For the 75th time, sadly it still needs to be said – pre-season friendlies barely matter. The ridiculous overreaction to the result by a minority of both sets of fans is baffling. I’m not sure Twitter would have survived City’s troublesome period in the late 1990’s.
So how much does pre-season matter? It is of course primarily a fitness exercise, as Vincent Kompany tweeted yesterday. Prior to City’s title-winning season, in the summer of 2011, City’s final pre-season game was a stinker of a performance against United in the Community Shield. Last season saw a much improved performance in the same competition, and a poorer season thereafter.
On the whole, City played quite well much of the time. The problem was once more a real sloppiness at the back. Joe Hart has not been to blame directly for any of the goals conceded by City in pre-season, yet he still seems completely off the pace to me, which is some achievement for a goalkeeper. Maybe I’m being over-critical. Up-front there was also a lack of clinical finishing, unlike Arsenal. I’m less worried about our attack though – there must surely be a bucketful of goals in this squad once it gets game-time together.
So is there a nagging doubt about City’s defence this season? The generally held conception is that Roberto Mancini could organise a defence above everything else – after all, for the past three seasons, City have had the tightest defence in the league. It is a tick in a box therefore for the pro-Mancini camp that a change of manager brings new ideas, systems and perhaps will undo the good work in this area.
My argument though is that the system had already unravelled. Mancini, as we found out through lurid tales after his dismissal, was not dismissed for results alone anyway, but last season City conceded three goals (or more) in seven games (and one after he departed). Norwich did the double in that respect. The defence did not perform to previous levels, despite the breakthrough of Nastastic.
It was still the best defence in the league though. And we all know good teams are built from defence, so as Pellegrini acknowledged after the match, too many goals are being conceded.
The sloppiness in defence reiterates that another defender is needed to strengthen the squad. I hope Lescott stays, and he has been an excellent servant to City, but I wouldn’t be overly confident in relying on him week-in, week-out as time catches up on a few of our squad.
As this was City’s last pre-season game, it was disappointing to not see the line-up expected for Newcastle playing for most of the game. Or maybe that starting line-up is the one that will start the season, but I’m surprised at the lack of time for Navas and also for Jovetic, who cannot be close to reaching full fitness. Again, numerous substitutions make it hard to evaluate the team or manager.
Kudos to Arsenal, who defended very well. There seems to be a general misconception that Wenger cannot organise a defence, that there is always a mistake waiting to happen, but the stats show they are not as bad as some think. With the signing of Suarez or someone similar, could they be a contender next season? Arsenal can always play well on any given day, but the key is to be consistent, and only time will tell if they can improve on that front. Their squad too is still too thin, and a title challenge is about the squad as much as the strength of the first eleven, barring a miraculous avoidance of injuries and suspensions.
Another goal for Negredo fashioned through power and precision. I’m not sure though that he and Dzeko can flourish in the same team.
No room in the squad or the plane for Gareth Barry or Scott Sinclair. Their time could be up. There seems little point Sinclair staying, but it would be sad to see Barry go. He kept the side ticking over during their greatest period in modern times, and City may not have conceded three goals with him marshalling the defence. But he is no spring chicken, lacks pace, and perhaps his time has come to an end in Manchester. He can be proud of what he achieved here. As many City fans on Twitter have commented, a fan’s view on whether Barry is a good footballer or not is a perfect way to assess someone’s knowledge of the game.
And the rumours persist about Kolarov going to Juventus. Start the car.
And next it’s the most pointless set of international friendlies of the year and three of City’s Spanish contingent jetting off to possibly play for their country. Just the type of preparation for the new season that Pellegrini could have done without. At least City don’t play until the Monday. Welcome to modern football.
Thank god it’s all over. Time now for the real business. Three new managers, a host of new players and perhaps a stronger challenge from north London. It could be one hell of a season.
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