Hughes to meet club owners in Abu Dhabi

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The Independent Football

There was no delicate way around the necessary question for Mark Hughes, who in a week or so will be on a plane bound for Abu Dhabi to meet his club's new owners.

With nine points fewer than Sven Goran Eriksson had collected at this time last season - and look what happened to him - how does he feel about his future employment prospects?

Hughes answered with his usual handsome grip of a question like that. "You can look at the negatives aspects of the stats or the positives, whichever angle you want to highlight," he said.

You can say that we're scoring as many goals as the top teams - that's a positive. The negative is that we're conceding too many and losing games as a consequence." The crucial statistic is that City have conceded twice in five of their last six games, their defence porous in a way which is making a mockery of that top four talk.

Hughes, who needs Sunday's trip to resurgent Spurs like a hole in the head, stated again yesterday, that the squad he inherited from Eriksson "hasn't been added to, to any great extent" (Jo, Robinho, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Shaun Wright-Phillips don't seem to count). There will be money for more and the defence is in need of wholesale reconstruction, with Micah Richards going backwards, Richard Dunne's occasional stellar displays masking a struggle for form and Javier Garrido looking a misfit.

Hughes could at least reflect on the snip at £8m which Shaun Wright Phillips, a rather better piece of business that £17m David Bentley has been for Spurs.He insists he did not bid to buy Bentley from his old club Blackburn Rovers in the summer, though the view from Ewood Park is that an informal inquiry as to his availability was made.

"Shaun was something like £8million, Bent's was £17million so I'm not too upset with the deal I've been able to do," said Hughes, whose defensive woes are not helped today by the absence of influential holding midfielder Vincent Kompany. "That's not to say I haven't got great admiration for what David can do.I think he just needs to be played in the right position. He was messed around [by Juande Ramos] somewhat playing in different positions."

City have not won away since the Arabs bought them but Hughes maintains that the Eriksson way is not for him. "It's still very early in what they are having to experience because the way I work I know is completely different the previous manager so that takes time but we'll get there," he said.