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Manchester City 1 Crystal Palace 0: Some Thoughts

December 29, 2013

For the third time in succession – phew. A tight, nervy victory in what should have been one of the easier games this season. But this is the hectic Xmas schedule, City won and that is all that matters. There are no wider issues to consider here about squad quality or whether City and Pellegrini are under pressure, as a rather pitiful Andy Dunn match report suggested.

As expected there were numerous changes to the team that beat Liverpool and there shouldn’t be any criticism of this. Pellegrini has no choice but to make changes when the English game persists with this ridiculous schedule that is even boring me with the frequency of games. With the schedule staying this hectic well into January, he cannot play his best team every three days. Studies have shown that player performance always tails off by at least 10% if they have not had at least three days’ rest and of course there is the added risk of injuries in tiring bodies. The team put out was more than good enough to win the game comfortably.
The fans come first of course and I keep hearing that they demand all these games over the festive period, not that I have seen any actual evidence of this, but surely there is one game too many over Christmas (the 28th/29th December games should be the ones to go) and if you happen to still be in the Capital One Cup it becomes even more ridiculous. Injuries to players will soon start stacking up until we decide to give players a mid-season break. The fact some players earn huge amounts of money is irrelevant – it doesn’t make them invincible, or fitter.

Not that surprising therefore that Yaya Toure was an unused substitute for City for the first time. He was going to come on, but then City scored and Pellegrini changed his approach.

Jose Mourinho talks a lot of guff, but he was right about Liverpool – City will have played at least 13 more games than Liverpool if they reach the final of the Capital One Cup final, so Mourinho was right to say that they have it easier, though the irony should not be lost on the Chelsea manager once more commenting on another team having once called Arsene Wenger (again, correctly) a voyeur for talking so much about Chelsea. For this reason, I think Liverpool should be considered serious title-challengers.

It was good to see Nastastic back.

But in the end it was a laboured performance against a very-well organised Crystal Palace side rejuvenated under Tony Pulis. Overwhelming possession was not enough to create clear-cut chances at regular intervals, but one moment of magic was enough, so we move on. The players struggled against two banks of players as the build-up play was too slow much of the time and allowed Palace to get players behind the ball. In the end City made 719 passes, the most by any top-level team this season.

Still, if City’s long, long run of scoring in consecutive home league games was to end, then typical city syndrome demands it would have been against a team like Crystal Palace rather than the likes of Chelsea or Arsenal.

What impressed most about Palace was their shooting from distance. Normally a team is happy to restrict the opposition to long-range efforts as City generally did, but the quality from outside the area was better than anything I had seen this season.

And because of this it was good to report that Joe Hart was excellent once more, especially with one sprawling save in the second half. Welcome back Joe.

Pellegrini’s substitutions made no sense to me, but I’m sure there was some tactical logic behind them. Substituting Fernandinho certainly baffled most of all, but hopefully this wasn’t due to injury and to be fair he has probably clocked more on-pitch minutes than any other player and must be close to exhaustion now. In-play statistics are constantly relayed to the coaching staff, so perhaps his high-octane performance levels were tailing off.

The best substitution was Nasri, who constantly got at the Palace rear-guard. He continues to impress.

Ah, textbook Edin Dzeko, textbook.
Get him off! Terrible! He is sooooo lazy! For god’s sake Pellegrini swap him for Negredo! He is useless, oh for fu….oh, great goal Edin! Damn, now I am p***ed off ‘cos I wish someone else had scored that and I am all confused.
Just the usual thought process during an Edin Dzeko performance then. It was Dzeko’s 50th goal for City and as is often the case with him, his goal was an important one.

Unfortunately a spoilt minority demand more than victory alone, they demand more than City going to the top of the table, they cannot accept a 9th victory in ten, a near-perfect December, a clean sheet, or safety from relegation before the New Year! No, because there are always those that expect 6 goals a game and nothing else will do, so these idiots think nothing of phoning up radio stations to moan at a team that won nothing for a generation going top of the league. It’s embarrassing but these people will never go away. What’s more, they always know better than our manager, probably through their extensive experience at shouting at children from the edge of a muddy pitch at Boggart Hole Clough. I just wish I could see things as incisively as them, and I wish our succession of managers could too.

Still, when your goalkeeper is man-of-the-match at home to a promoted side, you know it’s been a bad day at the office.

To be honest, I wasn’t going to do a match performance as there was little to say. But then Tony Pulis opened his mouth and here we are. Make yourself comfortable.

You see, I wanted to praise Tony Pulis in this match report. He is typical of the blinkered small-time-mentality manager that moans about his lot, laughs off handballed-winners against City but rages when something goes against his team. You could say this of many a manager though, Mark Hughes one ex- City manager that instantly springs to mind. I also warmed to him after our cup final victory, with his dedication to his late mother and for the way he handled himself around the occasion. What’s more, his brand of football may not rest easy on the eye, but he always knew how to get at City sides and make life difficult and you had to respect that. With Jordan and Warnock gone I like Crystal Palace as a club also and their fans always provide a great atmosphere.

Ah well, that respect didn’t last long.  Crystal Palace were excellent yesterday and any self-respecting manager would have emphasised that, said he was proud of his players and perhaps bemoan that they didn’t get more out of the game but point out how it puts his team in a good position to kick on and pick up points in upcoming games. Essentially what Pulis said after a narrow defeat to Chelsea a fortnight ago, a team you may be aware of, with their rich owner who has bankrolled a world-class squad. That Chelsea. But no, not Tony Pulis, a man who for the second time after a City match felt the need to point out the unfairness of it all by fabricating a number and crying about how much more City’s team cost with a few patronising comments thrown in for good measure. Why he feels the need to mention the cost of the opposition team when he plays City and only then is beyond me, but it makes him look like an oaf. He would never say it after a Chelsea match and he would be so far up the arse of the institution that is Manchester United (not a club, more a state of mind) after playing them that you would never hear him comment on their transfer activity, though as we all know they have done things the right way and grown organically. I can only assume that Pulis is still smarting from the play-off defeat of 1999, which seems to be clouding his judgement even after all this time. Of course City have more money and can buy better players – this is because football is ruled by money and has been for over 20 years now, so it’s a bit rich moaning about it when you play one team in particular. Pulis was backed handsomely in the transfer market at Stoke and will have played many a team with more modest budgets. I’m sure he didn’t demand his players wave a goal into their own net to even things up.
Wind your neck in Pulis and show a bit of class. The walking advertisement for the club shop that paces up the touchline every game should raise enough revenue to buy Lionel Messi anyway.

I couldn’t face Match of the Day.


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  1. Graham Ward permalink

    I could face MOTD, Howard, and again it seemed to follow on the policy of the Arsenal and Liverpool games, if you saw those. At least they’re consistent.
    The only gripe I have is that there wasn’t a second goal. We were one excellent 20-25 yard strike away from drawing the game……thanks, Joe.
    The Sunday Mirror isn’t the only media outlet ploughing a furrow today, the Mail is joining them as well. Ho hum.
    We got the win, case closed.

  2. I love your penultimate sentence – pure class!

  3. Pulis may – may – have made his comments in response to Pellegrini’s, which were not exactly complimentary. But If that’s the case, then Pulis threw away an opportunity to claim the moral high ground by resorting to a snide exaggeration. I cheered when I read what The Engineer had to say, I think it took balls to state the facts in that manner, and is a further indication that he will not play the game of “bow down to the media”.

    I wish I had avoided MOTD – the match they showed and commented on was not the one I watched.

    Ah well, we won, we got the points, onwards and upwards!

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