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Manchester City 2 Watford 0 (29/08/2015) 30/08/2015

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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1- Another trip to the North West, another grotesque encounter with the M6.  Compounded by taking the wrong route through Manchester as road closures and gridlock conspired to turn what should have been a comfortable day out featuring the traditional generous buffer between arrival and kick-off into an out-of-breath ascent into the oxygen-thin atmosphere of the upper tier with effs having been effed and blindings blinded and ten minutes already on the clock.  That the refreshment kiosks had closed during the game didn’t improve our mood, although in fairness, the City stewards had overheard my brother’s anxious phone conversations as he waited for us and his ticket by the turnstile, facilitated his entry and thus end up well in credit.  Nonetheless, bah.

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2- I tried watching cricket during the summer (not one for minority sports normally) and suffered through my lack of feel for the sport.  I know the rules, more or less, and can follow the progress of a game mathematically but I can’t watch a game (match? tie? whatever) and understand what’s going on, what the balance of power is, in the same way as I can in a football game. Turning up late to a football game screws that feel up a little bit.  It’s like you’re trying to catch up with a story having missed the first couple of chapters. Nonetheless… the thread in this one was pretty clear from the outset, the storyline already well established.  City, slick and strong and aggressive, swarmed at us and we manned the barricades.  This was already the biggest test yet of the defensive shape on whose altar so much is being sacrificed.

And for the most part it stood up pretty damn well for that first forty five minutes.  City flicked and span and danced and swivelled and didn’t get terribly far for all that…  the dominant side, but with precious little in the way of clear cut chances given that domination.  We rode our luck, certainly, but on the odd occasion when a clear sight of goal was carved out City were denied, most memorably by an inhuman blocking tackle by Cathcart to deny Raheem Sterling.  Elsewhere Behrami was energetic and vital, whilst Abdi’s flourished for the first twenty minutes (that we saw…), reminding us that  there’s a fair bit of grit to complement that grace.  There was an awkward five minutes that saw Nyom kick Sterling out of the air and Capoue go  in late on Touré and we looked at each other and wondered whether raising the temperature of the encounter was really in our interests, but 0-0 at half-time made it very easy to overlook both this and the fact that we’d really offered nothing going forward in what appeared to be a 4-6-0 formation with Troy the falsest of nines on the right wing.

3- Which was great, at far as it went.  Problem with an ultra-defensive formation is that you’re kinda stuffed when you go behind.  Sterling’s goal, he having been moved to a central position, has been hailed as rewarding a tactical masterstroke but actually we lost concentration at the start of the half to allow the forward to drift in unchecked.  That’s the Premier League for you, let alone away at City, and certainly didn’t reflect any great failing in a Plan A that had stood up pretty well to a first half onslaught.  Nonetheless, Plan A having failed it was slightly concerning that it took quarter of an hour for Flores to make any kind of personnel change, in which time Fernandinho had smacked City two up and all but out of sight.  Our defensive shape, so inspiring a thing when it was kinda holding out, now became a source of frustration – no out ball, no means of grabbing a foothold or providing a threat.

When the change came it saw Anya replace Abdi and briefly we seemed to adopt a conventional 4-4-2.  On the front foot for the first time we suddenly had some controlled possession in City’s half for virtually the first time in the game and if City threatened to catch us on the counter this felt like a necessary risk that came with the territory.  It was exhilarating and invigorating and got the visiting ‘orns – most of whom were hidden from our view in the half-full upper tier section – roaring for the first time.  Anya soon had our best – only? – chance of the game, Jurado’s ball from the right being met with a brilliantly selfless dummy by Deeney on the edge of the box.  Anya seemed momentarily surprised as well, allowing Sagna to fly in and emulate Cathcart’s crucial block of the first period. And then…  and then…  off went Ighalo, on came Layún and we settled back down into 4-2-3-1 again.  Our threat, such as it was, dissipated immediately.

4- We had possession still, but largely on City’s terms and rarely in threatening positions.  Occasionally either the dogged Alain Nyom on the right or Ikechi Anya down the left would get to the byline and sling a ball across but it’s difficult to hit a lone target.  To this end Matej Vydra’s name got some airing, and there was brief excitement in the upper tier as the forward appeared to prepare to come on;  sure, never a lone striker but if we’ve nothing to lose then why not go 4-4-2 and give Troy someone to play off, someone to move and disrupt City’s painfully comfortable defence.  Instead – the distance had deceived us – Ben Watson took to the field to replace Capoue in defensive midfield, a move greeted with the first open and angry dissent of our Premier League season.  Losing by a moderate margin at City is no disgrace and there’s a lot to be said for avoiding a demoralising dicking…  but a 2-0 defeat is not something to defend.  Predictably enough, the game finished with only theoretical further threats to City’s goal.

5- We are in the position of having to take an awful lot on trust at one time.  The change in manager.  The change in players.  The change in playing style.  This happened once before of course, three years ago… but Sean Dyche’s success and his team’s achievement in finishing mid table had only been triumphs in context (and thus less sparkly), the adoption of a swashbuckling playing style unlikely to alienate anybody.  Here…  the combination of changes will appear courageous and visionary if successful in the unforgiving Premier League.  If not…  there’s an awful lot to get pissed off about.  Even ostensibly sensible and necessary developments like the departure of Fernando Forestieri to Sheffield Wednesday today – a striker who struggled to contribute to our promotion was hardly going to be a fixture – becomes a source of bitterness and acrimony.  To put it another way, one tweet on Saturday afternoon suggested that the author would rather watch Nando score the winner at Huddersfield than see us put 10 behind the ball in the Premier League.  Similar sentiments were expressed less eloquently in the away end.  On the same theme, the traditional annual League Cup fiasco becomes something to get pissed off about, a bit like blaming your new boss for it being Monday.

These are early days, the squad being formed and moulded by the hour (’til 6pm Tuesday).  Nonetheless, this will surely be as crucial an international break as we’ve had for many years.  Flores may claim to be unconcerned with our lack of goal threat, but one attempt on target in three games isn’t going to convince many to fork out for a Newcastle ticket (even if it doesn’t involve braving the M6). Jurado, for all his ability, looks lightweight and has made minimal impact, whilst Berghuis didn’t even make the bench today.  Abdi looks wonky, Deeney looks heavy, isolated and miserable and Ighalo only effective for nuisance value.  Perhaps they’re not suited to this new formation either, but one can’t help but feel that the guys for whom promotion to the Premier League was part of the attraction in the first place deserve rather more.  A similar lack of potency when Swansea visit in a fortnight may see a marked change in tone at Vicarage Road.

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Comments»

1. Roger Smith - 30/08/2015

Hopefully, the mandatory cull of foreign players will take some of the tension out of the dressing room. Vydra’s talent is being wasted because, when he is on the field, he doesn’t get the kind of service that he can exploit: balls into space that he can get to before the defender. According to Jon Marks on 3CR, Jurado was playing as the lone striker. Now that really does smack of desperation.

2. Goldenboy60 - 30/08/2015

I was very angry yesterday after watching that display. 4 games, no goals, but worst of all no hint of creating chances or actually scoring goals. We have now lost one of our most technically gifted players who can bring something different to the team. Long gone the time when we took the game to City and scored twice eventually losing 4-2 but in a highly entertaining game, one we didn’t expect to win, but we gave it a real go. He is decimating the supporters belief and even more so the teams.

I am fast losing patience with Mr Flores and his ultra defensive view. Unless there is a change we will get relegated.

Jurado is not only lightweight but cannot have any impact on the game. For me players have to be very good at one of these things, if not he shouldn’t be in the team.

Does he stop goals – NO
Does he create goals – NO
Does he score goals – NO

So why is he in the team. He refuses to go 1v1 and always plays safe with a simple pass that keeps the ball for us but generally takes us backwards. Why have we let Forestieri go when he has 2 of those things?

IT’S MADNESS

In my opinion his appointment is turning out to be a very bad decision

3. Brian Hoffman - 30/08/2015

Early days yet let’s see what the position is after 10 games
2 -0 is better than 4 -0
Even Nyom at times needed help and did not look as strong as when playing at home
City are one hell of a team .However we played we would have lost

Matt Rowson - 30/08/2015

Don’t buy the last sentiment Brian. Why bother turning up at all? No prob with Plan A, but that having fallen short we HAD to give it a go.

Matt Rowson - 30/08/2015

…but yes, City were brilliant

WD3 - 30/08/2015

You might be right that we would have lost regardless of how we’d played, but at least give your fans some hope that you can compete, as we did when we were turned over 4-2 after being 0-2 up at half time.

The tactics we adopted yesterday would at best have yielded a 0-0 draw, but in reality we were never going to hold out for the full 90 minutes + injury time. And when the inevitable breaches came, to change personnel in order to try and secure a 0-2 is just embarrassing – you have to try to compete, or there’s no point in turning up.

4. Woof (@AdogcalledStorm) - 30/08/2015

‘One attempt on goal in 3 games’? Are you sure you don’t want to revisit that sentence? 16 shots on target v West Brom. Ighalo and Capoue 2 good opportunities v Southampton. Yes we are misfiring and its far form perfect, but to state one attempt on goal is (sorry) disingenuous.

Matt Rowson - 30/08/2015

None vs Southampton, one at PNE and none yesterday all re bbc. If you’re going to be a smart arse, make sure you get your facts right.

Roger Smith - 30/08/2015

However, facts rely on definitions, and shots on target that are blocked don’t seem to count.

Matt Rowson - 30/08/2015

Agree with the general point, but if you’re referring to Anya then he didn’t get the shot away. Either way, debating the classification of isolated incidents doesn’t really change the reality of our attacking impotence (so far)

Woof (@AdogcalledStorm) - 30/08/2015

You obviously didn’t see Capoue miss an open goal from all of yards out. If your going to write an article get the facts right this comes across as a deliberate lie to support a hypothesis.

Woof (@AdogcalledStorm) - 30/08/2015

Capoue missed an open goal v Southampton. Now maybe you were buying a coffee at the time and missed it, but a chance it was. therefore your statement we had no chances over the last 3 games is an error, which I am sure you will want to correct.

Matt Rowson - 30/08/2015

Oh dear. No, I never mentioned “no chances”, I specified one shot on target in three games. Capoue missed, therefore not on target. It’s not a complicated definition.

We also created an excellent chance yesterday, which didn’t get as far as a shot but showed some attacking potential. This was in an isolated period when we had two up front and seemed to be aggressive and positive.

I don’t want to be overly dramatic. The point is that over the last few games we’ve scored no goals and created little. Flores is confident that the goals will come, I hope he’s right. Little evidence of that so far tho.

Flippo Gallo - 30/08/2015

Taxi for Woof

5. paullbaxter - 30/08/2015

I had a similarly awful journey just coming just Cheshire. I had to go to Deansgate first and got caught up in the Bank Holiday Gay Pride march. All routes from West to East Manchester seemed to have been closed with no diversion signs. Getting out of the carpark at the end and getting home proved just as traumatic, but not as much as the match.

I was at Preston mid week and saw the second 18 treat them as if they were Manchester City, so the only surprise was the decision to play Deeney at right wing and Jurado as the lone striker. Jurado may be the same height as Aguero, but that is where the similarities end- he’s way too lightweight to play that position.

The first half was succesfull in that we restricted their chances but you can’t play 90 minutes without an outlet and hope to get something from a game. We had no threat on the counter because the midfield was only concerned about defending so whenever we broke the player with the ball had to stop and wait for the rest to catch up by which time City were back in position.

If we are going to make the system work we have to get more support to the attack and not just the midfield- the full backs also need to be less scared to attack. Holebas, in particular, ignored opportunites to overlap that could have produced something (as he also did at Everton).

Flores is a good enough coach to be addressing these issues, and it is still early days so let’s hope things improve becasue I found the approach, rather than the result, pretty depressing.

6. Windsor Hornet - 30/08/2015

Abdi would be a more viable option than Jurado playing in his correct position. What beggars belief though is that Vydra, our best finisher and the one player who offers lightning pace (and btw, according to Deeney, is his preferred playing partner ) – does not get a sniff, even when sitting on the bench.

I don’t understand why Vydra was not brought on against West Brom (though Ben Watson was) – and I don’t understand why he has not had a chance thus far.

Jurado is “Flores man” so nothing will change in the Abdi/wrong playing position department.

Something is not right – not a single shot on target in the last 4 games . One player upfront – and the talk of losing our most lethal striker at the expense of an untried (at Watford) new signing.

Don’t even get me started on the thought of Brittos staying and Angela departing.

Has Flores and Vydra fallen out ? Does Flores have a Plan B?
Will Gino Pozzo demand that Vydra stays?

Question , questions ….

7. WD3 - 30/08/2015

The next 3 games – against Swansea, Newcastle and Palace – are critical. Fail to show some genuine attacking intent and create chances and I can see the fans turning quickly and vocally. There was genuine excitement at our prospects when we secured promotion, but it’s increasingly being replaced by frustration and disappointment at the lack of ambition we’re showing going forward.

While QSF bemoans the fact that “Goalscorers are very difficult to find in the market” he doesn’t play to the strengths of the strikers he already has, and is preparing to ship his paciest forward who is also our most natural goalscorer. Furthermore, the strikers aren’t being supplied with opportunities – even Aguero wouldn’t score for us. Thus far Jurado has been the very epitome of the Emperor’s new clothes – while WD Sports and others laud him as “possibly the best player to ever wear a Watford shirt”, all I see is a lightweight player with an absence of end product so far – his free-kicks, crosses and corners have been hugely disappointing.

We didn’t need this revolution – keeping hold of Slav and strengthening those areas of weakness with some judicious signings would have given us a fantastic chance of success given our existing strengths. I really hope that the appointment of QSF, the dismantling of an exciting, effective and popular team, and the rigid adoption of an unfamiliar style unsuited to our existing personnel doesn’t spectacularly backfire.

8. MartinG - 30/08/2015

Having got to the Prem playing highly entertaining football under Joka, after his rocky start, maybe QSF’s remit is just keep us there regardless. Even if entertainment value is now zero. Haven’t seen yesterday’s match yet but the Southampton game reminded me of the tail end of the Aidy era when it was an absolute chore to watch the dross on offer. Maybe it will settle down. I hope so, because a season of sideways football is not appealing.

9. John - 30/08/2015

QSF – is he Perryman in disguise ?

Welcome back boys. I needed this. I’m mr positive so if I am feeling the way I am i do have concerns for the doom mungers.

Brilliant report. Love the following …

“the defensive shape on whose altar so much is being sacrificed.”

“visionary if successful in the unforgiving Premier League. If not… there’s an awful lot to get pissed off about! ”

And that’s the rub – 3 points. Defensive stability . We should be sort of okay. But there is a lot of throwing out the baby with the bath water going on and if the Pozzos decide they need a change — what’s left to impact a change.

I can only hope we are about to bring in some unbelievable winger and forward to complement the system. Otherwise Our manager should wise up and adjust his system to suit the ability. players he has at his disposal. And that ain’t 4-2-3-1.

10. Lesley-Anne - 30/08/2015

I agree with much of the comments here. In fact my brother messaged me saying he thought I must have moved to Windsor after reading the comments of Windsor Hornet!!

All I can add is what a disappointment after the excitement of promotion and the anticipation of seeing how our players would fare in the Premier League. I remember saying last season that I felt our players were actually more suited to playing in the Premier League than the Championship which makes it all the more disappointing that the likes of Angella and Vydra have so far not even had a minute on the pitch. I think one of the main reasons I actually wanted us to get promoted was the fear of knowing we would lose half our team if we didn’t. How naive that sounds now!

In my opinion a few additions to last year’s squad would have been all that was needed to at least give it go for the first half of the season. To see those players who played their hearts out for us last season now chucked out or just not given even a chance to show their worth is heartbreaking. I’m all for defending away from home as teams can be caught on the break, as Everton were. I was actually very positive after that game! But since then, oh dear! We should not be the playing the same defensive system at home, especially not against teams like West Brom and Southampton! These are the games that will decide whether we stay up or not and at 0-0 against Southampton to bring on Ben Watson is incredulous!!

We have brought in far too many players, yet there is still talk of more! I sincerely hope not. I hope we play 442 against Swansea with Deeney and Vydra up front but I’ll be surprised if we do. If QSF was even considering a plan B he wouldn’t be talking about Vydra leaving. People say “in Pozzo we trust” but for the first time I’m struggling with that. It’s hard to fathom what is going on at all. It’s going to be a long season.

11. Goldenboy60 - 30/08/2015

Well I’m glad that all of us in one way or another have the same opinion.

We are like watching paint dry. I wonder what GT is thinking now having watched that, even though they may be highlights.

Are we all wrong?

Absolutely NOT.

What worries me is that we had a very together dressing room. Surely this will not be the case now? The lads that came in 3 years ago and even 2 years ago have been fantastic and they deserved some sort of go in the Premier League. They must feel like they have been ‘DONE’.

I’m not criticising the players who played though. It is not their fault that they have been picked and lets be fair most of them have been sort of decent.

But I do have a problem with Jurado being picked a head of a Vydra or Forestieri etc.

I cannot see him as I said before either creating or scoring a goal, and I don’t wish to be personal about this. But he plays safe and yet QSF rates him very highly.

I DON’t GET IT and as i said, we all can’t be wrong.

12. Clive Chamberlain - 30/08/2015

4 2 31 is almost the standard in the Prem (I don’t like it either). I am afraid to say it but I don’t see Deeney & Ighalo playing together in that formation. Swansea went a goal behind to Man Utd and switched to a diamond and 2 up top. Is there a clue there?

Matt Rowson - 30/08/2015

And that’s my gripe with yesterday really. No problem with Plan A. But we only looked like we were trying to remedy the situation for about five minutes.

Goldenboy60 - 31/08/2015

Yes great comment.

Ighalo needs to start further up the pitch. Most of his goals come in and around the six yard box, though we also know he has goals like the Middlesbrough one in his locker. But we are now selling our pace and clever play.

Now our next 3 games are Swansea, Newcastle away and Palace. Any clues as to how we can get close to these teams with the mentality we have at the moment.

Swansea were absolutely first class yesterday and I cannot see us scoring against them, then we have Newcastle. At St James’s Park they are formidable no matter how poor they may be playing and then Palace who have so many goal threats its frightening.

Is this deja vu?

If it is, this will be a massive disappointment, and far away higher than our last 2 visits to the Premier League.

On a positive note, if this system is to be played I would like to see Capoue further up the pitch in the 3. His power, strength and pace could easily assist Troy and I have the feeling that further up the pitch he could put the ball into the net.

Ben Watson can easily fill his role with Behrami.

Perhaps we should remind a negative QSF that the game is actually about scoring more than the opposition. Otherwise I will fall asleep.

13. viewsofthehoffS - 30/08/2015

The end of the Boothroyd era had a lot of goals and was exciting to watch – remember the last game against Blackpool, unfortunately our defence then had all the durability of blancmange. So I don’t think then and now is a great comparison. Whilst I’m not exactly enamoured at the moment, it’s far too early to call to sack QSF, and at least our defence Is in good working order, although we clearly need more if an attacking threat. I loath the way managers are hired and fired far too quickly, and a few bad games makes a minority of fans show all the patience of a child denied sweets.

Good article as always Matt. Mind you I have to say I do find it odd commenting on the same post as my Dad!

MartinG - 31/08/2015

Each to their own. Even though it was going forward, punting the ball 60 yards to the corner flag as a kick-off routine isn’t my idea of exciting football.
You make a very good point about the hiring and firing, after all Joka started very slowly and then picked up. But I think most of the comments are not about sacking QSF but about no apparent Plan B when the super defensive Plan A runs out of steam. The defending has been very good but without any attacking intent we’ll be very boring too watch. And will win very few.

Goldenboy60 - 31/08/2015

We ARE VERY PATIENT people, but we all have enough experience to recognise something before it blows us out of the water. I can see that happening unless things change.

QSF seems a nice enough guy, but he is inexperienced in England. Slavisa had played here so he had a head start.

But the slow and defensive play will not keep us in this league.

14. Manchester City 2 – 0 Watford: Welcome to the Premiership. | The Football Scrapbook - 31/08/2015
15. SteveG - 31/08/2015

What’s striking here is that there is a strong and almost unanimous view that all is not well, which is unusual on a site where optimism and considered opinions are more in evidence than on certain other comment boards one might mention. On the basis of seeing the WBA game live and two commentaries on 3CR I’d ended up reasonably optimistic about the start we’d made, but having read these comments maybe it is more a case of ‘glass half empty’. Swansea will be an interesting test – I can’t believe they’ll come to play for the 0-0 draw.


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