Saturday, 17 January 2009

City 1 - 0 Wigan

  • How uncharacteristically spineful. Our league wins this season had all been routs: 3-0, 3-0, 6-0, 3-0, 3-0, 5-1. This was our first where the result was not in doubt, the first nail-biter, the first scrap to three points. It was also the first win where we have not passed our opponents off the park. Of course, it would be nice to outplay our opponents every week. But we have to accept that sometimes you have to battle. And today was very impressive in that respect.
  • It was interesting to see this heroic defensive display without Dunne or Hamann. People often conflate 'experience' with 'mental strength'. It's quite understandable, but I don't think it always works that way. Today's rearguard was led by a mixture of Hughes signings (Kompany, Zabaleta and Bridge all excelled) and Academy players (Onuoha and Richards both played better than usual). Hart (a Pearce signing) was also very good. It made me more sympathetic to Hughes' claims that he has to be able to rebuild the squad as he sees fit.
  • But it would have been much easier without Richard Dunne's red card. He went up for an aerial challenge with Amr Zaki and, on landing, kicked him in the back. It was like Beckham on Diego Simeone but harder, more obvious, and in a higher stakes game. It was stupid enough on its own, but in context it was ludicrous: 1-0 up, in a huge match, with 40 minutes remaining. He's meant to be the captain! He now has two red cards to go with his two own goals this season. All he needs is to give away two penalties to complete the triangle.
  • The rest of the defence was excellent though. Bridge had a very good debut, marrying Garrido's attacking runs and crossing with a defensive competence we hadn't seen since the days of Niclas Jensen. (Don't say that Michael Ball is defensively competent, he's not. He is labelled 'solid' because he is English and experienced). Richards was quite good at right back, but had a difficult time with Daniel de Ridder. Onuoha was very strong and Vincent Kompany was exceptional when he dropped back. If Kompany moves to centre (not right) back permanently he could well grow to be one of the best in England : right up there with Carvalho, Ferdinand and Vidić.
  • It was a defender playing out of position, though, who was the star turn. Pablo Zabaleta saved Hughes from having to play Gelson, and he fought tirelessly in central midfield. He showed his aptitude at playing the role of another Argentine archetype: not the tough, uncompromising full back today - a la Heinze - but the terrier like midfielder - a la Mascherano. He had a difficult start but grew into the role, bossing Lee Cattermole. And of course his goal: a sweet strike and our 39th in the league this year. We only scored 45 last season.

3 comments:

Gary said...

Some imbeciles in the press are reporting we 'failed to impress'

We played them off the park for the first half, Kompany, Zabaleta, Sturridge and Elano were all excellent. Wigan had nothing until calamity Dunne got sent off for being an idiot, even then we defended well and gave 100%,

alanharmer442 said...

Great piece - pedantic , I know , but you might like to amend reference to Kompany to centre back (not right) towards end of 4th paragraph.

Keep up the good work!

JPB said...

Cheers.