Saturday, 30 October 2010

Wolves 2 - 1 City

  • Although we lost to Arsenal last weekend, we lost with pride, with unity, with a sense of honour. There was none of that today. This was as spineless a performance as we've seen from a City side since that capitulation at White Hart Lane last Christmas that cost Mark Hughes his job. Yes, we went ahead. And yes, Wolves would have beaten many teams playing as they did today. But the lack of tempo, the sloppiness on the ball and off it, the absence of any obvious desire to win the game or idea of how best to do so were just appalling.

  • We saw the return of the diamond for only the second time this season. Emmanuel Adebayor partnered Mario Balotelli up front, with David Silva in behind. Yaya Touré anchored for Gareth Barry and James Milner. It worked well at the start, as we got a grip of the ball, and created chances as Balotelli and Adebayor combined well. We could have been a few ahead by the time we scored: David Silva broke into the box, was cleared out by Richard Stearman, and Adebayor converted the penalty. Given how good we're meant to be at defending 1-0 leads, that should have been it.

  • But Wolves roared back into the game. Noticing how our diamond left the flanks exposed, they moved the ball wide as quickly as possible. Matt Jarvis gave Micah Richards the full Gareth Bale treatment, while Kevin Doyle's movement induced a very ropey performance from our centre-backs. So it was with Wolves' much-deserved equaliser. Jarvis accepted Richards' invitation to swing a cross in, it was half-cleared and Nenad Milijaš fired into the bottom corner. You couldn't shake the thought that the dominant Kompany/Kolo of just last month wouldn't have allowed that to happen.

  • We were relieved when half-time came. Level at the break and anything is still possible. All we had to do was start the second half with renewed purpose, energy and imagination. But we didn't. We were just as defensively error-prone, mistaken in our passing, and short of ideas in the final third. But this time we didn't have the excuse of being surprised by Wolves. Their second goal came soon after: Kolo Touré could have conceded a corner but decided instead to keep the ball in play, heading it into a blind-spot. The ball came out to Edwards, who was not closed down, and he put Wolves ahead. Again, there was a laziness of thought and deed in central defence unlike anything we've seen this season.

  • But with our resources, with the ability of our attacking players on the pitch and on the pitch, we should have been able to get back into the game. But we were painfully flat; playing at walking pace as if we were the side 2-1 ahead. Adam Johnson came on and beat George Elokobi once or twice but with no great benefit. Emmanuel Adebayor was withdrawn, after a good performance, while Mario Balotelli stayed on the pitch. We did not create a single meaningful chance to make it 2-2. How we missed Carlos Tévez. We have played this poorly more often than we might like to admit in 2010, but so many times our captain has, through force of will, created an opening and grasped it. Absent our trump card we have to work for our opportunities, and we displayed precious little interest in doing so today.

  • So that's consecutive league defeats. Not a crisis, or even the embryo of one. But a clear reminder of how much we need Tévez, how short of ideas we can look without him, how much Silva, Milner, Balotelli, Boateng and other needs to bear the creative burden in his absence. Apparently he'll be back next weekend at West Brom. It's a shame just how much we need him.

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