Guest Post by Rugby Irons
So we’ve all seen the preseason and we all have our opinions as to what Manuel Pelligrini has done or not done right. There are lots of all sorts on here so for one night only I am going to be Steve Pelligrini !
So firstly I would have to say that the areas we needed to change haven’t been addressed and preseason has shown up just how weak we are at full back. On the other hand the signings of both Fornals and Haller look to be quality acquisitions. We are moving towards a fearsome front line with great options although not getting Chico moved on looks a mistake. The early pre-season fitness work looked to have improved the level of fitness to previous years, but mentally there seemed a more positive attitude. This in part comes from not letting outside influences get involved. Moving her out of the front line has given a more focussed approach to the work to be done.
The first friendly was basically a run around but the Manchester City game shown a lot of real endeavour. I was able to bring players to have a look and frankly the score with VAR would have been a lot different. The Newcastle game was disappointing as the team didn’t get going and it was hard for the players in the conditions. Having said that we are still conceding too many goals from the left back position and frankly I should have changed this. The Fulham game was a good introduction to the new boys and there were real spells of quality and a clean sheet. The Berlin game showed a lot of character and the team are starting to gel although the lads coming on have all staked a claim too. Some good goals from five different players has to be good.
The Bilbao game was another slow start. We really must change our routine to get out of this bad habit and also being able to play two good halves would help. I picked Cresswell again, in the vain hope he would produce and again he didn’t. I should have given Johnson left back time knowing Arthur could come on. I should also have given David Martin the last twenty as he is bound to be needed on Saturday as Fabianski won’t be fit. The chance to get twenty minutes at home in front of a big crowd was vital exposure that he didn’t get and a mistake. As for the penalties, what a shambles that was. It should have been dealt with far better from a manager with a trophy up for grabs. Lazy in my opinion.
So , the fitness work has been done and this is my assessment of the players:
Fabianski: The injury is a major concern . If he doesn’t play Saturday we will be in big trouble. Typical of getting rid of Adrian, just when we need him. Any length out or poor form and we will be looking up not down.
Roberto: Has not instilled any confidence and so far hasn’t made a real save of note. He looks nervy and he needs to impose himself a bit more.
Martin: Who knows? The chances to play him were not taken so I can only hope he isn’t needed to soon!
Cresswell: He has been really poor, with or without the armband. He is no longer premiership standard and its clearly been a huge mistake not to get a real leftback in. Teams target him and his area and he comes up short. I won’t be playing him.
Masuaku: Given a new contract as to keep him, as Cresswell is so bad, and we need at least one proper left back. He will be asked to defend this season and his previous record against the better clubs is good. He won’t need to get forward and so can concentrate just on defending.
Zabaleta: Despite being older you always get 100% from him and his physicality and experience rarely let him down.
Fredericks: Should be the best right back in the Premiership but still needs to stop being so rash. Hopefully with more games and Zabaleta to guide him he could be a major player this season.
Johnson: Although very raw, he has proved in his performances at full back that he has something about him. He needs game time and injuries may give him his chance.
Balbuena: Looks a yard light from last season but still has an imposing presence. Will be a vial part of the defence.
Diop: Time to make all that promise come good. If he steps up from last season and he and the General stay fit we’ll be good.
Ogbonna: Will be the third centreback as he is a bit inconsistent. He needs to stay fit to be the other cover when needed.
Reid: Spent force for me. He won’t get to the fitness or performance levels needed from being on the bench.
Wilshere: Has looked like the missing cog so far. He hasn’t created too much but his ability to set the pace of the game may be critical against teams trying to overrun us. Looks great to watch.
Noble. This will be another huge season. He knows he won’t be a regular starter but his influence will still be a massive part of where we end up.
Sanchez. Looks like he may be finding some form and has looked decent in the last couple of games. He won’t start many but could be a useful sub when you want to hold a win or salvage a point.
Rice: Looks a little leggy to me and perhaps should have been rested to give more responsibility to the rest. He is a major player for us but doesn’t look right on it to me. The start of the season might change that.
Lanzini: Has really stepped up and this will be his season. He wants international football and knows he has to perform to get it back. We can expect great things.
Fornals: Has come in and been understated so far. Has done enough to see his class and looks like he is settling in to the role.
Anderson: Has drifted in and out of games and needs to work on his intensity as he is capable of match winning performances.
Snodgrass . Will be needed for those cold up north midweek games when work rate is needed . He always brings s his best and that’s invaluable.
Diangana: Has been noticeably more physical in preseason and it’s made him more potent . He doesn’t create enough at this level but being with much better players should bring him on.
Yarmolenko: Despite his almost totally left footed play he can still perform at a high level and gives a little balance to the middle.
Cullen: I think he will still be loaned out before the end of the month. He has done enough to the first team squad but he will want games which he won’t get until the injures come in
Antonio: I see him being the surprise second striker. He brings more to the attack than Chico and defensives are far more worried about his pace than the non-scoring poacher
Chico: He’s basically a spent force and has not impressed at all. He’s not going to get the service he needs as we don’t play that way. Needs a Chinese bidder .
Haller: For all that’s been said you won’t see him at his best until it’s a real match. As the promise will come good once we start.
Tactically, I’ll send the players out and let them get on with it.They are all talented and the general play is to use their skills to out play the opposition. Despite all the analysts the club employs I still don’t change things . Tactically, our attacking corners are still a mess as we don’t have anyone who can be counted on to put the ball where it’s needed from either side . We are big enough as a unit but don’t impose as we should. Defending we are as bad with two players wasted ahead of the front post and none on the posts . We have a keeper who doesn’t come and so we have to be sure we win the ball, and too often we don’t. We should also stop defending with 11 players. Leave one up. Lanzini , Fornals, Yarmelenko could all win a race v a back two of the opposition. If we leave one up , they have to leave two back. which means they can only have 7 in the box against our ten. Basics really. For free kicks stop the pointless tap to another play. Just put the extra player in the box and cross the damn thing. And on free kicks sort out who the specialist free kick taker and stick with them. You don’t need three players to decide that and then waste it. We must take advantage of attacking options and not waste them.
There are high expectations for the team this season and I will be aiming as high as possible but this season I will not mess up the Cup runs like last season. With the women having been to Wembley now it’s the men’s turn. The Cups have been an excuse to use squad players for game time, this season it will be a first team objective to get to Wembley and reward the fans. Losing a couple of places in the final league table for a Cup Final is a gamble worth taking. Get your claret ribbons ready.
We will be entering a new season with the stadium becoming less foreign as the players we have don’t have the history. If the supports stays loud and proud then it can become a fortress . It’s going to see great football this season and with VAR plenty of goals . We should be able to move up the table again this season and that is the aim.I can almost guarantee that this will be one hell of a season and one to remember . The women have made some fantastic signings and it’s imperative that we take both teams onto the next level. The club has the best supporters, now it’s time to reward them, like I get with my huge salary. Only this season I am going to earn it. Champions League and Wembley , here we come. Don’t go to bed early.