Friday, May 22, 2015

What I'd Like to See This Weekend

With the season essentially over for City, as we're locked in second place no matter the results this weekend, it makes sense to treat this as sort of an experimental game. While David Mooney thinks we should bring in the kids, Pellegrini poured cold water on that by noting the EDS squad has a derby against United this weekend. Still, even without the kids, this is a good opportunity to test the squad against solid opposition and potentially see what changes need to be made in the summer. The following are a list of things I would be interested in seeing, though not necessarily at the same time, in our final game of the season.

1) Put Kompany in midfield. I've been banging this drum for some time, but here it goes again. I don't think a central defensive pairing of Kompany and Mangala can ever be solid. They both are not particularly disciplined defenders, and their powerful physiques can't always make up for that. Kompany has played in midfield before and done well, and he will be able to provide sufficient cover for Toure, or in this case...

2) Frank Lampard. I want him to start, as this is his final game in the Premier League. A goal would be great, but just watching his movement going from midfield into the box is worth the price of admission.

3) Play Bony and Aguero together up top. At this point, the chances of Jovetic being here next year seem slim, so there's no point in starting him, and we already know everything we need to know about Dzeko, assuming he doesn't leave as well. I want to see this pairing together, as I truly feel Aguero is at his best alongside another striker, and I think Bony can do the dirty work (winning the aerial duels, providing good passes, and holding the ball up) to complement him well.

4) Good corner kicks. Has anyone else notice how much our set pieces have improved with Kolarov back in the team? We actually scored a goal from one of his against QPR, and Navas had a great chance against Swansea as well (albeit one he managed to put straight at Fabianski). If any of the corners are taken by Navas I'm going to scream. And more Milner/Silva short corners please!

5) A Milner goal. If Milner does leave (which I would only accept if we got Sterling in return), he deserves to have his accomplishments celebrated by all City fans. A goal for him at home would be a great send-off if he does leave.

6) A win. Because that's what I always expect from this team.

The last time we were in a position to do this was two years ago at Norwich, with Micah starting at center back and Rodwell starring in midfield with two goals. Hopefully Sunday will be similarly experimental, and much more successful.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Klopp's Club

It's been a while since I've heard Jurgen Klopp's name, so it's safe to say the media feeding frenzy surrounding his next destination has died down a bit. And that's all to the good, because there is a lot to ponder with his decision to leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of this season. The key question is why now? I know it's incredibly obvious, but leaving after your worst season ever probably isn't the best way to land a top job. And yet, Klopp is not only leaving, he's announcing his departure well before the end of the current season, giving himself very little leverage in negotiations. This suggests to me that he already has a deal lined up with a club, one that he is keeping silent about, and I think that club is City. As I've said before, I think it likely that Pellegrini is out at the end of the season, whatever happens. This season already feels eerily reminiscent of 2012/13 to me, and having a manager ready to takeover in the summer once Champions League football has been assured is following the exact same pattern as that season. I don't think Rodgers is going anywhere, Wenger isn't either, and I really don't see Klopp going anywhere other than England for some reason. No, I think City is where he ends up, which of course begs the question, is he the right man to take over?

I don't think anybody can deny that Klopp did a great job with Dortmund.Winning consecutive Bundesliga titles and finishing runners-up in the Champions League is a record almost any manger would aspire to have. However, this most recent season must leave a sour taste for Klopp. They are currently seventh in the Bundesliga after this weekend's results, and will not make the Champions League this season. Still, they made it out of the group stages for the Champions League and are in the finals of the German Cup. Their goal difference is 5th best in the Bundesliga, suggesting they have perhaps been a bit unlucky this year. This season will only be considered a failure due to immense preseason expectations, ones that perhaps were not realistic as Bayern keep buying the club's best players. Put it this way, if this was Klopp's first season, he would probably be lauded as one of the bright, young managerial talents, as he's accomplished more this season than Rogers, for example, ever has.

Year TOP % Off Eff Def Eff FR Opp FR Games
2014/15 53 107.82 72.19 21.88% 38.95% 28
2013/14 52 138.57 69.85 32.65% 33.33% 34
2012/13 54 149.24 75.45 29.56% 34.75% 34

 If you look at the table above, it is true that Dortmund's stats have suffered this year compared to their previous two campaigns, particularly in attack. The incredible offensive efficiency has been reduced, and their Finish Rate has fallen off a cliff, partly attributable to the loss of Lewandowski this past year. Their defense has remained pretty solid, as there has been less turnover and the central defensive partnership of Hummels and Subotic is a strong one, but they are allowing a very high finish rate. Part of that can be put down to goalkeeping, but they also have 9 defensive errors leading to a goal this season, much higher than their total of 1 in 2012/13. I think it's fair to say there's probably a bit of bad luck involved there, and since it's not a long-term trend I'm giving Klopp the benefit of the doubt. To me, the story of this season is that the attack, after being deprived of Lewandowski, Goetze, and prime Kagawa (who has not been the same since the failed move to the swamp), hasn't hit the heights of the last few campaigns. I don't think you can put that on Klopp, and the stats of his incredible previous campaigns speak for themselves.

There's still a question of whether he's the right fit for City though. Klopp's teams have always played a more direct, counter-attacking style, whereas City favor a more possession-based approach in the mold of Barcelona. The executive team of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain both came from Barca and have a lot invested in the model. I think this is why there was a leak from the club saying that the club was not interested in Klopp. Still, given the disappointing nature of the season, you have to wonder if Ferran and Txiki aren't getting the ax as well. Klopp would help put the pace back in City's game, which has slowed immensely this year, and his teams' greatest weakness (oppponent's Finish Rate) would be covered by Joe Hart. Get a true ballwinner in midfield (either through the transfer market or by moving Kompany in there), combined with Aguero's pace and finishing and Silva's wizardry, and you can make a very strong counter-attacking team. It would probably be the end of Yaya's spell at City, but that may be for the best anyway.

To me, this is one of those moves that makes too much sense not to happen. City need a new manager with new ideas to improve the team, Klopp needs a new club with Champions League football that can hold on to its star players and has clout in the transfer market. We'll see how this plays out, but I wouldn't be surprised if next season City fans are clapping for Klopp.