Date: 6th February 2018 at 5:47pm
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So, City failed in their bid to initially stretch their top of the table lead to eighteen points before the Stretford Stagecoachers set out their weekly bus and had to settle for a meagre net lead of thirteen once the scores were settled over the weekend.

With Guardiola saying it was one of the best performances ever, we can perhaps share that view but also share the disappointment. There is little doubt that this should have been another resounding victory for City against a team that probably plays the best “backs to the wall” football in the Premier League.

Burnley’s position in the league tells you they are not mugs. They may be a small-town team, but they have a plan, they stick to it and it provides them with some sort of success that has seen them spring from yo-yo land to seventh in the table. They are ahead of City’s next opponents, Leicester City, but a long way behind the Euro places.

That City dominated possession was a given, but the effectiveness of that possession is only generally measured in goals and it is in this department that City were found wanting on Saturday. Allowed the springboard of a relatively early lead, deliciously curled in by Danilo, City should ideally have gone on and wrapped this match up.

However, the usual heroic blocking by ex-City man Mee and his colleagues added to a bit of luck for the Pope, the absence of de Jesus was magnified for me. The line up when Sane is absent sometimes confuses me. Pep seems to play everyone except Walker “inverted”, which reduces the possibility of anyone getting around the back of the defence to deliver the telling crosses that turn the centre backs and invariably end up in the back of the net. There was evidence of this against Burnley as both Sterling and Bernardo found themselves coming inside on their favoured feet rather than attacking the space behind the Burnley full backs and producing those deadly passes into the six-yard box.

Instead the attacking point seemed to come from “full in the face” which in some ways helped the Burnley defenders.

“Profligate” was the key word. Virtually the whole team, Ederson excepted, missed a chance and Aguero and Sterling, both pretty lethal this season, both had days to forget. In the first half they looked as though they weren’t communicating with each other and gone was the directive to play in the man in the best position to score as both of them continually hit defenders when the other was handily placed. Aguero was on his heels when the shot from De Bruyne cannoned into his path off Pope and he was caught ball-watching instead of hunting for the second ball. I think de Jesus would have been on that in a flash.

Then there was the ground-opening, swallow me up Scotty miss from Sterling. How do you begin to explain that one from someone who has probably won City half a dozen matches in the dying seconds?

I’m afraid that it was one of the worst misses I’ve ever seen in all my years watching football and it was to prove costly. As Sterling hit the floor like a baby who can’t have his dummy, Guardiola spat his out of the pram and put up Sterling’s number. It may have weakened the team as Diaz didn’t really contribute much, but it made a point that nobody’s position is sacrosanct.

Of course the inevitable happened and a surprise Burnley attack, one of very few in the second half, which City dominated with fantastic football, found Gudmundsson lurking just inside the box, having got the right side of Walker, also caught napping, and also in the space that should have been occupied by Kompany, and after two excellent saves by Ederson, he couldn’t quite keep this one out. A point was gratefully grabbed by Burnley and two salted away by City.

The players generally share the view that match after match every three days is taking its toll. In fairness no other Premier League team in history has been asked to play at this kind of level of intensity and with sick bay looking rather full just now it is not surprising that a blip has taken place.

Guardiola has locked down the CFA for three days this week and sent them away for a bit of a rest, but no doubt on Thursday it will be back to game plans and preparation for a tough encounter with Leicester.

And what of Kompany? Time after time he has been written off and time after time he has shown incredible determination to avoid the hanging-up of his boots. On Saturday he looked solid in spurts, but nowadays opposition teams are weighing in on him, expecting an over-stretch that pulls the calf out again, forcing Pep into an early replacement.

And what of the replacements? Quite why Guardiola went with only six subs when the world was notified that Nmetcha had been promoted to first-team training was perhaps one of life’s mysteries. Surely it would have been better to at least involve him even though he played for the under 23s the day before?

It was a disappointing day from all our perspectives, with the three points begging. City are no longer thirteen points ahead of the field, Stretford are now “only thirteen points behind”. But have Chelsea shot their bolt? What is going on at Stamford Bridge? It is widely expected that Conte will have the way outside pointed out to him at the end of the season, but he is showing inclinations of defeatism now and adding in the possibility of Chelsea failing to qualify for the Champions League. Let’s face it they were bobbins against Watford this week. They nearly got lucky when it got to when Diver-in-Chief, Hazard, equalised but the way in which they capitulated to concede three goals after that had Harry the Hornet in stitches and buzzing around like he’s found a jam pot!

Chelsea have City and the Stretfords on the near horizon and if they were to collect nothing there it looks a forlorn situation for Conte. At least when Pellegrini knew the exit chute was beckoning and that he was keeping the manager’s chair warm for Pep, he still conducted himself with dignity and sent out his side to win as many matches as possible. Last night, Conte sounded like he was asking for a pay-off.

Liverpool and Spuds raised some interesting talking points. It seemed that the match referee, Jon Moss, has forgotten how to give a decision following the advent of VAR. I thought the Scousers were a bit hard done by as the dying white swans of Wembley were hitting the floor as though they were in a police raid and then Pocchetino admitted he trains them to do it. At least Moss didn’t fall for Dele’s deliberate “trip” when he left his own foot in to force contact with a defender, but the ref was clearly clueless in the penalty decisions he gave. Life in the Susan household went from joy to despair and I thought I’d found my way into a rough working-men’s club, such were the expletives around 6.30pm.

I see the Stretfords have got themselves an even sadder banner welcoming Sanchez and his dogs to “Manchester”. When are these clowns going to get their geography right. Dear rags, when you leave the dog-pound you call a stadium, turn left down Chester Round, you arrive at the trading estate where White CITY used to be. And as you pass it there is a sign that says “Welcome to Manchester”. That means that the CITY limits of Manchester do not include Sold TRAFFORD. I suppose “Welcome to Stretford” doesn’t have the same ring to it eh? Sanchez’ wife didn’t want to go to Liverpool, so how would she feel if the limits of her shopping capability was something like the second-hand shops and lower end stores which adorn Stretford Precinct? Still, I suppose she could go to the Traffic Centre!

Interestingly, I went by train to a meeting at the Hawthorns today and every time the train stopped the announcer said, “please mind the gap when you get off”. You could almost hear the sundry Stretfords on board sighing with grief. Chuckle, chuckle.

 

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