Opposition view: Reading
By Ric Turner, Wed 19 December 2012 14:00
Ahead of Saturday's game at The Etihad, Bluemoon caught up with Dan from The Tilehurst End blog to get the lowdown on the opposition:
What are your expectations for this season?
What started as a season of bad luck and narrow defeats is quickly turning into an embarrassment and it's gutting to seemingly surrender our Premier League status for the second time in five years so easily.
The majority of the fanbase now accept relegation as inevitable, so just showing a bit of heart and taking steps towards a successful 'bounce back' season would be acceptable from here on in.
Are you happy with the manager?
Yes and no. Long term you can't fault the job done by Brian McDermott but the step up to the Premier League looks like it's come too soon for our former Chief Scout. Some of his team selections, tactics and substitutions have been baffling this year, while backroom problems with Adam Federici, Alex Pearce and Danny Guthrie have left a sour taste in the mouth. His previous two-and-a-half seasons of success means that to me, he deserves a full season plus the start of the next to prove himself but there is a growing minority that are calling for change.
Who are your key players?
Right now it's probably Jimmy Kebe who looks about the only player capable of creating something out of nothing. Nicky Shorey has been the provider of plenty of goals from set pieces, so for us to have any chance of a result we'll need him to deliver a peach or two.
Were you happy with the business conducted during the transfer window?
Yes and no, I thought they were a group of solid signings but I worried a bit about our depth in the midfield and that's been our undoing this year. The big midfield signing was Danny Guthrie who's fallen out with the manager and barely played, while our marquee signing Pavel Pogrebnyak has also been in and out of the side all season. In hindsight we gambled on too many good Championship players making an immediate step up and that gamble has spectacularly failed. Sadly it already looks too late to repair the damage in January but a couple of smart acquisitions could put us on better footing for next year.
Are there any rising stars in the squad that we might not have heard of?
He's unlikely to feature but keep one eye on Dominic Samuel who made his debut up at Sunderland last week. The young striker has represented England at U19 level and has been in good scoring touch for the Academy and U21 sides in recent years.
Your Achilles heel?
I'd probably have to be writing beyond kick-off to answer this one properly.... However the brief version is that our middle core is just broken. At centre-half Kaspars Gorkss looks totally lost at this level while Adrian Mariappa has mixed the good with the awful. In front of them Jay Tabb works bloody hard but provides no attacking or passing threat, with no goals in nearly 4 years. Mikele Leigertwood is perhaps the worst central midfielder I've seen in the Premier League and his ability to give the ball away 15+ times a game is as regular as the stream of Christmas songs on the radio.
If you could have any City player in your team who would you choose?
Every single City player would walk into our team and become the best player at the club, even Roque Santa Cruz who hasn't been seen for years. To be honest even Roberto Mancini or David Platt could still do a job...... If I had to pick just one to improve our plight it would probably be Yaya Toure as he'd help both the defence and the attack.
What is your perception of City as a club?
It's odd to think that just 13 years ago we were battling it out together in Division 2, with Terry Cooke looking like a world beater. I've always seen City as a solid but unspectacular Premier League club but then the cash flooded in to put you up to the next level.
I can't say I'm happy that any club pays stupid transfer fees for players like Milner and Barry but then as a fan of a team outside of the old 'Big 4' I appreciate how there was little other way to break into the monopoly that they'd created with constant high Premier League & Champions League money.
So now you have to judge City on their own merits and to me, you're a very good but not quite a great side. I still think there's a lack of spirit at the club and you don't seem to have the flair of Arsenal in the early 00's, the power of Mourinho's side at Chelsea, or the same grit and determination that's been a hallmark of many of Fergie's teams in the last 20 years.
On their day Silva, Aguerro, Tevez and Balotelli can be superstars but there's still a disappointing lack of consistency from a team which on paper should be crushing teams left, right and centre.
Likely starting XI for the game, and score prediction?
I swear Brian's been using set of balls 3 and Guinevere to select the team lately so it's anyone's guess to be honest. If I had to take a stab....
Federici; Shorey, Pearce, Mariappa, Cummings; Leigertwood, Tabb, McAnuff; Kebe, Robson-Kanu, Pogrebnyak
Score prediction and sadly I'm fearing a cricket score. Confidence is rock bottom and quality is almost non-existant right now. If we can keep it below 4 or 5 it will be a good effort, I'll go for 4-1 City.