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