Sunday, 6 December 2009

Building Rome

We all know that Rome wasn’t built in 24 hours, but yesterday City went a long way to putting some vital bricks into place. What a performance. I was inspired by it.

The subtitle to this blog illustrates my current state of mind: the frustration of the seven draws, now coupled with the elation of victories over Arsenal and Chelsea, along with a smattering of belief that this side is truly changing. City teams of old would not have delivered the result we have witnessed today.

Positives throughout the team
Aside from individual performances, the nature of this victory made it that much more satisfying. Coming from a goal behind to defeat Chelsea, undoubtedly the team of the moment, the favourites to win the Premiership title, was for me the real sweetener here. Chelsea are very talented, creative and skilful with the ball, but the remnants of the Mourinho regime are clearly still there for all to see. Power, aggression, resilience, the will to win. If the Portuguese left the club with nothing else, he left it with a team of fighters. Yesterday, we outfought that team.

Our refusal to go quietly was epitomised by Shay Given’s penalty save from Frank Lampard. The Chelsea midfielder rarely misses, his technique is often spot on, but because Given is a top class shot stopper, penalties against him need to be placed in the corners. Fortunately for City Lamps wasn’t up to the task. I felt Given’s save swung the momentum of the match back towards City. Chelsea pressure had been steadily building since City edged ahead, and it was clear that something had to give at one end of the pitch. After the miss, Chelsea never got going again as an attacking force, City’s counter attacks became more frequent. Frankly the game could’ve easily finished 3-1 just as easily as 2-2.

The defensive partnership between Toure and Lescott is now looking in much better shape than it did a couple of games ago. For me it has been on the cards with Lescott. He has been gradually improving since the Hull game. The midweek victory against Arsenal in the Carling Cup saw more positives for the centre half, and then yesterday he cut a commanding figure once again. Toure made some vital tackles and looks more like the player we thought we had signed from the Gunners. Up until now perhaps injury has made him play within himself.

Meanwhile Micah Richards, unbelievably, is looking more like his old self. Somehow, whether it is down to Micah sorting his own head out, or whether it is down to Hughes putting a rocket up his backside (I suspect the latter) the right back’s mind seemed to be entirely focused on stopping the coming attacks from Ashley Cole and simultaneously supporting SWP when necessary. Added to the mix here was the willingness to put his body on the line. His early exit from the game due to injury I think was testament to this.

Carlos Tevez is looking more and more like our attacking fulcrum. Aside from scoring the winning goal, his linkup play, especially in the last quarter of the match when we were under the cosh, was excellent. Without it we could not have withstood Chelsea’s pressure. Instead, Tevez (halfway between the penalty area and halfway line) provided the vital outlets that allowed the team to release the pressure. If we could have called upon this skill against United, we would have come away from Old Trafford with a point and would now be the only unbeaten team in the league.

Tactical improvements
Hughes deserves praise. The nature and timing of his substitutions have improved markedly since Hull. Against Arsenal, Kompany came on to sure things up, and Weiss came on to give Arsenal something different to think about. Against Chelsea, Kompany and Zabaleta came on (although it must be acknowledged these were more forced in the sense that they were in response to the injuries of Richards and Bridge). These substitutions seem to be a better fit with Hughes’ footballing philosophy. Just because we have an array of attacking talent at our disposal doesn’t necessarily mean we should be making attacking substitutions to protect our leads. Sometimes, it is better to shut up shop and win through a cautious approach than try to kill teams off. Against Arsenal, Kompany’s introduction arguably gave us the more solid defensive formation that eventually allowed us to finish them off.

The bottom line
The simple underlying change we have witnessed this week is that City had the concentration and passion to match our footballing skill. Every blue shirt put in a shift. When that happens, we look increasingly formidable. And this means that – when it clicks like it did yesterday - we are always going to be a hard outfit to beat. Even for the best the Premier League has to offer.


  1. Liked the article and often it is seen in most things ---- the ones with the heart when in more ways than one.

  2. Forgive the mis-spell

    the ones with heartwin in more ways than one.