Monday, March 17, 2008

Reaction, stats & ratings: City 2 Spurs 1

So Thaksin returns to Eastlands vowing to "tighten the bolt" and we pick up our first points - and goals - in five weeks.

It could well be coincidence of course, but I do wonder whether the two events are related. Back in the 1990s I used to work at News International in Wapping, and it was noticeable how the mood became more focused whenever Rupert Murdoch was making one of this occasional visits. With City appearing to lack motivation in recent games, having a powerful figure such as Thaksin taking a close interest again certainly wouldn't have done us any harm.

"When the chairman comes, if he has some magic things, ways to concede less goals and score more, then he's more than welcome to tell me or tell the players," Eriksson told the Mirror last week.

Thaksin does indeed have some magic things, including 'talismans and various Buddha amulets' used to ward off the black magic alledgedly used by his enemies. Whether he uses any of these at City is another question, but after losing to Spurs for the last eight games on the trot, Thaksin's belief that nine is a lucky number certainly won't have been diminished.

But back to the more earthly matter of our football. There were some interesting comments posted after the game by colly at Wookies Lair, who believes that Sven is creating a Serie A style team that values retaining possession above all else and is quite happy to surrender two-thirds of the pitch when defending. Clearly, we don't yet have the players to make this system a success right now, but maybe there is a good case for instilling it into the players this season, even if it means some square pegs in round holes over the short term.

Of course, the sooner we can try out this system in Europe the better, which brings us to the matter of Uefa Cup qualification. Although a sixth place finish would get us into the Intertoto Cup, that would involve playing six matches during June and July. A far less gruelling option would be qualifying through the 'Fair Play' league. Here's how qualification works:

In all there are three places up for grabs across Europe, with qualification depending on each country's Fair Play ranking. According to, the top ranked country at the end of the season will be awarded one extra Uefa Cup slot, while any other country that achieves a high enough score will go into a draw, from which two Uefa Cup places will be awarded.

England are currently top of the official Uefa ranking (pdf file), while City are the highest ranked team in the Premier League's Fair Play table, excluding the clubs who have already qualified for Europe or who are certain to do so.

The Premier League's scoring system appears remarkably subjective, with points awarded for such things as 'Positive Play', 'Respect Towards Opponent' and 'Behaviour of Official'. It smacks of something that could be easily rigged, which I suspect would favour a high-profile club such as ours over next-placed Wigan.

Uefa don't give any explanation as to how their ranking system works, but after reading this startling thread on the Liverpool Echo talkboard, which correctly predicted the Champions League draw 90 minutes before it took place, you wonder whether they've allocated the places already.

~ There was a touching moment before the game when Malcolm Allison made an unexpected visit to City Social Club. Big Mal was given a long and heart-felt ovation on leaving the Club, witnessed by King Kev at Mancityfans.

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

This week's Purely Man City

With news that Bear Sterns, who arranged a sizable chunk of City's current debt, is in trouble I thought I'd take a look at City's debt this week.

I've also been scanning in photos of City's managers from the 19th century to the present, which I'll be publishing later in the week, along with an all-time ranking for City managers.

Player ratings

Ratings come from (in order): Manchester Evening News; Gaudino's Perm, Dunny, Father Dougal MaGuire, mcigo, goat boy, (Bluemoon), Daily Mirror, Sky and Sky Your Rating and the BBC.

Hart: 6, 7, 7, 6, 6, 7, 7, 6, 6, 6, 6.2, 6.5 (av: 6.4)

Corluka: 5, 7, 5.5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 6, 5.5, 5, 5.8, 5.8 (av: 5.9)

Dunne: 7, 8.5, 8.5, 7, 7, 8, 8, 7, 7, 7, 7.7, 7.2 (av: 7.5 MOM)

Onuoha: 7, 8, 8, 7, 6, 8, 7, 7.5, 7.5, 8, 7.0, 6.8 (av: 7.3)

Garrido: 6, 7.5, 7.5, 8, 8, 7, 7, 6, 6, 6, 6.2, 6.1 (av: 6.8)

Ireland: 6, 7.5, 7.5, 8, 5, 7, 7, 6.5, 6.5, 7, 6.3, 6.7 (av: 6.8)

Gelson: 7, 9, 9, - , - , 8, 7, 6, 6.5, 6, 6.6, 6.5 (av: 7.1)

Johnson: 8, 7.5, 7.5, 8, 7, 7, 7, 6.5, 8, 7, 6.6, 6.8 (av: 7.2)

Castillo (Vassell 71): 5, 7.5, 5, 8, 8, 7, 6, 6, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 6.4 (av: 6.4)

Elano (Caicedo 75): 7, 7, 7, 8, 7, 7, 7, 6, 6.5, 7, 6.5, 6.6 (av: 6.9)

Benjani (Jihai 88): 6, 7.5, 7.5, 7, 5, 6, 7, 7, 6, 7, 7.0, 7.0 (av: 6.7)


Vassell (Castillo 71): 6, - , - , - , - , - , 6, 7, 6.5, 6, 6.4, 6.5 (av: 6.3)

Caicedo (Elano 75): 6, - , -, - , - , - , - , 6.5, 5.5, 6, 6.1, 6.1 (av: 6.0)

Jihai (Benjani 88)

Subs not used:
Isaksson, Geovanni

Spurs: Robinson, Hutton, Woodgate, Dawson, Chimbonda, Lennon (Huddlestone 45), Jenas, Zokora, Malbranque (O'Hara 67), Berbatov, Keane (Bent 67)
Subs not used: Cerny, Tainio,

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 (and trawl down the page), while you can also find match details at the BBC, Setanta and Sky.

Match reports

City 2 Tottenham 1

Keane blows his top as City keep hopes of Europe alive (Ian Herbert)
This win was as much about Spurs' implosion, compounded by the captain Robbie Keane's disgruntlement when called from the field, as anything else.
And when Sven Goran Eriksson sits down to talk cash with Thaksin today, he might suggest that something more heavyweight is required in the on-field department. It is a significant week for the Swede, who said: "It is important for the club and me to sit down with [Thaksin]. We've got a lot to discuss. It's important to draw the lines on where we want to go."

Manchester City ride their luck to inflate Keane’s anger (Oliver Kay)
“He [Thaksin] has been away a long time and to have finally the chance to sit down with him is important for the club, for me and hopefully for him,” Eriksson said after yesterday’s match. “I don’t know what it [tighten the bolt] means, but it’s good to get a win on the day he comes back to see us play live. We have a lot of things to discuss.”
At least Eriksson should be talking from a position of strength when he meets Thaksin today. City could have crumbled yesterday after a poor first-half display in which a mistake by Vedran Corluka allowed Pascal Chimbonda to set up Keane for a well-taken goal, but they persevered in the second half and got their reward.

City victory puts smile on Thaksin's face as Keane departs in a huff (Daniel Taylor)
Eriksson was certainly entitled to be happy because City had not won at home in the league since December 15 and, as he noted afterwards, the Premier League's statistics show there is only a 10% likelihood of winning a match after going a goal down. "It shows that our spirit and morale is still there," he said. "Plus it shows the players have not given up in terms of qualifying for Europe.

Lucky Man City cash in on Spurs' flaws (Phil Shaw)
Eriksson, who meets Shinawatra today to discuss "where we go from here", acknowledged that City had enjoyed "a little bit of luck", but added: "The spirit we found in the second half showed morale is still high and the boys haven't given up on the season. If we'd lost, Europe would have been very, very far away. Now it's only far away."

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