Tuesday, 28 December 2010

City 4 - 0 Villa

  • No Carlos Tévez, Gareth Barry, Aleksandar Kolarov or a handful of other first choicers, and they produce the best home display under Roberto Mancini. We were lucky enough to be facing a side who had evidently learnt none of the lessons of our recent home games, who showed no appetite for tackling and who placed no value on possession. Had they set up as Everton or Birmingham City did at Eastlands then it might well have been different. But, for whatever reason, they did not and we flourished. We attacked with fluency, confidence and variation. We scored an early goal (always important), and then followed it with more heat, not less. It was 3-0 within half an hour and 4-0 soon after half time: it could have been more had we really wanted it.
  • The big news was the resting of the captain. I suppose we have to rest him sometimes, particularly at this time of year, and if we're going to do so it might as well be for a game like this. Mario Balotelli was given the chance to lead the line in his absence, the second time he has done so in the Premier League. David Silva, Yaya Touré and Adam Johnson lined up behind him (my preferred creative line), while Mancini trusted Nigel de Jong and Patrick Vieira to anchor. We started brightly enough, everything naturally following David Silva, a shuffling, scurrying magnet and metronome. If you wonder how we'd do without Tévez (the evidence suggests it would not be the end of things), just think what we would be like without Silva. Anyway, we moved the ball well, and it wasn't too long before the little Spaniard put Balotelli through outside Eric Lichaj, inducing a foul. Balotelli converted the penalty. Five minutes later Joleon Lescott headed a Johnson corner towards goal, and the ball was judged to have crossed the line.
  • The best goal was the third: Silva took the ball on the right hand side and sparked a one-two with Yaya Touré. He then sneered past the backward Stephen Warnock and, finding space as he did famously at Blackpool, shot to the far post. Friedel parried, Balotelli converted. Early in the second half Johnson drew a tackle from Marc Albrighton and Balotelli completed his hat-trick. At 4-0 the game was over, and Silva was soon withdrawn: Mancini understandably keen to protect our best player. Yaya and de Jong did not last much longer, and from then on it was keep-ball. Ball retention when ahead away comes naturally to us: at home it's even easier. There were no more moments of note.

  • To rotate this far, and then to play this well, is a sign of our being, well, a serious team. (I refuse to use the 'c word', naturally.) It suggests what we all knew, which is that we can make changes without having to resort to the ragtag army we put out in the Europa League. Having done this now, it reinforces the belief that we can continue to challenge in the Premier and Europa Leagues in the spring, without having to reject entirely the FA Cup. We host Blackpool on New Year's Day: I anticipate a similarly open team then, albeit with different full-backs, Tévez and maybe Jô, before we bring back anti-football at the Emirates and then go about cavalier again at Leicester City. The key is to generate and foster a momentum of results whilst not rotating so much as to destroy continuities. It is one of Sir Alex Ferguson's great gifts and only the next few months will reveal whether Mancini has it too. But based on this evidence he might just have a good feel for it.

3 comments:

Jeff said...

Balotelli started up top against West Ham just a couple of weeks ago...

dan said...

David Silva, Yaya Touré and Adam Johnson lined up behind him...

TLDORC said...

You're right Jeff