Wednesday, 28 January 2009

City 2 - 1 Newcastle

  • An average performance but another good win. The 'richest team in the Championship' jibes worry me less and less: seven points clear of the drop zone with a game in hand. We can realistically turn our attentions to catching Wigan and West Ham now, which should be a good chase. Importantly, we have now gone four league games unbeaten (Hull, Blackburn, Wigan and today) for the first time since September/October 2007 (Villa 1-0, Fulham 3-3, Newcastle 3-1, 'Boro 3-1 and Birmingham 1-0).
  • The game was very similar to the Wigan win eleven days. I wrote then how the ground-out 1-0 was dissimilar to all of our previous league wins this season, and today was very much in the same vein. There was not much flowing football (though there was some), not many Robinho brilliances (though there were a few), and not 3 or 5 or 6 goals for City but just the two. What we did see was a strength - physical and mental - that has been new to City in the last month or so. It was not an exceptional footballing performance, but it did not need to be. Which is quite a comfort after our abject autumn.
  • We have been spoilt by the quality of debuts this season. Kompany against West Ham and Wright-Phillips (in a way) against Sunderland were both perfect, Robinho against Chelsea and Bridge against Wigan were also very good. (Though nothing on a par with Elano and Petrov at the Boleyn Ground, August 2007). Craig Bellamy and Nigel de Jong were more of the Robinho/Bridge bracket, so they both impressed. Both looked relatively settled in and worked as hard as expected. Another two good buys I imagine.
  • City's performance itself was rather patchy. The team was what I guessed it might be, and we dominated the early proceedings. Barton barely got the ball off Zabaleta and de Jong for the first twenty minutes, and the goal was much deserved. The rest of the first half was comfortable. From 45 to 77 minutes though we were sloppy and disjointed: a fit Owen, Martins or Viduka would have surely punished us. A clear penalty was turned down (worse than Zabaleta's foul on Cattermole last game) and our passing vanished. I feared a collapse - like the Liverpool, Spurs, Newcastle (a) games. But poor final third play from Newcastle, and our newfound spinefulness were sufficient to see us through, even after Carroll's goal.
  • The Zabaleta in midfield/Richards at right back experiment continued. With the arrival of de Jong it looks like this represents a permanent move to centre half for Vincent Kompany. The obvious loser is Elano who is now squeezed out of a place, and whichever of Richard Dunne and Nedum Onuoha accompanies Kompany in defence. (I'm not neutral on this issue, but only because I don't rate Onuoha).

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