Johnny On The Spot - January Review

#MIND THE GAP...While there weren't quite the pastings dished out in terms of goals scored within one game that Manchester City's scintillating midwinter football often merited in January, Pep Guardiola's mercury men still averaged more than three goals scored per game taking their total for the season through the 100 barrier against Alan Pardiola's dreadful West Bromwich Albion. In light of that fact it seems churlish, almost cluelessly Collymore-Brazilesque to bemoan the spurning of golden chances by City's forwards throughout a magnificent seven pulsating contests but if some of the more simple opportunities had gone in, the ride would have been much more brandy and cigars.

This was always going to be an attritional, pivotal run of games in the context of what the club is striving to achieve this season and City's manager has recognized the lung bursting effort it took to deliver nine more league points from a possible twelve, secure a League Cup final and ensure FA Cup progress ahead of our return to European action in Switzerland. Regardless of the result at Burnley this weekend, City's players will be stood down for three days to do whatever they please to unwind within insurance guidelines. I understand that the hiring of Dutch taxi drivers is forbidden.

The grinding aspect of these results was intensified by some of the most appalling refereeing that this correspondent has seen in the English top flight. The gobsmacking leniency afforded to some shocking fouls on City players in December continued into the new year unchecked and one hopes it reached it's zenith in the Cardiff and West Brom turkey shoots. When you consider Kyle Walker's pisspoor dismissal against Everton in our opening home fixture last summer, the laissez-faire of the officials is all the more galling.

The injuries to key City players that Carlton Pogba of transfer champions the Stretford Galacticos declared unchallenged on Football Focus he would like to see prior to the wave of flailing boots have subsequently er, kicked in. Foden, Sane and Jesus have all literally fallen foul of the gutter tactics and we can be immensely thankful that Gundogan, De Bruyne and David Silva who were all openly targeted have not joined them in long term absence.

Through all of this the City juggernaut has maintained its course and the platform to realise the titles for what could yet become known as the greatest football show on earth has been built.

How Did Johnny Do?

The Foretelling

City 7 Watford 0 W
City 2 Burnley 1 W
City 3 Bristol 1 W
Liverpool 2 City 2 D
City 5 Newcastle 0 W
Bristol 2 City 2 D
(Cardiff 0 City 2 W N/A)
City 4 West Bromwich Albion 0 W

And Lo It Came To Pass…

City 3 Watford 1 W
City 4 Burnley 1 W
City 2 Bristol 1 W
Liverpool 4 City 3 L
City 3 Newcastle 1 W
Bristol 2 City 3 W
(Cardiff 0 City 2 W N/A)
City 3 West Bromwich Albion 0 W

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The attritional nature of a long football season with this year’s extra condensed festive schedule because of the World Cup coupled with the unsurprising effect of some of the worst fouls I have witnessed in recent times has challenged Pep and his squad for sure. That they have managed to continue to maintain a presence in all four competitions is a massive tribute to the quality of the team and the management of Guardiola. It is frustrating though that the emphasis from the media is on the potential outcome of this effort rather than an appreciation of what it takes to continue to fight on four fronts - the only PL side to be doing so. None of the “worst title defence ever” headlines for Chelsea who have found that not having midweek off during the autumn was actually quite a handicap. No approbation for The Transfer Champions for being so far behind in the title race........

Pep was making a point yesterday with his decision to field only six substitutes. A canny way of sending a message despite the foaming of ex rags and dippers who declared they were “gob smacked” at this. Pep knows he cannot criticise the officials for their weak stance on the brutal fouls which, had any of them been perpetrated by Fernandinho would have resulted, I have no doubt whatsoever, in an instant red card. I simply think they really do apply a mental bias towards our opponents along the lines of “well City are so good, so fast, that mistakes are easy to make” and they incorrectly apply more leeway to players who are “late”.

So Pep shortened his bench applying the logic that the U23 side had played Friday evening and so were unavailable and given the absences of Silva, Sané, Foden, Jesus to injuries from late tackles/fouls coupled with the missing Mendy & Delph he was ensuring the debated.

I await the topics for discussion on Sunday Supplement. Depending upon whether we get sound, sensible journos (Samuels, Winter) or Red Top foamers (Custis etc) we will see what kind of debate we get - will they focus on the poor tackles and weak officiating or solely on Guardiola’s decision?