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Monthly Archives: January 2011

In what was a varied week for City, it ended in disappointment with the frustrating away defeat to Aston Villa but began on a brighter note in an exciting cup tie against Leicester City.

Following the fallout of the rather stressful yet entertaining match against Wolves last Saturday I was hoping that City would be able to put to bed the anxiety caused by their woeful defending in that game with a convincing victory against Leicester City in the FA Cup Third Round replay. Nevertheless, the game followed a remarkably similar pattern to that of the Wolves game thus, providing great entertainment for the neutral and undue stress for the City faithful.

As the players walked out onto the pitch they were wearing the red and black replica shirt of the 1969 FA Cup Final in which City beat Leicester. Each player had Young printed on the back of their shirts to pay tribute to Neil Young, scorer of the only goal in the Final of 1969, as he has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Young is a City legend who scored 107 goals over 11 years for City.

A poignant tribute for sure but I couldn’t help but think that there was an air of ‘typical City’ as Roberto Mancini donned a red and black City bar scarf on top of the now iconic blue and white version, that is synonymous with Mancini’s apparel. It seemed that mocking Leicester fans for a victory in the Cup some forty two years ago is hardly relevant and they may have looked rather foolish had they lost.

And I’m sure ‘typical City’ was prominent in the vocabulary of many fans after the match as they, rather characteristically, made the tie difficult for themselves. Leicester started brightly but it was City who took an early lead after a fine solo effort from Carlos Tevez who rather fortunately ran through the Leicester defence before firing high into the top corner of the goal. Not long after Patrick Vieira gave away a penalty to Leicester which Paul Gallagher was more than happy to convert and give the away fans plenty to cheer about.

The game was bright and lively with both teams getting into each other. Yet it was a quick-fire double from City that seemed as if it would put the tie comfortably beyond Leicester. A parried David Silva shot was put away by Vieira which was soon followed by a sublime through ball from the centre of pitch by Silva to tee up Adam Johnson who rounded off his diagonal run across the backline of Leicester’s defence with a powerful curled shot. The latter goal is another example of how David Silva is becoming an increasingly crucial player for City. Silva’s ability to pick a pass and willingness to follow the ball, thus linking the midfield together is a sight to behold. It is hard to believe that Silva is not a first team regular for the Spanish national team such is his quality. Not to digress.

With the game seemingly in the bag for City, they had a great chance to make doubly sure as they were awarded a penalty after Jack Hobbs tripped Tevez. How the referee did not give Hobbs a red card I do not know as he was clearly the last man, which by the law of the game means a red card. Nevertheless, Tevez was unable to convert the spot kick which resulted in an injection of self belief into Leicester. They had fifteen minutes of good possession and then Yuki Abe played a neat one-two with the referee and then played a nice forward ball which allowed Lloyd Dyer to put the ball away into the back of the net all too easily.

The pressure was on City for the remainder of the game until a powerful low strike from Aleksandar Kolarov sealed the victory and progression into the fourth round of the FA Cup.

On Saturday, City faced Aston Villa in the league in what was a frustrating away trip which ended in a one-nil defeat. Although City had a lot of possession it seemed that they were never going to breach the Villa defence. Villa took the lead after an Ashley Young shot from the edge of the 18 yard box was parried by Joe Hart into the path of Villa debutant, Darren Bent, who easily slotted the ball home. A dream start for Bent’s Villa career which at the same time began the frustrating afternoon for City players and fans.

With persistent pressure from City in the second half the Villa defence stood strong and did not allow City to pass. The closest City came was a deflected shot from Nigel de Jong that hit the post late on. As a result, City ended the week third in the League allowing Arsenal to take second place.

In the other news this week, it seems as if Shaun Wright-Phillips is close to a move away from City as Mancini continues to cleanse his squad of highly paid fringe players. It is understood that he is keen to link up again with former manager Mark Hughes at Fulham.

Next week: City take on Notts County in the fourth round of the FA Cup at Meadow Lane, Nottingham.

Words by Rob Toole

Boring, boring City? So were the ironic chants ringing around Eastlands as the 4-3 thriller against Wolves drew to a close. In a season where City’s football has been branded as boring, dull and defensive the last week has been quite the opposite.

The beginning of the week began with the completion of the £27 million capture of Edin Dzeko from German Champions Wolfsburg. The blockbuster signing of the January transfer window is sure too add to the pressure mounting on City to come good on their challenge for silverware this season. Here’s one who’s hoping Dzeko brings some extra spice to the league and ultimately proves his worth with a stack of goals.

Leading up to the game with Wolves it seemed Mancini was playing down the talk surrounding Dzeko’s debut, suggesting he would have “some part to play.” I strongly suspected Roberto Mancini was playing mind games in the build up to the tie and Dzeko he would start. Dzeko did start.

As the players kicked off you could be forgiven for thinking that it was not just Dzeko that had not kicked a ball for 30 day (due to the Bundesliga winter break) but the entire City team, such was the lacklustre, disjointed performance of the first half. The frustration of the home crowd was compounded when Wolves took an early lead after some sloppy defensive work from Kolo Toure allowing Nenad Milijas to capitalize. As a consequence, Wolves took command for the opening half hour.

Contrary to the post match reports I felt that Carlos Tevez epitomised all that was bad about City in the first half. If only he had made a few passes sooner instead of trying to play ‘Tevez versus Wolves’, City may have found a way back into the game sooner.

On the approach to half time City did make the break through in equally sloppy fashion to their opponents. Kolo Toure took advantage of a loose ball on the edge of the six yard box to fire a deflected shot just over the line.

At the start of the second half it was evident Mancini had dusted a few cobwebs off the City players. In fairness to Tevez, his desire to run rings around the Wolves defense paid dividends in the early moments of the second half. Picking the ball up close to the 18 yard box he ran through three Wolves defenders before slotting neatly into the base of the net.

Not long after Dzeko linked up well with Tevez and Yaya Toure to show a glimpse of his potential importance to the City team. After receiving the ball from Toure around the half way line he played a quick one two with Tevez before nutmegging a Wolves defender and smartly laying the ball off to Toure, who ran the length of the pitch to receive the final pass. Toure then completed a fine team move with a low finish from 18 yards.

So the party had started, the only thing missing a Dzeko goal. Yet it was Tevez who took the roof off with his second goal after heading into the top of the goal from a lofted cross from deep by Zabaleta.

It seems that no matter how much money is thrown around for City’s cause they never make things easy for themselves. Wolves found their way back into the game after some clumsy, impatient defending by Lescott who gave a penalty to Wolves which was confidently slotted away by Kevin Doyle.

With their tales up, Wolves made it 4-3 after they scrambled the ball across the line to make for a tense finish which City, in the end, just managed to hold out for three points.

Some of the defending on show from City was a throw back to the latter days of Mark Hughes tenure and provided a reminder of why he was replaced with Mancini in December ’09.

Yet on leaving Eastlands, City ended the week having played in a seven goal thriller, showcasing the talents of their latest big money buy and for one day only, sitting on top of the league. Boring, boring City indeed?

In other news this week, Michael Johnson is mooted to be close to full fitness and is keen to go on a loan move to find match fitness. Here’s one hoping he can stay fit and find the form that made him arguably one of best players for City during the 07-08 season under Sven Goran Eriksson and become an asset to City once again.

Next week: City take on Leicester City in Sven’s return to Eastlands in the FA Cup third round reply and face Aston Villa in a tricky away trip in the league.

Words by Rob Toole

So, as we enter 2011 the race for the Premier League title is hotting up with as many as five teams realistically in with a chance of being top of the pile in May. As a Manchester City fan I am thrilled to see my team’s transformation from Division 2 Play-Off Finalists to serious contenders for the top prize in English football in just over 10 years. However, whilst I am enjoying the, on occasion, brilliant football and the stars on show, I am becoming increasingly disillusioned by the intense, negative media coverage that City receive.

It’s important to stress  I wholly acknowledge that due to vast sums of money that have been, and continue to be invested, into the club, inevitably brings pressure to succeed. And rightly so. Yet, it seems that since the beginning of the season the media coverage and scrutiny of footballing “professionals” and the sporting media has become increasingly vicious, unfounded and ultimately pathetic.

Of all of the scorn poured on City the most feeble trend that has emerged is too attack the clubs’ team spirit. I use the word trend carefully as there is no doubt in my mind that cynics will take another angle of attack when the “team spirit” tactic has run its course. Examples being, the Nigel de Jong witch hunt of October, the Carlos Tevez saga of December.

Now, exactly how does one define team spirit? Is there a measure to calculate this? Perhaps performances on the pitch would be the best indicator? No! Seemingly the opinions of certain footballing “professionals” such as Tony Pulis, Tim Cahill, Cesc Fabregas and Alan Hansen carry more weight in the eyes of many. Darren Fletcher has been quoted as saying “I think maybe the team spirit and the togetherness is still to come”. What do you mean Mr Fletcher?

Fletcher and said professionals have made no bones about lambasting City alleged lack of team spirit suggesting a team cannot be successful without it. Surely, performances on the football pitch would be a more reliable indicator of team spirit than opinions of so called professionals. Take Tony Pulis’s definition of team spirit. Does that result in mid-tbale mediocrity along with a consistent dose of dull football? I am not sure I want team spirit  at City if that is the result.

Couple these types of attack with the newspaper hype and footballing pundits “expert insight” (namely Alan Hansen- seemingly a spiritual leader for all of those who love to hate Man City), the effect suggests City are on the brink of relegation, riddled with debt and heading for non-existence. On the contrary, City sit second in the Premier League (at the time of writing) and as a result are genuine title contenders for the first time in my life.

Not that I profess to be an expert on team spirit, in fact far from it, as I am not privy to the internal workings of Man City but I suggest that due to City’s league position and performances this season that team spirit is good, if not excellent. That is if such a thing exists. I suspect most footballers, managers and pundits that have made of point of criticizing City do not have the intellect to pass comment on something concrete, like performances on the pitch, but have instead jumped on the bandwagon which is driven by some moron from the Sun newspaper, I suspect.

Of all the negativity directed towards City I take most of it with a pinch of salt. Yet, the ‘team spirit’ tactic is the most irritating and pathetic. It is such an abstract argument with no weight whatsoever which is evidently born out of envy and cynicism. Quite frankly it is getting boring. It is like a broken record and the bandwagon is full.

Therefore, I suggest to you who have read my, I suspect, outspoken opinion to appreciate City for what they are: a team of good players, who play attractive football (on occasion) and are looking to finally break the tiresome ‘Big Four’ era of the Premier League. It is time for a change.

Only time will tell, but I have a strong suspicion that once Man City do break through and start winning trophies again, they will become media darlings (like Chelsea 2005) which will just go to show how pathetic sports journalism has become.

Words by Rob Toole