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Manchester City v West Ham United

Filed: Friday, 26th August 2016
By: Preview Percy

If you happen to be located near Preview Percy in the Olympic Stadium, be assured if he doesn't stand up it's not that he doesn't "love West Ham". It's just that by the time he got up last time everyone else had sat down. Here's his look at this weekend's visit to Manchester City...."

Next up we pay a visit to what, once upon a time, was referred to as “The City Of Manchester Stadium” where our hosts will be Manchester City. Kick-off is 4pm on Sunday for the benefit of those who like their tv signals to take a slight detour via the final frontier. There are engineering works on the Sunday in the Northampton area which will mean a reduced service to and from Manchester Piccadilly so, given that the last time we were in town the railway authorities up there showed all the intellectual capacity of a Spurs supporter confronted with a “join the dots” book, you may want to have a think about your exit strategy post-match.

So City then. Top of the league after two games for what it’s worth. 6 points and a plus four goal difference keeps them above the team from Salford on goals scored. It’s been an odd couple of games so far. They could have been out of sight in their opener against Sunderland but took their foot of the gas to allow a Defoe equaliser. They ended up relying on an OG to send them home with all three points. Last weekend they raced into an early lead courtesy of one of Mike Dean’s “look at me everyone” penalties before another of Mike Dean’s “look at me everyone” penalties brought Stoke back into the match. Although the Citizens ended up 4-1 winners it was generally suggested that the final scoreline was a tad flattering.

Pep Guardiola started his new job during the summer and wasted no time in splashing the cash. The work experience girl wearing a Durutti Column T-Shirt without knowing who they are (or, if you prefer, who he is) tells me that the biggest fee paid by them this window (so far) is the £47.5m that went along the M62 to Merseyside where it was exchanged for Everton’s John Stones. Stones had a patchy season last term – whilst undoubtedly he has talent there was a marked tendency for him to get caught out in trying to bring the ball out from the back on occasion. However, it’s clearly a trait that the Citizens believe they can work on and the high fee is, in part, a reflection of the premium that English players command in the market these days.

The next largest fee paid was the £37m paid to Schalke for midfielder Leroy Sane. That fee could rise by another £6-9m or so (the exchange rate has been all over the place thanks to “Brexit”) depending on the usual clauses involving winning the Eurovision Song Contest and Masterchef etc. Sane is a right sided player who was widely regarded as “one to watch” by the Bundesliga cognoscenti (is that a word one can use about Germans?) and the 20 year-old went to the Euros in Summer. He appears to have been largely taken along for the ride, though he did get 11 minutes at the end of the Germans’ defeat to France in the semi-final. However, possibly the most remarkable thing of note about this player is the manner in which I have been able to get to the end of the paragraph without making some sort of “nut-job” joke about his surname. As if to prove it’s not just us who suffer from new signing syndrome, Sane is on the sick list for this one. A hamstring problem means that his therapy is physio rather than psycho and he will be away until mid-September.

Possibly the most interesting position at the moment from a transfer perspective is that of goalkeeper. Firstly there’s the Richard “Not the deceased Pink Floyd keyboard player” Wright retirement. Wright signed for the Citizens four years ago as back up to Joe Hart. In those four years he played precisely zero (count ‘em) games before retiring this summer having ”earned” a reported £4m in the process. Which is nice work if you can get it, In the meantime if anyone from City is reading this, towards the end of my playing career I regularly played in goal and would be quite happy to not play for you for a mere £500k per year. This represents a 50% reduction in payments to those made to the previous incumbent. Hell I will even stay here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered so you don’t have to shell out for travel expenses. In fact if any club* in the league require someone to come and not play for them for that sort of money just give me a shout (*expect Spurs obviously. I do have standards).

Still on the goalkeeping front I’ve always been of the opinion that, although a capable custodian, Joe Hart is and has never been quite as good as he or the newspapers would have had us believe, despite his having overcome dandruff to get the England no.1 shirt. His poor showing in Euro 2016 would appear to back up this theory (though frankly I defer anyone not to play like a nervous wreck with 5 Spurs players in front of them). It would appear that my view is one that is shared by Guardiola, who has plumped for Willy Caballero so far in the league this season. If that wasn’t bad enough, it appears that talks to sign Barcelona’s Bravo are (as I write) currently at an advanced stage and assuming the move completes as planned Hart will effectively be condemned to a role as 3rd choice ‘keeper.

Despite Guardiola’s rather amusing attempts to talk up the 2nd leg of their play-off against Steua the other night (“we’re only 5-0 up – what if we get someone sent off early on?” was the gist of it) it was clear that the match was being used to give a rest to some players he considers to be first-choice. Hence Hart’s probably valedictory presence twixt the sticks. The match turned into a sort of love-in ending with the unusual sight (outside Anfield) of a player doing a lap of honour after a routine 1-0 win. It seems likely that Hart’s initial departure will be on loan somewhere though at the time of writing there’s little information as to where that will be. Meanwhile we should be grateful for his prompting of one of the funnier comments from Euro 16, it being said that his blunders were taking up most of the time available on the FA’s Bonnie Tyler-introduced official DVD of Euro 16 that it was now totally clips of Joe Hart. (That one works better if you read it out loud. I am assured).

Sergio Aguero is on a bit of a roll at the moment. Six in his last three games, including a hat-trick and two missed penalties in the Steua away leg. He is also beginning to build up a Lukaku-like record against ourselves. Superb player who lets himself down with the occasional bout of “simulation” which, it appears, is not on the list of things referees are bothered with this season if Chelsea are anything to go by. The sad fact was that a player was infinitely more likely to be booked for complaining about Costa’s dive at Watford last week than Costa was to be booked, especially as he now appears to have immunity from cautions this season.

There is a doubt over youngster Kelechi Ineanacho who pulled up lame and was stretchered off with a calf muscle problem against Steua the other night. I don’t mean this as a criticism of the player himself per se but back in the day, when I were a lad stretchers were only used for broken legs or career threatening injuries. Maybe not even that if you were Stuart Pearce. I realise clubs have to protect their players and, yes, medical concerns must take priority (eh Jose?) but I do get nostalgic for the time when such matters were dealt with by a bloke in a flat cap with a fag dangling out of his mouth armed only with a sponge, which, occasionally, might be wet if the sub hadn’t tripped over the bucket while warming up, rather than the complete cast of “Casualty”. When we faced them at the Boleyn in what was a splendid game of football last season it was arguably Ineanacho’s introduction that salvaged his side a point, his running at defenders causing all sorts of problems.

September 10 seems to be a magic date for the Citizens. As well as being the date pencilled in for Sane’s return to fitness that is also the day slated for a return for Vincent Kompany who, like Sane, also returned to training this week. Kompany had surgery back in Nay for a thigh problem, which kept him out of Belgium’s slightly underwhelming Euro 16 campaign where he would have featured along with midfield engine room Kevin De Bruyne. De Bruyne arrived last season for something like £55m, a figure that had Chelsea supporters spluttering into their skinny cappuccinos: “Didn’t we used to have a player with that name?” De Bruyne’s first goal for the club came in the corresponding fixture last season.

If Belgium, with all that talent, were underwhelming at Euro 16, then the performances of Raheem Sterling were even less, er, whelming. Not to put too fine a point on it he had a complete ‘mare of a tournament. It wasn’t totally his fault of course. He didn’t have the most, er, whelming of seasons last year either and was in and out of the City side like an undecided referendum voter. Under those circumstances it was unfair of Hodgson to take him all things being considered. Like Harry Kane he should have been banished to the bench when it became apparent during the first match that he wasn’t up to the job and he should certainly have never have been near the infamous Iceland match where England’s “finest” were knocked out by a bunch of warehousemen from a food supermarket. However, Sterling suffered from Hodgson’s “rich club? Must be good” policy which did us so proud out in France. From what I have seen the introduction of a new manager at City has rejuvenated him a bit and his form this term so far is much improved.

Ok how about us. Well we made Bournemouth hard work though much of that can be attributed to our fielding a somewhat makeshift XI. I was pleased for Antonio who’s had a rough season so far. His goal was a typical Antonio finish and it was clear that the team were as pleased for him as we were. As for Astra, well, as the boss said on Thursday night it was both frustrating and disappointing. The visitors came with their two rows of four in the hope of surviving long enough to pick up something on the break and as a plan it worked perfectly. Throw in the worst lot of diving seen outside Anfield and a referee more gullible than a Spurs fan and you pretty much had the perfect storm. What we learnt was that, as Mr Bilic has already said on more than one occasion, we do not have the depth in the squad to mount both a sustained Premier League campaign and one in Europe. Take seven first XI players out of the occasion and we end up with able but naïve kids who basically fell into every trap set for them. Even then we had enough good chances to put the thing to bed in the second half. The keeper had one of those days and if we had had a spot of consistency in the refereeing a stonewall penalty would have helped – there was infinitely more contact on Fletcher than any one of a dozen “fouls” awarded to our opponents on the night. So disappointing as it was the silver lining is that we won’t have to face the regular Sunday-Thursday-Sunday thing with a squad that, when all fit, can cope with one competition but not four.

Prediction? Well we are still feeling our way into this season whilst City have maximum points from their openers, though there were occasions in both games where their opponents could have seized the initiative. Though players are slowly beginning to drift back from injury – Lanzini and Payet should be at least in the squad - I think that the probable absence of Payet from the starting line-up may prove telling as we struggle to get a settled first XI out. Although we exceeded expectations on this ground last season I suspect that this match comes about three weeks to early for us, which is a shame. So the £2.50 we collected to contribute to Richard “Not the deceased keyboard player with Pink Floyd” Wright’s retirement fund will be placed on a 2-1 home win just as soon as we can get down to Winstone’s the Turf Accountants to stick the bet on.

Enjoy The Game!

When Last We Met In Manchester: Won 2-1 (League September 2015) A fine first half saw us take a 2-0 lead through Moses and Sakho. De Bruyne’s leveller before the break was not what the doctor ordered. They worked out what we had been doing to them in the second half and Adrian had to be on top form as they threw the kitchen sink at us. And missed.

Referee: Andre Marriner. One of those who probably has the lack of proper assessment of referees in this country to thank for still being in a job. Every week referees are given a different aspect of the laws of the game to concentrate on, doing the full set properly being beyond most of them. This week Mr Marriner will be concentrating on making sure that corners are not taken from outside the quadrant.

Danger Man: Sergio Aguero. Good start to the season which he will want to keep going. And if that doesn’t work he will dive a bit.

Percy’s PoserLast week we asked you for the name of the Italian restaurant in Bournemouth that has been co-owned by Harry Redknapp. The answer, which can be found on pages 8, 11,19, 29, 42, 55, 56, 58, 59 70 and pretty much every other page of Redknapp’s autobiography is, of course, Lorenzo’s.

The first correct entry submitted via the red button came from Elizabeth Hiatus-Hernia of Chadwell St Mary. Elizabeth also told us “I ate there once. I didn’t enjoy it”. Well we hope that the prize of an A Level in Pure Maths will make up for that disappointment. Well done Elizabeth!

For this week’s poser we look at this week’s opponents. Manchester City famously used to play at Maine Road. But why was a grotty part of a grim northern city named after a US East Coast State? The first correct answer picked by our HAL 2000 computer will receive a copy of the club’s official sticker album with a space for Billy Bonds’ photo. If we can find one.

Good luck!

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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