Monday, 30 October 2017

WAKE ME UP WHEN SEPTEMBER ENDS...(AND PINCH ME TOO)...




It’s hard to believe that this time last month I was sitting down in front of my laptop preparing to write about the indifferent start to the season that City had made. I used the terms/clich├ęs, ‘new signings bedding in’ and ‘no excuses for Pep this season’.

People were questioning our defence. People wondered if, despite our Summer spending spree, Pep’s squad was big enough. People even wondered whether Sergio would break Eric Brook’s top goal scorer record this season.

There were plenty of questions, but it was too early for many answers.

Then came September.

WAKE ME UP WHEN SEPTEMBER ENDS

I love October. The crisp Autumn air signalling the end of Summer. Hallowe’en fun and frolics with my children, with pumpkin picking and trick or treating aplenty. But I especially love October this year because City entered it on the back of an entirely unbeaten month. September was a 100% win record for Pep: 7/7, sitting top of the class on goal difference at the time of going to press. The first time we’ve won our opening two Champions League games. What a time to be alive.

I felt reasonably confident going into the Liverpool game, but I don’t think anybody could’ve predicted what followed. The Scousers will moan that the Mane high boot/decapitation attempt on Ederson (in which intent is irrelevant) changed the game and it did to the extent that it eliminated the threat from their star player, but the capitulation that followed from Klopp’s side was nothing short of astounding. No red card should see your side fold the way they did: what more, Klopp had no response to it. He didn’t react or change his side to cope effectively – a manager held in such as high regard as Klopp shouldn’t be as embarrassed as he rightly was with such a score-line.

But the 5-0 result was nothing more that City deserved. Sane’s incredible last minute effort capped off a stunning team performance that set the tone for what was to follow in a truly spellbinding month for the Blues. A 4-0 win at Feyenoord and a 6-0 win at previously unbeaten Watford. A 2-1 victory at West Brom in the Carabao Cup was followed by a 5-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at the Etihad.  A 2-0 triumph over Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League with the cherry on the cake, a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge, home of the current Premier League Champions, Chelsea.

25 goals scored and just one conceded. That should put to bed any doubts anybody had over our defence. Let’s really take the time to give credit where it’s due and heap praise – on everybody. From the back to the front, it’s been a colossally enthralling month of truly bedazzling football. It’s been the kind of football we expect from a Pep side, but don’t ever dream for a second we’d be lucky to watch week in, week out. It’s what we thought could happen, with a squad so gifted. A squad littered with pace, youth, energy, experience and efficiency. The perfect blend with the potential for a seismic impact – September was the month City arrived. For when questions have been asked, players have delivered in abundance.

Ederson – stretchered off so dramatically in the Liverpool game – has been a dream in goal. We don’t have to worry when the balls goes near him, we trust in him, we know he can handle the situation. He brings an almost eerie calm behind the defence: his decision making has been almost flawless, his bravery is to be commended and his distribution – well, it ranks up there with the best outfield players. He’s the goalkeeper you need to reassure you: sensible, respected and mature. He gets on with his job with gusto and is proving to be quite the acquisition.

Kyle Walker and Danilo – equally as impressive, adaptable, pacy and solid as each other. ,Mendy was looking an unyielding character in that left back position before his injury, with his first time crosses a particular favourite of time. John Stones – what a month it’s been for him. He started September with many still doubting his capabilities, but I think all doubt can be laid to rest now. He’s developed into a figurehead at the back, forging a formidable and unforgiving partnership with Otamendi. They’ve been good for each other – and due to Kompany’s injury absence, have grown both together and as individually solid defenders. Otamendi still worries me with those sliding, lunging tackles, but thankfully he’s come out of most of them well recently so I can forgive him! Stones? Well, he is potentially looking a little reminiscent of a certain former Chelsea captain. Potential City captain in the not-so-distant future? Maybe.

Fernandinho is always an unsung hero, bridging the gap between defence and midfield. When a player goes about his business almost unrecognised and without much fuss, it usually means that he’s doing a pretty good job, and that is exactly what Fernandinho is about. He’s just doing a really, really good job. Head down, focused and consistent. Not as combustible as Nigel De Jong, not as studious as Gareth Barry, but just as good as his job. Every team needs a Fernandinho – we’re just lucky he chose us.

The midfielders. The creative types: the ones who really weave their wands and work their magic to produce such trickery and flair. Raheem Sterling: the one with the hefty price tag at such a young age. An England youngster with the weight of expectation on his shoulders, he’s flying at the heart of a confident team with encouragement all around him. Sterling is working hard to prove those doubters wrong and knows he has to be part of a winning squad to succeed. Leroy Sane – such remarkable energy and footwork. Scoring magnificent goals and thriving amongst a team so excitable and remarkable. David Silva being David Silva. His namesake Bernardo just as mesmerising. Wonderful to see Gundogan back from injury and looking just as electrifying as before. He holds a soft spot for me because he has so many shades of Kinkladze. The dinks and vision take me back to the brightest light in the 1990s during the darkest time – we’ve only just begun to see what he’s capable of.

Kevin De Bruyne – I’m running out of adjectives. It’s been that kind of a month. I don’t think I’ve ever said that. Incredulous to believe a Chelsea reject could go back to Stamford Bridge and absolutely run the show – just for the visiting team this time. He’s the kind of player you should rightly weep about when you let him slip through your fingers – the conductor at the heart of a City orchestra that has been playing the most enchanting of symphonies. His vision is exemplary; he’s knitted together the attacks with stupendous wonder. Out of everybody, at a push he’d been my pick for player of the month.

Aguero and Jesus? Of course they can play together. They compliment each other and the team spirit has even made Sergio pretty generous when it comes to assisting instead of shooting – worth noting, particularly with that record in his reach.

Have to also give a mention to Fabian Delph. He was mocked in the Summer for not wanting a move to Stoke and for wanting to stay and fight for his place at City.

‘Fight for his place? More like to earn a tidy wage by being happy to be a benchwarmer,’ they mocked.

Well, he stayed and he has worked hard to fight for a place in the team. Never mind *that* goal against Crystal Palace, but his performance against Chelsea even left Mendy nervous in his hospital bed. Delph should be commended for having the right attitude and for being willing to adapt to suit the team’s needs. A consummate professional whose endeavours have been rewarded – I love it when players prove people wrong.

I’ve mentioned team spirit there a couple of times, but the last time I saw such a team spirit was probably the early days of the Mancini era. The players are working for each other and it just works. It’s an utter delight to watch and it’s hard to keep our feet on the ground – but we have to, because this is City and we never know what’s around the corner. But the energy, the movement, the vision, the attitude and persistence is what sets this team apart. They’ve got each other’s backs. They know they’re all in it together. They are willing to fight for each other and together. They support each other on social media and include the fans, which also does make a big difference. We’re allowed an insight into their interaction with each other and we see bonding and giving a shit. That Trafford lot may be over our shoulders, but they’ve yet to play any of the big sides and we’ve overcome our biggest test yet.

Chelsea was the complete performance – completed with the most fitting of goal scorers.

Onto October: Stoke, Napoli, Burnley and Wolves at the Etihad with West Brom away.

Note to self: it’s normally when you count your chickens, that they don’t hatch.

DAM BUSTING

It’s safe to stay there was a lot of reaction to the news that came out of the Netherlands following Sergio Aguero’s car crash. Waking up to read the news breaking on Twitter about our star striker, who was poised to break the record set by Eric Brooks going into the Chelsea game in a rich vein of form, was not an ideal start to my Friday.

I knew that Aguero was in Amsterdam at a concert because I follow him on Instagram, so I’d seen the ‘stories’ that he’d been posting on there. But as soon as I found the photos of the smashed-up taxi he’d been in, I realised surely he’d done more damage than initially suggested. It looked really bad. So imagine my surprise that City fans and ‘pundits’ alike was reacting in anger to the situation.

‘What the hell was he thinking?’ ‘Why the hell is he in Amsterdam when we’re 48 hours away from the biggest game of the season so far?’ ‘What is he playing at?’

Are these people actual rational human beings?! Do they realise that he could’ve been involved in a similar incident coming out of the CFA in Manchester? Or driving out of his home back in the UK? Do these imbeciles actually stop for a minute to consider that players are allowed to do whatever they want, within reason, in their spare time? I work part time and my boss would never for a second tell me what to do in my spare time. He wouldn’t be remotely interested. Granted I’m not playing for a high profile Premier League side and have sponsorship deals coming out of my ears, but let’s cut the guy some slack please.

The initial reaction of a sane person would be one of concern and shock. Thankfully, that seemed to be the response from the majority of the fans I came across. The minority let the side down. Then there was Richard Keys, who incredulously had the guile to compare it to the Rooney ‘way over the drink drive limit and over for a booty call behind his pregnant wife’s back’ incident. It beggars belief. We are very lucky that Sergio escaped with nothing more than a broken rib. Just be grateful for that. Be grateful that his time out is minimal – and that he’s still with us to tell the tale.

MENDY IS THE MAN

More injury woes came in the form of our brand spanking new left back, Ben Mendy. With what initially looked nothing more than a slight knock, everybody’s worst fears were confirmed when a scan revealed a ruptured ACL. He’s since had an operation, but the recovery time means we may not see him on the pitch again this season, but if we do, he should be back in time for the main title push in April.

It was a big blow to a player who’s proved to be a firm fans’ favourite so far since joining from Monaco. His antics on social media have left everybody entertained and waiting for what’s next to come. He’s the founder of the #sharkteam hashtag, the name he’s bestowed on this new-look Pep side, with fans taking to website in droves to buy inflatable sharks to take to the Stoke game. There are even rumours that the club may have jumped onto the bandwagon and ordered a mass shipment of inflatable Jaws-lookalikes to capitalise on Mendy Mania.

Whether he’s filming Bernardo Silva in the canteen and mocking him, or bringing down Duncan Castles a peg or two on Twitter, one thing you can rely on Mendy for is dedication and optimism. He filmed himself going down to theatre for his op with a big smile on his face and he posted several videos from his hospital bed of him and his friends watching the Chelsea game and cheering us on. ‘Come on City’ was the cry, with his Gucci hat with the painted-on worker bee to represent Manchester. He sent his teammates a video before that game with words of encouragement and it was touching to see Delph post-match dedicating the win to the ‘big man in the hospital bed.’

Mendy is the man of the moment – and long may that continue.

#sharkteam

TYPICAL CITY

It may seem a bit harsh to take a pop at the club after such a fantastic month, but City being City, they do make it very easy for us. I’m not sure whose bright idea it was to think of conducting a behind-the-scenes tour at the City Academy with Chappy as the host and actually contemplate for a second that they could get away with charging £200 a pop for it. Is that how much Chappy is charging these days? I know plenty that’d do it for free – and be more popular.

Similarly, who in their right mind thought they could introduce a ‘Women At The Game’ event for the Champions League tie against Shakhtar Donetsk?

‘Meet together. Watch together. Cheer together,’ An inspiring tagline if ever I heard one.

35% of the average football crowd in 2017 is female. That number has been steadily rising for a good couple of decades. You can’t patronise a core element of your support with what can only be described as belittling bullshit. We have been meeting together, watching together and cheering together for a number of years if you haven’t already noticed. We don’t need an entirely ill-advised manufactured event to socialise at football.

The days of us being confined to the kitchen are long gone – we are actually allowed out to attend the match in this wonderfully modern era of equal rights. I mean, Emmeline Pankhurst didn’t waste her life campaigning for women’s rights only for City to come along and entirely alienate the female City population in one fell swoop. Is there any kind of quality control that goes on at City in the marketing and events department before these ideas are promoted? It’s just baffling and utter tripe.

A big issue at the moment that the club are also struggling with is the queues that are gathering at the turnstiles before the game. I touched on this last month and on why the security measures are necessary in light of the heightened tensions and constant barbaric terrorist acts that seem to be happening almost daily now across the globe. The huge queues that form pre-match are a serious concern now and it’s time for the club to address them.

One way this has been attempted to be dealt with is by offering fans ‘chip for a quid’ if they enter the ground early. Another promotion was selling soft drinks for £1. Hang on a minute, somebody hold my pint so I can rush down and benefit from such an alluring offer! No City no. Half price beer maybe, but nobody is going to look upon those deals as an incentive to leave the pub early.

Also, the club spend time promoting the events going on in City Square before the match, so which one is it to be City? Do you want us in the ground early eating our chips for a quid supping our coke, or do you want us outside watching two fans interviewing former players? It’s contradictory – you need to be clear on where you want the fans to be and when. If you want us all inside the ground by a certain time, then take the entertainment inside.

It’s not going to work. People stay in the boozer sometimes right until the last minute. It definitely won’t work for night matches: people picking their kids up, getting home from work, rushing around. There is no way that everybody can be at the ground 45-60 minutes before a night game because people have lives. They have other commitments outside of football – football fits in around all that, so you have to make it slightly easier for everybody in that regard. Why not employ more security staff to do the checks outside the ground? Or let people use more entrances instead of restricting people to just one turnstile? There are ways around it, because it’s never been as bad as it is right now to enter the ground before the game. Not only are fans queuing for ages, it poses a huge security risk in itself, with people almost sitting ducks.

It’d only take a bit of common sense to rectify the situation – but then again that’d be too easy, wouldn’t it? #typicalcity

So what a month September was. My eldest, Vincent, turned three so we took him to the Palace game as a treat/test to see how he’d get on. Decked out in his new shirt, he was so excited on the journey there and I’ve never felt more proud walking up to the Etihad than I did with my boy holding my hand tightly, shouting ‘Come on City!’

He loved all the excitement outside and the atmosphere when the team bus turned up. We thankfully arrived early enough not to queue, so he had a hot dog inside and skipped to his seat in the South Stand. When the teams came out onto the pitch, he looked around in bewildered awe. He’s been to a couple of games before, but he’s at an age now where he’s older and more aware, he could really take it in and join in with the songs.

We managed to get 10 minutes out of him before he was asking for his Kindle to watch YouTube and I totally expected that. But he joined in with all five goal celebrations and exited the Etihad pumping his fist shouting Leroy. That’s more than enough for me. It was a very proud day for this City Mama.

You’d think City being impeccable off the pitch would mean the media would be fawning over us, of course that’s not to be. I had an interesting engagement on Twitter with Ian Ladyman, Daily Mail’s Football Editor, over an entirely unnecessarily negative Aguero tweet for which he demonstrated no morals, remorse or integrity. Trying to constantly find the negatives in positive situations is lazy and unsubstantiated journalism, with non-existent sources cited to accompanied make-believe stories that excite our opponents as much as that offend City fans.

The constant City bashing from most media outlets is proving to be sadly predictable: price tags relentlessly brought up as valid arguments for justification for current form and attempting to fantasize rifts with Pep and players is lazy click bait at its best. It’s monotonous, boringly churlish at a time where credit is rightly due regardless of any other factors.

But we’ll just let actions speak louder than any words – and take great pride in that.

As always.

Emily Brobyn

@kippaxgirlemily