… Mr Sarri, but it’s your job to make me love my club again after a pretty f*cking turbulent summer that has left me rocking in a corner, hugging my cat and stuffing chocolate in my face. Good luck.
This doesn’t feel like the beginning of – new season at all with half the side still on holiday. They fielded a much stronger team than us. Nobody who progressed further than the group stages on the World Cup started for the Blues but there was a welcome return for Luiz. Debuts – Mahrez for them – a truly horrific warm up shirt for us, as well as Jorginho. Hudson-Odoi got the start he so richly deserves after his showing so far in pre-season. They were closer to full strength so it would be a good marker to see how Sarri is getting on when he is pitched against a side that were dominant champions a few months ago. Although at least Sarri looked like a coach. Pep looked like he has been taking style tips from Joey f*cking Barton – who turned up to Fleetwood’s opener looking like he was going for a night out at his local Wetherspoon’s and rightly got two points docked for his sartorial whimsy.
The first half-chance fell to Sane on two minutes after Morata gave the ball away. I was more interested in watching Luiz and Aguero, because even if the football was sh*t we would be entertained Gladiator style, with them pulling each other’s limbs off and using them as clubs. We were already notably trying to push the ball around, everyone trying to off the ball in two touches or less. And forward. Mikel’s head would have literally exploded. It all looked very new though, and certainly not sharp yet. There were some sparks though, Barkley looked out to impress and Hudson-Odoi was the font of all promising attempts to bust through their half. We were not pinned to the wall, but they’d had much more possession. We were a little wasteful in giving the ball away and it bit us in the a*se inside the first fifteen minutes. We just failed completely to shut Aguero down, nowhere near tight enough at all and their first goal notably came through the spot where you’d usually be expecting the Kante twins to have worked their magic. Sarri was making a copious amount of notes, which is what you want to see at this stage. As the half wore on we started to build up some time on the ball, but much of it was still sloppy. Yet they kept breaking and we’d yet to fashion a shot on or off target. Problem number one with this setup. If a side shuts this philosophy down and doesn’t let you play this dynamic attacking football then it leaves us bereft. It’s going to make it even more imperative that we seize every chance we get instead of wasting 90% of them like we did last season. On the half-hour mark CHO (I can’t keep typing this out for the next decade) cut inside and it was about as close as we’d come, but still a good way high. He came much, much closer by running through on 33 and leaving the City defence for dust, but it was stopped by the keeper. He had looked the best going forward by miles for us so far. More possession than most of the rest of combined. Morata had been anonymous. If I have noticed him, it had been because he had been giving the ball away. We’d just started to find our feet a bit as the half entered the final stages, but the danger was always there. Luiz had to bail out Alonso on 35. Christ knows where the left-back was as City broke. He nearly atoned two minutes later with a looping ball across to the far corner, but the keeper was alive to the threat. He clumsily let it bounce over his head in injury time, but he got out of jail. So at the break we’ve not seen any evidence of this dynamic attacking football, but let’s be fair, it is going to take more than three weeks to learn how to play it. CHO had done more than anyone to claim a start next week so far.
On 47 minutes Morata was in, but what manifested itself was a really limp attempt at driving past the two defenders. As in none whatsoever.
Somehow Aguero only hit the side netting when he was one on one with Big Willy. Dave deserves credit for arriving in the nick of time to push him wide too. Everything they do was coming down our left-hand side. Our midfield was being overrun, and no pressure was being applied by the front three collectively, with only HO holding the ball up. Added to that this wasn’t dynamic at all, there was no tempo. On 57 the ball was given away cheaply up front and within ten seconds they’ve gone down the other end and scored. I feel for the defence today. Massive pressure on Luiz and Rudi all afternoon. Dave was commendable but Alonso had been violated all afternoon on the left flank. You can’t afford to gift City possession anywhere on the pitch, and we kept doing it, so time to experiment with something different. Willian and Drinkwater poised to come on for CHO and Fabregas, who had been hanging out of his a*se since the half-hour mark. Within seconds Pesto (updated my iPhone operating system over the summer – autospell is still sh*t) was limping but he managed to run off knock by the 64th minute when he hit a shot with all the conviction of Bertie the kitten pushing his empty food bowl around the floor and hoping that a pouch of gourmet Felix will appear in it.
Refwatch: Jonathon Moss. After Bobby Madley last year the FA continued their habit of awarding the Community Shield to a complete f*cktard. That said I barely noticed the chump was there. If only it could be so every time his podgy face emerges.
The new boss continued to ring the changes. Tammy Abraham came on on 69 for Morata, but we looked ragged and as if we are running out of steam. It was a big ask to expect him to turn it all around. St. Pep sacrificed Aguero for Kompany to see out the result, and enter Moses stage left for Pesto on 79. He looked spritely, almost breaking through on 84, but Chelsea fans were already streaming out of the ground. I don’t know how the f*ck he missed on 88 minutes. Another half chance that might have turned this into a match, but failed to materialise. There had been a few.
So: If Kante is even 15% match fit for Huddersfield he’ll start. I was already confident that Fabregas will be a bit part player this season and nothing happened to convince me otherwise today. Not only that but Jorginho’s afternoon was hampered by covering for him, and he was much helped when Tenacious Double D came on. More promise from CHO, no improvement from Morata yet, David Luiz making Conte look like a mug by slotting straight back in the side next to Rudi. Concerns over Alonso in a more traditional left-back role for me, not so for Dave on the other side. Nothing special from Pesto and a bit of a dud game for the subs to come on and make a play for a starting berth next week. I don’t think Caballero was at fault for either goal, but none the less all eyes will be on what’s happening with Courtois in the run-up to the close of the transfer window. I’m of a mind now that we make him stay and he can do what the hell he wants as a free agent in the summer. Rather that than us end up short.
This was a reality check for all those who thought Sarri might turn up with his famed relentless attacking and we’d surmount the thirty odd point gap to the top of the table last season in the blink of an eye. It is just another pre-season friendly, let’s be honest. Albeit with a lot of bells and whistles attached. Lots to work on. Sh*t gets serious tomorrow when everyone else returns from holiday. Just get through Huddersfield without a disaster and then for me our season really begins with Arsenal, when the damn window has been shut for fortnight and everyone has had time to settle down more. This was by no means as hilarious and exciting as I anticipate the bonkers end to the transfer window to be – At which point I will be back to mock it all.
You can now purchase the book of last season. Huzzah! A version for phone and tablet etc. is to follow in the next 24 hours or so: