Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 2 January 2017
Referee: Lee Mason
Kick off: 15:00
UK TV: Not on TV
2016 is over, and it wasn’t a particularly productive one for City. Granted, we did reach a European semi-final, as well as lifting the League Cup earlier on in the year, however City’s league form across the last 12 months has been anything but spectacular. In terms of points won, City lay in 6th place in the year of 2016 with 69 points in total.
Tomorrow, City start their new year against newly-promoted Burnley. It’s a game that City surely have to win. So, what is there to consider?
It’s weird, we’re halfway through the season right now, and City’s points tally isn’t that bad. After 19 games City have 39 points. Theoretically, City would have 78 points come the end of the season. Obviously, that’s not how football works, but is there any reason to believe that City won’t improve in the second half of the season? In 2012, we won the league with 89 points. To equal that tally, we’d have to produce a pretty special second half of the season. In 2014, we won the league with 86 points. Again, to equal that tally, we’d need to produce a very solid second half of the season. My point though is that we aren’t far from this kind of tally. City have been very hit and miss so far this season, so with a little bit of consistency – who knows what is possible in terms of a final points tally? One thing that is looking pretty certain though, is that Chelsea will need to absolutely collapse to drop in order for City to win the league this year – their current projection is 98 points, which would obviously be a Premier League record. Granted, I don’t think anyone expects them to win games as relentlessly as they have in the first half of the campaign, but to drop the league from here would require a truly big capitulation. Either that, or a near perfect second half of the season for City.
This Squad Lacks Character
Despite three consecutive wins prior to City’s loss at Anfield, it’s clear to everyone that our squad lacks character. There is virtually no leadership in the side, and in all honesty, when the going gets tough, nobody seems to have a clue how to change things. We know that the defence is fragile at best, we’ve said it all season. Believe me, I’m as critical as the defence as anybody is, but something that isn’t acknowledged enough is the spinelessness of the rest of the side when things get difficult. Be it silly red cards from Sergio or Fernandinho, or just total anonymity from Silva, De Bruyne or Sterling, there rarely seems to be a solution when City are struggling. It’s completely acceptable to pin a lot of the poorer results on the defence, but honestly, I want to see more from the match-winners in this squad. Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero are the two world-class talents in this team in my opinion, and yet both often go missing when City are in dire need of a goal to turn things around. How long will it be before City go to a place like Anfield, fall behind, but actually salvage a way back into the game and hold on to secure a result? It’s not good enough. Sorry to again look to Chelsea, but look at the way they turned up to City. They went 1-0 down, got battered, held on, and eventually hammered us to win 3-1. It’s alright doing that at home to Arsenal, or even Barcelona, but when are City going to start producing some character on the road? It’s been an Achilles heel of City’s for as long as I can remember, and until Pep changes that, we won’t have a lot of silverware to speak of.
A Comfortable Win is Needed
I understand entirely the argument that the most important thing in any league game is three points, but tomorrow – more is needed. City are playing Burnley, who have been fantastic on their own turf (pun intended) but away from home they have only managed one point – that statistic alone makes this an absolutely integral win. Burnley are a side who with all due respect, City should be battering at the Etihad. I’m not one of these people who believe that Roberto Mancini was a perfect manager, but one thing you nearly always felt under him during the good times was that we would win at home. It often felt like a case of ‘how many?’ Nowadays, it’s feeling more like a case of ‘can we get over the line?’ Tomorrow, it must be a case of ‘how many?’
They need to play Pep’s football and put the curse of Anfield behind them. It’s a chance to inject some confidence in the side, but also into the fans. Most of whom are still 100% behind Pep, but there are couple of rumblings of disgruntlement and City need to put them swiftly to bed. Tomorrow, the fans want to see a few goals, a clean sheet, and some attacking intent from City. Nothing less will do.
For Burnley, the answer can only really be Andre Gray. He notched up an impressive hat-trick on New Years Eve and has all of the tools needed to struggle our high line. For City, Sergio Aguero’s return to the Etihad is much anticipated. The Argentine needs to produce more consistently this season for me, but he has the perfect chance to score a few goals and find some form against Burnley.
I hope City are hurting after our loss at Anfield. It’s needed. They need to inflict that hurt somewhere, and I’m hoping it’ll be against Burnley. I’m expecting a few goals, and a sign that things might be about to get better. 4-0 City.