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.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Mancini passes first of many tests

The physical storm offered by Tony Pulis’ Stoke ended up being quietly weathered at a packed Eastlands yesterday, as City saw off the Potters 2-0 in an efficient but effective performance. Coming away from the game last night, the big question for me was whether I saw anything that represented progress from the Hughes era.

Possible changes
Of course at this early stage, even if the team has improved it is difficult to put this down to the new man at the helm. More often than not there’s an upsurge in work rate when a new manager comes in, which usually translates into an upturn in form. So positives should be taken with a pinch of salt at this stage.

We felt more assured at the back and consequently that meant we dealt much better with Stoke’s physical onslaught. Kompany was a welcome name on the team sheet. Although he was initially bought for defensive midfield duties, in many ways he is a modern centre back because of his confidence in possession. I felt Kompany had a good game yesterday, much more comfortable than Nedum Onuoha’s recent nervy showings.

Sylvinho turned out his best performance so far, although admittedly the left back could only improve after his showings against Spurs, Bolton and Sunderland. Zabaleta continues to be steady and proved once again what a good crosser of the ball he is by laying on the cross that eventually lead to Carlos Tevez’s seventh Premier League goal.

Its worth noting that Tevez is now City’s joint top scorer in the League alongside Emmanuel Adebayor. Who said the little Argentinean wasn’t a goal scorer?

The most notable change for me was the way we defended corners. We packed the 6 yard box with a line of four, followed with a line of three in front, with our attackers getting in amongst the Stoke players around the penalty spot. Not sure if this was a Mancini tactic or not, but it seemed to work against Pulis’ towering attackers. If anything, it served to give Shay Given the required space to better judge the cross, as opposed to Stoke players being allowed to crowd the small keeper.

Offensively, Mancini adopted a clear change in formation, partnering Robinho with Tevez up front and bringing Petrov in on the left side of midfield to fill the gap. I liked the look of this on paper because theoretically it gave the team more defensive cover down the left flank. After watching the game though, it must be noted that Petrov is not much better than Robinho when it comes to defending, and with Sylvinho wanting for pace, the left side is a definite weak spot that only begins to look stronger once Bellamy is in place.

Definite constants
Of course there were errors in our defensive game. In the first half Tuncay went clean through on goal, and were it not for the sheer quality of Given’s reactions Stoke might well have been heading into halftime 1-0 up with a very different game in prospect. In the second half the Potters began to ask more questions of the City backline and became more of a threat from set pieces. James Beattie in particular went close to the mark, but Given again proved to be more than equal. So although there were improvements at the back, its fair to say that this area will probably remain our weak spot for many more games to come. Only time (and hopefully more of Mancini’s double training sessions) will put this right.

I suspect one of the main talking points of this game will be none other than our erratic little Brazilian. There was certainly little evidence that a change in manager had produced the desired change in Robinho’s mentality that everyone wants to see. If it isn’t already, this will soon turn into one of Mancini’s most pressing problem: how to solve a problem like Robinho?

Unfortunately the lad was useless today. At best, his scuffed shot inadvertently lead to Martin Petrov’s tap in. At worst, his presence became a liability to wider efforts of the team. And let’s face it, football is, at the end of the day, a team game. At times the Brazilian’s body language was all wrong. When his passes went astray, it was always the fault of another blue shirt. When his shots dribbled off target, he was all eyes to sky and hands placed together, praying, though for what I cannot imagine. The frustrating thing is that Robinho requires no such divine intervention. He already has all that he needs at his feet. Its just that he refuses to use it.

It has been brimming for a while, but the crowd’s reaction to Robinho was also telling yesterday. With each additional pass that went astray, Eastlands become more and more exasperated with the little Brazilian’s wastefulness. When Mancini moved to Robinho’s aid by substituting him for Craig Bellamy, the Brazilian made it worse for himself by trying to take the applause that Eastlands crowd had so clearly reserved for the its talismanic Welshman. This sentiment was thrust home to Robinho when Bellamy ran onto the pitch, greeted by the roar of the home crowd.

And yet in all of this, I still believe that the lad does care. The petulant kick of a water bottle as he exited the stage can of course be interpreted in many ways, but I see a player who still wants to be loved by the Eastlands faithful.

I strongly advise Robinho to listen to the crowd that he paid to entertain. Within the rapturous applause given to Bellamy lies a message for the Brazilian: toughen up, increase your work rate, up your concentration levels, and whilst you are doing of these things, keep on producing the magic that only a handful of players in the world are capable of producing.

Perhaps it is a pipe dream to ask these things of Robinho, but if we do not see these improvements I fear one of the most talented players we have ever seen at City will be dropping off the Premiership radar for pastures new. And that will be seen as a clear failure by the likes of Mansour, Khaldoon and Cook because of the fact that Robinho cuts much more than just a footballing figure at the club. He remains the club hierarchy’s marquee signing, their statement of intent that City should be looked upon as one of the big movers and shakers of the world game. The media are sure to interpret his sale as an indictment on the club’s true aspirations.

On to Wolves
Overall I was pleased with the way Mancini’s City team (if we can call it so) despatched Stoke. It clearly could have been a lot worse given our recent defensive outings. Mick McCarthy’s Wolves will provide a slightly different test, away from home support of course, and will reveal more clues as to the direction in which we are heading in the post-Hughes era.

Monday, 21 December 2009

The battles that await the man of 'good fortune'

And so we have ourselves a new manager. Roberto Mancini, Italian, 45 years old, is said by his countrymen to be ‘kissed by good fortune' because he has won something at every club he has previously managed. Well, there’s a record right there that City might well threaten to break.

It may have been ugly, but there is little point now in dwelling on the departure of Mark Hughes. The board have cleverly left City fans with little option other than to get behind Roberto Mancini and the players. The new man at the helm will need all the support he can get given the nature of the problem on his desk this morning.

Winning back the dressing room
It’s impossible to say how this one will go. It’s one of those things that could just as easily be a storm in a tea cup as it could end up damaging squad morale to the point that it takes a toll on our league placing. This latter scenario would indeed represent a particularly ironic twist of fate for the powers that be at the club.

But we are not there yet. In fact, it is difficult to say exactly where we are at this point. Although Garry Cook has denied any rumour of a player revolt, it is clear that something went on after the game on Saturday. At best, there seems to be a fair bit of disgruntlement throughout the playing staff. At worst, things might be teetering on the borders of chaos if we are to believe everything we read in the media.

Upon learning of Hughes’ demise, a group of players are believed to have left the dressing room to confront members of the board in an attempt to keep Hughes in the job. The players that are said to have confronted one or all of Khaldoon / Cook / Marwood after the game (Given, Bellamy and a handful of others) are more likely than not our leaders on the pitch. It is thus vital that Mancini finds a way to channel the angst that now flows from these players. I might be wrong, but I think Bellamy might need a bit of work. Today’s press conference tells us this, with Mancini pointing to the fact that the Welshman has lost a manager he loved.

Delivering results that indicate a top four finish
This is such a vague target that I can only say “good luck with meeting this one Roberto.” At what point does a team look like a top four team? This season, I truly believe we will only know for sure when everyone has played 38 games.

According to Garry Cook's statement, after the initial target of 6th place, the board agreed a new target of 70 points with Hughes and his team. Last season, 70 points would have put us in 5th place. This season, it will most likely be 4th. So, the bottom line appears to be Champions League football next season or bust for Roberto Mancini.

This will be difficult because in a sense we are starting afresh. A lot depends on how much we change our style and formation of play and, just as if Mark Hughes would have been at the helm, an awful lot depends upon how the squad processes their instructions and applies the change. Mancini will need to have his communication hat on this week, and plus will need to improve his English to get specific messages across.

Winning over the fans
I certainly don’t expect a negative response from the crowd at the next home game against Stoke. But the fans need to see certain things from Mancini and his team before buying into his regime and the owners’ decision to change things around in the manner they did.

Winning the League Cup, and therein bringing home major honours to the club for the first time in 33 years will go a long way in this regard. Although the foundations of this cup run have been put into place by Hughes, it is of course still there to be won. Mancini’s task will be harder in this respect, but if the Italian is successful, not only will he have returned a major trophy to City’s dust laden cabinet, he will have also put one over on our Red neighbours.

Defensive improvements represent the other area where Mancini can really win fans over. If he can foster a system that gives the back four more protection whilst retaining our attacking potency, he will be onto a winner. But that of course is the Holy Grail as far as this side is concerned, and is easier said than done. A great deal of confidence building needs to take place at the back and the defence badly needs some breathing space in upcoming matches.

Which conveniently leads me onto our next opponents. Breathing space? Funny I should say that. Some might say this is a pessimistic view, but our next opponents, Stoke City, could not have come at a worse time. We all know what’s coming, and it certainly isn’t a game where we will have time when we have the ball. Balls are going to be pumped into the box at every opportunity in a bid to keep on asking questions of our backline. Its going to be a test, as is every game between now and the end of the season because of our newfound prominence in the game.

How well equipped is Roberto Mancini for the job at hand?
The man has good experience in Serie A and more importantly has won things on a consistent basis in Serie A. In this sense I certainly don’t think he is a flash in the pan. Another good point for City’s current squad is that he has dealt with some big name players at Inter – likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luis Figo, Patrick Vieira, Javier Zanetti etc. Not small fish by any stretch of the imagination.

My central concern is how quickly he will get to grips with the English game. It was like water off a duck’s back for Jose Mourinho, and to a similar extent Guus Hiddink, but with Mancini we simply do not know. This is the alarming thing about the whole affair – how the club seem to have gambled on this appointment. Whatever the reality, and however much deliberating they really did, I can’t help thinking that it still looks like a knee-jerk decision, a throw of the dice.

The one positive light that shines on the board is the speed at which they despatched with Hughes and installed a replacement. At least once the decision was made, we weren’t dithering around with botched moves for replacements. That the board were efficient gives Mancini quite a few days to work with the players before Stoke, and importantly it also gives the Italian a transfer window in which to operate.

At any rate it’s done deal now, so good luck to Roberto Mancini. I wonder whether he ever thought those four appearances for Leicester City in 2001 would come in handy?

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Bipolarity leads to the demise of Hughes

Perhaps the events of yesterday were inevitable. Perhaps Mark Hughes was always destined for the sack. Perhaps he was never really the man our Arab owners envisaged to lead City into a new era of success.

The real conundrum here is that Hughes has been given £200m to overhaul the squad. At some point over these past few months there must have been quite a bit of belief in the Welshman’s ability to do the job required. Why then, after investing so much money in the team, in the manager’s selection of players, in the manager’s revamp of the club facilities, have we decided to jettison Hughes.

Has this club really changed? Or are we making the very same mistakes that have seen us dispatch some very good managers over the years? You can probably guess that I am vehemently opposed to the sacking of Mark Hughes.

More bipolar play against Sunderland
Now, don’t get me wrong. It has certainly not been all roses under Hughes this season. In a strange way, the Welshman’s final game in charge against Sunderland yesterday said it all about the nature of play under his tenure this season.

We can attack. Very well. That much is certain. Yesterday our frontline looked like it would score almost every time it went forward. Granted, this owed much to the ineptness of Sunderland’s defence, but you can only beat what is put in front of you, and yesterday we breached Sunderland’s backline time and again. The lynchpins of our forward movement are clear for all to see: Bellamy, Tevez and, when he feels like it, Adebayor. Sometimes they are a joy to watch, unlike anything I have ever witnessed at City over all the time I have been going to the games. Hughes should take credit for this – we have been attack minded and free flowing for the most part because we have been trying to play to our strengths. Hughes has tried to take the shackles off our forward players. He has told them to go and play.

But we just cannot defend. Indeed, this appears to regressed ever further with yesterday’s game. We weren’t capable of defending our area – it’s pretty much as simple as that. The vast majority of crosses caused us problems and there seemed a distinct lack of our backline winning any sort of aerial battle. The battles we won yesterday were hardly ever directed towards a blue shirt, which meant that we were being called upon to defend again.

Of course, the defence hasn’t been helped with injuries to Bridge and Lescott (the latter of which was beginning to look like the more promising of our two big central defensive buys). What consistency there was has been wiped away, with Sylvinho understandably still getting to grips with his second spell in England and Onuoha looking shaky.

At the end of the day, these are excuses. This is what we have a squad for, to bring players into the team to do solid jobs when our first choices are injured. But nothing has gone right at the back pretty much since the home draw against Fulham.

The blame game
The debate will rage on long and hard about who exactly is responsible for the downfall of Hughes.

Of course, the Welshman must shoulder some of the blame himself. Bar Robinho, all transfer deals appeared to have his blessing, so we cannot say that this wasn’t his team. Maybe he got it tactically wrong. Before the summer signing spree, Hughes talked and talked about getting the balance of the side right. John Terry and Theo Walcott aside, he pretty much got what he wanted during the summer. Getting the right players in the right positions is one thing, but moulding them into a cohesive unit is another. And this is where the tactics come in. Louise Taylor makes a very interesting point here – that Hughes’ tactics have inadvertently ended up exposing players like Bridge and Lescott (who both previously played under more cautious managers) to new defensive frailties.

This said, I think there were small signs that defensively we were coming together. Yes, we were still leaking goals badly, but I thought that Bridge, Lescott and Richards were making small strides after the Hull game. Time and patience are the only things that could’ve given us any kind of real verdict here, but time and patience are luxuries that have now escaped Mark Hughes, and now perhaps we will never know whether or not we were coming together as a defensive unit.

For me, the real buck must stop with the players. The Robinho’s, the Adebayor’s, the Toure’s of the squad have let Mark Hughes down badly. We signed quality attacking players that have delivered only occasionally. We signed hardened premier league players that demonstrated their experience only in glimpses. Everybody knows we have the quality to be better than where we currently are – 6th in the table. But I don’t think the players have taken the necessary responsibility required. There was a time when they did, in the early part of the season, but somehow this has been whittled away.

The real movers and shakers behind the scenes I feel have made a big mistake. Who knows from where the initial urge to terminate Hughes’ contract initially came? It is probably wrapped within conversations between Mansour, Khaldoon, Cook and City’s Executive Leadership Team. We are 6th in the table, we are 6 points of 4th place with a game in hand. We are in the Semi finals of the League Cup, a stage we have not reached in any cup competition since 1981. How can this not be viewed as progress?

The counter argument lies in the nature of our performances. Two wins in the last 11 league games is not good, and although we have lost only one of those 11, it is the way we have been surrendering leads against lesser teams that surely has to have been the final nail in Hughes’ coffin.

Do we now have a pop at the club’s leadership?
Whether or not we can vilify our leaders depends upon the manner in which they have communicated to Hughes how they were to assess his performance. If they have simply said “Mark, its top four or bust for you this season,” then I don’t believe this sacking stands up. This league is an open one, I and believe we are still very much in the mix for that 4th place. If, like Hughes says, he was given a target of a top 6 finish, then the board’s move is sheer madness.

If on the other hand, the leadership has set mid-season targets with Hughes, then it is a different ball game. I think that it’s entirely likely that Hughes has been set a target of wins before Christmas, and as he has gone because he has not achieved that. If he knew this from the beginning of the season, then fine. If not, then foul play is at work here.

Thank you Mark Hughes
I liked Hughes as a manager. I thought he conducted himself well for the club, was very professional both at the dugout and off the pitch, plus was not afraid of mixing it when other managers started to apply the mind games. The sad fact is that, much like Richard Dunne, he found himself overtaken by the broader drive of a club whose ambitions have been in overdrive for some time now.

Hughes has given us some good memories. Some, like the UEFA cup run that saw us reach the quarter finals, are all his. Unfortunately others, such as the oncoming League cup semi final against United, he will now not be allowed to enjoy. Above all he has given us some excellent attacking play.

Looking back, I always thought that Hughes would bring this club into an era of consistency. Funny then, that one of the biggest memories I will have of this era is just how consistently inconsistent his team has been.

But when all is said and done, I still firmly believe that this is something time and patience would have righted.

Now the merry-go-round starts again, as another promising manager attempts to cure our club’s seemingly intractable ails.

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.