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Man City will regret lack of ambition

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Phil McNulty | 23:10 UK time, Saturday, 21 November 2009

Manchester City's ambition off the pitch knows no limits - so it would be ironic indeed if a lack of ambition on it was to pull the rug from under Mark Hughes and his brave new world.

The expensive symbols of their desire to dismantle the Premier League's established order were dotted all over Anfield in a meeting with Liverpool that was custom made to measure the scale of Manchester City's threat this season.

Instead, confronted by a Liverpool team short on confidence and shorn of key personnel before and during the game, City's negativity betrayed a lack of conviction that raises serious questions about their ability to muscle in on the top four.

Hughes - having painted a decidedly rose-tinted picture of how City were the better team in an undistinguished, messy affair - railed at justified suggestions in his post-match briefing that a more positive tactical approach might have brought greater reward.

Rafael Benitez and Mark Hughes watch from the sidelinesBenitez and Hughes watch the action from the sidelines

As an advert for how Liverpool and City would emerge as the main protagonists in the fight for a Champions League place, this did little more than offer encouragement to those other outsiders Aston Villa and Spurs.

It was a fair reflection on the monument to mediocrity carelessly assembled by the two sides during a dreadful first 45 minutes that the board showing six minutes of stoppage time was greeted by an audible groan around Anfield. It was that bad. Maybe even worse.

And while Liverpool could offer up some slight excuse for their lamentable display after early injuries to Daniel Agger and Ryan Babel halted momentum, there was no logical explanation for City's docile tactical approach.

Liverpool's dramatic decline, with boss Rafael Benitez undermined by a devastating list of injuries and loss of form, allied to the unpredictability of results such as Arsenal's loss at Sunderland, means City will never have a better chance to muscle in on the top four.

They will not take that opportunity unless they show greater bravery than they did here. This was actually a rare case of two teams being there for the taking - with neither good enough to cash in.

In Hughes's defence, he is managing huge expectations as well as Manchester City since the arrival of the Abu Dhabi United group's riches - but he is being compensated by one of the biggest transfer budgets in football history.

The easy bit is going on the front foot at home with an array of striking riches so lavish that Hughes left two strikers worth £43m, Carlos Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz, on the bench at Liverpool even in the absence of Robinho.

City have showed they are more than capable of this. The hard part is travelling to places where the full extent of their danger to the top four will be measured, Anfield for example, and showing the self-belief and desire to take on the best on their own turf. They did not do that here - too tame by far.

Liverpool may rue the loss of another two points at home, but City should feel the greater sense of disappointment after missing out on making what should have been a powerful statement of intent.

City arrived at Anfield on the back of five successive Premier League draws - and their readiness to offer nothing in the way of positive intent until Martin Skrtel opened the scoring for Liverpool suggested they would have been happy with a sixth at the outset.

If Liverpool are being portrayed as a club in a constant state of crisis these days, then City have not exactly been covering themselves in glory either.

Their expensively-assembled line-up have dropped points to sides their huge outlay suggests they should be beating, with home draws against Fulham and Burnley plus stalemates at Wigan and Birmingham being prime examples.

Hughes tried to fool the untrained eye when he announced City had got their first-half tactics "spot on." If this meant not posing a threat to Liverpool's goal while setting up a dismally unadventurous defensive strategy, then fair enough.

He added: "We were waiting for the right moment in the game to go for it. That was always going to be in the latter part of the game. The goal we conceded pushed that schedule forward."

Does that sound like a team coming to Anfield for a point then suddenly realising they needed to do something once Liverpool scored? It does to me.

The folly of City's lack of progressive thought was underlined when they scored twice inside seven minutes through Emmanuel Adebayor and Stephen Ireland once Carlos Tevez was introduced and Liverpool's fragile confidence was actually closely examined.

It begged the question as to why City did not try this obvious ploy earlier. Hughes said he did not want City to "go gung-ho." Fair point - but just a little more attacking ambition from a side with such lofty aspirations surely?

City's own defensive frailty was then instantly exposed by Yossi Benayoun's equaliser for Liverpool - and if Lucas had headed in a wonderful stoppage-time chance, Hughes could have paid an even higher price for refusing to take the handbrake off a side with some wonderful attacking talent at its disposal.

Rafa Benitez gives the thumbs-upBenitez would have been the happier of the two managers - but only just

Benitez borrowed the rose-tinted spectacles used by Hughes to pay tribute to the "fantastic character" of Liverpool's players, but the long periods of silence that enveloped Anfield on a murky, miserable afternoon merely emphasised the sense of disappointment and resignation surrounding their current circumstances.

Liverpool are now 13 points behind leaders Chelsea, surely an already insurmountable gap, while Fiorentina can confirm the Reds' exit from the Champions League with victory against Lyon this week. It was not meant to be like this in a season that started with so much optimism.

Optimism does still lurk, quite literally, in one corner of The Kop every week where a huge banner paying homage to Alberto Aquilani takes pride of place. It is worthy of note.

"A Hero Will Rise" it states with a typically poetic and colourful Anfield flourish. Well not yet he hasn't - not unless a swift jog along the Anfield touchline with his fellow substitutes midway through the first half counts.

In a season of frustration for Liverpool and their supporters, the continued non-appearance of the £20m Italian summer signing, on whom so much depended after the departure of Xabi Alonso, counts among the biggest.

Benitez insisted Liverpool will improve enough to claim a place in the top four - a sign of the reduced Anfield ambitions after these recent traumatic times. Hughes was equally upbeat about City's future prospects, although neither side produced anything in the way of compelling evidence to totally support these claims.

As someone who has been an avid and vociferous supporter of City's bold attempt to throw a spanner in the well-oiled works at the top of the Premier League and inject unpredictability into the top four, this was a worryingly sterile and dour display.

Hughes concluded his post-mortem by saying: "We are disappointed. We have come to Anfield, scored two goals and got a draw. In the past, City teams would have been delighted. We have got an air of disappointment - that shows how far we have come."

How much further they go will depend on how willing Hughes is to take the shackles of City.

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Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Hmmm yes it is interesting how Man City have lacked that killer touch this season. A top four side wouldn't have conceded so late on against Burnley at home, after pulling the game back.
    However, is this just the 'gelling' period?

  • Comment number 2.

    I totally agree with your comments Phil, I think Bellamy who has been outstanding at times this season, was really poor and i don't think Adebayor has been the same player since he came back from his ban. I honestly don't think that Hughes is the right manager for city to take them forward.

  • Comment number 3.

    As a Liverpool fan I was disappionted with the result but I guess it could've been worse with all the injuries we have right now, we could/should even have won it at the death (Lucas, dear oh dear!) As for Man City, I thought they weren't that great either.
    Man City have had almost a full strength team for their last few games and could only draw against teams of a lesser stature so I don't think they will be making the top 4 this season. To be honest I'm more worried about Spurs, though I still think Liverpool will get that spot. Why? Basically when Liverpool get over their injuries and start put out a full strength team again I think they will probably get back to winning ways again.
    Man City have a full strength team and still can't win. As for Villa, I think yesterdays result just about sums them up, good one week rubbish the next. I know Burnley are decent at home but if you want top 4 you should be beating them. I know Liverpool fall into this category at the moment, but like I said, when Gerrard, Torres, Riera and Benny get fit and on form and Aquilani starts to play, I think everybody will see a different Liverpool.

  • Comment number 4.

    Ive been saying that hughes is to defencive minded from the begining of the season. against the lower table teams we should be set up to go out and score a hat full, not playing 2 defencive midfielders. Saying that though with the defence being so poor maybe we need the defencive midfielders. Why he sold Dunne is beyound me, lesscott is now being shown for what he is, average at best.
    Maybe Hughes needs to grow a pair and play to the squads stengths and attack attack attack!!!!

  • Comment number 5.

    Spot on. We need to be attacking teams before we go behind, not in response to falling behind. As soon as we attcked, it all came right. We should have been doing that from the start. Hughes could be a good manager but is far too negative at present.

  • Comment number 6.

    As I have said previously on this forum,Benitez and Hughes will be history before or by the end of this season.Liverpool will never win the League title with Benitez in charge,and sooner or later the supporters will realise this,and the calls for his sack will start,and of course that is what the two Americans are waiting for.(Giving Benitez a lot of rope to hang himself with).
    As for Hughes I have always said he can not take City to the next level the billionaire owners want the club to be,its only a matter of time before they hire a world class tactician the club desrves.
    Of all the old Manchester United players who are current managers across England Mark Hughes gets the most press but I feel Steve Bruce is a better coach than him.Just witness how he has turned Sunderland into such a formidable side with less noise and less resources than Hughes.

  • Comment number 7.

    Spot on about City's approach. They are not playing with a top 4 mentality, never mind that of title challengers. This has been clear for weeks, months even. It became painfully obvious in the draw with Aston Villa, a side they should be finishing above, according to their ambitions. With the scores level approaching the end of the game, City were happy to sit back and take the point, instead of looking for a winner - even when 4 minutes of added time were signalled. A team like United or Chelsea - heck, even Liverpool - would have bombarded the Villa box, doing everything they could, right up to the last second. If City don't change this attitude they will not challenge the top 2 or 3. The only way they can finish fourth is if Villa and Spurs fade (again) and Liverpool continue to flounder.

  • Comment number 8.

    I agree, City are so defensive, which obviously doesn't work if you ship goals left right and centre. If you look at the City back line, you are left in no doubt as to why they cannot hold their concentration, but I am sure Garth Crooks would argue otherwise.

  • Comment number 9.

    If I was a Man City fan I would be very annoyed at the tactics. If they went gung-ho and lost so what? Getting beat at Anfield is not the end of the world. Man U did and it won't affect them too much this season. There was so much more to gain if they won. Why doesn't any team go out to win a game especially as man for man they seemed to be the stronger side? If they put a gap on Liverpool who are already short of confidence, it could have almost guaranteed they could finish above them and therefor greatly improve their chances of a top 4 place. Shame on you Mr. Hughes.

  • Comment number 10.

    Interesting to see the concensus of opinion about Manchester City's approach. I would not have expected them to go "gung ho", to use Mark Hughes' term, but they sat on the back foot for far too long.

    This approach was even more mystifying to me because Liverpool were so obviously under-strength and lacking in confidence. It was, in my opinion, a real opportunity for Hughes and Manchester City to show exactly what they were about and they missed it.

    The flaw in the approach was exposed when they scored two quick goals once they put their foot on the pedal.

    Has this been a common fault with City away from home this season? And let's hear what Liverpool fans felt about their team and the current situation.

    Liverpool were very poor, but I make allowances for them (just slight allowances anyway) because they had so many injuries and lost two players early on. Or am I being over-generous?

    There was no excuse for City's tame approach. You can see why they have drawn at places such as Wigan and Birmingham, where they would surely hope to win to fulfil their ambitions.

  • Comment number 11.

    Liverpool create brilliant opportunities for scoring, and at times grab them too. But with their insipid, lackadaisical defence left almost entirely to Carragher, they insipidly throw away the edge. Upfront Ngog is only a decorative gong, miss-spelt.

  • Comment number 12.

    Yesterdays match proved 2 things. For a big man, Adebayor can't hold the ball up for toffee.His form has frankly been tripe since his ban.

    When Tevez came on he outmuscled Skirtel on several occasions including the second goal and that is precisely what City needed someone to shield and hold up the ball whilst the attacking players got into position.

    Toure is just not up to scratch against class attackers. Arsenal did the right thing letting him go. He won't improve now and City will have to sign a class central defender like Lucio in the January transfer window.

    38 draws doesn't get you a Champions League place and City's ambitions on the field are very poor reflecting the manager's safety first policy.

  • Comment number 13.

    Can't agree more Phil.

    Incredible lack of invention shown by us first half. Liverpool and Anfield are a shell of their former selves and were ripe for the taking so you'd expect us to want to put the depressing run of draws to an end but we set up shop to go home with a point and no more.

    City will have difficulty finishing top 6 with football like this. Very disappointing.

  • Comment number 14.

    I marvel at the fact Mark Hughes remains in a job. With a net spend of £220M + since his arrival at Eastlands,the style the team play- along the arrogant defence of pathetic performances post-match, the clock is surely ticking on his reign.

    Time and again the stories come from insiders that he just isn't strong enough to handle big name players- you will know these better than most Phil.

    It explains his reliance on players he's managed previously such as Bellamy and RSC.

    The Abu Dhabi United group are here to build a profitable sports brand that promotes their interests in Abu Dhabi- clearly with the tactics being used by Hughes he fails to understand that.

    Mark Hughes- good manager, good bloke. Top 4 manager? No chance.

    Surely best to terminate his contract in December and save £100m in January? Mourinho is the man for the job. Meets the business objectives of Abu Dhabi and wont squander transfer cash quite so badly.


  • Comment number 15.

    What a load of rubbish.

    Liverpool fielded a very strong team and had a good bench, to my knowledge they have lost one at home.

    City are a work in progress and are unbeaten in a long time, if/when the defense is sharpened up they will win a lot of games.

    The bottom line is this, City want a top 4 spot, Villa, Spurs etc over a season will fall away and Liverpool will re-group and come back stronger, we all know that, so the one club you really dont want to lose to if you are Mark Hughes is Liverpool.

    A good point for City against a good Liverpool side.

  • Comment number 16.

    Simply, I don't think Hughes is the man to get Man City into that top 4. The talent is there, the tactics are not.

  • Comment number 17.

    Hmmm. Slow news day Phil.

    Chelsea would be happy with a point at Anfield. United would die for a point home or away against Liverpool at the moment. Enough said

  • Comment number 18.

    SAF asked a little while ago "What are they going to do with ten strikers?".
    After six straight draws that question seems even more pertinent.

  • Comment number 19.

    Fair to say the honeymoon period is over for man city. But Phil, before you berate man city for a 'negative' approach, exactly how many games do liverpool play at home, or away, that are entertaining? Liverpool are by far the most cautious team in the top four. Let's not ignore this fact.

    They have countless number of average players apart from Torres, Gerrard, Carragher, Benayoun & Masch. The rest wouldn't get anywhere near man u or chelsea's teams.

    But on to man city. They've beaten Arsenal, lost in the very last possible minute vs Man Utd, drawn at Anfield and villa park. Not a bad return really for them. I think liverpool fans should be very worried about their season.

  • Comment number 20.

    I can understand why Man city are playing so defensively, look at Newcastle under Keegan and several sides since that have played under attack minded coaches, great to watch but when they started leaking goals all over the place the confidence gradually drained from the side. Then the mananger gets the chop, in comes a defensively minded coach and they stop conceding and go on a run of results. If you can build a side that doesn't concede and have the attacking flair that they possess then those all important 1 nil results will take you to the next level, when they start to come, but it doesn't happen over night. He is close and given the time will turn these draws into victories but in the mean time he is making them believe they are hard to beat. Also they were never expected to win the Premier league this season or next so these draws are not exactly costing them, they are still in the hunt a champions league spot, right where you'd expect them to be and had they been losing 4-3 every week his job would be on the line right now. Liverpool are in the middle of the most shocking run of luck you could imagine, stick with Rafa, he is Liverpool through and through and the club is running through the mans veins.
    Mark

    more fun than football

  • Comment number 21.

    I watched Man United wear down a difficult and enthusiastic Everton last night and one big difference struck me… the work ethic. If Man City had put in 50per cent of that work ethic they possibly could have beaten Liverpool 4-1, but they didn't. I have to say that even Everton looked a better side than did Man City yesterday.

    Whether Hughes's tactics were right or not, three players only – Ireland, Tevez and Given – showed any real desire and work ethic. Did Adebayor chase and harry defenders? He did NOTHING, other than nod in his free header. SW-P went on his mazey runs to nowhere most of the time. It was a terrible game of football.

    What puzzles me is that when the desire is there, Man City CAN play clever, fluid football and can be very dangerous, as their second goal demonstrated. It just appears that playing for Man City affects players' confidence and they cannot maintain it for even a full game… look at the number of late goals they concede!

    And that lack of confidence creates another problem – which is massive for a team hoping to reach the top four – being unable to keep possession. Even Shay Given is regularly guilty of just hoofing it up to Adebayor who invariably looses it, allowing the opposition to come right back at them. Is that because he doesn't have confidence in his defence to keep hold of the ball and take it upfield?

    The most puzzling thing of all is the public attitude that Mark Hughes projects. Fergie would no doubt have given his players the hairdryer treatment after a performance like Man City's yesterday and would have told the press in no uncertain terms how unhappy he was. Hughes does not appear to have that burning desire to win and talks about his 'disappointment' not to have beaten a weakened Liverpool rather than his 'burning rage'… maybe it's this that filters through to his
    players. It certainly looks that way from the outside.

    Man City a top four side? At this rate, no chance… the last six games have shown that.

  • Comment number 22.

    Why do Liverpool have so many injury problems? It's like they have a squad of 25 Darren Andertons. Is there an issue with their training techniques? Do they even train at all? They just seem to be dropping like flys.

    Man City seemed to have wasted money on the defence. Toure was never the best defender at Arsenal and Lescott was better at Everton because he played with a passion and love for the team, much like Dunne did for City. Would John Terry have been the same player had he left Chelsea? Unlikely. With that in mind, a player like Tevez will bring a lot more to City than Adebayore will, and Robinho seems to want out. City need players that will die for the cause. Tevez, Ireland, SWP. Players that don't mind turning out on a cold, wet November lunctime.

  • Comment number 23.

    First off Phil, looks like both your 'pool and city predictions are proving misguided this season, can you remind us of your others so we can discount them too?

    First off (and I say this as a utd fan) city will be far happier with a point than 'pool. The goal of any top 4 team is always to win at home, no matter the opposition, and liverpool failed to do that.

    Next Hughes tactics, I'd have though his reasons were obvious, but as you don't seem to have noticed them I'll point them out, Liverpool v Utd. Do you think Hughes didn't watch? Not just this season, but the 2 last season, Utd attacked and liverpool took us apart, yes they didn't have Tores yesterday, but they were set up in the same way. Hughes plan seemed to be working fine when they went 2-1 up until his defenders went AWOL. City didn't actully do that much wrong, apart from play like a 5/6 placed team against one of the big four. Liverpool on the other hand did a lot wrong.

    What was the point in yet another 90mins of bench warming for Alonso's replacement? Surely with the injuries they have he's got to be playing! Sure he needs match fitness, but he isn't going to get that on the bench! Benitez seems to be doing exactly what he did with Robbie Keane, which is a timely point, is there any manager in the PL who would rather have Ngog than Keane? Other than Benitez? I doubt it, liverpools striker problem is of his own making, as is his midfield problem, he tried to force Alonso out, failed, Alonso then proved how good he was and then left on his own teams, classic management failure if ever there was one, same with keane, and it appears to be going that way for aquilani, I ask again, what is the point of buying him to have him on the bench?

    In short, Benitez seems to be loosing his grip, not just on the team, but tactics and reality, Hughes is simply struggling to convert a team with a mid-table mentality into a top team. Benitez is on the slide, Hughes on the rise, look at the table and compare to last season if you don't belive me!

  • Comment number 24.

    Why is there a whole blog on Man City? It's not like they're a big club. It amused me on Saturday morning when Liverpool v Man City is now dubbed a big clash.

  • Comment number 25.

    Dear BBC football writers: liverpool did NOT have an injury crisis prior to kick off yesterday!! look at the team sheet! only players missing who would normally start (and have actually played for them ie: Aquilani doesnt count!) were Torres and Johnson. That is TWO players, not an injury crisis! West Ham = Ashton, Diamanti, Davenport, Noble (Dyer?) this is 4(5) first team players out, THIS is an injury crisis, Spurs = Cudicini, Modric, King, Lennon (is he playing today?), Giovani, Bassong; 6 players out, THIS is an injury crisis! Manchester United: Berbatov, O'Shea, Hargreaves (may or may not count, but at least he has at some time played football for Manchester!), Evans (may not start, but would play ahead of Brown), Ferdinand: 4 first teamers, and one back up, still double what Liverpool, is an injury crisis.

    Im sorry, but this one eyed rubbish and excuse making for Liverpools poor form this year is rubbish. Liverpool are poor because the system that they use misses its key man (men when Torres is also out) in Xabi Alonso, and Benitez does not have a plan B. Not due to some rubbish media-conceived injury crisis.

    Reitterate: Liverpool do not have a crisis, yes any team would miss Torres, but most teams would also miss their first choice strikers, (Berbatov, van Persie, Ashton) and playmakers (Modric, Noble etc), so please cut the excuses. Yesterday, liverpool were not good enough, neither were Man City, a draw was fair, it had nothing to do with injuries prior to kick off. Although now i supposee as you can add Agger and Babel to that list it'l b a crisis again...despite the fact that babel seems to be 4th choice at Liverpool.

    Apologies to Liverpool fans for the rant, its not you who this lies with, its the one-eyed bias at the BBC.

  • Comment number 26.

    One of the most noticable things is that City have spent a lot of money on their defence and they still look very shaky. Don't think many people can say they have improved on the centre back pairing of Dunne and Distin. On the Liverpool side I have never seen their side so lacking in confidence - you can even hear it in the crowd noise that the people at the ground know this. Both sides are missing something and am not sure the managers know what they have to do to put it right

  • Comment number 27.

    I had a reality check after the game yesterday. Liverpool have 20 points and there's a maximum of 75 left.
    So we need to win at the very least 20 of our remaining 25 games to stand a chance of getting 80 or more points and winning the title. It is not going to happen. Which, after the run last season, is incredibly disappointing.
    Only Gerrard offered any creativity going forward.
    Benayoun was out of position again - should play right wing.
    We have had terrible injuries but we're not the only team to lose key players.
    Robinho hasn't even played yet for City! After 20 years waiting to win the league title if Liverpool fans have anything it is optimism. But think that's gone already this season.

  • Comment number 28.

    The big flaw in your piece is that had City not conceded so quickly and gone on to win 2-1, I bet you would of said Hughes had the tactics spot on.

    There was no tactics issue, just lack of concentration. All that is required is 2 Full backs, right and left, and the defence will be much better.

    Lescott has been unfairly criticised when in fact, he has played well for the last 3 matches.

    To claim a draw away to Liverpool is a better point for Liverpool is hilarious.

    To say that Villa and Spurs are better top 4 prospects is also hilarious.

    City are more consistent than any of the other top 4 prospects. It is easier to rectify our position, than the inconsistent nature of spurs and villa.

    New Chief football writer needed.

  • Comment number 29.

    i think benitez has lost his mind tbh. you don't set your team up for a draw at home. he really needs a more positive set up.

  • Comment number 30.

    I didn't see the game yesterday so I can't comment on whether Hughes' tactics for it specifically were too defensive. Bearing in mind City's defensive errors lately, and comparing their home and away form, it does seem folly to attack at Anfield though.

    It has seemed to me for some time though that Hughes is trying to repeat his Blackburn blueprint. At first he concentrated on making the team well-organised and efficient (whilst prompting complaints from many of over-physicality), then once that was established he used it as a platform for players like Bellamy and Bentley (who were both superb at Blackburn) to attack from.

    There are attacking players who have excelled under Hughes at City - particularly Ireland in the first half of last season, and Bellamy has shown his Blackburn form, if inconsistently.

    City still lack that defensive cohesion though and without that first step the blueprint falls apart, because everything else follows on from a platform which isn't there.

    Not being a City fan I'm no expert on them but it seems to me that the defense has been all over the place from the time results began to slide when Sven was in charge. It's been kind of like the Newcastle effect over a shorter period of time - players and managers come and go but for some reason the defense is always error prone.

    Whatever the cause, I don't see Hughes staying too long if he can't sort it out.

  • Comment number 31.

    Phil McNulty
    Benitez borrowed the rose-tinted spectacles used by Hughes to pay tribute to the "fantastic character" of Liverpool's players,
    _____________________________________________________________________

    Oh what a surprise, Phil. Another barbed comment (repeated from yesterday) aimed at Liverpool and Benitez.

    Writing about a poor match between Liverpool and Manchester City looks like you have your double whammy today and Christmas has cone early for you.

    I bet Sir Alex Ferguson still wont give you an interview though, but I'm sure the Daily Mail would welcome you with open arms. LOL.

  • Comment number 32.

    Phil,

    Not too sure whether you understand that a football match is played over 90mins. Hughes' tactics were clear for all - stifle and contain in the first half and strike in the second.

    Liverpool needed the win much more than City did. Whilst yes City have been drawing a lot recently Liverpool are on one of their worst runs of form in their history and at home. A draw is a good result for City, another nail in Liverpool’s coffin.

    A nil all at half time would force Liverpool out more in the second half and create space between the lines. Did you not think it strange that Gareth Barry, a man who has played all game for City this year was taken off relatively early? Switching to a 4-4-2 with a fresh Tevez to hassle the defence and the pace of Bellemy and SWP on the wings did exactly what it was supposed to. Liverpool were caused far too many problems and could not cope. Why do you think Auerilo was subbed on instead of Aquilani - it's because Liverpool were going to lose without defensive cover on the side SWP was running up and down.

    Hughes got his tactics spot on and was unlucky insomuch that his defenders are too polite to the football. The attacking ambition you speak of is not what City need to start winning - they need to defend better. One match is a long time in football...tactics change throughout.

    http://thoughtsonfootball.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 33.

    Phil McNulty
    Benitez borrowed the rose-tinted spectacles used by Hughes to pay tribute to the "fantastic character" of Liverpool's players,
    _____________________________________________________________________

    Oh what a surprise, Phil. Another barbed comment (repeated from yesterday) aimed at Liverpool and Benitez.

    Writing about a poor match between Liverpool and Manchester City looks like you have your double whammy today and Christmas has cone early for you.

    I bet Sir Alex Ferguson still wont give you an interview though, but I'm sure the Daily Mail would welcome you with open arms. LOL.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------


    omg stop complaining. Phil actually backed Liverpool for the title (not usre if he does anymore though)

  • Comment number 34.

    and for the love of God im not a new member! argh!!!

  • Comment number 35.

    whenever chelsea or united go to anfield and field just one striker no-one questions their attacking intent. and hughes did have bellamy, adebayor, tevez, ireland and wright-philips on the field in the second half. quite an attacking threat i'd say!!

  • Comment number 36.

    Who cares about Liverpool's injuries? Chelsea started yesterday's match without Bosingwa, Carvalho, Deco, Ballack, Lampard and Drogba and no-one is bemoaning their "crisis".

  • Comment number 37.

    One can defend Liverpool by noting the injuries, but then again you could also criticize them for lack of depth = Rafa's team building. Even Birmingham are coping - on their own level - with an injury crisis, surely Liverpool should too?

  • Comment number 38.

    @33. At 1:00pm on 22 Nov 2009, redthemadsheep2001 wrote:

    So you are completely unaware of the ManchesterUnitedcentric journalism ploy of build 'em up, knock 'em down? Read this blog or buy the Sun or Daily Mail- it's all the same fare seved up in slightly different guises.

    Someone's a bit naiive.

  • Comment number 39.

    @33. At 1:00pm on 22 Nov 2009, redthemadsheep2001 wrote:

    So you are completely unaware of the ManchesterUnitedcentric journalism ploy of build 'em up, knock 'em down? Read this blog or buy the Sun or Daily Mail- it's all the same fare seved up in slightly different guises.

    Someone's a bit naiive.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    not really naive at all, ive just read enough of phils blogs thats all. and i neither read the Sun nor the Daily mail, i detest them both

  • Comment number 40.

    redthemadsheep2001
    ive just read enough of phils blogs thats all. and i neither read the Sun nor the Daily mail, i detest them both
    _____________________________________________________________________

    Ok so if you get some time, go through his blogs and see how many don't have a Benitez or Liverpool sideswipe. His previous one springs to mind but it is a consistent feature in pretty much all of the others. Wherever there's a mention of Benitez or Liverpool, there's a barb and it gets tiresome. I actually enjoy reading Phil's blogs up unitl the point when he simply cant contain his need to stoop to the lower regions of bargain basement journalism. It always seems to be the opposite story when dealing with Ferguson or Man Utd.

    Nice to have a decent conversation with you, Red. It really makes a change from the usual abusive prepubescent Man Utd fans.

  • Comment number 41.

    I feel City really missed a trick by not attacking a low in confidence Liverpool team. Liverpool were there for the taking and City played the better intricate football and looked more of a threat attacking wise. I did predict a score draw for this game. Talking about predictions Phil, do you still believe Liverpool will win the league?

  • Comment number 42.

    Man Citys aim this year was to be pushing the top 6, at best the top 4. From my understanding, they are doing what was expected of them.

    Its not for Man City to go all out at Anfield, they are the away team. If they can snatch a goal and win 1-0 then thats perfect. As it turns out, they score 2, but there defence goes missing AGAIN. Man City dont have a problem tactically going forward because they are scoring shed loads of goals. Its just that their defence hasn't gelled yet. Lets not forget most of these players had NEVER played with each other before the start of the season. I think Hughes is doing a great job.

    Now next year is a different matter. At this stage City will have to be pushing the top 3. But its not next year! Im sure the owners are aware miracles dont happen overnight and will be delighted with a European finish this year - preferably 4th. But missing Champions League football will not be the be all and end all for City - it will be for Liverpool though. If they miss out they could be on a slippery slope. I saw it happen to Leeds in very similar circumstances and it can happen again.

  • Comment number 43.

    Well, Well...most people/pundits were waiting and hoping for Man City to fall on their faces so they can write the usual...money don't buy blah blha....; since its not happeneing now they have to settle for going at Man city for not going to Anfield wiht all gunsz blazing;

    Let me put the line up Pool that was on the filed for most part against United

    Reina
    Skrtle,
    Agger,
    Aurilio
    Insua
    Cara
    Benyaoon
    Masch
    Lucas
    Kuyt
    Torres (at 70%)

    Pool''s line up (players who played most of the match) against City yesterday was nearly the same with the following excpetions

    Ngog instead of Torress (Torres against Man Uscored a brilliant goal, but he was clearly laboring and not fit, Ngog has started to play well,but no he is nowhere near Torres).

    The Greek instead of Agger.
    Skrtle instead of Johnson,
    Gerrard instead of Aurilio

    Man United was never in position to win, were outplayed,
    Team that Man United put was no better than Pool's team yesterday
    (in fact when Pool played Man u, Pool had lost the previous 2 and the subseqeunt 2 mathces).

    Perhaps it was City's cautious approach that made Pool look static.
    As gunner fan, I'd be happy to come out with a point at from Anfield, and I imagine so will rest of the team in PL and in CL.

    City if the win their game in hand will be 4 points behind Man u.
    As far as I know most sensible Cit fans, City Managers, and owners have all along been saying that this year they want to be a solid 5th or 6th place team.

    I have never seen a article criticizing a team for not winning at L'pool.
    If you are criticizing the tactics, then you are wrong on that too, Because we have seen even a bad Pool team can beat a team like Man United
    if thhe visitors come with idea that Pool are their for taking.





  • Comment number 44.

    To redthemadsheep2001...I am afraid I had to withdraw my support for Liverpool's title bid when asked in a Q&A blog recently. I made the prediction in good faith and based on what I saw in the last three months of last season, allied to Cristiano Ronaldo's departure from Manchester United and the potential need for Carlo Ancelotti to have a settling in period at Chelsea.

    Liverpool have been a massive disappointment this season - indeed I ask anyone who even suggested I was wrong to tip them (yes there were some) to claim they knew Rafael Benitez's side would be so poor this season.

    And to Kíllìnghölmê_Clᥠ(aka Charlie Cheesecake)...I thought I was rather supportive of Benitez and the situation he found himself in with injuries yesterday in the blog. I'm sure you'll agree.

  • Comment number 45.

    . #43 Spot on.

    The idea that a team that had drawn their last five games was going to go to Anfield and take a good Liverpool side to the cleaners is laughable, the returning Gerrard as usual was superb for Liverpool and because the Anfield pitch is so small space was at a premium.

    This is more a story to pander to the "money cannot but you success" demographic than an objective piece of sensible reporting, as you correctly stated the obvious goal for City is to be within touching distance of the top 4 anything more is a bonus.

    Thanks.

  • Comment number 46.

    I'd really like to hear from Manchester City fans on this one. I was discussing how surprised I was at the late introduction of Carlos Tevez with a regular Manchester City media observer. He told me there was a feeling Tevez had not really done it when played from the start.

    This surprised me, but I have not seen enough of him to give a definitive opinion on that. Is this true? I must admit I found it hard to believe, although he was also never a regular starter at Manchester United. He looked lively when he came on.

    And to parso1988...it does not matter how many attackers you have on the pitch if the gameplan adopted means they are barely in the game. Craig Bellamy hardly saw the ball yesterday and SWP wasted it on 90% of the occasions he got it. Bellamy is a much bigger threat than SWP in my book.

    My point is that Liverpool were so out of sorts yesterday that this was a real opportunity for City to say: "This is what we're about. We're going to show just what a threat we are to the established top four."

    They never did it. They sat back and only came out of their shell when Liverpool went ahead. Would they have come out of their shell at all if Skrtel had not scored?

    Regular readers of my comments about Manchester City will know I refuse to join the criticism of their naked ambition. I have stated before I believe they have been a target for a lot of jealousy.

    This does not mean I will never criticise them. Yes they got a point yesterday, and Mark Hughes was pleased with it, but if they had been bolder they could easily have taken all three and made a real statement about themselves and where they intend to go.

  • Comment number 47.


    The idea that a team that had drawn their last five games was going to go to Anfield and take a good Liverpool side to the cleaners is laughable, the returning Gerrard as usual was superb for Liverpool and because the Anfield pitch is so small space was at a premium.

    This is more a story to pander to the "money cannot but you success" demographic than an objective piece of sensible reporting, as you correctly stated the obvious goal for City is to be within touching distance of the top 4 anything more is a bonus.

    Thanks.

    ------------------------------------------------

    the difference is, with liverpoo'ls faltering form, city do have a chance to push for the Top four, liverpool looked short of confidence, i thought city could have a had a go at them and taken 3 points, sometimes you just have to chance your arm. nothing to do with money cant buy success and more to do with not quite willing to take a gamble.

  • Comment number 48.

    Man City have spent a great amount of money on acquiring players of the quality to make them a top four club. However, regardless of their potential they are not gelling in the way it is necessary to create a 'team'. They seem to play like footballing mercenaries; for themselves and not necessarily the team. If and when a better offer comes along, they will jump ship. I think Adebayor illustrates this attitude perfectly. Only 'plays' when it suits him!

  • Comment number 49.

    I think huges has done a good job for city. It its gonna be hard to manage so many big egos especially when you have the laziest player in the prem, Adebayor. City should have taken advantage of a relegation looking side. Liverpool at best are top 6 now, city will finish fourth so i dont see why people are moaning. Liverpool are a joke without torres, ngog as second striker is embarrassing, portsmouth have better strikers except torres. He will be moving to a big club at the end as he class, how liverpool got him is a mystery. Haters agianst city are just jealous of their moeny anyone would be. Im a newcastle fan and i would love that money as we are in a mess. Big up the lads!!!!

  • Comment number 50.

    Most if not all teams would be happy with a draw away to Liverpool. Go at them more than city did and you could open yourselfs up too much. Maybe Liverpool were poor yesterday and with a bit more nerve city could have won. If I was a city fan I'd be happy with the result yesterday but more concerned about drawing against the lesser teams. Yes you can afford a few but its becoming far to regular occurence. The upside for them is that with the exception of Chelsea and to a lesser degree UTD it seems the other top teams are in the same boat, It looks like a close race for 4th through 7th

  • Comment number 51.

    Phil,It is interesting when you compare Tevez's perfomance and appearances with Citi and Man U! The game plan and tactics for these two are so diverse and at Man U, there were less attacking options and more competitions, hence Tevez being very visible. Citi have the opposite of circumstances, and I fear for hungry strikers, as they will not get that many options, especially Tevez who had issues with playing less games.
    However, a draw at Anfield is a result every PL team longs for, speaking as a Man U supporter, I know I would. I think Hughes needs to check on his attack tactics and you have a point about both games being defensive, but on the whole, it was City's match.
    Finally, your injuries 'crisis' theory is wrong. alot more other teams have bigger worries and they are not using that as their excuse!
    oh, good to see you have retacted your prediction for 'pool winning ;)

  • Comment number 52.

    Hughes will be sacked he knows it and so do most in footballs inner and outer circles.

    He is totally out of his depth in so far as that relates to actually managing a PL Title winning side.

    He's a mid table manager at best and if it were not for his relationship with man u in the past he would have been lucky to manage Hull let a alone a club with a big budget.

    The honeymoon is defo over for city and the win against Arsenal was nothing more than a flash in the pan.

    results, at the momment are going in Hughes's favour hence the reason they are still about in touch with the top spaces.

    to be honest a side that has drawn so many games so early in the campaign cannot be considered as worthy of breaking the so called monopoly of the big three Arsenal, man u and the chavs bearing in mind the money the man has had at his disposal seems to me he's been given money to purchase other's players who have long reached their sell by date, a bit like Hughes's reign at city it will come to an abrupt end soon.

    city will manage 7th at best and will have a new guy in charge quite soon.

  • Comment number 53.

    You all fail to realise City have only lost one game this season. Ok we have drawn more than I would have liked but again one loss compared to last season where we had won once on our travels.
    The defence has still to gel and I predict that after the xmas games which come thick and fast, they would have gelled so come the end of January 2010 we will see how we are doing.
    So all this City not this and that is rubbish just takes time it took Chelski two to three seasons before they are in the position they are in and to be honest they (chelsea) have already won the premiership, I cannot see any team catching them this season.

  • Comment number 54.


    25. At 12:07pm on 22 Nov 2009, Croftalicious wrote:

    Dear BBC football writers: liverpool did NOT have an injury crisis prior to kick off yesterday!! look at the team sheet! only players missing who would normally start (and have actually played for them ie: Aquilani doesnt count!) were Torres and Johnson. That is TWO players, not an injury crisis! West Ham = Ashton, Diamanti, Davenport, Noble (Dyer?) this is 4(5) first team players out, THIS is an injury crisis, Spurs = Cudicini, Modric, King, Lennon (is he playing today?), Giovani, Bassong; 6 players out, THIS is an injury crisis! Manchester United: Berbatov, O'Shea, Hargreaves (may or may not count, but at least he has at some time played football for Manchester!), Evans (may not start, but would play ahead of Brown), Ferdinand: 4 first teamers, and one back up, still double what Liverpool, is an injury crisis.

    Im sorry, but this one eyed rubbish and excuse making for Liverpools poor form this year is rubbish. Liverpool are poor because the system that they use misses its key man (men when Torres is also out) in Xabi Alonso, and Benitez does not have a plan B. Not due to some rubbish media-conceived injury crisis.

    Reitterate: Liverpool do not have a crisis, yes any team would miss Torres, but most teams would also miss their first choice strikers, (Berbatov, van Persie, Ashton) and playmakers (Modric, Noble etc), so please cut the excuses. Yesterday, liverpool were not good enough, neither were Man City, a draw was fair, it had nothing to do with injuries prior to kick off. Although now i supposee as you can add Agger and Babel to that list it'l b a crisis again...despite the fact that babel seems to be 4th choice at Liverpool.

    Apologies to Liverpool fans for the rant, its not you who this lies with, its the one-eyed bias at the BBC.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    the above is the best post on this blog. Have to admit I was taken in by the whole injury crisis thing as well. Serves me right for believing biased blogging and unprofessional journalism.

    The reason I wanted comment/draw peoples attention to the post was because no one has commented on it. Unbelievable considering it is the best post

  • Comment number 55.

    To davidgilmourthe3rd...you're a hard man, but I think we know that from your previous posts. I'm not sure the City hierarchy expected Hughes to be managing anything approaching a title-winning side this season.

    I happen to think Mark Hughes is a good manager, but I was surprised by the negativity of his tactics yesterday. No judgement should be made on what he has done this season until the campaign ends.

    Let's hear more from City fans on Tevez - but I would like to pose one more question.

    Did City really need to sign Roque Santa Cruz?

    What contribution will he make when everyone is fit? I'm not sure he was required. Maybe Hughes signed him not realising Emmanuel Adebayor would suddenly become available - I don't know that by the way, it is merely guesswork on my part.

    I simply feel £18m might have been better spent somewhere else. And before anyone gets the wrong idea about my criticism of City yesterday, I would love to see them (or anyone else for that matter) shake up the predictability of the top four. It would give the Premier League an added dimension.

  • Comment number 56.

    Isn't it amazing, Hughes worked marvels at Blackburn on loaves and fishes. Here they buy zillions of pounds worth of players and he
    doesn't know what his best side is. I Don't care for Man U much but if the ambition is to create an equivalent legend, then you must start to
    play adventurous football like Utd. If the owners had paid 3 times as much for Liverpool, they would have been far better advised, rather than buying such an unfashionable club.

  • Comment number 57.

    # 53. At 4:37pm on 22 Nov 2009, mike jackson wrote:

    You all fail to realise City have only lost one game this season. Ok we have drawn more than I would have liked but again one loss compared to last season where we had won once on our travels.
    The defence has still to gel and I predict that after the xmas games which come thick and fast, they would have gelled so come the end of January 2010 we will see how we are doing.
    So all this City not this and that is rubbish just takes time it took Chelski two to three seasons before they are in the position they are in and to be honest they (chelsea) have already won the premiership, I cannot see any team catching them this season.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I can UTD and Arsenal. It will be a 3 way fight right to the end. 4th place will be contested between Spurs, Man City and Villa

  • Comment number 58.

    44. At 3:09pm on 22 Nov 2009, Phil McNulty - BBC Sport wrote:
    And to Kíllìnghölmê_Clᥠ(aka Charlie Cheesecake)...I thought I was rather supportive of Benitez and the situation he found himself in with injuries yesterday in the blog. I'm sure you'll agree.
    ______________________________________________________________________
    My apologies if I missed you saying anything supportive of Benitez or Liverpool.

    Did you mean this comment? "And while Liverpool could offer up some slight excuse for their lamentable display after early injuries to Daniel Agger and Ryan Babel halted momentum."

    Maybe you meant something else, as this doesn't qualify remotely as supportive, more an illustration of the barbed sideswipes I have been pointing out.

  • Comment number 59.

    Ironic that a former centre forward sets his teams up like a centre half. It would be nice if City drew with Hull next week so they could be mentioned in the same breath as Norwich but I expect they'll thump them. Hughes has got too many hang ups that get in the way of him picking his best team and that is a character trait that will doom him to managerial mediocrity, a la B Robson, now managing? here in Thailand.

  • Comment number 60.

    Guus Hiddink for City? Anyone?

  • Comment number 61.

    GUSS Hiddink for City would be gr8.......
    i have a funny feeling, MArk Hughes would be out of job in christmas!

  • Comment number 62.

    Last word on the Benitez comments for today for poster 58. I do not think I have been unduly critical of the Liverpool manager at all. Don't forget I tipped them for the title this season - wrongly as it transpired. Honest opinion on the events of this season - are you satisfied? I was sitting among many Liverpool fans who were not yesterday.

    What do Manchester City fans think of their defensive set-up? Joleon Lescott still seems to be struggling to reproduce his Everton form while Wayne Bridge looks to be going backwards. And what about Micah Richards? What has happened to the great young talent of a couple of years ago? Lots of talk about interest from Spurs and Villa at Anfield yesterday. Can he still fulfil his promise at City?

  • Comment number 63.

    Could you just clarify how that before yesterday, how many established first teamers liverpool had in their 'devasting injurying list'?

    Oh and credit where it is due to your for you comment during the Trappatoni interview about Ireland and England supporters. Yes English supporters still bang on about the hand of God. I am hoping the Irish will get over it. But I guess Benetez has a bit of the Trapp about him. If Aqualini is fit why he is not playing?

    As for City, how many draws did Liverpool have last season and they were tipped as title contenders. I don't think they have anything to worry about yet. The will be firing on cylinders come Xmas.

  • Comment number 64.

    Very well said Phill. The minority of City fans, including myself, who thinks Mark Hughes is not the man for this project, think so because of the reason you have highlighted. His style and approach simply don’t fit with our aspirations to keep our club’s main trade, its attacking style.

    This has been the case for most games in the last two years. I remember us going to Bolton last season, where at the time Bolton had the worst defensive record in the league, yet for some stupid reason, Mark thought the wisest idea is to play with two defensive midfielders and a single a striker. We lost that game.

    Hughes is a good manager, but not for City and not for this project. He does not posses the tactic-abilities of a top four manager.

    It frustrates me because we never had an opportunity like this since the late 60s and Hughes is not making the most of it.

    It is one thing sticking with the manager, but sticking with one who is not good enough for the job is just waste of time and utter stupidity. But that is my opinion.

  • Comment number 65.

    Absolutely ridiculous blog and comments phil. A 2-2 draw at anfield is a good result for any team in world football. Man city should be pleased with the point as it is a step towards breaking the top 4. If they had gone there and attacked and lost 3-2 you would have been the first to talk about naivity, poor defensive play and how they won't break into the top 4 if they can't pick up valuable points away from home.

    The result and performance says more about liverpools inability to win games and that after 5 years in the job rafa is still reliant on gerrard (and torres) to always be fit and singlehandedly win games. Rafa has built his squad and shipped out the players from before his time that he didn't want and also his own signings that he didn't want such as alonso-whom he forced out after he ridiclously decided gareth Barry was a better player... And the result of his efforts is a 2-2 home draw with man city where the "expert" comment (from a Liverpool fan like yourself phil) is that man city have missed out.... Ohh how the mighty have fallen!

    I have nothing against Liverpool and actually have watched them 4 times from the kop this year, but the sooner rafa goes the better. Hiddink to Liverpool or man city (although I
    like Hughes and think this would be unfair) and you would see a huge improvement.

  • Comment number 66.

    To boomshakalak...not saying it was a bad result, but with a different approach against a Liverpool team low on confidence it could have been so much better. Surely you will agree City will have to show greater ambition away from home to reach the top four? Draws away at Wigan and Birmingham?

    Interesting to see some posters already mentioning Guus Hiddink's name. The possible availability of such an outstanding coach, although let's not gloss over his failure to take Russia to the World Cup, will turn up the pressure a notch on other coaches in Europe and beyond.

  • Comment number 67.

    Mmmm - not sure a 2-2 draw at home to City is a worse result for City. Reckon Hughes would have taken that as well as the draw at Villa where they were more attack minded, granted.
    Liverpool have 4 definite starters Reina, Carragher, Gerrard and Torres so of those only 1 was missing. The other 7 positions seem to go into Rafa's tombola and Liverpool have literally dozens of first team squad players to chose from. Johnson may become number 5 in time.
    Phil on a previous blog I not only stated that Liverpool would not win the title or finish in the Top 2 because they over achieved last season due to Utd being involved in that World Club and European Super Cup nonsense and played catch up couple with JT and Lamps not wanting to work with Big Phil. Neither of those are factors this season.
    It may have been deleted by the moderators however - they don't seem to like home truths about the Beebs favourite team.
    Looking at table tonight compared to pre season I would have expected Liverpool on 23 points - so 5th. They are lucky to have 19 - Bolton and West Ham deserved not to lose.

  • Comment number 68.

    RobVilla

    "It may have been deleted by the moderators however - they don't seem to like home truths about the Beebs favourite team."

    I suspect posts get deleted because certain posters cannot write a critique without peppering same with totally unnecessary abuse and invective.

    Try reading the House Rules.

  • Comment number 69.

    Im sorry Phil, but you wrote utter rubbish.
    Manchester City played well, just the flukey Liverpool scoring flukey Goals stopped Manchester City from taking the 3 points.
    Giving this blog to those delusional Liverpool fans is wrong, they will still think they will win the title or getting into the Champions League.
    They need a reailty check - your team is awful and even if they scrape into the Europa League, Gerrard will wander onto another team and Torres wont stay at all.
    Liverpool will do a Leeds and I think many Football Fans are hoping to see that.

  • Comment number 70.

    69. At 8:07pm on 22 Nov 2009, FoxesofNuneaton wrote:

    " ... Liverpool will do a Leeds and I think many Football Fans are hoping to see that."

    Not many who appreciate the style and panache that Liverpool has given us over the years. Premier League (and Europe) without them is unthinkable - and I'm a Man Utd fan.

  • Comment number 71.

    Nice to something different than the usual Utd v L'pool p-ing contest on this blog.
    I read further up that a City fan doesn't think that Spurs or Villa can end up in the top 4 due to their inconsistency, this may be true. City are on the other hand showing total consistency, although I'm not sure that drawing six games on the trot is top 4 form either, okay, they haven't lost many games this season, but 6 draws still mean 12 points dropped. A draw at Anfield is an excellent result, even if L'pool are in the middle of an imaginary "injury crisis", but the home draws with Fulham and Burnley and away with B'ham (no disrespect intended) may prove costly at the end of the season.
    I do believe that some of the comments posted about the City manager are a bit harsh. If I remember correctly the goal for Man City, as stated in the begining of the season, was a top 6 finish, if this is the case then Mr Hughes job should not be in any danger as he seems well on track to acheiving this. City are doing a lot better than they were last season and of course, with so many new players it's going to take time to completly gel.
    I am far from a City supporter, but anyone who doesn't believe that they'll be challenging the "top 4" hierachy in the comming seasons is seriously deluded, money talks, always has, always will.

  • Comment number 72.

    I agree with your comments, it's amazing Mark Hughes is still in a job. Just one thing - 12th paragraph in should be "City have shown" not "City have showed"...

  • Comment number 73.

    Phil, I think you are spot on. City can be exhilirating when they attack and surely that is the best form of defence for them. I couldn't believe how defensive they were at Anfield. Mark hughes is a great manager, and I think he will get them into the top 4, but he needs to be careful that he is not too clever tactically. Let his players play and they will terrify everybody. Alan

  • Comment number 74.

    Watching yesterday's game you could see it was crying out for either team to take the game by the scruff of the neck - sadly it took City to concede a goal before we showed any kind of ambition, which was disappointing, but I guess we're not accustomed to expecting to win at Anfied and few clubs are.
    Phil, Tevez has struggled to make an impact in recent games, but in fairness to him he hasn't been the only one. Shaun Wright-Phillips, Gareth Barry and our much lauded defence have struggled too in my opinion. City have laboured in general since losing against Utd and struggled to beat any of the opposition we've faced, hence the draws. We're definitely a more resolute side this season though and I think it's only a matter of time before we begin picking up points. As for Lescott I think people have been too quick to criticise his shortcomings (and there have been some) and he hasn't received any credit for what he's done well (there's been plenty of that!).

  • Comment number 75.

    To GKMCFC...top post that. Full of constructive points while taking issue constructively with some of the blog nand the comments I have posted in the debate.

    What in your opinion do City need to do now to push home the progress they have clearly made, backed by this incredible financial support? Let's hear from other City fans too.

  • Comment number 76.

    Phil,
    Apologies as I know thaqt you really want to stay off this topic but I am sure that the following comment will one day find itself etched on the wall of the Anfield boardroom wall in some form.

    I can't believe all these tedious comments about who has spent more on players and great long lists of players and their prices, who's worth their price and who's not, vote 1 for 'yes' and 5 for 'no' blah di blah di blah! As the late great Shanks would have probably said 'It's not a matter of life or death, it's more important than that!'
    The crux of the matter is that this jokey debate is pointless. Just listen or read Benitez insistence that he is 'sure' Liverpool will finish in the top four. 'SURE!' mind you! Such illogical, dogmatic insistence merely serves to illustrate that the man is clearly insane! If the board/supporters don't take immediate action and get rid of this buffoon it will continue to be a case of the lunatic running the asylum! A proud and once great club will go to the dogs! The longer this man stays, the longer it will take for the club to recover and the clock is running

  • Comment number 77.

    Man City were too defensive, considering just how wounded Liverpool are at the moment. They rely too much on a handful of players, and look very ordinary when Torres, Gerrard and (being generous, as we haven't seen his potential) Aquillani aren't fully fit. A squad with Adebayor, Tevez, Santa Cruz, Wright-Phillips and Ireland available should be looking to win against them, especially after such a frustrating run of draws. The first half was a tedious damp squib which will have only pleased Spurs and Villa fans; City were better in the second half but they still looked defensively frail. When your attack is weaker than your defence, you should attack.

  • Comment number 78.

    I'm sorry but without Tevez City would have been pulled apart, he brought energy to a generally disinterested team.

    I'm a Liverpool (an optimistic one who is happy to see the likes of N'Gog and Insua finally start to find their feet in the prem) but Tevez was the MoM by a long distance, which says a lot about the game. On a side note, Babel's movement was causing real trouble before De Jong crocked him with a jumping in two footed challenge which went unpunished.

  • Comment number 79.

    Too many people write off Mark Hughes. The fact is for all City's spending, Hughes has not (yet) assembled an entirely new side. Hughes has potentially overrated Adebayor, Lescott, and Toure - however, top players such as Kaka were not willing to go to City. City's ambitions have to be three-fold:
    1 - Establish a reputation and qualify for European competition
    2 - Acquire very good (though not world class) players to finish top 4
    3 - Then acquire 2-3 world class players to push for League Winners and semi finals and finals of the Champions League.

    The first year of Abu Dhabi's ownership must be about Target #1. This is on track. World football is now aware of City, and they are bound to finish for the Europa League, if not the Champions League.

    Next summer will be about finding a top drawer central defender, and replacements for SWP and Zabeleta. I also think De Jong will be replaced with someone better. Invariably there will be one new striker too.

    The following year would be about signing another 3-4 excellent players, including potentially one of the world's best keepers, and a truly top midfielder.

    Based on this reasonable ccurve of improvement, City are on course. Hughes is doing a good job. Hit tactics may be cautious, but most sides who have success (Liverpool in 80s, Chelsea and United this decade) have built upon a solid defence. If you can get to the point of conceding less than 30 goals a season then you are a top 4 side, get down to 25 or less and you are pushing for the title. Get under 20 conceded and you will almost certainly win the league.

  • Comment number 80.

    As we all know Arsene Wenger has regularly executed the Carling cup campaigns with youngsters.The same Arsenal has been drawn to face Manchester City in the next round.We all know Hughes has been using his full squad to execute the same Carling cup.
    Now try to imagine if the Arsenal young guns were to knock City out of the Carling cup,and there is a strong possibility,where does that leave Mark Hughes?
    I feel this up coming match is a potential banana skin for Mark Hughes.

  • Comment number 81.

    Cyborgia - you say that a side conceding less than 30 goals in a season should be in the top 4. City have conceded 16 goals in 12 matches, so at this rate they'll concede 51 goals in the season - leaving them well below the top 4!

    I agree with MartinJSUK - when your defence is so frail you should attack.

  • Comment number 82.

    1 point from Anfeild is not at bad result for Man city, but failure to secure maximum points against burnely, fulham and b'ham is alarming. Players like adebayor and robinho does'nt do any good for the team.I believe Hughes is not a Top quality manager i believe Big players does not follow his instructions or they care less, City Executive recently stated that they are building a platform by assembling a team with the players who has Premier league experience other then buying big names with zero experience who would take minimum one year to adapt. BUT spending around 20 million for lescot and Adebayor is not justified, May be lescot could improve later but i dont think there is any room for improvement for Adebayor, he is one of the worst players in city squad, he scores goals but he is not a team player like Tevez, Drogba or rooney, Santa cruz is not a top 4 quality striker either, he did not perfom when he got the chances , SWP!!! i wonder y Hughes still believes this player has the talent to take them to the next level , he was guilty for loosing possesions more often and he ran towards the full back and lost the ball or his passes never went near to any of the city players who were waiting for the pass from the right side of the flank. Hughes should have spend more money on wide players to give competition to the players like SWP ,people were blaming Mourinho for freezing out SWP @ chelsea i believe Mourinho was right to keep him out the first team squad this guy is an average player at best who can be a star at mid table teams with out ambition, Zabaletta and wayne bridge needs to be replaced as well, If city decides to replace Hughes with a Top class manager like Mourinho,Rijkard or Hiddink i think only few players like Tevez, Given, Ireland,Bellamy ( for his commitment) barry and De-jong would get a starting place , others are mercenaries who are not bothered about the results

  • Comment number 83.

    Phil (re:62) what do you think?
    "Micah Richards today scored against Arsenal...more than two months after the match finished! The Football Association’s Dubious Goals Panel decided that the header that opened the scoring against the Gunners in the 4-2 victory should be credited to the Blues defender and not Manuel Almunia the visiting keeper.The goal takes Richards' total for the club to four though the defender, who is currently away in Lithuania captaining England’s under 21 side, reckons his tally should be an awful lot better."
    “I think they should have a dubious offside and a dubious foul panel too then maybe I would have three this season,” laughed Micah.
    “I still think those goals against Portsmouth and Fulham should have stood but nevertheless it is nice to get that one back because it was a pretty good header.” http://img688.imageshack.us/img688/2228/micahscores.jpg
    I'm glad that Micah Richards,the Verminator,is retrospectively and rightfully now given the goal originally attributed to an own goal by Almunia. IMO it augurs well for him and City for this 'reversal of fortune.' My contention is that if he was not unlucky he would have been credited with 3 goals instead of one and probably in the starting lineup.
    I'm a proponent of City's owned developed young player its my fervent belief that MH should give this young lad the playing time and every opportunity to blossom and fulfilled his promise. MH is still miffed at him because of Owen's goal which in hindsight he should have slide-tackled into him.
    To let him go is to 'cut the nose to spite the face'.


  • Comment number 84.

    I think it would be easier to start calling it the big 3 and stop including Liverpool in the title equation. It's been 20 years since they won it anyway and in this time Newcastle have have come just as close to winning it, Leeds and Blackburn have actually won it, Chelsea and Arsenal have had a good share and Man United have pretty much dominated.

    Liverpool are simply there to make up the numbers, along with other 'big' clubs like Spurs, Man City, Villa and Everton.

  • Comment number 85.

    "If you can get to the point of conceding less than 30 goals a season then you are a top 4 side, get down to 25 or less and you are pushing for the title. Get under 20 conceded and you will almost certainly win the league." (Post #79 by Cyborgia)

    Oh dear, if what you say is true about needing to concede less than 30 goals a season in order to be a top 4 side then things don't look very good for six of the top seven clubs right now. We are currently one third of the way through the season (13 x 3 = 38+1) so if we extrapolate (i.e., multiply by 38/13 or 38/12 as appropriate) the current "goals against" and "points" stats. for each of the top seven clubs then only Chelsea are currently on track to end up being a "top 4" club according to your "goals against" analysis! Here are the results:

    1. Chelsea ...... Pl=13 A=08 Pts=33 ... Pl=38 A=23 Pts=96
    2. Man. Utd. ... Pl=13 A=12 Pts=28 ... Pl=38 A=35 Pts=82
    3. Arsenal ....... Pl=12 A=15 Pts=25 ... Pl=38 A=47 Pts=79
    4. Spurs ......... Pl=13 A=18 Pts=25 ... Pl=38 A=53 Pts=73
    5. Aston Villa ... Pl=13 A=13 Pts=22 ... Pl=38 A=38 Pts=64
    6. Man. City .... Pl=12 A=16 Pts=21 ... Pl=38 A=51 Pts=66
    7. Liverpool ..... Pl=13 A=20 Pts=20 ... Pl=38 A=58 Pts=58

    Last season Man. Utd. and Chelsea respectively finished first and third by only conceding 24 goals, whilst Liverpool finished second by only conceding 27 goals, thus validating what you said about needing to concede less than 30 goals in order to be a "Top 4" side - well, at least a "Top 3" side because Arsenal finished fourth last season by conceding 37 goals - and also that you have to concede under 25 goals to push for the title. Based on the above extrapolations and your analysis only Chelsea are currently on target to push for the PL championship ... which means they'll win it by default! The goal tallies already conceded by Man. Utd. and Aston Villa, based on the above extrapolations, better fit the profiles of a "Top 7" team than they do a "Top 3" team as last season fourth placed Arsenal and fifth placed Everton (37 goals) and seventh placed Fulham (34 goals) were the only three teams conceding more than 30 but less than 40 goals.

    So what do the above extrapolations tell us? They indicate that all of the top seven sides - except for Chelsea - are conceding a lot more goals this season than they normally do. Newcastle United and Middlesbrough respectively conceded 59 and 57 goals last season and they were both relegated, yet that is the sort of total (58) that Liverpool are currently headed for if their present form remains the same in the last two thirds of the season as it has been so far in the first third! Somebody stated in a post on another blog that every team in contention for the championship is dropping points this season. That is not strictly true. Every team that is chasing the leaders Chelsea is dropping points and conceding quite a few goals more than normal, while Chelsea themselves are currently on course to beat their record-setting 95 points PL championship win in 2004-05 when they finished a huge 12 points ahead of second placed Arsenal.

    Unless Chelsea start dropping points at a rate of more than 0.5 points per game (which is what they are currently averaging) they are going to run away with this season's championship despite it presently looking as though it could be one of the closest title races in a long time. So unless Chelsea start to falter, the battle right now is for second place (Man. Utd. and Arsenal) and fourth place (Spurs, Villa, Man. City and Liverpool).

    Will Chelsea falter? They've had a lot of relatively easy fixtures so far this season and, although they've played four games against the other "Top 7" teams, three of them were at home (Liverpool, Spurs and Man. Utd.), all of which they won, whilst they lost their only away match at Villa. The real test of Chelsea in the near future will be their upcoming fixtures against Man. City at Eastlands and against Arsenal at the Emirates.

    In comparison, the teams with the best away form against tough opposition (i.e., other "Top 7" teams) are Man. Utd., Man. City and Villa. Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool have all played 2 away games against other "Top 7" opposition and each of them have lost them both. Utd. and City have each played 3 such away games (Utd.: won 1, lost 2; City: drawn 2, lost 1) whilst Villa have only played one which they won at Anfield.

    As impressive as the 9-1 victory over Wigan by Spurs was - and remember, Wigan have beaten both Chelsea and Villa this season - 2-1 would have been enough to secure them 3 points, whilst those other 7 goals would have been much better scored in games against Arsenal, Chelsea, Man. Utd. and even Stoke because, other than out-of-form Liverpool, Spurs have the worst performance record against the other "Top 7" clubs of those 7 teams. And that will probably be their downfall in their bid against Villa and City to get that "Top 4" place vacated by Liverpool because how well a team does in the "mini-leaque" against its closest PL championship contenders is usually indicative of how well it does overall in the PL.

  • Comment number 86.

    62. At 5:51pm on 22 Nov 2009, Phil McNulty - BBC Sport wrote:
    Last word on the Benitez comments for today for poster 58. I do not think I have been unduly critical of the Liverpool manager at all. Don't forget I tipped them for the title this season - wrongly as it transpired. Honest opinion on the events of this season - are you satisfied?
    _______________________________________________________________________

    You said you had been "supportive" of Benitez. When challenged as to exactly what you have been supportive about you change the the claim to "not being unduly critical".

    Doesn't this prove my point?

  • Comment number 87.

    To Goluboy...what do other Manchester City supporters think of the situation re. Micah Richards. I have to say I think he has gone backwards alarmingly in the last year or so. If he had been put up for sale a couple of years ago every one of the so-called "big four" would have tried to buy him. Not now.

    And what do you make of this quote from Mark Hughes about Carlos Tevez: "Once we went behind it was time to introduce him It was always my intention to bring him on at some point, because of the impact he can have from the bench."

    I feel it supports my theory of City took a very conservative approach at Anfield. And will Tevez have to get used to being used as an impact substitute - a situation that led to some of his discontent at Manchester United? Interesting.

  • Comment number 88.

    Phil, City laid out a Masterplan. The blueprint is to forge a winning mentality. At the Derby, Hughes was 'timewatching' rather than going for the jugular after City equalized at OT. Similarly at Anfield, MH lacked ambition with the starting lineup. There is a big disconnect.
    He should have inserted Micah back to the lineup. He has more pace and power than Zabaleta to contain the likes of Ngog, Drogba, Bent etc. It would have been exhilirating to watch these thoroughbreds 'Nedum, Richards, Ireland, Nigel, Lescott, Ade, SWP, Tevez, Bellers' overwhelm the Reds at their end.
    Sad to say, Barry & Bridge need a rest.

  • Comment number 89.

    Phil,

    I take it that by now ignoring the issue, you now concede that there has been no evidence of you being "supportive" to Benitez.

    (Tipping Liverpool for the title isn't being supportive. I tipped Chelsea and that cetainly doesnt indicate any degree of supportiveness on my part).

  • Comment number 90.

    I would have started Tevez against Liverpool simply because he is a very physical player and Liverpool are frail that way at the moment.

    I predict he will hand in a transfer request if he ddoesn't get enough starts by the end of the season

  • Comment number 91.

    Andrew-

    Spurs have the worst performance record against the other "Top 7" clubs of those 7 teams. And that will probably be their downfall in their bid against Villa and City to get that "Top 4" place vacated by Liverpool because how well a team does in the "mini-leaque" against its closest PL championship contenders is usually indicative of how well it does overall in the PL.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------

    Correction - The top four side get debatable penalties awarded by Webb, Spurs then capitulate and heads drop...'Arry is working on this part.

    Lets be fair Man United won the league last season and still lost twice to Liverpool..

  • Comment number 92.

    To Goluboy...going back in time a little but agree re. Old Trafford injury time. The time was not just added on for Manchester United to score, it was there for City as well. One team took it as a chance to win and the other to cling on - with inevitable results.

    On Tevez, his physical strength and industry certainly troubled Liverpool when he came on. I was also disappointed City didn't get Craig Bellamy into the game more. Is his best position out wide? It may have to be because things are a bit crowded when it comes to fighting for places down the middle of City's attack.

    Not sure he will hand in a transfer request by the end of the season though. Bit early for that sort of talk.

  • Comment number 93.

    Phil (re:87 & 88), you and I are cognizant of Tevez superior skillset compared to the rest of City's squad. He should be deployed for the whole game in lieu of Bellamy.
    As suggested by Bellamy he has a short career lifespan. Wouldn't it be skilful of Hughes to manage his playing time (and enhance his shelf-life) optimally?
    At MU, Fergie had the services of Rooney and the prancing dancing diving prima donna to allow him to play money politics with Tevez. No?
    And we know Fergie, belatedly, was willing to pay what Tevez is asking once CR7 left.
    For crying out loud Tevez is the most expensive signing by an EPL team to date. Hughes will not be managing wisely if he leaves City's impact, premium and best players (Ade, Robinho or Tevez) on the bench as subs.

  • Comment number 94.

    I'm a liverpool fan and have been for about 40 years and I'm sorry but Rafa is not the man for Liverpool. Forget about injuries etc etc. We have a poor squad and this is squarely down to the manager. I've said it many times nows, if Rafa hadn't been extremely lucky in Istanbul winning the CL he would have been out on his ear before now. He cannot continue to live off one very lucky win. The guy has lost the plot over the last few seasons, tactically as well as in player choice, plus his insistence on this crazy zonal marking is costing us goal after goal. I for one cannot wait to see the back off him.

  • Comment number 95.

    @ 92. At 10:03am on 23 Nov 2009, Phil McNulty - BBC Sport wrote:

    So I'm right then.
    Uncomfortable as it may be for you, you've changed "being supportive of Benitez" to "not being unduly critical" because your claim was completely untrue.

  • Comment number 96.

    "... most sides who have success (Liverpool in 80s, Chelsea and United this decade) have built upon a solid defence." (Post #79 by Cyborgia)

    To return back to those extrapolations of post #85, Man. Utd. currently has the second best defensive record after Chelsea, with Aston Villa coming in a close third. If Mark Hughes' strategy is to build his team upon a solid defense - and BTW, I don't disagree with anything Cyborgia said in his post including both that point and his analysis at the end about number of goals conceded (see my previous post #85) - then perhaps his one big mistake so far this season was allowing Richard Dunne to leave City for their close rivals for the fourth spot, Villa.

    I don't believe this was Mark Hughes' intent, because if it was then City would have exchanged Dunne in the earlier Gareth Barry deal with Villa. I think Hughes wanted to keep Dunne and only add Touré, Lescott and Barry (who is primarily a defensive central midfielder) to his squad. However, Hughes did a poor job of managing that situation IMO. As each new high profile central defender was added to City's lineup during the summer what existing central defender wouldn't ask himself where he now sat in Hughes' long term plans for the team. The incessant and protracted pursuit of Jolean Lescott at any price by Man. City didn't help the situation any WRT Richard Dunne's sense of security despite the fact that he is a top notch defender.

    City clearly needed to beef up their defense for the new 2009-10 season - more so, in fact, than they needed to add to their strike force - but they needed to build their improved defense around Dunne NOT replace him. The addition of Touré, Lescott and Barry were all good high quality additions to the City defense but the loss of the loyal serving Dunne was a big setback IMO, and I think Mark Hughes should have handled his particular situation much better than he did - assuming, that is, that Hughes wanted to retain the services of Dunne (which I believe he did). If not, then I guess Hughes did a great job of forcing Dunne to leave the club.

    So have those three new high-profile additions really made enough improvement to City's defense for the amount of dollars that were spent in order to entice each of them to Eastlands? Aston Villa sort of back-filled for Gareth Barry with Richard Dunne and they now seem to be doing very well defensively with him (only 13 goals conceded in as many games) while Everton were forced to similarly back-fill for Jolean Lescott with Sylvain Distin (who I believe was originally intended to partner him) and appear to be relatively, if not as equally, happy. But wait a minute, weren't Dunne and Distin the kingpins of the City defense only a few seasons ago? It seems to me that City have spent a small fortune acquiring Arsenal's, Everton's and Villa's out-of-favor cast-offs, while their own cast-off defenders are both now playing key roles in the defenses of their rivals Everton and Villa.

    The stats. would seen to suggest that only Villa have done well out of this game of musical chairs for key defensive central defenders. Stoke City, Fulham and Birmingham City have all conceded less goals than Man. City so far this season but with defenses that are nowhere near as high profile and which didn't cost anywhere near as much. If Mark Hughes' strategy is to build his team upon a solid defense - and I believe it is and that it should be for the reasons stated in post #79 - then it may appear he's really not doing such a brilliant good job if Stoke, Birmingham and Fulham (and no disrespect to any of those fine teams is intended), not to mention rivals Villa, are all outperforming him. Hughes also does not have the excuse that he can only do so much on a budget because, due to City's UAE backers and their ambitions for the club, cost is clearly no obstacle for him.

    I believe that City's defense is currently the eighth best in the PL based on number of goals conceded; my point above is that Hughes had a "Top 10" defense before he started his summer purchases (considering that City have finished 9th and 10th in the PL in the two previous seasons) so he seems to have gone relatively nowhere despite all his financial outlay because it is still only a "Top 10" level defense. You cannot become a "Top 4" team with only a "Top 10" defense, particularly when your strategy is to build your team around a solid defensive framework (which was Hughes' strategy at Blackburn Rovers). To put things in perspective, bottom of the table Portsmouth have conceded as many goals at home (8) as City have, and only 3 more (11) in their away games. The only reason that Portsmouth have got only 7 points from their 13 games is because they have only scored 10 goals compared to City's 23.

    Having said all that, if instead of goals conceded you look at results instead, City currently have the best defensive record in the PL because they have only lost one game so far (an away tie at Man. Utd. with a score of 3-4) versus 3, 4 or 5 by their "Top 7" rivals (except for Chelsea who have only lost 2 games). City's current loss of form (relative to the start of the season) may be causing them to be drawing too many games but at least it is not causing City to be losing them like Liverpool's loss of form is doing to them. Additionally, although they have had six draws in a row, four of those draws were away fixtures, and winning all your home games and drawing all your away games is indeed "Top 4" form. If you take the 4 points that City should not have dropped against Fulham and Burnley and add to them the 3 points for the game they have in hand on all their "Top 7" rivals (except for Arsenal) then City would have 28 points and would currently be sitting third in the table behind Man. Utd. on goal difference.

    City have also played seven away games and only five home games while many of the teams around them in the top 7 slots have achieved their current points totals from as many as seven home games, and in the PL home points are a lot easier to notch up than away points (except, of course, in the case of Burnley and Fulham if you are Man. City!!!). City's away form is vastly improved this season (10 points from 7 games compared to, say, Arsenal's similar 10 from 7, Villa's 9 from 7, or Man. Utd.'s 9 from 6) and that is very promising for them because City achieved its 10th position last season with only 2 wins and 5 draws (a total of 11 points) away from home. So City have done almost as well in their first seven games away from home this season as they did in all 19 away fixtures last season.

    When you look at City's defense in those terms only then do you begin to appreciate that there is indeed a "Top 10" to "Top 4" improvement that is quietly occurring at Eastlands under the leadership of Hughes that all the City naysayers completely overlook when they lineup to attack Hughes over his latest batch of purchased players, or even the individual performances of those players themselves.

  • Comment number 97.

    So there's a simple question for City fans. Are you missing Richard Dunne, not just as a player but as a leader?

    And here are some expert thoughts from someone who knows on both Liverpool and City.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/leagues/premierleague/mancity/6629839/Alan-Hansen-Mark-Hughes-has-Manchester-City-on-right-track-but--Liverpool-will-win-fight-for-fourth.html

  • Comment number 98.

    City are attracting the wrong sorts of players, players who are money mercenaries that otherwise would have no interest in playing for them. Take Tevez for example, a player who was loved by Utd fans for his hard work and passionate performances yet was unhappy at lack of first team action. So what does he do? Crosses to local rivals to sit on the bench some more but at the same time boost his finances. Is it any surprise that a team who has so many types of these players among their ranks is "underachieving"?

  • Comment number 99.

    Is there a worry among City fans that the influx of big-money arrivals will start to have an adverse affect on what has been a magnificent academy system at the club? I am sure Mark Hughes would want this to flourish, but will the hierarchy want bigger/more marketable names?

  • Comment number 100.

    Upon Reflection:

    I have been a tad harsh to M Hughes.

    Afterall, he's not exactly been working with many of his new outfit for long and it does take time to get them to play as a collective unit. Also, it must be quite a shock to find yourself with players who can do the bizz as opposed to mediocre ones and of course a transfer kitty of huge proportions to enable further tinkering here and there.

    I do believe however M Hughes will be out of job should city fail to get into the CL, even if he manages this I have a feeling he will be gone such will be the ruthlessness of citys backers.

    as for Liverpool:

    they are in very deep doo and exit the CL? that will be a huge blow to moral and confidence and there is no doubt other teams at the mo will fancy thier chances at rubbing further salt into the wounds. This is going to be a very tough time for pool.

    But as we have seen from spurs, they thump wigan 9-1 who thumped the chavs so seems like this seasons CL will be full of ups and downs yet.
    if Arsenal fail to beat the chavs then the title will be thiers, arsenal and man u etc will be playing for the runners up places and the cups.

    No one is guarenteed a top four finish regardless of what manager is in charge.

    Personally I cant wait for the Six Nations to start then the English can do a double over Ireland by making sure they keep the ball in hand to wizz over the try line and we will see on display players of the highest order from All sides involved in the Tournament and more importantly very competent officials who unlike those officiating in Football do not have undue influence/s on where the spoils end up.

 

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