowd so it gave me a real buzz.

I am not too sure whether he is the perfect partner for Kompany. They are both proactive defenders and play on the front foot so there is a chance they may have a clash of styles. That said, they have played really well together in the last few games so what do I know?

Do you know what though? I can’t help but feel sorry for Mangala at the moment. Otamendi seems to be getting the nod ahead of him but Eliaquim hasn’t really done anything to warrant being dropped, in my opinion. He had a fantastic start to the season and I just hope his head doesn’t drop as a result of being behind Otamendi in the pecking order.  

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