Tuesday, 25 November 2008

FootballFanCast.com- Robinho article

Back in August, the media speculation about Robinho coming to England to play Premier League football was in overdrive. The only club who could realistically afford his wages, Chelsea, looked set to land the want-away Brazilian striker from Real Madrid.

That was, until, Manchester City became the richest football club in the world. Transfer deadline day was dominated by the news that super-rich Arabs had launched a bid to buy Shinawatra’s shares from City and, when the news was confirmed, City immediately went about making an impact by making enquiries in the transfer market for some of the most sought-after names in football. David Villa, Ruud van Nistelrooy and even a cheeky last-minute bid to hijack Manchester United’s Dimitar Berbatov transfer were all names linked with the Eastlands club.

But what hadn’t been anticipated was the activity that was happening over in Madrid concerning City and a 24 year old Brazilian. Chelsea were so confident they had signed Robinho that they had printed his name on hundreds of replica shirts ready for the sales rush from excited fans.

It didn’t happen. In a dramatic last-minute conclusion to an already hectic deadline day, the transfer of Robinho from Real Madrid to the Premier League for a record fee of £32.5 million was confirmed- although it wasn’t to Chelsea, much to Luiz Felipe Scolari’s fury. It was to now super-rich Manchester City, who offered a higher wage package.

Immediately, critics and pundits alike scoffed and ridiculed the very idea that Robinho would be a successful player at Manchester City. His move was slated by Pele, who suggested that Robinho was in need of “some serious counselling” after snubbing the chance to play for Chelsea. In fact, it was perhaps only City manager Mark Hughes that understandably praised the move. Whatever the backlash, Robinho became a bona fide City player and boy, hasn’t he made an impact.

Immediately the City store sold a record number of replica shirts with his name on the back. He scored his first goal, a superb free kick, on his debut against Chelsea and has never looked back. Influential all over the field, a player of his calibre has the ability to create something out of absolutely nothing and leave the opposition players reeling in his wake.

At first, it seemed such an odd move. But now it’s blossomed and flourished and both parties appreciate one another for who they are. Manchester City. The unequivocal darlings of the English media. Although no media outlet would dare admit it, the tabloids all love the drama that resonates from Eastlands on a regular basis. Robinho- the superstar, cocky Brazilian. The man with enough trickery in his arsenal to beat Arsene Wenger’s men 3-0 almost single-handedly.

Robinho has come across as having quite a quirky character too. He has made it perfectly clear that he loves the attention he laps up from City fans: the headline ‘City fans think I’m God’, taken from a popular red-top tabloid, speaks volumes. Missing the start of the Wigan game because he was milking the Blue army’s applause, suggests a player with a very high opinion of himself.

Why not? £32.5 million worth of talent, and it’s proving to be paying off already. Grabbing a hat-trick against Stoke, Robinho outlined his intentions after that game to score 30 goals this current season. He is still understandably struggling with the physical aspect of the game, and does get barged off the ball. But when he’s running at the opposition, baffling them with his samba skill and genius, he is utterly captivating. A joy to have in the Premier League. A joy to watch.

He has also been grabbing the headlines for other, more comical reasons. His deal at City is estimated at £6 million a year, yet he was spotted getting public transport to the Trafford Centre with his girlfriend. He allegedly watches Coronation Street to try and improve his understanding of the English language, leading to him developing a nickname at Carrington training ground as ‘Ken’. When he was appointed captain against Hull City, he took his responsibilities very seriously, approaching the referee every time with caution, hands held politely behind his back when querying decisions. These humorous anecdotes only add to his character and help to soften his cocky persona.

Robinho’s latest display, against Arsenal in City’s 3-0 victory at Eastlands, was nothing short of amazing. His goal was an example of why the beautiful game is so attractive and mesmerising. He links up consistently well with Shaun Wright-Phillips and Stephen Ireland, supplying a dangerous attack for City. A lot of sceptics thought that he wouldn’t want to ‘muck in’ and help his team out, whereas the truth is that he plays a fine team game and encourages everybody playing around him by tracking back and running all over the pitch. His work-rate is exemplary: the home game against Tottenham Hotspur was a fine example of this, a display that saw him rewarded with the captain’s armband at the KC stadium.

What does the future hold for the Brazilian? Rumours are flying around at the moment linking him with a move to Chelsea, but Robinho has spoken out adamantly today. He said: "Chelsea? This question belongs to the past. I'm a City player and I only think about making the club successful.“I don't regret the choice I've made - I'm very happy at the club."

Believe the hype, we’ve got Robinho- and he’s going nowhere.

Monday, 24 November 2008


City’s Brazilian on fire to gun down Wenger’s men
A sublime Robinho goal condemned Arsene Wenger's Arsenal to their fifth league defeat this season as they were beaten comprehensively 3-0 by Manchester City at Eastlands.
A goal from in-form Stephen Ireland and a late penalty from Danny Sturridge piled more misery on Wenger, who had dropped his captain William Gallas for his brutal comments in the media leading up to the match.
Captain Richard Dunne was back from suspension and looked much improved as City's defence looked strong and played well together as a unit, with Richards and Dunne looking a useful partnership again. The defence wasn’t scared to put a foot in or move forward.
But it was Robinho was produced an all-round display of splendour. His chip over Manuel Almunia was an example of why the game is just so beautiful. The Brazilian ran Wenger’s men riot and stole the show.

The first half was littered with tense and nervous exchanges, which made for quite a dull match for the viewer. Both teams had a couple of chances, but it was the home side that made the breakthrough just before half time. Arsenal’s defence faltered, with Gael Clichy slicing a clearance. It fell to Stephen Ireland, and the in-form midfielder made no mistake with a confident finish past Almunia.
City emerged in the second half with confidence and flair and it was once again the fine skills of Robinho that saw Mark Hughes’ side double their lead. Shaun Wright-Phillips, fresh from an impressive performance for England in mid-week, laid an inch-perfect pass on for Robinho, who then exquisitely chipped the stranded Almunia to make it 2-0 to City.

Robinho could have had a hat-trick if his back-heel wouldn’t have been ruled offside, he also forced Almunia in producing a couple of fine saves and had an effort cleared off the line by Johan Djourou.

Arsenal did have a couple of efforts, with Niklas Bendtner shooting straight at Joe Hart and Robin Van Persie’s goal being disallowed for unsporting behaviour after he took the ball off Hart. But City were dominant in attack and increased their lead further when substitute Daniel Sturridge was fouled by Djourou. He coolly finished the resulting penalty in style, topping off a miserable day for Wenger and Arsenal.

City can take many positives away from the result. Although Robinho ran the show, Ireland once again looked hungry, passionate and devoted. More footballers should look to him as a great example and he will hopefully develop into a superb player. Both Elano and Sturridge came on and looked hungry and like they wanted to prove a point, although their time was limited. Although the left back position has been an issue for a while at City, Javier Garrido has been putting in decent performances of late. Wright-Phillips looked confident and fiery after international duty and his pass for Robinho’s goal was pinpoint accuracy.
Perhaps now City can build on this result to try and piece together some consistency. They face a very difficult week; Schalke away in the group stages of the UEFA Cup and Manchester United at home on Sunday. With City you never know what to expect, hopefully Hughes’ Blues can continue to impress and with Robinho on fire it will never be dull!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

FootballFanCast.com- Reality Check article

Football FanCast columnist Emily Brobyn reflects on a rocky time at her beloved Manchester City and calls on her fellow City fans to show patience.

When the Abu Dhabi United Group for Development (ADUD) made their move for the takeover of Manchester City Football Club on transfer deadline day, it shook the football world to its very core. Pundits, critics and fans alike were completely stunned at the move that transformed City from a mediocre club to the richest club in the world. On the same day, to signal their intent, City signed one of the world's best players for £32.5 million- Brazilian ace Robinho.This kind of development at a football club immediately puts pressure on the team to produce results and progress almost to a higher standard than first expected. City have been no exception. Since the 'money' has arrived, it almost seems like people has expected instant success and for the Blues to rocket into the Champions League places simply due to the fact that they can afford to sign any player now and their wealth dwarfs Chelsea's Roman Abramovich's.

The thing is that time needs to be taken to carefully assess which players are not up to the challenge that lies ahead (and right now to be honest) and which players are available and are required to help with the task at hand. It doesn't help that some of City's fans are quick to jump onto Mark Hughes' back and demand that he is relieved of his duties as manager only four months since joining the club. Like I always say, Rome wasn't built in a day. Instant success was never going to happen this season, and perhaps it hinders Hughes that Sven had such a good start last season at the club.

Maybe fans are comparing that situation with this. But the last thing we need is to be manager-less at this stage of the season. The new owner Khaldoon Al Mubarak has issued Hughes with a vote of confidence- now City fans need to do the same. Stop all this petty speculation about Jose Mourinho- why would he want to leave Inter Milan for City, for a position kind of similar to something he has already been in within the Premier League? Recent headlines suggest the Brazilian contingency are unhappy with Hughes' management style- don't believe everything you read. This kind of sensational speculation reporting is designed to create disharmony within fans and to cause panic, to sway followers against their pressured manager. Have your own opinions instead of buying into a tabloid article that is written simply to cause chaos.

Another thing is- the players. At the moment there seems to be indifferent levels of confidence in the team. Nobody could ever doubt the soaring confidence level that Robinho has- and that his ability has the power to win City games and influence other players around him. But the disastrous form of captain Richard Dunne seems to be affecting the team as a whole- his recent own goals and howling error against Tottenham on Sunday have cost City valuable points and league places. The imminent three match ban that the Republic of Ireland international will serve for the sending off should prove to be make or break for him- whether City miss him and he can gain his confidence back with a break from the game, or whether it's time to start finding a genuine replacement for him.

Of course, the blame doesn't lie solely with Dunne. Micah Richards has been suffering with form too and I personally believe that his best position is at right back, where he can link up dangerously with Shaun Wright-Phillips, but then where would Pablo Zabaleta go? We desperately need to invest in a quality and reliable left back, a position I feel is our most troubled. Should Vincent Kompany play in defence instead of midfield? The problem with City's midfield at the moment is there is a plethora of flair players but a lack of gritty midfielders who can boss the engine room and win possession to create attacks. At the moment everything from the opposition seems to be going through City's 'soft centre', and players are getting dispossessed far too easily. We need the kind of players who can get a foot on the ball and take the game by the scruff of the neck.

The financial revolution at City has seen them transformed into a scalp. The mega-rich club that every team wants to beat, especially at Eastlands. Opposition teams seem to take great pride in defeating the club that the media always seem to build up for a fall. Realistically Eastlands should be a fortress that rival teams fear on the fixture list, but again that will come with the development of a team worthy of securing results and putting fear into fellow Premier League sides.

No fixture at the moment is a 'safe bet'. No City fan can look at the fixture list and be confident of securing a point, or three for that matter, purely because there is no consistency in results and form. Take Stoke at home for example. With no disrespect to Stoke, I should have gone to that game pretty confident of a win, but I had a niggly feeling that something might go wrong. On that occasion it happened to be The Robinho Show, with the Brazilian securing his first hat-trick. But then it was Bolton away. Going into the game City had the better form and confidence and Gary Megson's team were definitely there for the taking. But sloppy play and schoolboy errors saw City go down to a 2-0 defeat, another three points let slip.

As a City fan, I have seen a lot worse at the club, and I mean a lot. We all have. Things need to be sorted quickly though; looking at the fixture list at the moment makes for uncomfortable viewing and I can't predict where the points are going to come from. We have a difficult group in the UEFA Cup and Schalke away is quickly approaching. Keep the faith, good things come to those who wait. If we want to be a success and do it right, time is needed for that.

Dunne off as Bent spurs Harry to victory
Another suicidal performance from Manchester City captain Richard Dunne helped condemn Mark Hughes’ side to a dismal 2-1 defeat against in-form Tottenham Hotspur.

Despite the visitors starting the brightest, it was City who took the lead in the 16th minute. Shaun Wright-Phillips broke well down the right and set up Darius Vassell, whose shot was parried by Heurelho Gomes, only to land at the feet of Robinho. He made no mistake of firing home and giving City the lead. Ireland went close to doubling City’s lead on 24 minutes but Gomes produced a good save.

But it was on 26 minutes when the match was turned completely on its head. Gelson Fernandes committed a challenge on David Bentley- and was promptly dismissed for his second bookable offence, after first fouling Luka Modric. The decision had an immediate impact as Luka Modric forced Joe Hart into a spectacular save.

But it was inevitable that the equaliser would come, and calamity captain Richard Dunne played a big part in it. Dunne completely missed a long ball from Modric, allowing Darren Bent to pounce and slot home under Joe Hart. The City players’ confidence had been shot at and Spurs thrived on the home side’s sloppy passing and technical inadequacy.

After the break, Spurs continued to dominate possession and Modric was at the heart of every Spurs attack. But City refused to lie down and die; Wright-Phillips had an effort saved by Gomes, who was also forced into making a sublime saved after Dunne’s header from a Garrido cross had powered towards goal.

City’s resistance was futile and Redknapp’s team took the lead on 65 minutes when Jermaine Jenas’ through ball found the in-form Bent, who shot the ball home off the post. But the Blues didn’t give up hope and Robinho continued to rally the troops. In the 75th minute his 25 yard shot was palmed past the post by the active Gomes. Gomes was once again forced into action when Stephen Ireland shot at close range.

City misery continued on 83 minutes when Dunne hacked down Bent as he was through on goal. Mike Dean had no option but to show the red card to the defender who had blatantly fouled the Spurs striker who would have possibly gained a hat-trick. Card-happy Dean continued to flash the red cards on the 90th minute when Assou-Ekotto committed a harsh foul on Pablo Zabaleta.

The result condemned City to another defeat and Dunne’s glaring error raising questions about his place as captain and defender in the side. Dunne wasn’t the only one to blame- Spurs took full advantage of City’s 10-men handicap and Modric controlled everything through midfield- an area where City lack grit and power. Micah Richards is struggling with form and, although Dietmar Hamann is just the type of player the Blues need, he is struggling to cope with the fast pace of the Premier League nowadays. With City just two points off the bottom of the table, Sunday’s game at Hull will prove to be a six-pointer and unfortunately one that Hughes must win if he is to keep the fans, critics and new owners at bay, despite today’s vote of confidence.

Sunday, 9 November 2008


Another howler from City captain gifts Bolton the points
On paper, this game should realistically have been a convincing away victory. In reality it was far from it. City went into the game riding high on the back of a superb 3-0 win against Stoke. Bolton were low on confidence and form after a home defeat at the hands of Everton.

It should have been a forgone conclusion. In fact, it was a hapless, hopeless display from the visitors. City played like a bunch of over-paid schoolboys, lacking penetration in attack and looking unreliable and nervy in defence.

However, Mark Hughes' men had the best chances in a very dull first half. Ched Evans and Stephen Ireland went close but their efforts were thwarted by Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen, and a Robinho effort whistled over the crossbar.

The second half began with Robinho going close again for City, but Bolton began to grow in confidence and gain possession. Kevin Nolan went close but it was in the 77th minute that substitute Ricardo Gardner broke the deadlock. City pushed for an equaliser but looked unconvincing, and their offence attempts left them exposed and vulnerable.

A second Bolton goal always looked inevitable and it came in the form of yet another Richard Dunne own goal. Dunne intercepted a Gardner cross that was intended for Kevin Davies, and duly directed it into his own net.

In all honesty, the three points were well-deserved to the home side who took full advantage of a very poor City performance that highlighted several issues within the City camp. For me, Dunne lacks leadership as a captain and question marks remain over whether he is a solid enough defender. Micah Richards is giving Hughes a bit of a headache as to which position he performs in the best (it's right back for me Mark) and Pablo Zabaleta needs to calm down a bit- he's a rash defender who is hot-headed and is going to be a regular feature in the referee's notebook if he isn't careful.

Too much is being expected from Vincent Kompany as a holding midfielder. City have missed the kind of role that is played so well by the injured Michael Johnson, and is Dietmar Hamann simply too old now to fulfil the role required from him? As for Ched Evans- the Welsh striker has great potential, but is he capable of spearheading a Premier League attack at such a young age?

There are many questions and points being raised after City's dismal performance, but the one point I don't agree with is that certain people are already beginning to question Mark Hughes' role as manager at the club. He has only been in the position for a matter of months, give the guy a chance and get off his back. The last thing City need is for the mood to turn unsavoury towards the players and staff. Keep the faith, City may be the most unpredictable team but at least life is never ever dull following them!