Saturday, 14 August 2010

Hart drags City through the opening day

Tottenham Hotspur were always going to provide stiff opening day opposition for Mancini’s men and they didn’t fail to disappoint, but somehow the Blues managed to come through unscathed to produce a 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane. They owe it all to their keeper.

Joe Hart steps up to the plate

One of the most pressing pre-season questions has been who Mancini would opt for on the opening day of the season. Would he go for the experience of Shay Given or the youthful promise of England’s new no.1? Hart got the nod and was called into action perhaps a lot sooner than he would have liked as Spurs laid siege to the City penalty area in the first 20 minutes of the match. The likes of Defoe, Assou-Ekotto and in spectacular fashion Huddlestone all had a go but were denied by the City keeper. Bale finally managed to beat Hart but was denied by the far post, with Defoe unable to force home the rebound. With a mixture of luck and skill, we weathered the storm of the first quarter and made sure we got into half time all square. Centre back pairing Vincent Kompany and Kolo Toure were particularly impressive. Kompany was imperious in some of his tackles, but I think Kolo had one of his best games for us so far. Perhaps stripping him of the captaincy has been a good thing.

The roots of Spurs’ siege

We did not help ourselves. Micah Richards in particular had a woeful opening game, ripped to shreds by Gareth Bale every time the Spurs winger attacking. Not too long ago, Richards was harping on about how he had taken Mancini’s words to heart and accepted that he must improve his concentration levels if he is to warrant a place in the starting eleven. He may be able to talk a good game but there was zilch evidence of his improved concentration at White Hart Lane today. Richards also had no answers when it came to dealing with Peter Crouch, our nemesis of recent times. To compound matters, he gave away the ball far too much.

It would be unfair to just slate Richards with giving away the ball when this right through the team, meaning that we had little time to develop the composure in order to build attacks. Shaun Wright-Phillips was once again wasteful in possession, but Yaya Toure and David Silva and even Carlos Tevez were guilty of aimless balls.

Of all the new signings, I thought Alexsandar Kolarov had the most solid debut, dealing well with Aeron Lennon and getting forward himself, only to be nullified by the England winger. An injury to Kolarov during the first half saw him substituted at half time.

Second half revival

Things couldn’t get any worse after the break, and they didn’t as we came back into the game. I completely back Mancini’s decision to give Carlos Tevez the captaincy. Whilst the Argentinean’s English may not be the best, he leads by example on the pitch. He is still our best player, still at the centre of most of our attacking play. He was much more able to effect our game in the second half, coming deep to find the ball, buzzing around the edges of the area, drifting to wide positions. He was our all action hero and a constant menace to Spurs.

No matter how much of a battering you take in these kinds of games, if you can keep things all square, there will always be something that falls to you. That chance fell to SWP just after the restart, with Yaya dropping a perfectly flighted ball behind the Spurs defence to set up Shaunie one on one with Gomes. Unfortunately though, the little winger wanted too much time and the defender managed to get back into position and clear the lines.

Taking the positives

A special mention for Yaya Toure, who I think could well become a unique player for us. On the surface he is a defensive midfielder, but underneath this exterior there is a wealth of attacking potential. We saw elements of this against Valencia. In a midfield that will sometimes be packed with holding players, he is the dark horse that could be much more destructive than teams think. He is Vieira – with legs. I just hope that this does not stunt the development of Michael Johnson, who is another box to box player that has the tools to the whole job.

But for their wastefulness and Hart’s brilliance, Spurs should’ve been at least 2-0 up at half time. Prior to the game I had defensive concerns – particularly Kolo and Richards – but in the end our resilience enabled us to hold off Redknapp’s men, something we could not do last season. Whilst we didn’t look at sharp as our opponents, we kept on going. We gave away possession too much and were too often second to the ball, but this sharpness will come with more games.

I also had concerns over communication and team cohesion. David Silva started slowly and was caught in possession on occasion, but by the second half he looked far more comfortable and the signs of a good understanding with Tevez were there. The Spaniard has a fantastic touch.

We looked like half a team and half a group of talented individuals, but the fact that we kept Spurs out showed that we fought well. In the long run, I think this draw will serve us well.

This was a better point for us than it was for them.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous15/8/10 11:05

    We were unable to keep hold of the ball, especially in the 2nd half, Adebayor being he main culprit !!!