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Fulham 2 Manchester City 4: Some Thoughts

December 22, 2013

Well thank god for that. I don’t think I could have mustered the desire to type a single word if City had contrived to mess that up.

The team-sheet was always going to be interesting. Firstly, as had been rumoured in the press, Joe Hart was recalled to the first team (league). I was happy to see this, though I have no idea why Pellegrini chose this game to do it. Then there was the problem of the right-back position. In the end it was Clichy who filled in and that made some sense to me. There were numerous calls for James Milner to play there as he would always put a shift in, but he hasn’t played there for a long-time and has only done it in the past to fill-in as he would be doing now so it could be too risky to throw him in. At least Clichy is a full-back by trade with a competent right-foot so he knows about the demands of the position. As it turned out he didn’t cover himself with glory, but for now he may be the best of a bad bunch and City will just have to hope Zabaleta is back soon. Clichy’s display will only heighten calls for Milner to play there against Liverpool though. What surprised me also was that Milner wasn’t picked to play in front of Clichy to offer extra protection.
Finally, Pellegrini surprised me further by playing Dzeko and Negredo up front. A bit more on that later.

Fulham started brightly and are clearly playing better since Jol’s departure, though results haven’t followed just yet. Thus, Toure’s superb free-kick was very timely and City created plenty of chances thereafter. Negredo was fairly quiet away from the Etihad once more until Dzeko departed, and it was the Bosnian who had more chances and was quite wasteful.

Having said that, Negredo may not have seen much action in front of goal, but he worked his arse off. As always. Even when he isn’t dominating proceedings he is working the opposition defence at all times.

The defence was not good enough either, a recurring theme every other game. Kompany’s goal was a freak of course, something City are masters of on the road, but generally Fulham were given far too much room at times and you have to wonder if a high defensive line that has already cost one manager elsewhere his job is the way to go. Demichelis was rash once more, constantly diving in unsuccessfully for balls, but we all know the defence is not as it should be at the moment and needs some work on it. Another purchase is needed, and if the team could play with a settled defence for just a few weeks that would help. For all his faults though, Demichelis is a great header of the ball, cleared balls endlessly and is a threat at set-pieces as he demonstrated yesterday.

The defending for Fulham’s first goal was especially shambolic and downright lazy by two players in particular. Demichelis dived in once more, then Clichy slips, but what was worse than that was Kolarov and Yaya Toure ambling back allowing Richardson all the space in the world to slot home the cross.

But this is the price perhaps of attacking football. As City attacked prior to that goal, Vincent Kompany was the only outfield City player in his own half. That attacking football has seen City average three goals per game over the opening 17 games of the season.

As for the own-goal, Kompany takes the prize for most ridiculous own-goal of all-time, nudging Jamie Pollock out of the way (some feat, all things considered).

But for all Fulham’s chances, City had more and deserved the victory. It’s just a shame the team didn’t tighten up when two goals up, but they had plenty of opportunities to put the game to bed just after half-time and almost paid the price. For this reason I wondered about the decision to play two up front rather than a 4-5-1 formation (or 4-2-3-1 or however you want to describe it) that would have restricted Fulham’s ball-playing skills – because they do pass the ball very well indeed. So credit to City for not letting the goals put them off-course. Some City teams of old would have gone on to lose that game. What’s more, City are creating far more chances than they were earlier in the season in away games.

There’s no putting it off any longer. Time to talk about Alan Hansen (get that paranoia klaxon ready). Hansen put his £50,000 fee to good use by dissecting City’s defending and he couldn’t wait to get stuck in. The thing is, he was right as I have already discussed. The defence was at sea at times and Demichelis, who I generally like, deserved criticism, but what craws is the fact that when City have just scored four away from home to go second in the league (and could easily have scored six or seven) I do not expect a five-minute diatribe about our defending, including a bizarre montage pointing out that we were appalling for a 10-minute period after their equalizer. No replay of a wonderful free-kick, no analysis of our striking prowess or Negredo’s beautiful assist for the final goal. Nothing.

Still we all know that the punditry scene is one dominated by ex-reds, be it endless ex-Liverpool players, from Phil Thompson to Mark Lawrenson to Hansen to Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman and Jamie Carragher and Graeme Souness (and on and on and on) or the United cabal of Gary Neville, Dwight Yorke (dear god), Andy Cole (dear god again) and more. Still, we have Danny Mills and Niall Quinn to stick the boot in so be careful what you wish for.

So that is seven free-kicks scored this season. Remarkable.

I love Jesus Navas and I love his goal celebrations too. That is all.

  1. Graham Ward permalink

    I was surprised Hart was recalled, I can only presume Pellegrini wanted to give him an away PL start in addition to the League Cup game prior to taking on Liverpool.
    I suspect we’re going to have to wait until Kompany retires to get a fair shout in the broadcast media, haha!

  2. Very very entertaining game, I thought at 2-0 up we would go to dominate the 2nd half more than we did at 1st, midfield looked a problem with Fulham playing without any real forwards they were just hitting us on the counter & impressed me…the subs changed the game for the better & we could have easily added a few more goals towards the end…..but 4 wins and 1 draw from last 5 away games…..Its getting better blues.

  3. nick g permalink

    Howard, with your kind permission, my thoughts:

    1. Clichy at right back vs Liverpool looks like suicide. Milner, Boyata…dunno, but we do know that Clichy is strangely incapable of moving from one side of the pitch to the other. He played like a total chump.

    2. Losing Zaba is quite possibly more critical than losing Sergio.
    Zaba’s contribution going forward as well as at the back is immense.

    Jonathan Wilson described him beautifully:

    “Zabaleta is a slow burn of a footballer, somebody whose excellence sneaks up on you. He doesn’t score many goals, dribble by people or make exceptional passes, although he uses the ball sensibly, sets up his fair share of goals and, perhaps best of all, doesn’t seem to have any notion that running into things might hurt. Zabaleta is essentially a tackle in human form, a mechanism that specialises in throwing itself at somebody running with a ball.”

    The Graun’s list of top 100 footballers has so far put Zaba at 77 and Vince at 42. I would reverse those placings.

    3. Our defending – Yes Hansen’s got a whole chip shop on one shoulder when it comes to City, but our defending is tragi-comic on a regular basis. I mean FFS why do we have to see Kompany and Demic attempting to make “all or nothing” tackles 10 yards outside the OPPOSITION’S penalty area. It is just unnecessary and frankly unprofessional.
    Kompany’s got a swagger on and I worry that he spends too much time listening to those “best defender in the world” comments. He needs a cold shower and a clip round the ear.
    And the MOTD montage – Silva losing the ball over and over again – it’s bloody true!! Total collapse from the whole lot of them after we conceded the first goal.

    4. Dzeko – he’s a world class klutz. Painful.
    Perhaps Dzeko is best described as Cityitis in human form.
    I still love him (deep down).

    5. Wonderful wonderful bending pass by Negredo for the 4th goal.
    And a hugely under-rated finish by Mr J Milner, off a pacey bouncing cross that skimmed off a wet pitch. Dzeko couldn’t do that.
    Boring James Milner may finally get the recognition that we know he deserves. As a friend said to me last week he is possibly the best two footed player in the country.

    6. Joe Hart was brilliant.

    7. Taraabt and Dejaga were excellent for Fulham.

    8. What a glorious mix of pain and pleasure it was again from City.
    The absolute polar opposite of that dreadful Arsenal/Chelsea game tonight, other than one aspect….perfect result from both games.

    • Some great points. But I can’t agree on Kompany, his effect on the he am is immeasurable. Yes he’s not perfect but he needs a settled partner as does the defence as a whole.

      Demichelis just needs to stand his ground and use his experience. You are right, the top defenders don’t need to dive in..

      • I don’t think that Komps has turned into a bad player by any means, but he needs to just concentrate on defending, and get that message through his back four.
        He’s gone on a few mazy runs recently (Arsenal springs to mind, and he did it at Fulham), and got himself stranded 80 yards from our goal. Just not necessary for a centre back.
        You’re right about his effect on the team. I think that’s why he should be showing the way…..

        Some people thought Joe Hart had got a bit bored and over-confident a few weeks ago. Perhaps Vince is suffering from a little bit of the same.

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