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Manchester City 2 Chelsea 0: Some Thoughts

February 16, 2014

Now that was better. An utter transformation from the game of 12 days previous, the roles were reversed at the Etihad as City won comfortably and the special one made failure his speciality for the day as City inflicted Chelsea’s second FA Cup defeat in open play since 2008 – the other also being City of course.

With Daily Mirror exclusives warning us during the week that both managers were to play weakened teams, needless to say they were completely wrong as per usual as two strong teams were fielded. Thankfully, on the premise that Jovetic is not a specialised front man, Pellegrini chose a 5-man midfield in a bid to restrict the acres of space that the likes of Hazard had enjoyed in the league game.

And I felt a rush of confidence from seeing Lescott back in the team. For all his faults I still feel more at ease when he partners Kompany, at least until Nastastic can find his form of old (or more to the point, stay fit for more than a week at a time). I will be truly sad to see him go in the summer, but it has been coming for some time.

And it worked a treat. Pellegrini has commented numerous times that he will not betray his ideals and formations due to the opposition, a worrying thought with Barcelona on the horizon, but it seems he learnt from his mistake and made the relevant changes.

In the end, it was comfortable. Chelsea never threatened, with no shots on target and no real chances of note, some achievement by the City team, a team who were clearly out for revenge. With the midfield tight, it was City who fashioned enough in the opposition penalty area to come out on top. Apart from the goals, City went close on a few other occasions and had a goal disallowed.

The second goal may have been marginally offside, it depends when you stop the replay, but as Chelsea didn’t have a chance all match, it was hardly match-defining. Perhaps a second yellow card for Luiz rugby-tackling Dzeko ten minutes into the second half may have had a greater impact.

Phil Dowd was rubbish.

It’s hard to pick out a man-of-the-match when the whole team did its job. Jovetic continues to flourish now he has kept his fitness and is an excellent link between midfield and attack, though he clearly needs to eradicate the play-acting – let’s leave that to Moyes’ Marvels and his holy trinity. Silva and Toure were superb and Kompany and Lescott majestic. What’s more, Javi Garcia also shone, a player who may never get a fair crack of the whip at City, but who once more did his job effectively.
(it’s sadly predictable that Garcia gets more stick for a couple of bad performances than Mario Balotelli ever did after half a season of half-arsed performances prior to leaving City. And yet still some fans want him back)

And what a joy to see Nasri back on the pitch, his influence immediate. This is what man-management can do. He’s like a new signing and all that….

And as was seen with Nasri, Pellegrini managed the substitutions perfectly. Silva was taken off to rest before Tuesday, Jovetic too may have been brought off for the same reason, or perhaps because he does still not have 90 minutes in him, but City had the luxury of bringing on Navas and Nasri thus not significantly weakening the team. Mourinho made three substitutions but none of them had an impact on the game, not even Oscar.

So, after the Mourinho love-in following the league defeat, when we were told of his tactical master class and how he had once more out-witted Pellegrini, I expect the same will be said in reverse today, yes? There was a ridiculous overreaction to Chelsea’s victory at the Etihad last week, especially as it came off the back of a goalless draw at home to West Ham. A draw and a defeat since should bring a bit more perspective. City were slated for a league defeat in which they had 65% possession and 24 shots. Yesterday, Chelsea had 3 shots, none of which were on target.

This victory also had a few extra benefits elsewhere. History shows that a team going for trophies on multiple fronts can often end up empty-handed and the pursuit can often unravel in one bad week. Thankfully the prospect of two cup exits in a week (a comfortable home defeat to Barcelona is effectively an exit even at the half-way stage) is no more and what’s more for now the oft-quoted subtext about Mourinho having a hoodoo over Pellegrini can also be put to rest, for now.

And so to Chelsea, a master class in nastiness off the pitch. I can excuse the odd fan from not obeying a minutes’ silence if they are just entering the stadium and may not know about it, but to my ears the singing was a tad more extensive than that – I can’t say I’m that surprised, nor by their fighting at the end with the odd monkey chant aimed at a steward. Classy as always.

And then there is Mourinho, lovely, cuddly Jose Mourinho. By talking about him I have no doubt most journalists would tell me that I have simply fallen into his trap and what he says has thus worked. Whatever – I don’t need lessons in psychology and mind-games from anyone thank you very much.

There is no doubt that Mourinho does foster a resolute, strong, “us-against-them” spirit in his squads and the drivel that regularly spews out of his mouth is often attributed as a factor in this spirit. To me it is all rubbish. I doubt the players pay much attention to little spats with other managers and it is his relationship with them in the dressing room and on the training ground that is more important. As I have mentioned, you will often see journalists say that Mourinho’s tactics have worked as soon as a manager dares respond to his bile, but allow me to let you into a little secret – they are talking b***ocks. If another manager hits back it does not mean Mourinho has “won”, it means they are doing what Mourinho has done himself, so why there is a winner in all of this eludes me. There is no evidence that what Mourinho does has won his team a single point in a football match, so spare me the lecture on what a master he is in the dark arts. He is simply a classless, spiteful man quite prepared to gouge an opposition coach in the eye, so his reverence amongst the press pack is merely because he provides easy copy for them and creates a story, which is exactly what they want. This whole situation would not exist if journalists actually asked more sensible questions on conferences rather than try and create a story (and I am not referring to all journalists of course – it is a select few that are ruining it for everyone, and their sub-editors who create hysterical, sensational and often false headlines to the accompanying story). Mourinho has been shown to contradict himself on an almost daily basis and we all know that he is full of crap, so let’s try and ignore him from now on.

But I HAVE just written a thesis on him, so he has won after all. Damn you Mourinho!

Apropos of nothing. Mourinho once more hinted at City’s financial superiority post-match, commenting that City have Jovetic as a 4th striker, which is of course rubbish. Still, good to see his latest signing appear for the second half, not that I noticed until it was pointed out to me post-match.

And now for the really big match….a game we dreamt about for decades. So let’s try and enjoy it.

I have rarely been as nervous as when I approached Tom Finney to get his autograph at a City do a few years ago. Very few carry that aura or truly deserve a legend status. R.I.P.


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  1. Graham Ward permalink

    Good read, Howard.

    A deserved, and is it an exaggeration to say welcome victory?
    I have a feeling that if Chelsea had been able to repeat their recent league victory, the press would have been all over it like an unwelcome flow of Maureen’s drivel.

    Another handy home draw, with a chance to demonstrate sensible pricing of tickets, and say hello to a former crowd favourite in Uwe. The competition is opening up nicely, let’s take advantage.

  2. I fear that if Mourinho and Chelsea had somehow staged a victory on Saturday, we would have been rendered deaf by the mourinho army who would be sure to shoot their mouths off for ages.
    Scary game against Barca tomorrow with Pellegrini choosing to retain his attack minded tactics. We’ll just have to wait till tomorrow to see if it works eh?
    Great stuff. I always look forward to reading ur blog. Cheers!

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