Why have we started so slowly?

I’m sure I will not be the only Reading fan who was at the Swansea game incredibly disappointed with what I saw, not for the first time this season. We looked like we’re lacking a lot of things already and things will get worse before they get better.

The most painfully obvious observation I could comment on is our lack of a striker. Personally, I’m getting more and more frustrated with hearing Jaap come out with comments suggesting that we were priced out of any potential moves for any striker during the transfer window. I’ve got a few comments on that:

1) DON’T GET RID OF PLAYERS BEFORE THEY ARE REPLACED

I remember tweeting after Dom Samuel departed that it was far too early for him to be leaving. Not that I thought he’d set the league alight this year, but for the simple fact that if you have two senior strikers in your squad and you sell one before bringing in any replacements – prices are going to increase. Now, I do not have a business background in the slightest – but surely that’s not a difficult thing to understand? If you’re going to complain at vastly inflated prices – perhaps don’t contribute to that yourself.

2) WE CANT RELY ON KERMOGANT (I think)

For some reason, a lot of fans have suggested that as soon as Yann returns from injury we’ll automatically start scoring again. I’m not saying that Yann won’t play like he did last year, but I think expectations may need to be lowered. For a start, being out that long with no pre-season means realistically Yann will need a month or so to get back to full fitness. That’s not taking into account the fact he is in his mid-30s and this time period could be a lot longer. Whose to say Yann will be able to get anywhere near the level he was last year? If he isn’t, where will we be come January when prices for forwards will have risen even more in conjunction with the severity of our issues. Reliance on Kermogant is definitely a dangerous game. We’ve all seen how injuries have hampered McCleary’s form – let’s not forget that Yann is a good few years older. I hope I’m wrong and I could well be wrong in which case I’d happily eat my own words – but I am worried.

3) LOOK DOWN THE LEAGUE’S OR INTO EUROPE

It amazes me that if the prices were as shockingly inflated as the owners and Stam will have us believe, why did we not look elsewhere? Take Josh Morris at Scunthorpe for example. He had a very bright season in League One last year, helping his side reach the playoffs. Would Scunthorpe really have turned down a bid of £3m let’s say? For a man who’s been scoring frequently in the division below and who looks ready to make the step up, personally, I am amazed to not see us go for a player like him. Where did we get Adam Le Fondre from again? Or take a look at Leeds. Saiz and Roofe have scored 11 between them this year. Did they come from this division? Nope. It seems however unless it’s from Holland, Jaap and Brian are struggling to source talent outside of the Championship/Premiership.

The next major issue I’d like to address is the lack of a plan B. We all know what Jaap did last year having implemented a style of football that although may have initially been divisive, it worked very well. This year, however, it is clearly not. Teams sit back, make it impossible to break them down and lead to us having to resort to crossing the ball when predictably given the lack of goalscorers in the squad we have no man on the end of it. Then what? When that doesn’t work – do we switch it up? Nope. Last night we did not change our style once, we were playing negative, conservative passes around the back after going behind which made Swansea’s job a lot easier to hold out against us. Take the home game against Bristol City. There was a 10-minute spell at the beginning of the second half where the tempo and the intensity were high, and what happened? We carved out chances, the fans got behind the side and everyone with a blue and white allegiance in the ground got a lift. There was never even a remote indication that this could happen yesterday. Incredibly frustrating, but I’m afraid to say incredibly predictable. Jaap is a fantastic coach, but his lack of flexibility is concerning me more and more with the fact that more and more sides are showing they’ve figured out how to stop us.

Do the players deserve a lot of criticism? Well, I don’t think so. Sure Bodvardsson has hardly hit the ground running but he has the pressure of being the only forward in the squad on his shoulders at a new club. Whether he is good enough or not, the fact is if you pin all your hopes on one man, it’s not surprising he may struggle to regain form if things go pear-shaped.  Okay, we’ve been a little fragile defensively but again – the pressure on the defenders will be immense given the fact they know should we go behind the chances of us making a comeback are lower than ever at the moment since Jaap took over.

The owners have shown they’re willing to spend. The players are trying to relay the instructions of Jaap, which at the moment isn’t working. A lot of hard work is needed to rectify this on the training ground to start picking up points with the squad we have. Unless we change things around however, I think we’re going to struggle to do so.

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Is it all doom and gloom?

Arguably, we’re currently undergoing one of the most unstable transitions in recent memory. Stability and optimism seems to be an all too distant thing of the past. Take one look at the #readingfc hashtag on twitter and if you don’t feel like having a stiff drink by the time you’ve read 20 tweets then you’re a stronger person than me. Just in case there haven’t been enough people commenting on the current state of the club, I’m going to give it a go.

Where else to start than Brian McDermott. It’s a tough one with Brian, if you take a step back you can understand both perspectives from supporters. Some believe it’s a result business and Brian hadn’t delivered and other (like me) felt we should have given him more time. If you’re going to bring in a manager in December when realistically we were already losing our grip on the play-off places and expect him to be able to motivate a team mostly made up of loan players – you’re asking too much in my opinion. I am of the opinion that we should have given him until around November. If we’d given him a transfer window to make the squad his own and he’d still not achieved the results then yeah, fair play, he deserved to be out of the job. We’ve been blessed at this club in recent years with success (for a club of our size) and unsurprisingly it has gone hand in hand with a stable setup. Continually chopping and changing hoping for an upturn in fortunes rarely works.

I do appreciate however the logic behind the decision. Bringing a new man in now gives a new approach ahead of the season. If we had persevered unsuccessfully with Brian and been in a situation in November where we were facing another meaningless end to a season – not many people will have been happy. However, Brian wasn’t given the resources to turn things around in the small amount of time he was given. Why bring someone to the club half way through a campaign, not give him any money in January, and then get rid of him at the end of the campaign? Why even appoint him in the first place if this was the plan? Whether it was a mistake or not – hindsight is a wonderful thing. It certainly did more harm than good that’s one thing we can all see now.

Time to have a look at everyone’s favourite people at the moment – the owners. Cynicism and Reading Football Club go hand in hand. I wonder if our fans were so unbearably depressing and cynical back in the late 19th century? I can almost envisage the first ever game at Elm Park being criticised for one reason or another. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of the Thais, but I do feel some of the stick they’ve received doesn’t actually make much sense. The first of which is where is the investment? Well, last year, look at the calibre of players we brought in on loan. Who pays those big wages? Hmm, I wonder. I don’t recall them receiving any criticism when John, Piazon and Vydra were all signed in a small space of time. Funny that. Vydra was a huge disappointment agreed – but how can that be the owners fault? They had the ambition to fork out £2.5m to bring him in on loan – a slightly odd decision, but not one you can use to talk about the lack of investment they’ve put in. They certainly aren’t perfect, but criticising the signings made under their reign seems bizarre considering how happy we all were to see some of the names we had brought in before last year.

My last slight qualm I have with some of our supporters is complaining that we’re already NAILED ON FOR RELEGATION OH MY GOD WE HAVE SUCH A TERRIBLE SQUAD. Take a step back and look at our side. They ALL underperformed last year without doubt, perhaps with the exception of Ali Al-Habsi. But I do genuinely believe we have a basis of a very good side. Quinn, Mcshane, Williams, Obita, Gunter, Al Habsi, McCleary are just some of the players who I think would make it into a lot of squads in this league. Under the right management with a few more smart additions, especially up top, we don’t actually have the worst squad the world has ever seen, contrary to common opinion amongst some of our supporters.

This summer is definitely one of massive transition, and it is slightly worrying seeing the mass exodus of staff especially. I do think if we all just take a deep breath though, and not be drawn into the mass hysteria on social media (that I’ve definitely been guilty of as times) we might just be okay next year.

Why Watford Deserve More Credit Than They Are Getting

I’ve visited Vicarage Road once in my lifetime, January 2 years ago. That day I was stood at the top of the away end and actually watched Reading win on the road, which is quite a big deal in itself. Fast forward to now, and Watford seemingly have established themselves in the top tier and narrowly fell to Crystal Palace at Wembley in the FA Cup Semis. What I find remarkable is that despite a season most newly promoted clubs would consider a big success – Quique Flores is under a lot of pressure. Okay, the last few months in the league hasn’t been the most successful – it’s clear that the side believed their safety in the top tier was secured back in February to be fair. The club as a whole does deserve a lot of credit, for a range of reasons.

The first thing I did notice when I visited the ground was the apparent lack of atmosphere and life around the ground. I don’t mean this as a criticism of Watford supporters, but the state of the stadium was interesting considering the size of the club. Nowadays however, the new stand is impressive, the atmosphere in the ground (especially the ‘home end’, apologies for not knowing its official name) is a pleasant sight and sound, with choreographed displays frequently put on before games. When I went, I was stood about as far as was humanly possible from the home supporters, with a semi-demolished stand next to me – and you really did struggle to see how the club could continue plying its trade in that situation. Everything has changed, and the facilities at the ground really do suit an established Premier League side, which is what Watford supporters will be hoping for in the forthcoming season(s).

The investment in the squad hasn’t been the most eye catching for the casual observer, but the frugal approach to signing players has worked wonders for the club. Players like Prodl, Holebas, Capoue, Behrami and Ake hardly ignited the footballing world – but the investments have all been clever and more importantly they’ve worked. A few eyebrows were raised for example when Watford missed out on Juan Iturbe – but the decision not to pursue the Argentinian has been fully justified considering he’s currently struggling to get into the Bournemouth starting XI. Watford are proof that sometimes simply throwing money into a side isn’t always the best thing to do. Efficient man-management and finding a correct balance on the pitch sometimes does more than simply investing and hoping. They’ll have to follow up with another good window this summer, but you wouldn’t bet against that based on last year.

To be fair, the ultimate credit that can be given to Watford is they managed to convince us to dish out £2.5m to sign Matej Vydra on loan.

Obviously, one of the main reasons that Watford haven’t received much attention is mainly due to the abnormal nature of this season. With the remarkable success of Leicester, Spurs and West Ham this year, clubs like Watford have gone under the radar. If you’d have offered any Watford fan safety with a number of games remaining, they’d inevitably of snatched your hand off for it. Understandably the season has somewhat fizzled out, but with teams they’re playing fighting for points for different reasons, it’s somewhat acceptable to see a difference in motivation levels. The second season often proves to be more difficult than the first, and Hornets fans will be hoping the form in the past couple of months isn’t a sign of things to come.

BPL TOTY

The Team of The Year is always a hotly debated subject amongst football supporters across the country. This season has been the most exciting in Premiership history, but who deserves to be in the best starting XI of the year? Here’s my choice for the best side from this campaign.

GK – David De Gea 

To be fair, this position could be filled with a number of players. Butland, Lloris, Schmeichel, Adrian, Hart and Cech have all had very good campaigns. For me however, De Gea has done the most for his side to claim points for a United side who’ve fallen below expectations this season. Whether he’ll still be donning a United jersey next year is questionable, ones thing is for sure however.. He’ll be a big gap to fill should he depart Old Trafford.

CB – Toby Alderweireld

Spurs’ structure and rigid nature defensively, combined with certain players enjoying a fruitful campaign up the other end (which I’ll get onto later) has been the main reason behind their success. The Belgian centre back has been at the heart of the defence all season, and has demonstrated an array of skills that have warranted his inclusion in this side. Athletic, strong, versatile and comfortable on the ball, Alderweireld could well be a big part of Spurs’ revolution for years to come yet.

CB – Wes Morgan

The first of two Leicester centre halves, Wes Morgan’s upturn in fortunes has been almost as remarkable as his sides title challenge. Last year, Morgan was widely regarded as a disaster waiting to happen. Without meaning to sound over the top, comparing Morgan last year to Bambi on ice would be a slight insult to Disney’s much loved character. This year however, alongside Huth, Morgan has formed a truly formidable defensive partnership, similar in my opinion to great pairings in the past, such as Vidic and Ferdinand. A worthy inclusion.

CB – Robert Huth

Similar to Morgan, Robert Huth’s brand of physically imposing defensive work has been a treat for purists to witness this season. A traditional centre half, Huth’s playing style hasn’t changed throughout his career, but this year he’s reached another level. The sheer desire to win is clear, and alongside Wes Morgan, it’s no surprise the Foxes have grinded out so many tight victories.

CDM – Ngolo Kante

Sometimes, footballers are given strange metaphorical nicknames. However, Ngolo Kante truuly summarises the “engine” sort of footballer. Kante’s fitness levels truly are remarkable, and his persistence and energy in the heart of the Foxes midfield has again reaped it’s rewards throughout the season. Every great team needs a player who’s prepared to run himself into the ground doing the dirty work for the sake of the side, and in Kante that is exactly what Leicester have.

CDM – Eric Dier

Two years ago, even the most dedicated and knowledgeable of football supporters wouldn’t of known a huge amount about Eric Dier. Now however, he’s an established international quality player. Dier has provided great protection to the Spurs back-line and allowed some of the more creative players to flourish going forward without having to concern themselves as much with defensive duties.

CAM – Riyad Mahrez

I wouldn’t want to insult anyone who’s made it to this stage of the post by repeating the classic lines about Mahrez, however most of them make legitimate points. An absolute bargain of a signing, Mahrez has provided pace, skill, goals, assists and unpredictability when going forward – which is always a recipe for success. The stats and league positioning speak for themselves, as does Mahrez’ nomination for a player of the year award.

CAM – Mesut Ozil

Especially in the earlier stages of the season, the German playmaker demonstrated the quality he possesses. Some people have claimed his first campaign in England was below par – and I’d agree with that. I’d agree purely because Ozil has shown this year his true class. At points this year, Ozil has looked in a different league to the opposition and even some of his own teammates. A slightly quieter second half of the season, but that’s due to the whole Arsenal squad under performing in the second half of this season. A deserved place.

CAM – Dimi Payet

West Ham have secured an absolute gem in the Frenchman Payet. Proven in Ligue 1, the transition into the Premiership isn’t always a smooth one. However Payet has demonstrated his ability and class throughout this campaign. It’s very rare to recall a game in which Payet has disappointed – and this consistency exemplifies why West Ham could well be moving into their new stadium with European football to look forward to. Also, he’s not bad at free kicks I’ve heard.

ST – Jamie Vardy

Depressingly unoriginal internet jokes aside, Vardy has had a fantastic season for the title chasing Foxes. After breaking Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s record for goals in consecutive matches, Vardy’s goals haven’t dried up like many people (including myself) believed they would. A hunger to work for the side and ability when chances arise has seen Vardy make several appearances for his country, and he’s fighting it out with his strike partner in this team, and for England, for the golden boot.

ST – Harry Kane

Harry Kane for me could well be the future of England. He seems to have it all – every aspect that a forward would want. He’s only going to get better in the coming years, and this season he’s been spectacular. Fingers crossed this years Euros could be the tournament in which Kane truly proves his class at such a tender age, similar to the manner in which Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney introduced themselves on the international scene at major tournaments recently. Even if he doesn’t, you’d have to go a long way to find someone who doesn’t believe Kane warrants a TOTY place.

 

 

 

 

Football’s Greatest Mavericks.

Football has had a fair share of mavericks in its long and illustrious past. Players who excite and frustrate in equal measure, players who never reach their full potential for one reason or another, and players who are simply unmanageable. Whether their performances aren’t worth making the back pages, sometimes their lives are worthy of the front pages. Who are football’s best “mavericks” however? Here’s some of the best, in no particular order. Enjoy.
George Best
Where else to start? George Best was a man who was a new breed of footballer back in the 60s. He had everything, and boy did he like to celebrate it. Blessed with charm, wit and good looks combined with a love of entertaining and incredible natural ability, Best was a character always destined to catch the eye of anyone lucky enough to have seen the genius at work. Unfortunately his demons took control eventually, leading to his premature death at the age of 59. However, George Best invented the footballing maverick. You’d do well to find anyone who’d of preferred him any other way.
Diego Maradona
Alright, so the bloke was a cheat. Lets just get that out the way for starters. His handball against the mighty English in the World Cup was possibly the most unjust event in the history of human civilization, but hey.. I’m not bitter. You do just have to take one glance at the goal Maradona scored four minutes after the famous “Hand of God” goal to see why he’s so well regarded. Incredible close control, speed, flair and technique combined with confidence in his incredible natural ability. Off the field issues, most notably his enjoyment of a certain powder, led to the gradual deterioration of the master’s career, however on his day I’d argue only two players have ever reached and surpassed his level. Fair play Diego, you weren’t half bad really. Even if you cheated.
Paul Gascoigne 
One of English football’s most popular players, Gazza had everything you’d expect someone who’ve found their way onto this list to have. A hugely loved players amongst supporters for his passionate displays whilst he donned the Three Lions jersey (none more so than his reaction to a booking in the semi final in 1990.) His love of the nightlife throughout his career did see him appear on numerous front pages during his time at the top. Unfortunately, it appears Gazza is still struggling with alcoholism in 2016, with more stories beginning to circulate documenting his struggles on the rocky road to recovery. I’m sure football fans not just in England but around the world will be hoping he returns to full health as soon as possible.
Mario Balotelli
Well, it seems we’ve already ran out of popular mavericks in this list. Mario Balotelli is a player with undoubtable quality, as he has demonstrated at points throughout his career. Despite this, Mario’s career is definitely at risk of crumbling should he not improve his attitude. The last two years for example, his maiden season at Liverpool and loan spell at AC Milan have been.. Well, how can I put this? Shite. That’ll do. A man who’s previously thrown darts at youth players, donated £100s to homeless people, gatecrashed a female prison, lit a firework in his bathroom or struggled to put a bib on definitely needs to get back on the straight and narrow should he wish to get his career back on track.
Rene Higuita
This bloke was, no matter how you look at it, a proper bloody lunatic. When a players most notable footballing memory is a completely unexpected scorpion kick at Wembley, you know you’ve left an odd imprint on the footballing world. Still, you think that was strange. Higuita spent time in prison in 1993 for his involvement in a kidnapping, and was involved in cocaine trafficking alongside notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar. The chap was mad sober on the pitch, imagine if he’d had a line or two before getting between the sticks?! Scary, scary prospect.
Len Shackleton 
One of the earliest “entertainers” of football, Len Shackleton certainly had a personality about him. He wasn’t a poor player however, he netted six times on his debut for Newcastle. However his antics whilst he was playing were what he was well remembered for. Some of his most notable actions include combing his hair mid game, playing a series of one-twos with the corner flag and sitting on the ball during the game. His approach to football, slightly unprofessional shall we say, did restrict his national appearances to just six.
Vinnie Jones
Perhaps not one of the most memorable of “mavericks”, and no where near in the same bracket as some of the players on this list, but his love for hurting opponents as much as possible was truly admirable to lovers of violent football. Whether it was having a cheeky touch of Gazza, or this tackle..
And what a tackle that was. No booking, either.
Jose Luis Chilavert
To be fair, I think my favorite aspect about this chap is how strangely satisfying his name is to say. Try it. Anyway, the Paraguayan keeper graced the South American football scene for around 20 years, finally retiring in 2004. Although not much of those two sentences have provided much insight into why he’s made this list, admittedly. Well, Jose managed to find the net 58 times in the space of his club career, as well as 8 times for his country. Not bad, to be fair.
Apologies if I have missed anyone out – I’m sure I probably have. Hey ho.

Female Fitness – A Revolution.

Women are beginning to take a stand in the quest for physical wellbeing. What is changing? Matt Joy takes a look at the new directions women are taking on their fitness journeys.

When you think of fitness, and in particular gyms, one thing will tend to spring to mind quicker than most other features. Dark and dingy rooms filled with the pungent aroma of stagnant sweat that has filled and permeated the rooms for years upon years. However, there is a quiet revolution taking place, particularly in the area of female only fitness. Long gone are the days when fitness failed to encompass all sections of society. Nowadays, the female gender can exercise in a male free, specialist area which has caused quite an impact for traditional gyms.

Curves’, is one of the largest chain of female only gyms. Not a young man with a neat haircut, bulging muscles and a string vest in sight. Oh no, on the way into the gym there were females which were from all walks of life, and in particular all ages and sizes. A warm welcome is extended to all members coming in. No mirrors were around the room, no glancing looks from strangers and also and perhaps most notably, no competitive rivalry that frequently pushes the inexperienced gym goer away from getting into a regular routine. Many features in Curves gym wouldn’t be installed into a gym which caters for both genders. Pictures of sexually desirable men upon the ceiling, stations upon the fitness circuit which were definitely designed for the female only nature of the gym and even a clipboard advertising a gym trip to watch the filming of popular programme Loose Women, which definitely wouldn’t be run at a “normal” gym. It is bewildering to think that just 15 years ago you’d rarely ever see such an establishment. They seem to have a perfect balance of social interaction and specialist fitness opportunities for the female gender. The manager of this particular gym is Bev Gellard. “I set up the gym 9 years ago. A friend of mine asked if I wanted to go to a female only gym when I was a member of a normal gym. I went along for a couple of sessions and felt it was a great concept. 30 minutes of a workout which gets results, ticking all the boxes that women like.” Bev said, whilst noises of the enthusiastic instructor outside resonated with encouraging tones. Worldwide the multinational company has over 10,000 locations all striving for a similar reward, to get females exercising in a comfortable environment.

“The fact we have no mirrors in the gym gives the ladies a comfort. That’s one of our main selling features, and it is welcomed by our members. Some ladies find a traditional gym intimidating for a range of reasons. The core reason however, is they don’t want to be judged. We offer an environment that simply wouldn’t allow for any judgement from staff and members alike.” You just have to take a look around the gym to look at the enjoyment and perhaps more importantly the comfort upon the faces of all of the members of Curves. Its clear to see each and every woman feels welcome.

The revolution in specialist fitness extends beyond the walls of the female only gyms. Another member of this fitness revolution is Pilates instructor Sue Hopcutt. Pilates is targeted primarily at females, benefiting both postural and muscular improvement. The growth in this area of fitness has been staggering. A recent study from IbisWorld found a growth of 1.8% annually, employing just short of 15,000 people and making a revenue of approximately £763m. Mrs Hopcutt shared the belief in females being intimidated away from regular gyms. “In the area of free weights when a female specific area isn’t designated, it can be rather intimidating for females.”

“My groups are targeted for all ages and all sizes and nowadays are full the year round. It’s definitely an area enjoying massive growth” Sue went onto say, which supports the study eluded to above. Becoming one of these instructors takes more training than some may believe, which Sue went onto explain. The qualifications that she possesses are: Level 3 Pilates CYQ, Pilates for Buff Bones (Osteopenia & Osteoporosis), Healing exercises for Pelvic Health & Dysfunction, Healing Pilates Exercise for Diastasis Rectus, Pubis Symphasis and C-Section. Without being an expert myself, these words look incredibly complex and professional, which is testament the work being done by Sue and countless other instructors.

Psychologically, the benefits of females exercising in a male free place has been an area of some debate for a number of years. Do females really work out better away from their male counterparts? Is it a case of intimidation which puts females off, or is it the same for both genders? Psychologist Pirkko Markula is an expert on the psychology of sport “Women primarily appear to prefer exercising in groups of other women. This offers encouragement not to give in, but it’s understood that these environments don’t possess the negative pressures that a multi gender environment.” She continued by commenting upon the negative opinions held in society. “Women are judged by appearance where as men are judged on their achievements. Clothing also makes it harder for females to hide their natural body shape, whereas 5% of women are born with a physically desirable body shape. This pressure has a subsequently negative impact upon the females who want to get into fitness, but may feel intimidated away from the stereotypical fitness institutions.”

The growth of an idea can be aided in the modern world is via social media. One such account is ‘#ThisGirlCan’ which supports the growth of grass-roots fitness. Taylor Johnson, the owner of the Twitter account, which currently has 70.5k followers, has praised the work of their company in the growth of fitness enthusiasts.  To ensure focus is on ‘everyday’ females, celebrity endorsement isn’t focused upon. Taylor said: “The idea behind the campaign was to demonstrate that every girl can and therefore in terms of celebrity endorsements there was no focus. Sports England much like ourselves focus on mass participation rather than focusing on elite level  competitors making it more logical to use your ‘grass roots’ athletes to demonstrate what we were trying to promote.”

Whether you’re a firm believer in single sex exercise or not, the work being put in to try and maximise the physical capability of the female sex is truly admirable. The growth in this sector is very pleasing to see, and with the negative stigma surrounding the physical state of our nation, this growth is a refreshing buck to the trend. Where can we go from here? Well, one would argue that the male gender could gain an equivalent. It’s hard to guess and predict the future, but anything to encourage improvements in our nation’s fitness can only be good in my eyes.

What’s gone wrong at City this campaign?

Many people expected City to really push on this year. They secured their second Premier League crown last year, and the focus really started to intensify in respect to them becoming an established European powerhouse. However, under a year later, the Premiership barring an incredible collapse should be going to West London and the Blues are languishing in Europe after a rotten display at home to Barcelona. What has gone wrong?

Well, firstly I believe you have to be looking at the transfers that Pellegrini made. Fernando, Mangala, Lampard, Caballero, and Sagna came in during the summer and in the January window Wilfred Bony moved up north. However, you do have to look at these transfers and really begin to question them. Look at Chelsea for example. Mangala came in for a hefty fee that was larger that Costa’s, Hazard’s, Fabregas’, Matic’s.. The list goes on. And for what? A seemingly average centre half, hardly destined to propel you to a league title when all those around you have strengthened to the extent that we saw during summer. Manchester City a few years ago brought in real world class talent; Aguero, Silva, Kompany, Toure.. The list goes on. In recent seasons it seems though that for one reason or another the owners think the current side is good enough without strengthening with world class talent they could undoubtedly afford. It may not be popular, but the riches at the disposal of City need to be invested more wisely in proven players of the standard that could see them compete with the top teams both in the Premiership and in Europe.

I think the tactics of City have been somewhat strange this year. Pellegrini received many plaudits for his style of play we saw last year but certain displays have been an so much worse in comparison to the team we saw dismantle other sides with ease last year. In midfield against Barcelona for example, you’re coming up against arguably the best strike force in the world in Neymar, Messi and Suarez so what do you do? Ahh yes, you play Milner and Fernando in the middle of the park. Strange is one word for these tactics shall we say. When Yaya Toure isn’t playing, the midfield of City doesn’t look half as creative and you have to look at the quality of the midfielders for that. Take away Silva and Toure, would any of those midfielders get into any of Europe’s top teams? That’s one for you to speculate upon. I certainly don’t believe so. This therefore all goes back to the transfer issue. It isn’t just the midfield either however, defensively City look so much less organised than in previous years and the once impenetrable skipper Vincent Kompany has shown more and more moments of fragility. More investment needed in that back line? Maybe so.

Lastly, I think the attitude of the team needs to change. Great teams seem to have consistency yes, skill yes, ruthlessness yes.. But all of this is gelled together with a real bond and camaraderie. All too many times this year City have seemed to me like they’re a collection of individuals as opposed to a single force. Even when they had Tevez and Balotelli at both their enigmatic best’s, they still seemed more of a united unit than they have done at times this year. Are they not happy with the manager, the tactics? Well, that is the one million dollar question. Certainly they cannot continue with this attitude if they’re going to look to fight back upon the substantial lead Chelsea have in the title race this year.

I could go on for hours commenting on how City need to improve. However, for fear of repeating myself, I shall leave it there. Lots needs to be done to return City to their destructive best that we haven’t seen nearly consistently enough this year, and maybe a slight summer overhaul will be the catalyst for this.