JB delivers something of a state of the sky blue nation address…
With all the results in from the latest round of Premier League games, we now have the clearest indication yet of what Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City squad must do if they are to realise what could yet be defined as an overall successful season of progress over one of frustrating disappointment out of the 50-50 scenario we now find ourselves in.
Two crucial Premier League wins over Hull and Southampton have restored a large degree of optimism across Planet Blue after a frustrating run of games saw City fail to beat Monaco, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea despite bossing possession as usual whilst out-passing and out-shooting their opponents in all of those contests. At half time at Saint Mary’s it felt very much like another hatful of hollow groundhog day with City in the ascendancy once again but also yet again unable to see off their rivals despite playing some lovely football.
Enter our resurgent Captain Fantastic with a towering set-piece header following 39 fruitless City corners across 4.5 matches. It was difficult to disagree with the post match thoughts of BT pundit Slippy Gerrard. Had Vincent Kompany been fit all season, City could well have had the Premier League title in the bag, such is the determined influence he has upon otherwise often unfocused defenders around him. His lung bursting celebration, exploding with relief and release further served to galvanise The Blues hitherto profligate forwards into the type of decisive and incisive penalty box football that has so often deserted them this season. They royally killed the game off in style. It ain’t rocket science after all, lads. Shoot on sight!
I referenced a large degree of optimism earlier in this piece but that has been tempered a little by the combination of Liverpool’s narrowly ground out win at West Brom, the Stretford media darlings’ straight forward defeat of a wobbling Chelsea and Arsenal’s ugly as sin, yet confidence boosting win at a dreadful Middlesbrough. All three results were obviously ones we could have done without, but quite frankly, outside of being repeatedly on the wrong end of questionable refereeing decisions, as Guardiola rightly pointed out after the Southampton win our failure to put away sides that we had gasping for air on the ropes at home has brought us to what amount to two imminent ‘winner takes almost all’ shoot outs to save our season. Failure to beat either/or/both of Arsenal in next Sunday’s FA Cup Semi-Final and Mourinho’s Inexplicables in the derby 6 pointer the following Thursday does not bear thinking about. Once again, we have contrived to put ourselves in the position where we are going to have to make things happen the hard way.
In the league, Everton, Southampton, Middlesbro, Spurs, Stoke and Liverpool all left town relieved after securing draws whilst Chelsea were let off the hook in ludicrous fashion. Factor in those 15 clangers of dropped points and we are league leaders. It is agony to contemplate considering some of the wonderful football we have played but I don’t believe that as a fanbase we should head into the last 6 Premier League fixtures, 4 of which will be at The Etihad, without bearing in mind what’s gone before. No Premier League fixtures are gimmes, unless Peter Scudamore has publicly declared he’d like to see your club win more games!
Certainly, the wily Pep is clearly not intent upon letting his players off the hook with the timing of his public remarks. The gaffer reckons it is a question of mentality, and I think he’s right. Collectively we have been nowhere near ruthless enough. The win over Hull, following 3 successive home draws could yet prove pivotal in developing the squad’s mind set and the overcoming of Southampton’s 2 defensive walls can only have strengthened their approach. It could prove to be perfect timing. This could be where we finally get to take off.
The Arsenal clash holds great significance ahead of our second consecutive battle for a top four finish. This could be Arsene Wenger’s last stand and the old Frenchie won’t go out without a fight despite his players self evident fragility in front of their schizophrenic entitled supporters. City will need to take the way they finished the game at Southampton into Wembley from the off and convert the type of gilt-edged chances a notoriously shoddy Gunners defence offered up at the Emirates recently.
A win in the capital will be critical because the Stretfords are likely to enter the City walls only one point behind us as their fortuitous run of scrape-through results has brought them way too close for comfort.
Admittedly, taking any season one game at a time is an astute way to operate but the importance of our next two fixtures cannot be over-emphasised enough.
We have the tools to do it. The vast majority of the squad are fit and a young Brazilian might yet be seen raptoring around opposition defences before the campaign is over. Ally his enthusiasm and will to win to that of our captain and you have to believe we’ll see this through. Give it loads, Blues! #BELIEVE
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