Monday, 23 August 2010

Arabian eyes are smiling

If City really are on the cusp of a new winning era, then when the history books are written tonight’s game against Liverpool will surely go down as an early sign of that epoch’s birth. Tonight the Blues were irrepressible, winning 3-0 as Liverpool were driven into the floor.

Dominant City

This was the most convincing win I’ve seen at Eastlands in memory. We bossed the game and dominated for large periods. Soon after kick off, our patterns of play showed positive thinking and a willingness to go forward at every opportunity.

And not only were we positive in an attacking sense, but we did the job defensively too. When we lost possession, we were quicker, sharper and more tenacious in the tackle than our opponents. As we increased our tally we gradually sapped the fight out of a Liverpool side that certainly were no pushovers – and this makes the victory even sweeter.

The central reason for this victory was our utter endeavour and commitment, and these attributes flowed from an unbelievably strong team core. At the back, Vincent Kompany was particularly imperious, executing numerous tackles to perfection. His partner and former captain Kolo Toure was very solid and added to the calmness that seemed to engulf the team when it was called upon to defend. In midfield, Nigel De Jong and Gareth Barry in particular were equally commanding as they fought tool and nail to break down Liverpool’s patterns of play. The distribution of De Jong and Barry was also particularly impressive – nothing flashy, just winning the ball and then getting rid of it efficiently.

The strength of our core enabled us to go forward with more confidence, and this we did. Deploying Adam Johnson and new signing James Milner on the wings, Mancini opted to play Captain Carlos Tevez alone upfront. Yaya Toure was the joker in the pack, the link up man between midfield and attack – essentially the position that Stephen Ireland coveted. Perhaps this will be a pattern in Mancini’s team selections. Assuming Yaya is in favour, at home he can be played in advanced positions whilst away he can drop back into a defensive midfield comprising of De Jong, Barry and James Milner.

And what of our new signing? There’s no two ways about it – James Milner impressed magnificently. I believe Stephen Ireland will be a good servant to Aston Villa, they certainly got a good deal. But so did City. Above all things, the strength, determination and cunning nature of Milner makes me think he is going to be a great asset to this Manchester City squad. He certainly made a great start, setting up the first goal for former Villa team mate Gareth Barry to place past Pepe Reina.

Tevez and Adam Johnson continued to impress. The Argentinean once again proved his mettle by scoring two goals, the first bundled in off a Micah Richards header, the second dispatched from the penalty spot after Adam Johnson was brought down.

Chances not taken

Hodgson’s men will surely rue a five minute period just after half time when they should have produced the equaliser were it not for the excellence of Joe Hart. Gerard, Ngog and Torres all went extremely close, produced two saves in quick succession from the new England No 1. I felt the game really turned on this sequence of play, and having missed the chance to level, soon the game was out of Liverpool’s reach.

A performance fit for a Sheikh

City fans were finally treated to their first glimpse of Sheikh Mansour in person. The Sheikh, who had temporarily jettisoned his Arabian garb for a Westernised suit and tie, sat in between the other two cogs of the club’s power axis – Khaldoon and Cook. Whilst Mansour may have been mightily impressed with what he saw, the latter two must have breathed a sigh of relief that this evening’s Merseyside opponents failed to spoil the Sheikh’s big introduction.

On the pitch though, the early signs are good, but at present I want to keep on looking at them as early signs. Nevertheless, it is hard to be negative. For this was a victory achieved without the likes of David Silva, Mario Balotelli, Emanuel Adebayor and Shay Given. The depth of the squad is now formidable, and so was the nature of this performance.

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