Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Blue discipline grinds Wolves into the ground

Sometimes a 3-0 win is more satisfying than a 7-0 drubbing.

A 3-0 win can speak of a controlled and disciplined performance, an efficient despatching of a team that (unlike in a 7-0 scenario) has not completely lost its head but has tried its utmost to defeat you, and yet has still been beaten comprehensively. In brief, this is the story of City’s 3-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers yesterday.

The blunt teeth of McCarthy’s Wolves
The Midlanders had a right to feel at least partially aggrieved because they did try hard and they did have spells of sustained pressure in the first half that should have lead to a goal. In the end, the best they had to offer was a shot from outside the area that did little to trouble Shay Given, who must be quietly enjoying his newfound status as one of the top five goal keepers in the world, at least according to a certain Italian. It soon became very clear that McCarthy’s men had very little to offer going forward other than the obvious hulking presence of Chris Iwelumo and the more nascent threat posed by Kevin Doyle, the latter of which was thankfully substituted in the second half.

City demonstrate a solid core
Whilst the blunt attack of the home team was partly down to their one dimensional play, it was also down to the grit and fight of our central midfield and defensive partnerships. Bellamy and Tevez will naturally take the plaudits but this was a victory built as much on our two attacking kingpins as it was on the midfield dynamism of De Jong and Barry, who both worked tirelessly to win back possession and distribute it effectively. I felt that Barry in particular showed a welcome return to the kind of form he was turning out during the winning streak at the beginning of the season.

An assured air was once again detected at the heart of City’s defence. As he boards the plane to Angola, Toure will be pleased to have finished his City shift on a higher level than what we have seen from him in recent weeks. It is a shame that he and Kompany will not be allowed to build upon their fledgling defensive understanding by delivering another clean sheet against Middlesbrough at the weekend.

The continuing centrality of Tevez
Once again, it is impossible to ignore the quality of our attacking play. Whilst it’s true that we look much more threatening going forward with Bellamy in the team, the importance of Tevez to our overall offensive play grows with every game. For a small guy he wins a surprising amount of long balls, which makes Adebayor’s tepid contribution in this department all the more frustrating. Tevez succeeds where the Togolese fails because of his guile (knowing to jump at the correct moment) and strength (he can pretty much hold off anyone once the ball is won). The central payoff for the team is that he brings other players into the game in the final third of the pitch. Aside from the Argentinean’s undoubted technical ability, it is these attributes above all that lead me to believe that he was made for this League. He is a joy to watch.

It is so easy to take players like Tevez for granted, but after listening to BBC Wolverhampton radio after game and hearing the glowing praise heaped onto the Argentinean’s shoulders by Wolves supporters, it puts it all into perspective. How privileged are we to have a player like Tevez in our starting 11? How wistful must Wolves supporters feel? Mick McCarthy must yearn for a striker of Tevez’s quality heading up his attack, as must most managers in the game.

Mancini’s touch?
Clearly something seems to be going right since the Italian took over. He is after all working with the same players as Hughes, in fact if anything he is working with a slightly weakened team given injuries to Lescott, Bridge, Santa-Cruz and Adebayor.

We must still apportion some of our recent success to the ‘new manager syndrome’ – i.e. a surge in form as everybody tries to impress. But we must also pay attention to what Mancini is doing with the team.

Changes in the realm of tactics could be seen at Molineux with the shifting of Bellamy to partner Tevez up front. This is being widely touted as a big turning point in the game, and whilst there’s leverage in this I felt that we ultimately won the match because of our tenacity and determined mentality that slowly picked apart an industrious Wolves side. Of course, tactical changes play their part, but with the group of intelligent, skilful players that we have, I have always felt that the right mentality will return positive results 95% of the time.

This leads me to the other area where Mancini may be making inroads. Far more difficult to quantify of course but fundamental in my opinion, is the Italian’s man-management and motivational methods. There must have been some positive change in this area. You can have all the tactics in the world, but if they are not applied correctly, they are wasted. Implementing the job in the right way comes down to concentration, which in turn comes down to motivation, and knowing what makes the players tick. Whether it be Mancini, Kidd or whoever else, someone is doing something different in this department. How fascinating to be a fly on the wall of the changing room before the game?

Balancing Bellamy with Robinho
The media has clearly looked to make much of the supposed rift between Mancini and Bellamy. Far from ‘dropping’ Bellamy against Stoke or Robinho against Wolves, Mancini has looked to rotate. Robinho is a much more potent weapon at home when the onus is on us to attack (although admittedly he failed against Stoke). Bellamy is a much more potent weapon away when we need to do a bit more leg work whilst retaining an attacking threat. Taking current form into account, I’d be inclined to play Bellamy everytime, but we must also remember the effect of two full games in the space of three days on the Welshman’s troublesome knee.

When Robinho did emerge from the bench we saw a more switched on performance than the one we got against Stoke. He showed some nice touches, sent a shot fizzing tantalisingly just over the upright, and of course set up Tevez for the third goal.

Garrido strikes back
Finally, a word of congratulations to the forgotten Spaniard, who not only made his second substitute appearance in as many games, but managed to score with a superb curling free kick that made the Wolves keeper look rather amateurish. I would’ve forgiven Garrido for thinking that he had been discarded forever in the wreckage of the Hughes era, but he certainly hasn’t been forgotten by certain members of the City blogging community, as fellow blog We’ve Got Robinho will attest. It’s a funny old game.

1 comment:

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