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PODCAST: TWTWT Podcast 138

A long old inquest into what happened at Everton, along with an erudite discussion (no, really) on the merits of Jake Livermore’s England recall, so soon after leaving City. We also look ahead to our next game against West Ham by, er, looking back at previous games against West Ham.

No podcast next week due to the international break, see you in a fortnight.

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Things We Think We Think #249

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1. Another away game, another defeat. The sharp-eyed will have noticed a pattern: City play a game outside of East Yorkshire, they lose, they come home promising to do better, and the whole dismal thing repeats. Look – there’s no shame in losing at Everton, who are very firmly in the second tier of Premier League sides. The problem is that previous failures on the road have left us needing results in this type of fixture. And we didn’t really get close.

2. Sure, it was only 1-0 for most of the game, and the scoreline was given an unfair tilt late in the game. But that argument falls apart when the shocking lack of shots on target is taken into account. We pose next to no threat to opposing sides on their own turf, meaning they can attack with little fear of the consequences. And, eventually, we concede.

3. The early goal was a killer. It’s always a relief to rapidly lead in a game you’re expected to win, and it soothed any nerves any Everton fans who hadn’t studied the “Away” section of the table may have felt. It wasn’t a notably brilliant move, but it was far too good for City, whose leadenfooted response was alarming.

4. That red card, eh? It’s a wrong decision, but it also has to be filed under “can maybe see why it was given”. That probably means that an appeal is doomed to fail; however, we’re doomed to fail whether Tom Huddlestone misses three games or four, should it be extended if the FA view an appeal as vexatious, so it’s worth a try.

5. Let’s try for at least one positive. After falling behind, we didn’t let the game run away from us (even if that event was deferred rather than postponed). City rarely looked like levelling, but it only takes an instant to equalise, so…oh sod it, we’re really clutching at straws here. You know it and we know it.

6. Results elsewhere were a funny lot. Palace’s streaky win was a cause for Saturday afternoon despair, but Swansea, Middlesbrough and Sunderland all remain accommodatingly toss as well. We aren’t cut off, and with two extremely winnable (and in truth, must-win) home games approaching, even this grim situation isn’t quite yet terminal. Even if the echoes of 2009/2010 are growing by the week.

7. Harry Maguire had a lot of columnists and pundits talking up his case for a place in the England squad, but unsurprisingly, he didn’t get the call from Gareth Southgate. Intriguing that Jake Livermore, of this parish until January, is back in the squad for the first time in five years, however. Notwithstanding the further propagation of the long-held belief that players, irrespective of their form, only get into major international squads after they’ve left City (36 league appearances for Spurs, one cap; seven for West Brom, one call-up; 90 for City in between, sod all), it does look an odd choice. We like Jake. We rate him as a very good midfielder, a good guy, a team player and obviously this return to the international fold takes him back to the top of a sport where he had very recently hit a horribly personal rock bottom. But we just don’t think he’s good enough.

8. If he plays in either of the games, he’ll become the first footballer to play for England after leaving City since Brian Marwood’s notorious nine-minute cameo against Saudi Arabia in 1988. If you want to fly a flag for Fraizer Campbell at this point, you carry on, but he was never ours so we don’t think he counts. We’d like Livermore to achieve this feat for his own personal redemption reasons, but sentimentality has no place in the international game and we suspect he’ll watch both matches from the bench.

9. Throughout the week, the club have been calling fans to ask if they’re interested in ongoing membership. Harmless, even proactive you may think, even if no information was divulged about the prospect of concessions for 2017/18 – except that they’ve been introducing themselves as calling from “Hull City Tigers”. Whoever’s bright idea it was to seek to pointlessly antagonise fans in this way should be sacked (or encouraged to remind his father that his promise to sell the club within 24 hours of being told to piss off by the FA is close to three years old).

10. “Crisis clubs” are nothing new in football – we’ve been one and seen plenty of others down the years (and no, you pathetic snivelling wretches at Arsenal, you aren’t even close to being one, however earnestly the self-pitying mantle of victimhood is claimed). However, they don’t get much closer to the brink than Leyton Orient, who may actually go under today. They’re already as good as relegated from the League, but their very existence is authentically threatened. We’ve long since forgiven them for the play-offs in 2001, and prefer to remember recent Cup wins there, victory in 1999 that gave impetus to the Great Escape, and for the generation before ours, that ridiculous 5-4 win in 1984. They’re an affable, inviting London club with a decent history, were screwed over by West Ham’s stadium move and appear to deserve better – we wish them well today.

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Things We Think We Think #248

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1. We needed that. Forget the manner in which it was achieved, just count up those three points and reflect upon a dirty job done well. The Premier League table and the predicament it places City in has been upgraded from “critical” to merely “severe”.

2. City’s 2-1 win over Swansea will not live long in the memory, but that doesn’t matter. After the pretty wretched capitulation at Leicester, coming on the back of a disappointing draw against Burnley, it’s hard to imagine that City’s aspirations of staying up could have survived anything but a victory over Swansea. Sometimes, it just needs grinding out. And that was done, to the significant credit of a side that must have felt immense and growing pressure throughout the afternoon.

3. For an agonisingly long time, it was a win that didn’t feel as if it was coming. Swansea were as limited as you’d anticipate relegation rivals on the road to be, but they were also organised and well aware that a point was as useful for them as damaging for us. For the first hour, City laboured against the Swans, and while the eventual victory makes it easy to overlook, the manager could do a lot worse than revisit this period for clues about how it could be improved upon.

4. It’s also easy to assume it’s nothing more than City playing for too long with one striker, and it’s true that the improvement upon playing with two up front was swift and considerable. However, City looked to be lining up with a 4-5-1 designed to quickly morph into a 4-3-3 – except that it was far from quick. Swansea had the better of the opening stages, and nervous or not, City simply didn’t start the game well enough.

5. At least City stayed in the game when struggling. And when Llorente went off close to half-time and Swansea realised they’d forgotten to devise a Plan B for life without the Spaniard, we grew nicely into the game. It still took the addition of a second forward though. As touched upon in the match report, strikers hunt in pairs, and even the most willing of forwards must find it dispiriting to plough a lone furrow. Hernández brightened when Niasse arrived and the combination for their goal was delicious. Silva appears not to favour a front two – but might the instant impact that pairing Hernández and Niasse had give him cause to reconsider? (post-Everton, at least…)

5a. The laughable attempts of Swansea fans on Social Media to paint City as little more than thugs trying to cripple all of their players glosses over a simpler truth. Swansea are a team of fadges.

6. The effectiveness of a front pairing was further emphasised when City reverted to one up front for the closing spell, allowing Swansea to press forward with urgency and score a preventable consolation which made it uncomfortable for the last couple of minutes of added time. It seems that this is sewn into City’s fabric, this notion that winning comfortably is anathema and somehow we have to make it hard for ourselves. Taking off attackers when in winning positions, very simply, endangers that winning position. Swansea had nothing left to lose by piling forward anyway, the last thing we needed to do was make it easy for them.

7. It’s fair to say that Kamil Grosicki had a difficult and frustrating afternoon on Saturday, epitomised by his rueful expression after slicing a free kick into touch (when City had sent everyone but him and Jakupović ahead of the ball). Still, his determination and graft are plain for all to see and highly admirable,  hopefully it will click for him soon.  Comparisons with David Beresford (Beresicki?) on the grounds of ‘lots of pace but no end product’ seem a bit harsh and premature, but that’s preferable to comparison with Lazar Marković, a man with little end product largely down to little work rate.

8. It was brilliant to see plenty of Poles in the ground on Saturday, presumably to see their compatriot. Several near us looked as though they’d thoroughly enjoyed their build-up to the game, and it was depressing to see the City stewards acting in such an unfriendly manner towards them. We hope they come back.

9. Attendances would be further buoyed if kids and seniors weren’t priced out. The courting of the city’s Polish community is admirable, but it also highlights the continued contempt for the young and old of the indigenous community. Concessions City, stop divving about and offer them again as the rules of the league you play in stipulate.

10. Much furore over Marco Silva’s comments about the state of the Circle’s greensward, having been rugby-ed up just 19 hours before a Premier League football match. From our vantage, it didn’t look too bad – however, both managers bemoaned its condition, so appearances were evidently misleading. It’s a pity the BBC chose to so callously misquote the City manager, for his complaint was about the proximity of a rugby league match to a football one, not the actual presence of it, something that naturally riled the eggchasing fraternity and meant we’ve had to spend all weekend listening to them moaning, as if the Premier League and “Super” League are somehow comparable. Nonetheless, the episode serves as a reminder that groundsharing with a rugby franchise is occasionally exasperating, and that it really isn’t on for City to have to play so soon after.

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PODCAST: TWTWT Podcast 136

Dragging every ounce of sorrow out of the performance at Leicester (and every ounce of joy out of the goal by Sam Clucas, too)… plus we look ahead to Swansea and briefly express concern about ticketing for next season. A dark one, this…

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Things We Think We Think #247

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1. Some weekends in a season feel pivotal. The one we’ve just suffered certainly feels that way. A rotten defeat for City combined with unhelpful results elsewhere have cut us adrift once more, and a plausible route towards safety feels difficult to discern.

2. Leicester first, where City were dismayingly poor. We even led (with a fine counter-attacking goal), but offered alarmingly little afterwards and ended up being easily beaten by a side who could’ve been dragged into the mire with a better result. Fulham aside, it was comfortably the worst performance of Marco Silva’s time in charge.

3. Gone was the cohesion, spirit and purpose that have lit up Silva’s time in charge. Instead, City looked disorganised and dispirited and were cut open with embarrassing ease far too often. It’s hard to believe we’d beaten Liverpool and Manchester United just a few weeks ago.

4. Brickbats invariably fly about after a defeat like this, and while one tries not to overreact, plenty of them are meritted. Ahmed Elmohamady may not be a natural right-back (and his selection over Elabdellaoui looks a real rick by Silva), but that doesn’t disqualify him from doing his best. Increasingly, Elmohamady is a player trading on a reputation carved out a few years ago.

5. At least he wasn’t the wretchedly milquetoast Marković. Frustratingly, we’ve actually seen what he can do; but we’ve certainly seen what he sometimes can’t be arsed doing, which is pretty much anything. It’s mystifying to see a professional footballer not want to give his all in a game of football, and not doing so isn’t good enough.

6. Eldin Jakupović can’t escape scrutiny either. David Marshall would have been questioned for conceding either of Leicester first two (though Robertson hardly helped for the second), Jakupović merits at least a quizzical eyebrow for his contribution.

7. Silva has a week to do a lot of thinking about how to react. Damningly, we’ve led in games against both Burnley and Leicester in the past nine days, and collected just one point. Add five points onto our total, and we’d be odds-on to stay up. Hell, add even three and our prospects would be so much rosier. As it is, cheap concessions and the sort of crummy away defeat we’d be raging at Mike Phelan for have left us with a mountain to climb.

8. Well, the ascent begins on Saturday, with Swansea at home. If there really is to be a Great Escape for the Premier League era, it must surely include victory in this fixture. Such a win certainly won’t be engineered with the sort of limp display we endured at Leicester. If Silva was frustrated by losing at champions-elect Chelsea, he must be boiling at what we saw at the weekend. Channelling that frustration into a positive response will be an interesting test of the new City manager.

9. It’s March, and still nothing from City about their plans for season tickets/memberships/whatever next season, while clubs with proper owners are increasingly unveiling their plans for 2017/18. Vindictively removing concessions for various groups this season has probably set City back a few years; repeating this same malicious trick could extend the damage for a generation.

10. Let’s try to end on one positive: noted elsewhere, Sam Clucas has now scored in the Conference, League 2, League 1, Championship and Premier League in successive seasons, something that can’t have been done very often in English football. He was blameless at Leicester and has impressed all season. Well done that man.

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PODCAST: TWTWT Podcast 134

Just football! That’s it. Such an enjoyable experience to exclusively talk about things that have occurred on the pitch. We were gleeful. Almost danced a celebratory polka during the discussion.

So, all the positives from Arsenal, some quite deep stuff about the refereeing performance that helped deny us a share of the points, and a look back at previous visits from Burnley, who are our next opponents. No podcast next week due to no game.

Behold…

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PODCAST: TWTWT Podcast 133

Four unexpected points, the impact of the new players – and, of course, this remarkable new head coach of ours. Plus we remember past trips to the Emirates, ahead of this weekend’s game.

Click and collect…

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Things We Think We Think #244

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1. A week ago, we wistfully sighed at the triumph that a point from Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal would be, doubting that even that modest total could be met. Get ye gone, pessimism! Marco Silva is in charge, and there are shades of 2008’s “anything’s possible” mindset bubbling to the surface.

2. Manchester United first. Not unlike our other recent trip to Old Trafford, we went hoping for a point but more realistically aiming to keep it close. Instead, City fought tenaciously enough to pinch a draw, and came desperately close to even stealing what would have been a first win at that ground since 1952. And thoroughly merited it was too, with City playing with a confidence that belied our lowly league status.

3. We can scarcely imagine the chaos that would’ve ensued if Lazar Marković’s cute shot had struck David de Gea’s post another inch further along. In contrast to some visits to the “big clubs”, the away end was largely free of tourists and their revolting half-scarves, and instead the atmosphere was a good one and we all richly enjoyed the performance. But if only Marković had fractionally adjusted his shot…or Hernández had controlled that high ball when twenty yards clear…

3a. Of course, the embittered halfwits at Old Trafford would probably have lodged a High Court injunction striking the game from the records. Jose Mourinho is a nasty specimen whose repellent bullying attitude increasingly render him yesterday’s man, while being chided for playing to the cameras by Zlatan Ibrahimović is simply beyond parody. In case you’re wondering, you pair of dildos, it made the result even sweeter.

4. As it was, we didn’t have long to wait for bedlam in the stands while socking it to one of the Sky Sports Super Clubs. Liverpool may have been wobbling, and our resurrection is clear, but we still started as distant underdogs against a side that panned us 5-1 earlier in the season. This could scarcely have been different. Sure, the statistics may record that Liverpool had more possession, shots, corners and so on – but they looked fretful throughout, whereas City applied themselves with steely resolve. This is a side that really knows what it’s doing and calmly does it. And when Oumar Niasse unflinchingly stroked the game’s second goal past the Liverpool keeper to win the game, we had our moment of Tiger Mayhem.

5. There’s such a long way to go that this cannot be regarded as anything other than the start of things. We remain in the bottom three, and it’s going to take something remarkable at Arsenal to alter that next weekend. What’s clear is that Marco Silva is restoring confidence to a side that (and we really must remember this) was playing well under Mike Phelan, but rarely seemed to believe it could finish sides off. Whatever he’s doing, he needs to continue it.

6. City’s relegation in 2015 should forever dispel the myth that you can ‘win’ the January transfer window, but nonetheless there is good reason to be pleased with the recruitment done on Marco Silva’s behalf. Polish winger Kamil Grosicki seems a particularly exciting signing, giving us width and a ready made dead ball specialist to replace the departing Snodgrass. Grosicki seems genuinely excited to be a City player too, rather than just being here to rehabilitate a faltering career.

7. That might sound sneery, as City have signed a few players on loan who have essentially failed with their parent club (Niasse with Everton, Marković with Liverpool, Ranocchia with Internazionale), but no such sneer is intended. On the contrary Marco Silva’s plan of mobilising a mob of misfits is admirable (possibly inspired), and the vast improvement we’ve seen in David Meyler and likely 2017 Ballon D’or nominee Tom Huddlestone under Silva is testament to his ability to coach and improve players regardless of what has gone before. Sign one such player and the destabilising impact of Hatem Ben Arfa is a possibility, sign three or four and the odds of one or more being a success dramatically improves, and lessens the disruption if one fails miserably.

7a. City apparently missed out on Guingamp midfielder Yannis Salibur because they ‘ran out of time’. The transfer window is only open for one day after all. What’s that? It isn’t? Oh!

8. City fans have got so used to a lack of meaningful communication from either of the Allams that some have responded to the club’s ‘Transfer Window Review with Ehab Allam” with delirious glee. Regular meaningful communication is a MINIMUM REQUIREMENT of a chairman, it should not be considered an unexpected bonus or anything particularly laudable, even if the latest attempt is a positive step.

9. The Allams just don’t do admissions of personal culpability do they? Ehab attempted to pin the ‘permanent’ hiring of Mike Phelan (and indeed the overlooking of Marco Silva in the summer) on “three potential buyers” as if he had no input. With those deals no longer pursued (they lost interest as City dropped down the table, Ehab says; his standing up one of the bidders, Peter Grieve, had no impact) Ehab took positive, decisive action to bring Silva in. Nicely staged Ehab, of course you’ll come across well when there are no probing or challenging questions on the table. It’s way past time for you to address the Premier League rulebreaking on lack of concessions and the laughable marketing mess caused by using different club names on different media platforms.

10. Hard luck to Ahmed Elmohamady, who last night featured in the Egypt side that lost the final of the African Cup of Nations. He’s going to find a lot’s changed here when he returns to East Yorkshire…