Monday, 27 September 2010

A very productive weekend

After the midweek despair at having exited the League Cup, this weekend has provided a much needed restorative tonic. It certainly feels like we are back on track now. In truth, in league competition we were probably never really that far off it.

From one extreme to the other

Mancini will probably have breathed the biggest sigh of relief. He may well argue that injuries forced him into fielding the young, inexperienced side that failed at West Brom. But this is a results business, and whichever way you look at it, it was a shocking result in a competition where we had an excellent chance of getting to final, a chance that would’ve been all the more realistic by the fact that Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham also crashed out. To add to this, the team did include some experienced names: Given, Adam Johnson, Vieira, Santa Cruz and Jo. It wasn’t a bunch of kids playing out there, and we capitulated.

Defeat to Chelsea this weekend and I think there may have been murmurings of discontent amongst some elements of the fanbase. All the more important then, that we deliver the performance and the result. And I have to hand it to the lads, they delivered both with flying colours.

Carlos Tevez

When this era is over, I wonder how Carlos Tevez will be looked upon. Is he a City legend in the making? His contribution since donning the Blue shirt of Manchester certainly points towards this eventuality. And of course, Tevez’s contribution is made up of endeavour and goals – coupled with the ability to do it when it really matters. Against Chelsea he proved this yet again, with an excellently taken goal as City countered Chelsea’s attack.

Yet our strongest asset highlights an emerging vulnerability: a lack of versatility up front. Our attack is highly mobile, but it is small, which means we can only realistically go forward one way – on the deck. Adebayor is not the striker we need and he seems unable to challenge in the air. I don’t see what he offers the team that is different / better to what we already have. Santa Cruz is much more of a target man but yet his performances so far – combined with his injuries – suggest that his future lies elsewhere.

I’m not sure whether this lack of versatility is something the January transfer window can right, but its clear we need further options. If nothing else the home draw against Blackburn lends weight to this view. Teams that attempt to suffocate us will always stand a chance.

Keep calm and carry on

The other massive positive in performance terms was the way we defended. We look solid at the back, much more so than last season. This is something Mancini must take the credit for. This runs against what I am used to watching City, but for the moment at least we do not seem to be panicking when we take the lead and we do not look like conceding. Kompany continues to massively impress, but also Boyata deserves a mention for the way he dealt with the likes of the marauding Ashley Cole and awkward figure of Didier Drogba. He may well have been lucky to stay on the pitch, perhaps you could say the same of Pablo Zabaleta who also dramatically mistimed a couple of tackles, but our aggression was part of the reason why we emerged victorious. There’s not many teams that strong arm Chelsea into defeat, but we certainly did that on Saturday. And of course we did all this without - for the most part - our new defensive signings, with Kolarov still out of action and Boateng finally making his debut late in the game as a substitute for Boyata.

Having not panicked, we must continue to remain calm and pick up maximum points. This weekend was productive not only in our performance but also in terms of other teams’ performances. With Spurs and Arsenal both losing, and United and Liverpool both drawing, the top four seems to be taking shape (we hope). But we need to keep on winning. Extract 6 points from our next two games against Newcastle (home) and Stoke (away), and we will be consolidating our position. And that is where we need to be because otherwise, great victories of the kind we witnessed this weekend will only feel hollow.

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