Sunday, 7 December 2014

Another impressive performance & victory…ANOTHER huge injury blow!

If I was a ‘paranoid sort’ I’d be convinced by now that SOMETHING is trying to derail our recovering-journey back to form and efforts to retain the Premier League title.

Manyoo might be able to claim top spot for the number of injuries and, specifically, to ‘key players’ so far this season…but only just [ahead of us]!

Pride in battle

The victory over Swansea City was a courageous one following a fairly dismal, low confidence run that was broken-up only by a derby day win. And against a fast, counter-attacking Welsh side who pushed us hard and who can hurt teams who are not at 100%; even at home our 2-1 victory was an impressive one.

Then we had the Bayern Munich ‘moral booster’. Taught another footballing lesson in some respects and then, admittedly, aided by the first half sending off of Mehdi Benatia; we just never gave. That then lead to a season ‘marker’ when our efforts reaped the rewards in the form of a last-minute, 3-2 win. The ‘lift’ the players received from that - and two back-to-back wins – was palpable.

Next stop was away at 2nd placed Southampton and a performance that saw us press our game and stopped them imposing theirs. The work-rate, in particular, was very noticeable; particularly from our wingers.

And the fixtures just kept coming and coming and having come away from the South coast with 3 goals, a clean sheet and all 3 points, it was then off to the North East and another bogey away ground. Result? We had our swagger back. And despite going a goal down against the run of play…BANG! A 4-goal reply and a performance that had many quite-rightly drooling. We were well ‘n’ truly back.

And all that achieved throughout a period of injuries to Aleks Kolarov, Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Edin Dzeko and a 1-match suspension for Eliaquim Mangala.

That brought us to a home game against Everton and despite the 4-previous, marvellous performances; I, personally, was most impressed with the tremendous team spirit and effort from Saturday’s encounter with the Merseysiders. I can barely fault any of them and I’m still struggling to pick a MotM - it’s been a very long time since I was able to see such high performances from SO many City players on one day.

I could go on for ages (and they’d deserve my extended time on the keyboard) but…

Hart: Solid and assured…and WHAT about that save from Lukaku! 8/10

Clichy: Just keeps getting better and better and better…and more full of energy! 9/10

Mangala: One dodgy moment and silliness that some refs might have given a straight red for – not for the first time do I find myself saying that he needs to ‘wise up’ quickly. However, after that ‘blip’ – and one other moment of madness where he went wandering up field and lost the ball far too easily - he produced a fine display: 7.5/10

Demichelis: The counter-agent to Mangala’s flashes of folly. Calm, solid, intelligent and strong against some big Everton forwards. 8.5/10

Zabaleta: Ever dependable and definitely finding his way back to being himself: 8/10

Fernando: Like his ex-Porto colleague – and I said this of him before we signed him having watched several videos – he can be a little reckless when flailing around those octopus-like tentacles of his. Another silly moment from the once Brazilian Under-20 player but after that, he was immense! ‘The’ best performance I’ve seen him have in a City shirt. Blocked tackles, intelligent interceptions and good passing – all you can really ask for from a defensive midfield protector. 9/10

Yaya HAD to score - Tim's head was on upside-down!
Toure: It says a lot about the team’s performance when you get the second-joint-lowest but still very reasonable score. Scored the penalty with superb accuracy (it couldn’t have been tucked further or more neatly into the bottom corner just beyond the reach of ‘upside-down head’) and despite looking a little sluggish in a few attempted challenges late on; he worked has hard as the others in-doing the simple things that kept us ticking along nicely. 7/10

Milner: Wow! Sign this guy up [on a longer contract]…NOW! To his consistent guile / efforts, energy and versatility, James has now added a certain flare, great link-up play, an extra ½-yard of pace and a certain goal threat; getting assists and winning penalties. He only needs to add goalkeeping and goals to his repertoire now! 9.5/10

Nasri: I don’t think I’ve seen such a consistently good spell from the Frenchman since he signed from Arsenal. Not nearly as frustratingly inconsistent Edin Dzeko (or, in some ways, Gael Clichy); but Samir often has a couple of decent games before putting in 2 or 3 more-abject displays. Saturday he capped off a period of sustained high performances by playing out of his skin! Not only did he play a huge part in terrorising Everton; not only was his work-rate that of James Milner (a MASSIVE compliment) but he seemed to find and extra couple of yards of pace too! Keep taking whatever it is you’re taking Samir. I just can’t split ‘em…9.5/10

Navas: Great pre-season, very good start to the Premier League campaign and then, just like his teammates, slid and slid all the way up to, and including, the away draw at Loftus Road. Then – just like his colleagues once again – he’s been switching through and up the gears once more and was turbo charged against The Toffees. I’ve said this before – if only he could add goals to his game! But what he’s doing with his pace, boundless energies and work-rate (this is becoming a very pleasant theme now) is counteracting anything the opposition tries to throw at us down their left flank. He most notably defended well and did this against The Saints, pressed further up against The Black Cats and gave their left-back a nightmare and completely nullified any threat from Leighton Baines last Saturday. 7.5/10

Aguero: I can’t speak (okay…type); I’m just too upset and scared…

Pozo: Ran the back line of Everton the whole time he was on. I watching him closely for a while and although he might be slight of figure and might lack a bit of Premier League raw power, which will come with time I’m sure; his runs were intelligent. In fact more experienced strikers could learn a thing from Jose. 7/10

Dzeko: Do I HAVE to include him? He spoils the ratings a little. Okay, it wasn’t an awful performance from the Bosnia & Herzegovinian striker and I will give him plenty of allowance that this was his first game back [following injury]. And yes…I will admit to not being a huge fan of a man that can very easily frustrate the HELL out of me far too many times. But he’s an experienced Premier League player now and shouldn’t have let the frenetic pace of Saturday’s match show him up as easily as it did. There were moments where he got involved and made some efforts to effect the game…but not many for a player that was on for a whole 34 minutes. Thank God Stevan Jovetic was only withdrawn from Saturday’s squad as “a precaution”. A rather score-spoiling 6/10

Lampard: I don’t know about other City fans but I always get a feeling of great calmness when Super Frank comes on. 7/10

I am so very proud of them and in a weekend where Chelsea & Arsenal both lost, Spurs & Liverpool could both only manage a home point and where 4th plays 5th tonight; it was a great weekend marred only by that injury to Sergio. The table is looking good.

A few words about Everton

The fans:

I looked through the archive of my Blog-postings from last season as I was SURE I’d done a post-Everton write-up from our home game – and 3-1 victory – against them. The reason I did so was that I’m sure I recall noting what a truly horrid lot the Everton fans had been on the occasion of 5th October 2013.

Anyway…after wondering, as I was walking away form the ground on Saturday, whether I HAD written a piece and included this in any post-match analysis …I hadn’t.

To sum up their behaviour on Saturday evening, verbally they were simply vile and quite provocative for the most part as the score remained 0-0; they shut up almost permanently when we went ahead and by the end were attempting to scrap with our fans for a good 5 minutes in corner of the East / South Stand after the final whistle.

I’m not saying for one moment that City fans hadn’t in some way provoked any of the attempted violence after the match – perhaps they did. But I clearly recall similar from the Evertonians last season and I can’t recall one single, pro-Everton supporting song throughout the game beyond a momentary, European-like chant that lasted no longer than 3 or 4 minutes. Considering the numbers they brought with them they were, once again, quite pathetic really.

The increased barriers outside the ground - a la Roma & Manyoo - were most notable before the game in a very much Police-anticipated move too…

And then we had the players:

I expected more from a Roberto Martinez side. Simply put, I thought they looked clearly irritated by our spirited performance; as though they, somehow and for some reason, expected us to be some kind of flare-fancy pushovers.

Instead – and as I’ve already alluded to – we showed every bit of grit & determination usually reserved for a team scrapping for their Premier League survival-lives in April.

Although they received the SAME amount of yellows as we did (our 3 cards were well deserved by the way); I thought Everton were really quite dirty at times. They quite-often left feet & elbows in during their “challenges” and, in general, just acted a little petulant, especially in the first half.

And when Ross Barkley came on in the 56th minute, well…he just summed up the whole Everton team for me. He was the most ‘huffy’ of the lot! Linked endlessly with a move to City; on Saturday he portrayed an ‘orrible brat, Rooney-like figure more suited to a Trafford Manyoo shirt than the sky blue one of Manchester. On that fairly brief display they, or indeed someone else, can have him for £60M…

On the horizon

I might not be able to type for a while because after publishing this post I’m going to start crossing everything that’s physically possible in the hope that it will aid a speedy and long-lasting recovery for our man Sergio. Of course I’m joking…but get well soon man!

With momentum building and a ‘must score’ game in Italy on Wednesday (where a win for Bayern against CSKA means that we need to either win or get a score draw to progress) we have a period of games where, I’m not going to suggest for one moment that they are “easy” by ANY stretch; we should, in this form at least, be looking to gain some serious points.

You have to play everyone both home & away of course…but no-one can deny that we were handed one hell of a start to the Premier League this season AND one hell of a group in the Champions League compared to most of the rest.

So having come through those – as well as our own confidence-sapping, awful spell – then sitting 2nd - just 3 points off an impressive Chelsea - is very creditable indeed.

And so with…

Leicester City away (bottom (20th) with 0 wins, 2 draws and 8 defeats in 10 league games)

Crystal Palace at home (15th with 2 wins, 3 draws and 5 defeats in 10 league games)

West Brom away (16th with 2 wins, 3 draws and 5 defeats in 10 league games)

Burnley at home (19th with 2 wins, 3 draws and 5 defeats in 10 league games)

Sunderland at home (14th with 2 wins, 5 draws and 3 defeats in 10 league games)

…we need to, not take these for granted by any means; but rather show the same spirit as we did against Everton and take advantage of this set of fixtures.

After that, we have three, very tough January fixtures to overcome in Everton away, Arsenal at home and Chelsea awayas well as then-being-also involved in the F.A. Cup.

Get through THOSE relatively unscathed – and again without using the “easy” suggestion – then from Saturday 7th February I can only see REAL issues from Stoke City away, Liverpool away (I suppose) and Manyoo away.

Of course this is football we’re talking about and it won’t work out as simple as that. But if we can get Sergio back within a reasonable amount of time, can stay relatively injury free otherwise and perhaps even strengthen [the squad] well enough in January; I think there are plenty of reasons to be an optimistic Blue at the moment.

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