Fan Focus: City Chatter With Some Bitter Blues

Robert Cianflone

For this week's Fan Focus article we speak to our SB Nation brethren Bitter & Blue, and in particular their writer Nayir Chowdhury about this week game with Manchester City.

Twelve goals in your last two appearances, simply sensational, this must be a fantastic time to be a Manchester City fan?

Nayir Chowdhury: It has definitely been a great couple of matches, but it's important to not get too carried away with the results. City fans certainly didn't expect to see such large margins but comfortable wins were probably the order of the day in both cases.

It's great to see Sergio Aguero in the incredible form he is in, and the continuing development of his partnership with Alvaro Negredo has been a joy to watch. All in all, we won the league two years ago on goal difference and then struggled last year to find the back of the net, so it's been a relief to see the goals flowing again.

Joe Hart has come in for a lot of media attention and criticism recently, what have you made of the England goalkeeper's season so far?

NC: Hart's certainly been having a disappointing campaign thus far. In my opinion, some of his mistakes earlier in the season were a bit overblown in that there were usually big breakdowns in communication or key, uncharacteristic mistakes made by defenders that created most situations Hart found himself in, but his error against Chelsea was just too much.

It is a bit strange with him since he never made these types of mistakes earlier in his career. His shot-stopping abilities are still whether they have always been (CSKA's Honda will know this too well), but it's his decision making that's been odd. Hopefully sitting a few games will be good for him to work on these mistakes. In the meantime, Costel Pantilimon has the best chance he'll ever get of cementing a starting job between the pipes at the Etihad.

As things stand Manuel Pellegrini appears to be efficiently rotating a squad bursting at the seams with talent, something Roberto Mancini seemed to struggle with, how do you assess the Chilean's impact on the team?

NC: Pellegrini's had a pretty good start to life at City. His tactics have been just about right in most matches and his rotations have worked as well. There are still questions lingering regarding City's away form and if Pellegrini can forge a better mental, team approach for the players in these matches than Roberto Mancini did.

This has been City's problem over the years, but perhaps the combination of Pellegrini's managing style and the players who were brought in can fix this. Aside from that, Pellegrini's man management seems to be light years ahead of Mancini's style, as he has somehow gotten great form out of Samir Nasri and Aleksandar Kolarov thus far, two men who were very disappointing a year ago.

With a wealth of talent in the final third, Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero now look to have garnered a fantastic and effective partnership; surely this is City's "go-to" pairing now?

NC: Liverpool's 'SAS' show might have been leading the headlines lately, but City have a fantastic partnership brewing between Negredo and Aguero. It has been a welcome surprise to see how well they have meshed.

Negredo's work rate, willingness to drop deep for the ball, and selflessness has really opened things up for Aguero, who has taken the opportunity to make countless fantastic runs off the back shoulder of every opponent's central defenders of late. The two seem to love to set each other up for shots and have been sure to make them count. Personally, I am still longing to see a Jovetic-Aguero partnership, but I have no complaints over what's been transpiring lately.

I'm interested in your opinion on Edin Dzeko. In flashes he looks to be the real deal, however whenever I have seen him recently, the cup game at Newcastle especially, he has flattered to deceive. What does the future hold for the Bosnian?

NC: This is a make-it-or-break-it year for Edin, plain and simple. And so far, he has been vastly underwhelming. He started the season well with a Man of the Match performance against a weak Newcastle side, but it turned out to be a tease as his form has tumbled into the abyss and doesn't seem likely to improve any time soon. We know he can perform better than this, but he struggles to do so.

His work rate in comparison to Jovetic, Aguero, and Negredo is paltry, his first touch often fails him, and his finishing is erratic. If he doesn't pick it up soon, this could very well be his final season in sky blue.

Which of the new summer recruits has impressed you the most?

NC: As great as Negredo has been, I'll have to say Fernandinho has impressed me the most. He operates behind the scenes so he usually doesn't quite get the praise he deserves. The center of the park was one of City's biggest issues last season but Fernandinho has earned himself a lock over that position in the starting lineup. Quick, physical, and positionally aware, he seems to be a natural complement to the more attacking-minded Yaya Toure, and hopefully this duo continues to be a strong axis for City.

What have you made of the turmoil at Sunderland this season?

NC: I don't think many saw the season unfolding this way for Sunderland; I certainly didn't. I don't know if management has been the issue, a tough opening schedule, or poor individual play, but hopefully it gets turned around soon. Sunderland certainly have quality in the attacking players, that much I am confident of.

Being a big Jozy fan myself, I hope he can start scoring goals and keep Sunderland in the Premier League. And though I am not a fan of either team, I've really enjoyed watching the Tyne-Wear derby in recent seasons.

In recent years Sunderland have managed to come away from games involving Manchester City with all three points, any feeling that we're something of a bogey side?

NC: Trips to the Stadium of Light have been a spot of bother. I think it's been too easy in recent seasons for some of the smaller clubs to get in the heads of City players. We haven't been mentally strong at home when we visit grounds of teams who really want to stick it to the oil-rich club.

We've definitely been better on the road against the top clubs, oddly enough. Hopefully this changes, but any team probably has a chance to score a goal or two when we are without Vincent Kompany and away from home. I'm always wary of a smash and grab.

The fear on Wearside ahead of Sunday's fixture is that Manchester City have stepped things up a gear recently and could well continue their incredible goalscoring feats, how would you expect Pellegrini to approach this game?

NC: I'd expect the tactics to be exactly the same as the last few matches, as long as all of the same players are fit and available. The quartet of David Silva, Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero, and Alvaro Negredo have been in sparkling form and have developed incredible chemistry together. And then on top of that, there's the tank of Toure rumbling in from the center and Fernandinho cleaning things up behind him.

So, I'd expect the front 6 to be the same, as with the tactical approach to the match. Should City need a goal late on, I'd expect Pellegrini to throw on Navas and probably Dzeko to chase a goal. Should we be winning and look to see the game out, expect a dose of James Milner in the second half.

Any Sunderland player that gives you reason for concern?

NC: Which ever fullbacks Pellegrini chooses (it seems that any of Richards/Zabaleta and Clichy/Kolarov can be selected these days) will have to be sure to track Adam Johnson and hopefully drag him into defense with plenty of overlapping runs (as our fullbacks usually do) where he isn't so comfortable.

Wing play could hurt City, though we have handled it reasonably well recently. I can't pick out anyone else individually as a huge threat, but I'm sure the script has been written for Jozy to bag his first goal against us, just as he did in his one-goal season with Hull all those years ago.

Prediction?

NC: I don't like doing predictions but it's going to be hard to bet against a City win here, given that the two clubs have been in pretty much opposite gears overall. I'm going to say 3-0 to City on the basis of an early goal to allow City to take complete control over the match. If we don't get our noses in front early, I'd expect a pretty nervy affair and anything could really happen at that point, especially if we allow Sunderland to grow into the match.

Many thanks to Nayir for the insight on City. For more check out Bitter & Blue HERE

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