Monday, March 3, 2008

Reaction, stats & ratings: City 0 Wigan 0

Plenty of murmurings on Saturday likening this match to the worst days of the Pearce era. While there were certainly some similarities at first glance, I can't help feeling that dire games like these are merely a frustrating part of the great transition now taking place at City.

These comments from Dev Alahan at Mancityfans pretty much summed up my thoughts on the game, so I decided to save myself some typing and post them here:

Always difficult to break a side down that aren't that arsed about attacking. We were slow going forward and missed Petrov, at times played like strangers. Not surprising. Benjani has never played with Johnson and hardly played with Elano. Ireland has never played on the left and Vassell has hardly played well at all. Johnson and Fernandes have never played well together, and Neddy and Dunney have not paired at Centre half since when? When big Phil and Neddy came on same situation. And I did warn that players bought in January with season well in flow take longer to adjust than Summer players. A few moves tried but players not on same wavelength as a result.
A few fans will lose there sense of reality and criticise the team taking none of the above into account, but you cant account for some fans stupidity.
Team was very young, average age well low, missing Richards and Petrov first time since when?

According to the press, Sven is now looking for a 'Plan B', so maybe now's a good time to recall the last time City fans were talking about 'Plan Bs'. Last summer, with takeover talks dragging on and the club in suspended animation, I wrote this post, which to date is the most read story on this site ever.

Maybe a change in tactics will work, but I suspect that a change in personnel is what's really needed.

Which brings us to Thaksin and his recent comments about his plans for City.

While it's easy to dismiss his bold claims as merely playing to his Thai audience, everything I've read about Thaksin so far suggests that his words should never be taken lightly.

On Saturday, Sven was asked on GMR whether Thaksin's interest in City was starting to wane now he's back in Thailand. He dismissed the idea out of hand, describing how Thaksin now phones him before games to ask what team he's putting out.

In January Sven told City fans that he was 'so blown away by his (Thaksin's) plans he had to sit down' (reported on Bluemoon and in The People), while last week he told the Telegraph:

"We've never talked about the amount of money he might spend, about all the money involved. He's just said, 'Sven, find the players to compete at the highest level possible', so we have names, and we'll see what happens."

And that's precisely the reason I can't get downbeat about performances like these. Frustrating as it might be right now, I just can't imagine we'll be starting any game next season with Vassell or Ireland on the wing, or with Benjani up front for that matter.

My guess is that we'll be suffering some of the same problems next season too, as new signings again learn how to play together, and it won't be until the 2009-10 season that we see a City team that plays like a genuine top four side.

But after 31 years without a trophy, I'm prepared to wait.

~ Sven's post-match interview
~ Pictures from; Getty Images
~ Latest Premiership table.

Player ratings

Ratings come from (in order): Manchester Evening News; xavi6, Blue2, MaineRoadMemories, Grob, irblinx (Mancityfans), Richard Tucker (, Colin Savage, Sunday Times, Sunday people, Setanta, Sky, Sky Your Rating and the BBC.

Hart: 7, 7, 7, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 6, 6, 6.5, 7, 7.0, 6.8 (av: 6.8)
One save to make of any note as City dominated but his handling was good in dire conditions. (MEN)
Kept us in it with a great save low down from Palacios. Didn't have another save of note to make. Solid. (xavi6)
Kept us from losing the game towards the end. (MaineRoadMemories)
Made the crucial save, dealt with bog-awful back passes well, generally good. (Grob)
Safe hands with numerous Wigan shots on target, one great save and overall strong. Distribution wasn't great at times, do we honestly believe that playing the ball long for Vass to try and win a header is a good plan?! (irblinx)

Corluka: 6, 6, 5, 5, 4, 5, 6, 6.5, 5, 6, 6, 6, 5, 5.1, 6.1 (av: 5.5)
Decent enough return to action for the Croatian who got forward when ever he could. (MEN)
Solid if unspectacular. Wigan didn't have anyone out left to trouble him though. (xavi6)
Didn't try at all today. Played like a centre back and didn't get forward. When he did his crossing was pitiful. (MaineRoadMemories)
Painfully average defensively and going forward. (Grob)
A so-so performance, didn't do anything massively wrong but also nothing stood out. (irblinx)

Onuoha: 7, 7, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 5.2, 5.9 (av: 6.1)
Toss up who played in middle and the fact that Richards wasn’t missed was to Nedum’s credit. (MEN)
Covered well in the first half for Dunne and his pace was key. Didn't lose the ball as much as usual. (xavi6)
Plays a lot better at centre half. Passes worse than Dunne and dilly-dallys on the ball. (MaineRoadMemories)
Better than at right back but his ability on the ball is pathetic. (Grob)
Very strong defensively, not much clue as to what to do next once he's won the ball though. (irblinx)

Dunne: 7, 7, 6, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 6, 7, 7, 7, 8, 6.6, 6.4 (av: 6.5)
Several superb shot blocks interspersed with one or two dodgy moments against Heskey. (MEN)
Positioning was excellent to make some good blocks, though seriously guilty of pumping the ball long. (xavi6)
Nothing to do. Awful passing (again). (MaineRoadMemories)
Snuffed out King and Sibi. Couldn't pass wind going forward. (Grob)
The usual few key interceptions but not exactly a difficult night for the defence. (irblinx)

Ball: 6, 7, 6, 5, 4, 8, 7, 6.5, 5, 6, 7, 6, 7, 5.3, 5.8 (av: 6.1)
Usual controlled, reliable self and has become one of the more consistent performers for Eriksson. (MEN)
Played really well for me. Wanted the ball a lot and his crossing was excellent. (xavi6)
See Corluka. (MaineRoadMemories)
MOM. Did the job of 2 men on the left. A couple of good balls in and made Valencia look average. (Grob)
A solid performance, could really have done with some support on the left! (irblinx)

Vassell: 6, 7, 6, 5, 6, 5, 5, 6.5, 5, 6, 5, 6, 7, 5.0, 5.9 (av: 5.8)
Plenty of eye catching work but not always in the most dangerous areas of the pitch. (MEN)
Played really well. Defended excellently at times e.g. in the last minute chasing Valencia back. Super cross for Benjani. (xavi6)
Tried hard on the right and the left. Great cross for Benjani. Superb run back and great tackle in the 88 minute. (MaineRoadMemories)
Hopeless. Good defensively, shit going forward. We are going nowhere with this plank in the side. (Grob)
IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH, playing as a winger and didn't beat a player once and only managed one decent cross when big Phil played a killer ball. (irblinx)

Gelson Fernandes: 7, 7, 6, 5, 5, 4, 5, 6.5, 7, 6, 6, 6.5, 6, 5.5, 5.9 (av: 5.9)
Broke play up with some dexterity and delivered a series of successful short passes. (MEN)
Great energy from him and he filled the Hamann role well. (xavi6)
Only player to look like he had any fight in him today. (MaineRoadMemories)
An amateur among professionals. A poor poor poor man's Hamann. (Grob)
Not really up to scratch today. (irblinx)

Elano (Caicedo 49): 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, 2, 5, 5.5, 4, 6, 5, 5.5, 5, 4.1, 5.2 (av: 4.8)
He is regularly being kicked out of games and was particularly inconsistent until off injured. (MEN)
Aside from one stunning left footed ball over the top he was shite again. Looked lazy on the ball and didn't pose any threat. (xavi6)
Supposed to be our creative force but looking more like a Joey B at the moment. (MaineRoadMemories)
Deserves an extra point for the pass that injured him. Abysmal. A passenger in every sense of the word. (Grob)
Still hasn't learnt how to handle hatchet artists like Brown. (irblinx)

Johnson: 8, 8, 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7.5, 6, 7, 8, 7, 7, 6.2, 6.3 (av: 6.8)
Quite a comeback for the ace midfielder who was the Blues most energetic performer. (MEN)
MOM for me. So good to have him back. Up and down all game. Some of his passing went astray but the lad hasn't played in a good while. (xavi6)
Played well but didn't create very much. Just kept playing it sideways. (MaineRoadMemories)
Decent in fits and starts but then went missing when we needed the midfield to stand up and be counted. (Grob)
MoTM. A great first game back, faded towards the end but went box to box, corrected the few mistakes he made himself. The only thing lacking is that incisive attacking play which will be back once he's played a couple of games. We really have missed this lad. (irblinx)

Ireland (Castillo 63): 6, 6, 3, 5, 4, 6, 2, 6, 4, 6, 6, 6, 6, 4.7, 5.5 (av: 5.1)
As has been the way recently a little bit of everything varying from the excellent to the disastrous. (MEN)
Some good link-up play early on. Could've scored with a shot in the first half. Faded badly. (xavi6)
Lightweight and dire. Even Ball was having a go at him in the first half. (MaineRoadMemories)
Out of position, out of form, out of luck. Felt sorry for him marooned out left. (Grob)
Garbage, this lad needs to be sat on the bench for a while. (irblinx)

Benjani: 6, 6, 4, 5, 4, 6, 6, 6, 5, 6, 5, 6, 6, 4.7, 5.8 (av: 5.4)
Might have done better with near post chance in second half but otherwise well-marshalled. (MEN)
Held the ball up well but what a fucking miss. Also had a horror touch in the first half when through. Loses points for that. (xavi6)
Missed his chances and looks no better than our other strikers. (MaineRoadMemories)
Missed the golden chances but the balls into him were awful on the whole. (Grob)
Some great movement and layoffs but no end product. (irblinx)


Caicedo (Elano 49): 7, 7, 7, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 6, 6, 6, 6.5, 6, 5.2, 6.0 (av: 6.1)
Looked sharp but his passing varied hugely. (MEN)
Made a huge difference. He's a big fucker! Great touch and played two quality through balls that Elano could only have dreamed of playing today. He's gonna be good. (xavi6)
Touch goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. Looks ok but it's harsh on Sturridge who has scored two goals. (MaineRoadMemories)
Some great bits of play. Some amateurish shenanigans. Not my cup of tea although I'm sure some are wanking over his through balls. (Grob)
Looked very bright when he came on, not afraid of getting stuck in. (irblinx)

Castillo (Ireland 63): 6, 6, 6, 6, 5, 5, 4, 6, 6, - , 7, 6.5, 5, 5.1, 5.7 (av: 5.7)
Likes a shot but couldn’t find a way through. (MEN)
Looked lively and wanted the ball. One shot but not much else. (xavi6)
Why does such a one-footed player want to play on the right? Kept cutting inside. Offered a little more than others. (MaineRoadMemories)
Played out of position and didn't even bother to make an impression. (Grob)
Hardly did anything. (irblinx)

Subs not used:
Isaksson, Hamann, Garrido

Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Scharner, Boyce, Edman, Valencia, Brown, Palacios, Koumas, Heskey, (Sibierski 66). Subs not used: Pollitt, Bramble, Olembe, Bent

Match stats

The stats (below) are compiled from a live commentary. For more detailed stats, including a breakdown of each player’s passes and tackles click here, while you can also find match details at the BBC and Setanta.

Match reports

City 0 Wigan 0

Chris Kirkland denies poor Manchester City (Les Ward)
(City) did not look remotely close to threatening their neighbours' global appeal during this dismal stalemate. But if Thaksin, presently back in his native Thailand, 18 months after being ousted as prime minister in a military coup, can get his hands back on his substantial funds, City might just have a chance of bridging the gap, but it will not come cheaply.
Even with the millions at their disposal, attracting top-class players to City this summer will become an even tougher proposition if more results like this come along to snuff out their hopes of qualification for Europe.

City's fortunes tied to fortune of owner (Ian Whittell)
For large spells of the contest Wigan looked the more threatening team, the fast and physical front pair of Emile Heskey and Marlon King a thorn in the side of the City defence.
City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson claims they are capable of finishing fourth in the Premier League, so this was a sobering state of affairs. But more alarming yet was City's paucity of ideas and threat in front of goal. Already, in eight months at the club, Eriksson has spent some of Shinawatra's millions on five forwards, yet the Brazilian Elano, a mercurial talent of no fixed position and usually given a floating role, is the leading league scorer with five goals.

Determined Wigan show welcome steel in stalemate (Brian Doogan)
With Thaksin Shinawatra, the Manchester City owner and former prime minister of Thailand, back in Bangkok to answer corruption charges and to try to secure £800m of frozen assets, the club he bought last summer is facing its own moment of truth. Sven-Göran Eriksson, the manager, remains confident that his team will qualify for Europe, insisting that they are “better than Everton in so many ways”. On the evidence of Monday’s defeat to the fourth-placed side in the Premier League they are not, and this was another lacklustre, indeed ominous performance. After a brilliant start to the season, City are stuttering badly.

Benjani lacks sense of direction as City continue to lose way (Guy Hodgson)
Certainly their manager Steve Bruce saw it as a missed opportunity. "The longer the game went on there was only one team going to win," he said. "The unfortunate thing is that we made the chances and couldn't take them." Sven Goran Eriksson, his City counterpart, added: "It's disappointing but I can't go into the dressing room and accuse the players of not trying hard or lacking spirit. We needed to score to make it a different game."
Yesterday Eriksson reverted to the 4-4-1-1 formation that brought nine successive home wins at the start of the season. Elano was reintroduced but is not the inspirational force he was in the autumn and his effectiveness was debilitated further by a knee injury. There was also an onus on Mwaruwari Benjani's to run into gaps but his eagerness was often fruitless because he he spent most of the match offside.

Manchester City slump evidence Sven-Goran Eriksson must strengthen (Ian Whittell)
Presumably Thaksin Shinawatra, Manchester City’s billionaire owner, could afford to have the television feed of his team’s latest league disappointment beamed to the Thai bolt-hole where he is awaiting trial on corruption charges and that is a blessing for Sven-Göran Eriksson, the team’s manager.
Viewing City’s goalless and largely chanceless draw with Wigan Athletic served to emphasise the need for Thaksin to clear his name and free frozen assets worth a reported £800 million that will allow Eriksson to embark upon a summer spending spree after City’s recent slump that has brought only two wins in the past 11 matches.

Palacios' captivating presence leaves Bruce in raptures as Eriksson claims festive fatigue (Robert Warner)
Publicly, however, the City manager is blaming simple fatigue for his team's recent swoon. "I think we felt that straight after Christmas and the new year we were a little bit low mentally, but that is maybe my fault," he said. "I should have given the players some days off now and then, but I didn't do it and I have learned what to do next season at Christmas time. Sometimes players need a break mentally, but I think we are OK physically. We just need the luck to score a goal."

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