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Newcastle 0 Manchester City 2: Some Thoughts

January 13, 2014

Phew again – etc etc etc

City continue to live on the edge and grey the few remaining black hairs I have left, but the results continue to come. It is now over two months since City lost a game, a statistic all the more impressive as we seem to play every three days at the moment. With these two goals City have surpassed last season’s tally with four months to spare.

It was attritional, messy, unruly but ultimately successful. Another key away result for the team that apparently can’t travel, though admittedly the team continues to struggle to teach the heights on the road, bulldozing its way over the finish line.

The team line up contained few surprises. Kolarov is now the number one left – back and Pellegrini continues to pick two up front, after Dzeko and Negredo combined so well against an admittedly pitiful West Ham last week.

But yet again it was a formation that proved troublesome. It allowed too much space to the opposition and City struggled to retain the ball for much of the match. And once more, it curtailed Yaya Toure, made him look lazy and thus limited his authority on the game. A liability eh? Thus it was better to have Javi Garcia on the pitch, again, as he does his simple job effectively and shows small signs of becoming the player we had hoped for.

It was the defence that excelled however. Joe Hart was excellent, whilst Kompany and Demichelis made 25 clearances between them. Apart from one defensive mix-up the back-four copied admirably. It’s about time the defence got some praise, especially when it has to work so hard in many away games and Kolarov added to the list of excellent defensive performances, especially with one late crucial block and of course an assist.

Sorry, my mistake – Alan Hansen knows the score: “Hart’s return to form is timely because if you are looking at the City defence all they have basically got is Vincent Kompany.”

City started brightly and scored an exquisite goal (as it went in I commented “what a move”. I then realised it was about the 30th time I have said that this season. We really have been spoilt), but after that their play became scruffy and their crisp passing deserted them (recording their lowest pass completion rate of the season at 73% according to football365.com). Half-time couldn’t some soon enough, but for all the home team’s continued threat after the break, it was City who fashioned the better chances in the second half, Negredo at the centre of most of them with Fernandinho striking the bar.

Negredo again didn’t sparkle quite as much away from home, though he was still a constant threat, even if not everything came of and even if his goal had an element of luck to it.

So onto THAT goal. Or not, as it turned out. It was strange celebrating still being ahead in a game 30 seconds after being resigned to an equalizing goal. As for the fairness of it all, it merely highlights once more the ridiculous nature of the current rules. I don’t think offside should be subjective, but that’s how it is, not that the original rule was perfect either. I think it’s fair to say that if the roles had been reversed we’d all be moaning about the injustice of it all, but it’s hardly the worst decision of all time, though City have clearly benefited from a stroke of luck, which happens from time to time. The rules on calling offside were altered slightly in the summer and the new rules seem to back the opinion that a goal should have been awarded, though I’ve seen three different versions of that rule change online, but what is clear is that the player called offside was not in Joe Hart’s line of vision and I very much doubt Hart was going to save the shot. However, the Newcastle player did swerve out of the way of the ball and it is possible he caused a distraction in that split moment. You can rule out the goal on a technicality and argue that case, but City were rather fortunate. Having said that, Newcastle had three players offside, and it’s hard for our defence to play the game efficiently when the rules are so vague and everything is open to interpretation.

The other problem with the decision to disallow the goal is that it ended the referee’s control of the game. I commented at the time that the referee might look to “even things up” thereafter, the general consensus being by awarding a soft penalty, but he took the alternative route of turning a blind eye to Newcastle’s rough-house tactics, tactics that may well be linked to one of our best players this season missing the rest of the season and perhaps the World Cup. For all the whinging about the disallowed goal, the main talking point was the foul on Nasri by Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, which on second viewing could easily have resulted in a red card, but elsewhere Newcastle could and should have had at least two players sent off, most notably Cabaye who was allowed to get away with two clear bookable offences whilst on a caution.
(check out Nick Miller’s article on football365.com, one of the few to point out that the talking point was not Tiote’s disallowed goal).

Still, no media outrage at Swansea’s offside equaliser the other week. Nor at Aston Villa’s offside first goal or the second goal coming from a free kick that should never have been given. No comment that Walcott’s second goal against City was just offside. No uproar at the fact Sunderland beat City with an illegal goal for the fourth season in a row. No uproar at the disallowed Negredo goal in the corresponding fixture. No rolling-news story for three days on any bad decisions against City at all in fact, no interviews with ex-referees on Sky Sports News, or condemnation of how City had been let down by poor refereeing decisions that could ultimately cost them the title. It all evens out over the season eh?

When you look at blog stats, you can see how people have been referred to your blog post. When I recently criticised the walking billboard that is Tony Pulis, my blog somehow ended up on a Crystal Palace forum, garnering considerable criticism. With that in mind, I think the criticisms are about to go up a notch or two, because it’s time to talk about Newcastle’s class-free manager, a buffoon of the highest order with form for buffoonery and a masters degree in advanced buffoonery from Oxford University.

“Shut your noise, you f*cking old c**t,” shouted the grey-haired Newcastle manager as he continued his constant prowl around the technical area, ready to complain about any perceived injustice, from an incorrect throw-in call to a City player looking at him the wrong way. In the end, like a child who was sulking after not getting a PS4 for Xmas, he kicked the ball away from Zabaleta as he prepared to take a throw-in and a spat soon followed.

Here’s a man with all the class of a dodgy east-end barrow-boy turned bad. Then he enhanced his “reputation” further, shouting towards Nasri as he lay badly injured on the floor, clearly insinuating he was play-acting. Still, at least he didn’t push a linesman over this time, so every cloud and that….
Pardew waited for the referee at half-time, was back in his ear as the teams were led out for the second half and continued his whinging and moaning throughout the second half. It’s not surprising that Pellegrini was tetchy when you see an opposition manager moaning for 90 minutes and trying to influence match officials. The graceless moron should be charged by the FA asap. An apology does not wipe the slate clean.

It’s no surprise of course that Pardew has since apologised, a natural course of action once he realised he had been found out and with the threat of a(nother) FA charge looming. Needless to say it’s not the first time he’s had to apologise to a rival manager after a touchline spat.

(On a similar theme, I’ve never understood why managers (I’m looking at you Mr Wenger) feel the need to whinge and moan at 4th officials the whole match anyway, an official who has no bearing on the decision-making process. It’s the act of a bully.)

In 2003, the BBC described Pardew as being a “dangerous and distant animal” in the media, referring to his public relations abilities.  A bit harsh, but Arsene Wenger might agree, having two touchline spats with Pardew in 2006 alone.

I’m not sure I could have been as restrained about the whole affair as Manuel Pellegrini was. There’s your holistic approach to matters right there, a gentleman who kept his cool in the face of provocation and doesn’t allow the story to be about him.

And the sense of injustice spilled into the crowd, as you would expect – no different to how we would react I imagine. But a small point for Newcastle fans – at the moment that a player is being stretchered off with his leg in a brace whilst almost crying in agony – well that’s probably the point where it should become apparent to you that he is not play-acting and didn’t go down to try and get the opposition player booked/sent off. Booing him as he is taken off might just therefore be construed as the act of a bunch of pea-brained cretins. I hope this helps.

The most bizarre comments on my Twitter fans were the usual accusations of City “cheating”. Just to clarify, a Newcastle player falling to the ground after no contact to win a free-kick outside the area, as happened in the 2nd half, is cheating. A referee disallowing a goal is not and had nothing to do with City, unless one or two City players talking to the referee (which after all has never happened before in the history of the game) is somehow construed in these deluded people’s brains as influencing the referee. The decision had nothing to do with City. Slag off the referee all you want if it makes you feel better, but please stop boring us with these puerile claims of cheating and of buying the referee.

Since the match, Nasri has tweeted that he should be out for 8 weeks – a relief really, as it could have been much worse, but still a blow for City. This should mean more match-time for Milner and Navas, or even Rodwell (stop laughing at the back).

And so to the Emptyhad (ha!) on Wednesday, and what will surely be a weakened team. Expect run-outs for Clichy, Milner, Nastastic (if he is fit), Rodwell (if he is fit), Richards (if he is fit), Jovetic (if he is fit) and even Aguero (if he is fit).

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5 Comments
  1. Graham Ward permalink

    Yet ANOTHER excellent piece, Howard. Great stuff.

  2. good piece, but i do think the immediate complaints by hart and co were influential in sowing greater doubt in the officials’ mind. given that we gave them their clearest chance in the second half (remy) we should still have been able to secure the win even if it went to 1-1

  3. Always nice to read some sensible words about the match after being flooded with words of outrage from both set of fans on twitter. Top read, as always, Howard.

  4. Spot on H, really dissapointed in both Newcastle as a team and also their fans. Think they should look at themselves, a day when they came out with no credit whatsoever.

  5. The fuss over the disallowed goal was ludicrous, and the bleating, whinging Geordies are no doubt still whining about it three days later. Anyone would think it was a cup final, or a derby. The biggest travesty of the day was undoubtedly the way the referee allowed Newcastle to kick lumps out of City’s players thereafter. I doubt they will play with that level of intensity ever again, or at least till City’s next visit.

    Smalltime club. Classless manager.

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