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Manchester City 3 Swansea City 0: Some Thoughts

December 2, 2013
  • So another comfortable home win – eventually. For once, City were made to work fully for their victory, but their superior class told in the end.
  • The team-sheet was as expected, apart from the debate over you-know-who. It’s been debated to death, you will have your own opinions, but whilst you can argue that Pantilimon has done nothing wrong so deserves to keep his place, some will counter  argument that he hasn’t had to do much (nothing spectacular at least), so that’s hardly a surprise. Either way, it’s not looking good for Hart, though he can probably expect two starts against Leicester and Bayern Munich -but then what do I know?
  • Swansea offered far more in that first-half than most visitors to the Etihad, after another storming start from City. Yet again we could have scored in the first minute, and once Negredo had scored many naturally felt another procession was on the cards. We have become spoilt of course and expect this as standard, but Swansea had other ideas. They pass the ball about superbly, and caused City plenty of problems and could have gone into the break level if not for some very wayward finishing.
  • There is a point to make here though that this is what separates the top teams from those that occupy mid-table and below. All teams can fashion chances, but the top teams tend to be more clinical – and so it proved on Sunday. Some of the play continues to be breathtaking – the best I have ever seen.
  • But in that first half it seemed too open, with too much space for the Swansea players to break into. Pellegrini tightened things up in the second half, though City probably also wore down their opponents as is often the case nowadays. By the end, the Swans were all at sea (Ha, hilarious! I should be a headline writer!).
  • You wonder what damage Swansea could have done with their first choice strike-force available, but then City were missing their first-choice central defensive pairing, so it evened itself out.
  • So no hogging of the MOTM award by Sergio Aguero this time round, the Argentinean more subdued than usual. Samir Nasri certainly wasn’t however and he continues to fill the void left by David Silva. Laurent Blanc once commented that Nasri is more a striker than a midfielder and you can see the logic in that when he breaks on goal. Like his vital goal at home to Chelsea in the title-winning season, he is ultra – cool in such situations, something he has over David Silva. It was great to see him bag a brace.
  • So it seems we have another player who can take a free-kick.
  • The stats: that’s 8 goals in the last 7 games for Alvaro Negredo. His free-kick was the fourth one scored by City in the league this season (there have been 19 scored in the league in total so far). Samir Nasri has scored more premier league goals this season already than last season (3) and has scored more than once in a game for the first time since December 4th 2010. In total, that’s now 29 home goals in the league this season, two more than any other side has scored home and away (thanks to @OptaJoe for all that).
  • Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards have been in the papers over the weekend, talking of leaving if they cannot get playing time. Of course Lescott is doing just that due to injury and was great against Spurs for 45 minutes, shaky against Plzen and good again against Swansea, but he knows he is back up and that will not change. Like Gareth Barry, he is approaching the twilight of his career, a career that will end elsewhere.
  • Richards is a different kettle of fish however. It’s hard to truly judge the player when he injures himself on such a regular basis, but the Richards of now bears a striking resemblance to the erratic Richards under Mark Hughes that seemed to spend too much time in the gym and not enough on the field. He is a link to the old days, the Jim Cassell academy, he is a popular figure and a club cheerleader and we all hope he stays, but I cannot justify a first team place for him at the moment and if he demands time on the pitch, this could prove the tipping point.
  • If Lescott and Richards were to leave it would naturally lead to media criticism over the de-Anglicisation of the team, but the fact is that the English players would get more time on the pitch if they were as good as their team-mates, and I’m not sure they are anymore (for everyone’s sanity we’ll leave Joe Hart out of the argument). The new academy and the batch of youngsters ripping up trees bode well for the future, but there may be a gap of a few years before we see a new English element in the first team.
  • As Paulinho pout in another underwhelming and error-strewn performance earlier in the day against United, it becomes more baffling with every match that Fernandinho is overlooked by the Brazil manager. The selection for the team is often erratic, but let’s hope for the player’s sake that a move to a higher-profile league gets him the recognition he deservers. If Jo is regularly getting on the pitch for Brazil, what possible justification is there not to give Fernandinho a run-out? Maybe his style just doesn’t suit in a position that Brazil are quite strong in at the moment.
  • Another poor turnout from the away team’s support. This is not criticism, simply pointing out that if you insist on charging fans £50 a pop then ask them to make a huge cross-country (sorry, countries) trek on Sunday, we shouldn’t be surprised when the majority say “sod that”. Half-price tickets for City’s match at Fulham are a start, a move replicated by other Premier League teams, but it needs to go much further than the odd reduction. £20 needs to be the norm, £30 at the most.
  • The true tests are almost here. Two tricky away games where anything could happen, that could shape City’s title campaign at such an early stage. Here’s hoping that Manuel Pellegrini has worked out how to solve this particular problem. For the record, City are not alone in this respect. United have conceded 20 goals in their last 10 away games and have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last nine. But then they have Tom Cleverley in midfield.
  • Calling Negredo the beast gets creepier with every passing week. As for “feed the beast…” – just NO.
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8 Comments
  1. Graham Ward permalink

    A good read as always, Howard. Nailed it again, your record is as good as City’s.

    • Thanks.
      So if i am mirroring City’s record, expect a poor, pedestrian match report on Thursday <:O)

  2. nick g permalink

    Glad to see you picked up on my point about Micah ;)

    So, what else can we take from the Swansea result, or indeed this lengthening run of goal sprees at home?
    Are we starting to see a tangible difference between Mancini’s City of last year and Pelligrini’s in terms of strategy and style?
    Perhaps the answer partly lies in the possession stats that show us having less possession at home where we win, than away where recently we haven’t won and haven’t scored hatfuls of goals.
    Its hard to tell, but maybe we are seeing the benefits of some tweaks that Pelligrini has made so that we are quicker to break forward and are making more penetrative and attacking passes than we were previously, at home at least!
    It certainly feels that way as a spectator. It has become a bit less frustrating to watch in recent weeks, as the number of pointless square and backwards passes have decreased.
    Yaya in particular has cut out a lot of the pointless passes and centre circle twirls.
    Nasri is a more clinical finisher than Silva, and of course Aguero and Negredo are converting far more chances than City did last year.
    Logical analysis suggests that the away form simply cannot fail to improve, provided Pelligrini has learnt from his mistakes.
    The Chelsea defeat, now over a month ago, was down to a single error but the other 91 minutes were mostly very good indeed.
    The Sunderland result was mostly Pelligrini’s fault, adding insult to injury (literally) by making unnecessary changes to an already changed starting 11 due to injuries. That resulted in us going ack to the pointless passing that epitomised so much of last season’s play.
    Ignore the Cardiff and Villa results – they are history.
    With the Bayern game a dead rubber, and the Leicester cup game of lesser importance, he must start his 1st XI against both W Brom and Southampton, and just play the same way as he would at home. No Dzeko, No Richards, No Kolarov, No Garcia.
    Then we will get a proper view on how our title challenge will shape up.
    It will be psychologically important to be breathing down Arsenal’s neck by the time they come to the Etihad – we need them to feel the pressure of a rampant City waiting to overtake them, and for them to play accordingly. That will be the biggest test of their title creds as well as ours.

    So for the avoidance of doubt, I expect 1 point from the next 2 away games with “typical City” pessimism.

    • I reckon that Pellegrini is adjust better to the Premier League with every game and players very much benefit from it – I think that, except Hart, there is not a single player who haven’t improved since his arrival. As you said, we are playing better and better. I would put the away form much to the psychological factors – if we can get over them then there is nothing that can stop us, except…squad rotation – as you wrote Dzeko, Richards, Garcia they are all making us look sluggish and vulnerable.

    • Great post – can’t disagree with anything.

  3. Pleasant read as always. You touched two issues that I find particularly annoying:

    1) “Fielding non-England team”. Yours (I’m from Poland) newspapers write about it like there was some kind of agenda and every manager is always trying to field as few Englishman as possible, while the truth is obvious – every Manager fields the team he thinks is the best without even thinking about the nationality – to think otherwise is insane. English media should think about why there so litlle English players capable of playing at the top level instead of making ridiculous accusation towards the clubs and managers (“Bloody foreigners ruining our beautiful football”).

    2) I think that Fernandinho is a truly talented player, but as we could have seen when he came to the club he had problem performing – in my opinion because of the low-standard of Ukraine league – and that is why I believe Scolari was omitting him, because he knew that there is too much of the difference between Ukraine league and international level. Now Fernandinho is improving with every game and, come May, he should be in a top-form and if Scolari don’t have some personal agenda against him, he will have to pick him.

    Cheers.

    • Thanks – you have explained the English conundrum perfectly – it is theEnglish media that are obsessed with it and no one else, though as fans there is always a connection if someone local is in the team

      As for Fernandinho, he was brilliant against Chelsea in Europe I guess the league he was playing in was the problem

  4. nick g permalink

    I completely agree about the away fans ticket prices (at all grounds).
    This is an issue that is still to gather enough momentum.

    As something of a champion of the club’s own fans, MCFC should take the lead and reduce away ticket prices for all.
    It would improve the chances of getting all the away tickets sold, and presumably a packed away end would encourage louder home support, so improve the atmosphere in the ground (and by heck it needs all the help it can get).
    And think of the goodwill the club would be buying.
    Reduce away tickets by £20 a head. 3,000 per game?? So £6grand per home game = £114k per season ie. a trifling amount that Vincent and Sergio carry as loose change, and increased food, drink and programme sales would offset the losses anyway.
    Win/Win situation. It has GOT to be worth a trial period (or season) at least.

    Someone should write (another) blog about it.

    N

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