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Monday, 18 September 2006

3662: Manchester City Form Cause For

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by : Hugh Larkin

When Manchester City went down 4-2 to Blackburn Rovers, the result finally punctured any euphoria still lingering around the City of Manchester Stadium from the defeat of Arsenal in late August. At the moment Stuart Pearce’s side are in the grip of relegation form.

One win from five games at the start of a campaign may not be a crisis but when added to the run of form at the close of the 2005/06 season there is real cause for concern. Since the beginning of 2006 City have played 23 League games and won only 7 of them. Just one of those games resulted in a draw, so the team are losing twice as many as they are winning.

The pattern looks even worse if only the games since February 12th are taken into account. From that point when Charlton were beaten at home, City have played 17, won just 3, drawn 1 and been defeated in 13. Continue that sort of form over a full season and a side would end up with around 25 points- certain candidates for the drop.

Stuart Pearce is a very popular person in the football world and his enduring honesty and commitment mean he probably still has a well of support to call upon within the club. He inherited a squad that wasn’t without its problems but it is questionable whether that squad has improved since he took over.

While he could do little to stop Shaun Wright-Phillips joining the Chelsea benchwarmers, there is a great deal of reliance on veteran players. The likes of Trevor Sinclair, Claudio Reyna, Paul Dickov, Dietmar Hamann and Darius Vassell all have a lot of mileage under their belts and may have seen their best days.

The jury is out on Pearce’s foreign signings. Georgios Samaris has 5 goals so far and injury cut short his opportunities last season but he hasn’t hit the target yet in 2006/07; Bernardo Corradi has a great deal of knowledge but he’s never been a prolific scorer at any of his Italian clubs.

Ousmane Dabo’s red card in his third outing has limited his time on the park but it is a worry that the Frenchman has moved clubs a lot. Hatem Trabelsi could be a tremendous signing but he isn’t quite the same hot property that many Premiership sides were tracking a few years back. .US star Damarcus Beasley may be the man to add some pep to the squad.

City appear to be very reliant at present on a few key performers, principally Joey Barton and the centre backs Richard Dunne and Sylvain Distin, plus long serving keeper Nicky Weaver. Micah Richards, Stephen Jordan and Steven Ireland are all promising but not ready yet to carry the side.

The Ben Thatcher incident is certainly one that the club could have done without and quite apart from the morality of his challenge, it also leaves them without one of their solid professionals for a very long time.

The manager needs some big performances from some of the recent foreign signings or the comparative veterans to support his core of consistent performers. The lack of draws in City’s recent matches points to the team’s worrying inconsistency- simply the side don’t look like one that can grind out results.

So far this campaign City have turned over Arsenal and forced a point from high flyers Portsmouth, yet taken nothing from games with Reading and Blackburn.

The next eight Premiership games are crucial. In that sequence, City don’t play any of elite sides in the division, so a continuation of current form will have a disastrous effect on their season. The team needs to gell quickly to take a decent run of points in the Autumn, otherwise City will head into Christmas mired in a relegation battle.

Hugh Larkin
17 September 2006

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