As with most things in life confidence is a major factor in performance. In the second half yesterday you could see that grow and grow throughout the whole of the Manchester City team – as the game progressed we got our ‘swagger’ back!
Change up front
With news filtering through that Edin Dzeko was left at home due to being unwell, it was up to Alvaro Negredo to ‘front it’ alone - huh…well with the support of one of the best midfields in Europe of course. So I was braced for another frustrating game for the ‘out of sorts’ Spanish bull (sorry, beast) and I was so very pleased to see that frustration turn into satisfaction.
|Kick up the back-side but, hopefully, he's back!|
Alvaro himself might not see it like that in the slightest; after all he didn’t complete his main task as a striker, which is to score of course. But if he was to read this or any similar reports on his own performance yesterday then I hope he takes solace from the fact that, from the stands, it was very obvious that he’d ‘turned a corner’ in his recent misfortunes.
As well as desperately missing his Argentinean strike-partner his mobility had been hugely restricted following a most annoying and long-lasting shoulder injury. But all that was put behind him yesterday against ill-fated Fulham; he was mobile and his signature, all-impressive, interchanging-deft-touches were back for all to see.
He may-well not have scored but that makes the quite-correct M.E.N.'s score of 8/10 even more impressive.
Is ‘The Beast’ back? Well as much as I love the goal-scoring, intelligent powerhouse my only criticism is that he, like a lot of strikers, is a ‘confidence man’…and that can lead to some wildly inconsistent performances at times. If he DOESN’T take it too much to heart [that he couldn’t find the back of the net yesterday] then this was a big step in the right direction.
There’s no doubting, in my opinion, that when Aguero DOES return then the Spanish striker WILL come back with a bang! In the mean time, I’d start with him against Manyoo again on Tuesday (particularly if Dzeko is still slightly weak from illness) and give him another opportunity to put-in another 8/10 performance.
As for the game (and the rest)…
We certainly rode our luck in the early stages and on the odd occasion in the first half - my mate and I agreed that any better team would have punished us severely. But having shaken off some flaky moments, the back four solidified and gained in confidence (there’s that word again).
|Match ball for the hat-trick hero!|
But it was James Milner who, for me, came closest to steeling the day’s crown from Yaya. James NEVER lets us down but when played in the right game, in the right position and in the right formation he gives us so very much more.
He has always had energy and guile aplenty but the
international has also moved up another level as the months & years have progressed
since his Aston Villa days. His interchanging
of passes with his colleagues is excellent (his long-passing too) and he gets
himself in dangerous positions. The only slight
criticism - and he-himself might admit it - is that he, perhaps, should finish
moves off a little more than he does with a few more goals…but then again so
should David Silva. James was unlucky, on occasions, not to score yesterday
though and it certainly wasn’t for want of trying. England
But he tackles / ‘back-tracks’ too and a player who can offer ALL that – especially an English one – is almost priceless these days and he would get in most Premier League sides I’m sure.
The defence, after their shaky start of course, all get 7s or 7.5s from me; another decent performance from Demichelis…with the added bonus of very rare goal!
Poor Joe Hart [with little to do]. The only difference between him and me (apart from the weight/muscles, the slight-difference in height and bank balance) was that he was stood up in the HORRENDOUS cold-wind, rain & hail watching the game and I was sat down mostly unaffected by the conditions under the shelter of a roof.
Not much time between games and so let’s move right on with the preview of Tuesday night’s game in the borough of
Predicted line-up / formation:
Pretty much 'same again' really I think from Pellegrini. Being away from home I think Clichy will step in for Kolarov [who drops to the bench] and with Kompany returning I think it’ll be Lescott who ‘drops’, providing Demichelis’ aging legs are okay to play 2 games in 72 hours or so.
My only concern is this new’ish theory that Martin doesn’t perform as well when pitched next to Vinny - there are specific rumours that he plays with a nervousness next to our impressive Captain. I hope that’s not the case (but we all have our favourites and not-so favourite colleagues at work) but if Pellegrini ALSO smells that in the camp; then I hope-to-hell he chooses Joleon to play alongside our Skipper on Tuesday night (and beyond).
Apart from that, carry on City! Although I got the midfield prediction 100% correct ahead of the Fulham game, I was wrong in how, exactly, they’d set up. Rather than 4-2-3-1 against The Cottagers we set up more like a fluid 4-1-4-1, with James more advanced than I thought he would be.
And although that might be the case once again, I think away from home in a Derby; Milner, if indeed Pellegrini goes with the same, might just sit a little deeper alongside the Brazilian ‘deep-man’; allowing Samir, Yaya & David to support Negredo and ‘do their stuff’.
Either way, with this ‘set up’ we’ll be hurting them in their weakest spot. No, not their often-crumbling defence but their often-hollow midfield. Pack (and boss) that middle with the quality that we have and we can have this game sewn up from the start!
As for the bench, well as it’s only just Sunday afternoon I’ve assumed that Edin might be feeling a little better; enough at least to make the bench. If not, perhaps Rodwell [good to see him on Saturday] will join the substitutes again or how about Lopes or even a Derby-day, wildcard-EDS forward?
WITHOUT Edin (or a Reserve-team attacking player) it leaves us a little thin for additional attacking options, although both Navas & Jovetic looked very sharp and lively when they came on (68 & 81 minutes respectively). Hope Stevan can stay fit until the end of the season.
Sergio returns to training later this week by all accounts; too late for Arsenal away on Saturday 29th March, I’m sure, and so we can perhaps look forward to seeing him back 'and firing' in the early kick-off (12:45pm BST) against Southampton on 5th April.
Don’t whatever you do tell Manual Pellegrini I said this but...prepare yourselves for a defeat in one of the next 4 games. I hope to hell it DOESN’T happen of course but I think it’s almost inevitable with the up & coming 4 fixtures. Believe me, it helps prepare the mind, body & soul for the disappointment. And take some comfort from the fact that we (and Villa / Chelsea) have given us some ‘hiccup room’ for one game at least…let’s just hope that glitch isn’t at Scaffold Trafford.
Result? My heart say a win for the Blues…and my head isn’t far behind either. We certainly shouldn’t fear this lot; they might be buoyed by wins at home to Olympiacos and away at West Ham United…but it was only Olympiacos & West Ham United.
But I’m going to ‘sit on the fence’ with a draw, which’ll be fine as long as we then take at least 7 points from 9 from the following 3 games.