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West Ham Utd v Man City

Filed: Sunday, 1st March 2009
By: Preview Percy

And so, after the disappointment of seeing us exit the cup up at the Riverside we return to “concentrate on the league” against Manchester City for a much-despised 12.30 kick-off.

Much has changed since we went up to Eastlands for the second match of the season. After former owner Thaksin Shiawatra’s spot of bother with the folks back home in Thailand, new owners arrived in the shape of the Abu-Dhabi based – indeed ruling – Al Nahyan family, who at the time were said to be worth something like £14 billion.

The first signs of the largesse that was to be distributed was the almost immediate arrival of Robinho who, urban myth would have us believe, thought he might be signing for some other club up the road, especially since the Al Nahyan family’s investment vehicle is known as “Abu Dhabi United”. The poor (!) mite seemed ever so confused at the welcome press conference when he told the world how great it was to have signed for Chelsea.

Robinho’s tenure at the City of Manchester Stadium – which may be a one season only deal if recent press reports are correct – has been quite eventful one way and another. Back in January he disappeared in a private jet from City’s training camp in Tenerife, resurfacing in Brazil citing an “important family matter” as the reason for his abrupt and unannounced departure.

Whether or not this “important family matter” had anything to do with his subsequent arrest on his return to Blighty in connection with allegations of a sexual assault in a Leeds nightclub is not known. However more than one person has remarked that Mr De Souza (as the Yorkshire plod no doubt called him during the interview) would be far from the first person to leg it out of the country to Brazil to avoid having his collar felt.

Reports also suggest that the Brazilian is far from the most popular player amongst his team-mates either. Certain club rules – such as the wearing of club blazers and ties on official trips – appear not to apply to Robinho, a fact that didn’t escape the attention of a certain C Bellamy esq who apparently wasted no time in making his views on the subject known.

Ah yes, Mr Bellamy. I guess that when your team signs someone like that you know what sort of person you are getting and you hope that he’ll change. Sadly it was not to be, the leopard did not change his spots (or whatever that ridiculous tattoo is) and off he went, ungratefully leaving an employer that had stood by him through lengthy spells of injury with the kind of petulant strop that has become his trademark over the years.

Apparently it was all about ambition – though quite how Bellamy squares this excuse with the fact that he would have been happy to go to Tottenham I have no idea. How long City fans have to wait before he does something similar to them will probably depend on how far down the pecking order the Welshman goes when Abu Dhabi United splashes the cash in the summer.

They spent a few bob this window, mind. Wayne Bridge arrived from Chelsea and Shay Given came in from Newcastle having finally run out of patience with the goings on at St James’ Park. Given’s arrival seems a little harsh on Joe Hart who had broken into the full England squad earlier in the year and, fine ‘keeper though Given undoubtedly is, there were a number of City supporters who questioned whether the no.1 spot was really where the owners ought to be slinging their petro-dollars.

City’s current form has been a bit mixed of late – they currently lie one spot and one point behind us in 10th place. Their away form has been indifferent – their only win on the road to date has been over at Sunderland where they prevailed 3-0 all the way back in August. Since then they have drawn 5 and lost 7 away from Eastlands. Their overall form over the last six premiership matches has seen them win 3, draw 2 and lose 1. Their last Premiership outing came at Anfield where a lateish Scouse equaliser saw them share the points with Liverpool in a 1-1 draw.

In front of Given up at Anfield were Richards, Onuoha, Bridge and skipper Dunne. Shaun Wright-Phillips will be missing from the City midfield through suspension (rather than the 3 year-long medical he’s supposed to be undertaking at the Boleyn!). His place will be taken by another recent arrival Nigel DeJong who will probably line-up in a four-man midfield alongside Zabaleta, Kompany and Ireland, with Bellamy and Robinho up front.

February was a poor month for us - especially the last two weeks or so. The defeat to Bolton was disappointing because we were clearly the better team whilst the defeat in the Cup at Boro’ was equally disappointing because we weren’t. At Boro’ the reshuffled midfield was a reshuffle too far as players struggled to cope with unfamiliar roles and personnel. Carlton Cole appeared to still be suffering the effects of the ankle injury obtained in the first Boro’ match and this meant that Sears often found himself playing with his back to goal, which is far from being his major strength.

It was also strange to see Tristan introduced rather than Savio when the game seemed to be crying out for somebody to take on the opposition. Further changes to the midfield will be required as Mark Noble, who has looked like he has been in need of a rest for a few weeks now, will be suspended. I’d expect Collison to be restored to the starting XI with another chance being given to Kovac, whose debut in the cup was less than auspicious, responsible as he was for the unnecessary free-kick for their first.

After a few weeks in January where the football all came together we’ve gone off the boil a bit and whilst February wasn’t quite the “New October”, injuries and a drop in form have shown up the lack of depth in quality in the squad. Though City’s away form hasn’t been great, we are still in need of a pick-me-up and I’m not convinced it’s going to come this week. As a result I’ll opt for an unconvincing 1-1 draw as we hobble towards the infamous 40 point target.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: Lost 2-0. Lots of optimism for City as Sven Goran Eriksson’s new signings ran the game on the opening day of the season.

Danger man: Bellamy; bound to score isn’t he.

Look out for: Moron referee Mike Dean. His continued presence on the so called Select Group is a two-fingered insult to every football supporter in the country.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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