Fulham 2 Manchester City 4: Some Thoughts
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.