Football narratives: a departure

TFN’s Alex Stewart returns with a column on football’s dreaded “narrative”…

Football is confusing, isn’t it? I mean, take Arsenal. Arsenal are shit, aren’t they? We all know that. They’ve a porous defence, weak full-backs who can’t head the ball, injury problems galore, and Arsene Wenger is so confused about who to buy he’s actually taking suggestions by text. Sure, they’re probably top six this season, but only because everyone else is so woeful. And Manchester City are fantastic, right? They’ve qualified for the next round of the Champions League at long last, they’ve got the best striker in the Premier League and they’ve just bought another really, really good one. Vincent Kompany is more than a footballer, he’s a heroic saviour of all that is good and decent in this world, as well as being an elegant, handsome man to boot.

And then Arsenal go and beat City at home and suddenly, aren’t City shit? The Vincent Kompany rare error is becoming the Pepe Reina rare error, according to someone on Twitter. Forget the strikers: City are a one-man team who always lose when Yaya is away on duty with his national side. They have no plan B and no way of rousing themselves from their indolent, slightly apathetic superiority complex and when pushed, often fall over. And aren’t Arsenal amazing? I mean, Alexis Sanchez is the best player in the league, and Wenger was absolutely right to stick with Francis Coquelin and Olivier Giroud and bring in David Ospina; the man is a genius. And Santi’s Cazorla’s not lazy; he’s just been saving himself for the big occasions. Continue reading

Editor’s Column: Manchester City’s ageing squad could prove to be a problem

TFN Editor Hugo Greenhalgh believes Manchester City’s squad needs freshening up…

Somewhat unusually, The Sunday Times ran a front page on the day of the Manchester Derby claiming that City were to fight Liverpool for the signature of Steven Gerrard’s next contract. While there may be little truth to this rumour, it would fit in with City’s recent trend of signing experienced players well beyond their peak years. The main reason for this policy is Financial Fair Play; they are a club continually at odds with the homegrown rule that requires a minimum of five “homegrown” players in their Champions League squad, while any free transfers are a bonus.

It will come as little surprise that Manchester City possess the oldest average squad age in the Premier League at 28. This is not necessarily a bad thing. They are, after all, the champions and that age brings experience. Key players such as Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, Pablo Zabeleta and Fernandinho are all 28 or over. The concern is that time and time again, City have failed to integrate younger players into their squad. Indeed, there are very few who appear to be challenging for places. Continue reading

Manchester City to be Refreshed by the Sparkling Taste of San Pellegrini

San Pellegrini Manchester City

TFN’s resident Manuel Pellegrini enthusiast Greg Johnson believes that the Chilean would be a major upgrade on Roberto Mancini. Here’s why Manchester City fans should drink in and savour the prospect of him taking charge at Eastlands…

Zest has been severely lacking from Manchester City this season. Just over 12 months on from Sergio Aguero’s larynx shredding title-winner and the taste of sky blue triumph has been replaced by sour disappointment. Their Premier League winning manager has been sacked, with a surprise FA Cup final defeat to Wigan Athletic and a 2-3 home loss to Norwich City adding a bitter finish to their year.

While Roberto Mancini laid the blame on the club’s failure to add Robin van Persie to their squad, the Dutchman’s absence felt more like a smokescreen than a valid excuse given the attacking talent already at his disposal. In reality, standards have slipped while the team’s enthusiasm has waned. Having accomplished their mission of winning the league, City have regressed.

The abilities of Mancini as a coach and tactician have been exposed as wanting, with his tactical plans unraveling into impotency without the title-winning form of individuals to smooth over the structural cracks. Continue reading