Fan’s View 18/19 – no.13 – Man City

Article by Paul Beasley Wednesday, September 26th, 2018  

CARABAO CUP ROUND THREE: OXFORD UNITED 0 MANCHESTER CITY 3

Whilst being quite happy with the draw, the visit of such illustrious opponents hadn’t got me quite as excited as some. I (usually) look forward to every competitive Oxford game be it against the Premier League Champions or a team from tier seven such as Merstham. I may have had a particular problem with the visit of these mega stars at this moment in time given what a fragile state we are in. So much for “got nothing to lose, give it a go” if that had been our approach, and even if it wasn’t, I feared a potential annihilation. Double figures. That sort of thing. What would such an outcome have done to our confidence, little that we seem to have anyway?

They didn’t need to park this. Photo Simon Jaggs

It’s not something I’m prone to do with regard to our opponents but you might want to reach for the sick bag as my fawning is going to reach levels I’ve never remotely got near in the many previous FVs.

Forget that City made ten changes to the line-up they started with at Cardiff on Saturday; Just look at the players that trotted onto the pitch at the Kassam. And the subs they brought on. And those they didn’t. They rotate anyway and clearly take this competition 100% seriously. They are, of course, holders. Unlike some top flight outfits there is no disrespect from Pep Guardiola and his men. It seemed to me they prepared in just the same way as if they’d been up against Real Madrid. Thoroughly professional.

There were their fans too and although they were only playing against little Oxford, or should that be miniscule Oxford given our recent form, they celebrated properly when the goals went in and for the third with genuine gusto, as did their scorer. I must admit I thought that was way OTT until I realised it was Phil Foden and that was his first for the club he has supported since he was a nipper. No problem whatsoever. I fully understand.

There was so much to admire about their play. What Alan Partridge does is speak nonsense all the time, except I think “liquid football” actually applied here. Without doubt this was the best team by some distance to grace our three sided ground. Everything was so quick. It happened at lightning speed. Players moved from A to B in a flash and A and B were exactly the right positions they should have been in at that particular time. The ball was also being swiftly moved from one player to another. As the whole thing looked like a well- oiled machine I was admiring City as a unit and perhaps not quite appreciating some of the individual skill on display. One couldn’t help though but notice the trickery of Raheem Sterling when he came on nor some of the things Riyad Mahrez did. One thing that really stuck in my mind was the number of times he held his hands above his eyes to avert the glare of the floodlights as he picked up high, long, cross field balls. Invariably he immediately brought them under control with his left foot. “He’s just got one foot”, said Tim sat in front of me. Does it matter if it’s that good? That they can play it long with total accuracy as well as short emphasises just how good they are.

Teams like Manchester City don’t get to the standard they are at without doing other stuff too and their closing down on the few occasions we had possession was instantaneous. They moved as quickly to do their jobs without the ball as when they had it, which was 75% of the time. I would possibly have put that percentage even higher. Add in that they are not averse to fouling when deemed necessary. They only committed three less than us.

For all the sins of our current home ground there’s no denying that being seated nearly level with the half-way line at the back of the SSU allows one to see the whole game in full flow. I felt obliged to comment to Mrs FV that for all the football from teams like City and Liverpool we see on the television you don’t fully appreciate what’s happening until you see it live from such a vantage point.

I’ve subsequently watched ten minutes of highlights on You Tube and have to say good that it was, it didn’t look anywhere near as marvellous as it did on the night.

Had I been unwittingly seduced? City a complete side? I had realised that their finishing wasn’t up there with the rest of their play but needed the stat of twenty nine shots with just seven on target to underline the extent. Bloody hell, it could have been double figures if Sergio Aguerro had played.

Enough of the light blues, I’m an Oxford United fan who thinks the Premier League is bloated way beyond common decency with the obscene amounts of money sloshing around on the back of ever bigger TV deals.

So what of my team?

Bearing in mind what I’ve already said about City, we did incredibly well not to concede the first until the 36th minute. They didn’t get their second until 12 minutes to go and that was when we’d thrown bodies up, probably for the first time, as we had a free-kick or was it corner. (We did have one corner. City of course beat us at that too – they had seven). Or could it have been a throw in. We hurled a couple in. Anyway, as the ball was about to come live again I, and I’m sure many others too, said City will score from this. They did, having broken like arrows fired from a bow.

We were again taken apart for the third but no matter, we restricted them to fewer than Huddersfield and Cardiff managed. I’d be surprised if there weren’t other hidings to come.

There certainly are positives to take away and heads can be held high with hopefully belief and performance boosted for the challenges ahead and although very different to this they are massive challenges.

Jon Mitchell made saves and didn’t let us down. Nor did any of the back line. I’d agree with Curtis Nelson being man of the match. Perhaps the best thing that can happen is for him to keep playing to the level he appears to have got back to and we sell him for a decent sum in January if he won’t sign a new contract. Trouble is we obviously need our best players to stay and help keep us up.

To make two changes to the back line was incredibly brave when you consider what we were up against but both Rob Dickie and Sam Long did us proud. Long didn’t play a single minute for us in 2017/18. Previously this season he has played just 11 minutes in the Checkatrade and eight in the first round of this competition. Then he gets a full 90 against these guys.

I’d say these two deserve to remain as starters at Kingsmeadow. They’re both quite hard and that’s a quality that is always needed against the Wombles. Luke Garbutt seems to have now got it together – perhaps it was just time needed.

Even though City are what they are I thought our midfield had a better shape than it has recently. The Cameron Brannagan, Jamie Hanson, Shandon Baptiste trio provide bodies in the right areas although I’m still trying to work out the merits of giving the captaincy to the latter.

It was always highly unlikely that those playing further up field would cause much real damage to a defence as accomplished as our visitors’. Ricky Holmes dribbling and Gavin Whyte’s pace may make inroads against an average L1 back line but this was an altogether different affair.

Up front Jon Obika was far from being a disgrace and put that shift in we all talk about. At the moment he looks a better option than Sam Smith. It was a shame though that Obika couldn’t have been that little bit cleverer in timing his run when he ended up one on one with the keeper. He did of course still miss. Another weakness.

It’s the small details that make the difference and that’s one of the reason we are second bottom in a league two tiers below those we were playing against.

For all the positivity I’ve now used as a counter balance to my City worship there are other things that temper it.

We still make silly mistakes and you get punished for those even in L1 and there were some in evidence here. The number of times we gave the ball away is probably a meaningless statistic as we hardly had it but yet again there was a simple pass from Hanson that he put straight to an opponent and this was when for once he actually had time. It’s criminal to give the ball back in such a fashion. I also noticed once when Whyte had the ball and also a bit of space, albeit with no easy route very far forward, he made no incisive decision, pass or run. That’s the difference in class. At the time I thought even for L1 you’ve got to be a bit quicker than that. It’s not all about running quickly; it’s decision making. But if you’ve got no colleague readily available I can see why such things happen.

There was also the thought that if City had needed to they could have stepped up a gear or two and grabbed a few more goals much earlier than they did.

Our league record puts us second worst defensively with 19 conceded but only seventh worst when it comes to goals scored. On this display it looked like the back line was much more up to scratch than the strike force.  Indeed Martin Keown said as much on Radio Oxford after the game.

We had one shot all game and that wasn’t on target. I think it was Holmes on the one occasion he was able to run towards the City rear guard. If I recall correctly he had a team mate in a half decent position to his left but opted to hit a shot that was never going to go in. Things like that annoy me.

We kept narrow all game and that was probably a conscious decision in the hope of restricting the champions. It was actually noticeable at times that we were conceding the flanks as they were making the area the game was being played in as big as possible. Our conclusion being that getting more bodies in the box was the best way of keeping them out.

Well, that big day (for some) is now over and we have to buckle down big time to much less glamorous fare. Kingston here we come, where yet again we play a team that, incredible though it may seem, we can go above if we beat. That has to be by two goals though and it is highly questionable whether we have the players to find the back of the net enough times because, since Burton, our goal scoring has been binary.

Right lads, you’ve lulled them into a false sense of security. Now take them.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 26th, 2018 at 8:50 pm and appears under Fan's View, News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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