Thoughts on Newcastle United 1 Manchester City 3
Phew. I said last week that Newcastle was not a must-win game, and it wasn’t – no league game in December is, nor in January or February. But anything less than a victory at St James Park, or whatever it’s called nowadays, would have left City with an almighty mountain to climb at such an early stage of the season. It isn’t just the points difference with United that would have posed a problem, but United’s subsequent run of imminently winnable games meaning that reducing the gap in the near-future is unlikely. With victory over Sunderland a given for United later in the day, this was a big win.
It’s hard to assess how difficult a game this counts as. Newcastle is a hard place to go to, against a team with many very good players, but a team on a bad run, and only just above the relegation zone. In the end, City came away with their sixth consecutive league victory over Newcastle.
So it turned out that Kompany was injured, Barry banned for mocking Mark Clattenburg’s toupee, and Balotelli was grounded. As soon as the team was announced, Nasri and Garcia were getting slated online. That’s how it is nowadays. Nasriwill be mentioned more next, but to a lesser extent Garcia answered his critics too, with a better performance than previous appearances, and once more proved his aerial prowess. He may turn out to be a failure, but let’s not write him off just yet.
And it seems Samir Nasri may have balls after all, though they may be black and blue for a few days. I may take my anger at his feeble actions in the wall last week with me to the grave, but there was partial redemption in Newcastle as he was a class above until forced to withdraw through injury. With a bit more composure from him and others, the rewards could have been much greater.
It was a great game, and a rather strange game at times. Newcastle started on the front foot, but after weathering the early storm, City played the best 30 minutes of football of the season. Nasri, Silva, Aguero and Tevez ripped Newcastle apart almost at will. The only concern was the wastefulness in front of goal, and the creeping fear that City would pay for their profligacy. And all the while, Newcastle were looking threatening themselves.
As for the first goal…utterly sublime. And from Yaya Toure, one of the passes of the season.
The second half was mostly a huge disappointment. City have scored 70% of their goals in the second half of matches this season, but this time City were put under great pressure for quite a while, and Newcastle spurned three good chances to equalise. When Newcastle did score, City’s defending was little short of woeful. Having said that, City could easily have scored seven or eight themselves over the course of the match.
Yaya Toure seemed to have his mojo back, and his brother didn’t do too badly either. I had written off Kolo at least a year ago, but there seems to be life left in him now he’s off the slimming pills, and he is a useful squad member to have around, especially if you’re after a 4-door saloon with rear-wheel drive, anti-lock braking and a 5-year warranty.
How ridiculous that City will lose both for up to 5 weeks soon to the ACON, when they have already lost them for that amount of time this year.
From the 89th minute of last weeks’ match, Gael Clichy has seemed very lightweight. But then the defence as a whole was not great. Maybe they weren’t protected enough, but too many crosses entered City’s penalty area, too many chances presented themselves to Newcastle players. Kompany’s leadership was missed, but at least Hart was back to his best.
The injuries seem to have built up far more than last season. This may be down to nothing more than bad luck, or maybe sacking the club doctor after a near injury-free season.
Pablo Zabaleta is a legend. Nothing more really needs to be said.
Though I will add that his 12 tackles were 8 more than anyone else on the pitch.
Mario Balotelli dropped from the squad for not working hard enough? I would hope this is due to training alone, as his performance in the derby did not warrant such a reaction from Mancini, and only helps fuel the media overreaction to the player. That said, if it is true he is taking City to a tribunal, then his days may be numbered. And to be brutally honest, I couldn’t care less.
Tevez and Aguero start, City win. It’s not rocket science. Meanwhile, Dzeko’s star continues to wane. City could and should have had two more goals late on, but for his poor distribution.
“Where were you when you were shit?” was given its latest airing by Newcastle fans. The ability of football fans to embarrass themselves never fails to stagger me.
So a good day for City? No, the newspapers say otherwise. Kolarov to be investigated in racism row. Mancini has fallen out with City’s new chief executive and sporting director (“ticking timebomb”). Aguero is unsettled and wants out. Balotelli is taking City to a tribunal over club fine.
City in crisis, as ever.
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