What about Plan B City?

Published: Tuesday, 02 April 2024

There is no question that, at their very best, City can be irresistible. They were in the two CL semi-final games v Madrid last season. If you let them, they’ll tear you apart.

But, if they run into an immovable object, they struggle. There’s no Plan B.

United nearly did a job on them recently. Their problem though is that they’re not very good, so they were always going to get beaten. And that tends to be the case for most teams that go to The Etihad and just sit in.

But not Arsenal, who’ve got the tools to do the job properly. Not for a moment did I enjoy their suffocating performance, but I respect their right to play as they did and it was a job well done. But my word, it was dull. I’d add that if they’d had a go they might just have won it. City can be fragile - more this season than ever - if you get at them, so I’m sorry that Arsenal weren’t a little braver.

That’s what title teams do - win it for themselves, not rely on others to drop points. Get on the front foot. Ask questions. Believe in themselves. But, Arsenal got what they went for, so they’ll be delighted. Whether it turns out to be enough we won’t know for a while yet.

Here’s an interesting stat - City still haven’t beaten any of the top 5 this season. Think about that. Why?

For me (I always think about Alan Hansen when I say that - top guy) they don’t have a Plan B.

I refer back to what I said earlier, they can be devastating if they have things all their own way - and if teams turn up allowing themselves to be rolled over - playing ‘the right way’.

But if they come up against really solid resistance they can struggle. They had just one shot on target in nearly 100 minutes on Sunday. One shot. How can that be? We‘re talking about the champions here - some would say the best team in the world - playing at home. I’ll say it again because I still can’t quite believe it - one shot on target all afternoon. It’s staggering.

Why can’t Guardiola occasionally compromise and add a little muscle into the mix? He’s got a beast playing at centre-forward so why not get crosses in occasionally? Balls that a Shearer thrived on? ‘Just get it in’ would be the last thing Shearer would tell his mates as they left a tunnel. It worked out quite well for him as well didnt it?

Why don’t City just ‘get it in’ sometimes? Even when Guardiola made changes in the second-half he simply replicated what he had. Grealish offered nothing. His game consists now only of tippy-tappying inside or falling over. He never beats a man or gets a cross in. If he was as good as Beckham he wouldn’t have to beat anyone - just cross it, but he doesn’t even do that.

Guardiola put Doku on on the right - but he proved to be as ineffective as Grealish - always going inside and straight into traffic. Arsenal must’ve been delighted that he went that side. Doku’s best work this season has been on the left - striking a blow for ‘proper’ wingers.

It’s almost as though Guardiola sees going a bit ‘agricultural’ as a sell-out. He shouldn’t. There’s more than one way to play football. Everything City do has to be precise it seems. I’d love to see them scruffy things up occasionally and just ‘get it in’.

There’s a long way to go yet, but I hope that whichever team wins it does so by earning the right. In other words - having a go.

What a weekend it was for ref howlers. Mind you - when isn’t it?

In no particular order - Antony Gordon conned Rob Jones twice. Well - once. The hapless David Coote, in VAR, was to blame for the second error. What did you see that was ‘clear and obvious’ David? I saw simulation. So did everyone that wasn’t supporting Newcastle.

Why didn’t Jones send Dan Burn off for taking Kudas out when he was clean through? It was a denial. Burns made no attempt to play the ball. It was a clear red.

Mudryk pen? No chance. That was a joke award. Calvert-Lewin should’ve had one at Bournemouth though, but that one went unnoticed somehow. Salah could easily have had one at the Kop End, but Coote didn’t give that one - yet he intervened at Newcastle to turn the game on its head when West Ham led 3-1 and award Gordon the 2nd pen.

It was slide-rule stuff at Sheffield United to deny them a match-winning 4th goal. No wonder a raft of managers were bemused again - not least Chris Wilder. And you know something really is up when mild-mannered Kompany loses the plot. And I didnt blame him. I say the same thing every week - it’s simply not getting any better.

Speaking of refs, I see Bobby Madley has got a book out - entitled Barking Mad. Clever.

But as always when I see a ref release a book - I’m left wondering why Mark Halsey was denied his severance payment of £75,000 when he retired - for writing a book. For some reason the authorities didn’t like Halsey’s book. Perhaps because he was too honest - but isn’t that the idea of a memoir?

To my knowledge Halsey remains the only ref that has ever been denied his leaving package. £75,000 is life-changing money. It was an outrageous injustice, but there is still time to put matters right.

I wish Madley well and hope his book is a success, but somebody should look again at what they did to Halsey in a previous era.