Sunday, 31 October 2010

TLDORC October awards

A strange month, probably with as many bad things as good. We managed three wins and two defeats (two of each in the Premier League), but never really played that well. The best display came in a 3-0 home defeat, and it was followed by what was certainly the worst performance of the season and maybe the worst of Roberto Mancini's tenure. The most worrying thing was the crumbling of the defensive unit. In September we conceded four goals in six games. If you discount the West Brom match (Cunningham, Boyata, Mee, and Vidal in the back four) then it was two in five. But in October we shipped nine in five. We're still well placed, in both the Europa and Premier Leagues. But an improvement in November would be nice.

Newcastle United (h) 2-1 (thoughts, ratings, reax)
Blackpool (a) 3-2 (thoughts, ratings)
Lech Poznań (h) 3-1 (thoughts, ratings)
Arsenal (h) 0-3 (thoughts, ratings, reax)
Wolverhampton Wanderers (a) 1-2 (thoughts, ratings, reax)

Player of the Month

Not as difficult as recent months, when a number of excellent performances have vied for recognition. There were a few decent performers in October: Joe Hart,Vincent Kompany, Nigel de Jong - but only one excellent one. The winner is obvious: David Silva. This was the month where he revealed to us in the clearest fashion yet just how good he is and just how good he might be for City. There had been a glimpse here and a spark there before October but this was certainly his best yet.

It all started in Blackpool. He wasn't starting, but he came on with the score 0-0 and City being frustrated by the very impressive hosts. Within minutes of our introduction he created our first goal. He drifted into a channel between defenders - he has a sense of space unlike many other players in England - and clipped a left-footed cross to Carlos Tévez who flicked the ball into the corner. There were goals for both teams before Silva scored the best individual goal scored by a City player in years. He bluffed to shoot and cut inside a defender, before repeating the trick precisely to evade another. Charlie Adam came to close him down but he just curled the ball past him and into the corner.

Against Lech Poznań he was just as good, but over the course of 90 minutes. It was a virtuoso football recital: pass, move, touch, feint - the whole lot. In terms of quality it was beyond anything even Elano produced; you've got to go way back to Ali Benarbia and Eyal Berkovic to get close. He didn't score, but his crosses for Emmanuel Adebayor's second and third goals were just perfection: the first floated in from the by-line, the second swung in past two defenders from deeper and wider.

In the next two games, both of which we lost, he showed that he was more and just the replacement for Elano I so want him to be: twice, in difficult circumstances, he fought hard for the team. He forced two good saves in the Arsenal defeat (both times with technically excellent shots), and at Molineux looked like the only player with any interest in our winning the game or with any idea of how best to do it. He even leapt into the air to contest a header with Richard Stearman when Yaya Touré brainlessly chipped the ball up to him.

He was certainly our best player in October. He is, I'm sure, the most talented player we've had at City in my life-time. Never before have we had someone so close to the elite of world football. While I enjoy the novelty of this, I also enjoy the ways in which it calls back to former City players. Because Silva - and I don't think this is sentimental or facile - does recall Georgi Kinkladze in the way he runs with the ball. And he does, drift and glide around off the ball like Ali Benarbia, with the same sense of trigonometry and incision. In short, he's a synthesis of my two favourite ever City players and I love him already. The best of it is the fact that there is clearly so much more to come too. He also takes Goal of the Month and Performance of the Month too.

Wolves reax

David Instone, Independent on Sunday
If this was all Mancini's side could manage by way of a response to being dismantled by Arsenal last Sunday, the threat they offer to Chelsea, Manchester United and the rest for the foreseeable future is thin indeed. So deserving were Wolves of their first League victorysince the opening afternoon of the season that they had all the game's best performers and take all the plaudits. One place off the bottom they remain, but they, in particular the surprise England candidate Matt Jarvis, ran the legs off City's defenders.
Sandy Macaskill, Sunday Telegraph
If Manchester City want to be taken seriously as top four, let alone title, contenders, this is the sort of match they needed not only to win, but win convincingly. It started promisingly, Emmanuel Adebayor scoring his first Premier League goal of the season, but then ran into a brick wall of their own construction, allowing Nenad Milijas and Dave Edwards to capitalise, and leaving Roberto Mancini so hot under the collar he took off his infamous scarf.
Danny Pugsley, Bitter and Blue
The bedrocks of the season so far - a solid central defensive partnership and a dominant midfield trio were nowhere to be seen. Although Kolo Toure returned to partner Vincent Kompany, they lacked the authority and presence shown in games earlier in the season when they posted a series of clean sheet. In midfield, without Nigel de Jong the trio looked completely overwhelmed by their counterparts. Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry in particular lacked any sort of poise and presence, allowing Wolves to continually maraud down the wings to great effect, with both Micah Richards and Jerome Boateng having a torrid afternoon.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Wolves player ratings

Hart On a very good day he might just have got a hand to the first goal. But powerless with the second. Otherwise strong under an aerial barrage. 6

Richards A bit negligent - admittedly under difficult circumstances - against Matt Jarvis, allowing too many crosses including the one that lead to Wolves' equaliser. Things didn't get too much better in the second half. 5

Kolo Touré Maybe rushed back from injury, this was a return to his form of last season. He was back to his old diffidence and insecurity, and was partially culpable for both Wolves goals. Joleon Lescott must be wondering what he has to do. 4

Given a very difficult time by Kevin Doyle, who did a great job leading the line for Wolves. Won his fair share of headers but might have done better for the goals. Due a bad game, I guess, but we need him at 100% every week. 5

Having him out on the left inhibits his crossing, which is one of his best traits. Defended well enough, better at stopping crosses coming in than Richards was, although he did look a bit ponderous at times. Foul throw in the dying minutes was infuriating. 6

Yaya Touré
Asked to anchor in the absence of Nigel de Jong, he struggled to impose himself in quite the same way. As ever there was the suspicion that he was playing within himself, best displayed by the fact that he waited 75 minutes before going on his first charging run through the middle. A bit slow in possession, too. 4

Milner The shuttling role in a diamond is well-suited to his game, and he performed more admirably than some. He covered ground although his final ball was not as good as it might have been. 6

Barry Not as energetic as Milner, and so less suited to the task he was given. Barely made any impression on the game, on or off possession, as we were left with more bodies in midfield than we needed and not enough in wide areas. Lucky to stay on as long as he did. 4

Silva The one player who remained lively and ambitious until the end. Won us the penalty for our goal (although Stearman's greivances are entirely illegitimate), and continued to impress with his movement and touch throughout. Without Carlos, no-one was on his wavelength. 7

Adebayor Caused problems. Ran harder than usual, going deep and wide, and converted his penalty well. Unlucky to get the hook. 6

Balotelli It's unfair to expect too match in his first Premier League start. He was lively, certainly, getting in good positions and worrying defenders. He could have had a hat-trick in the first half. But he drifted out of the game and didn't look particularly helpful later on. 5


A. Johnson Beat Elokobi with his first run (as he has a habit of doing), and did lift things, without being too influential to the overall pattern of play. 6

Zabaleta One reckless tackle that deserved at least the booking he got. 5

One shot blocked n/a

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.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Arsenal reax

Sam Wallace, The Independent
City were never able to show the best of themselves, especially with Carlos Tevez still struggling with injury and Mancini's team pulled out of shape by the loss of Boyata. It is impossible to make a judgement on them on the basis of this game but there is no point in them having a squad full of famous internationals if they conspire to reduce themselves to 10 on the pitch.
Henry Winter, Daily Telegraph
For City, no points came their way, such a possibility largely evaporating with Dedryk Boyata’s early dismissal, but they can take heart from the spirit displayed by the 10 hungry men who remained. Until he felt a thigh muscle tighten, Carlos Tévez embodied City’s work-rate. So did the excellent Silva, floating past challenges and showing remarkable stamina.
Kevin McCarra, The Guardian
For all the wealth of the owner, Sheikh Mansour, that contribution, which people pay to make, will be important to City's pursuit of honours. The crowd were probably inflamed by the conviction that some sort of injustice was being perpetrated here, although that was not the case. Their side had a fine bloody-mindedness about them, too.
Michael Cox,
With the three in midfield narrow, and Silva just ahead, they were effectively forming a midfield diamond around Arsenal’s three central midfielders (with the wider players of the three shuttling forward) and were not played off the pitch. Indeed, Arsenal were having trouble in the centre of midfield, reflected in the fact Fabregas, Alex Song and Denilson all collected yellow cards.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Arsenal player ratings

Hart His penalty save from Cesc Fàbregas was his best single moment since opening day. He had a few other good saves to make, too, and could not have done better with any of the goals. Tendency to kick to Tévez as if he were Edin Džeko is a touch frustrating but it was a good game overall. 7

Richards His best game this season. He was an attacking threat throughout - our most assertive wide player given the narrow formation - and created (and missed) our best chance of the game. Defensively he did well although he did switch off for Bendtner's goal. 7

Kompany I had been waiting for him to make a mistake all season, and it finally came. His tackle on Fàbregas was uncharacteristically late and a certain penalty. That aside, it was another good performance with some important interventions in our third. 6

Boyata Picking Boyata over Lescott was one of Mancini's boldest selections for a while. And unfortunately it failed. Boyata was caught flat-footed by Marouane Chamakh, lunged, brought him down, and was sent off. One could argue that the smart decision would have been to let Chamakh through: he's a good player but a very right-footed finisher and the chances of his scoring would not have been far beyond 50-50. But it was a rush of blood of the sort that typifies nineteen year old footballers. 3

Boateng The hardest test he's had so far. Started off at left-back but moved to centre-back and played there for most of the game. As with Kompany, he was very good but for one glaring mistake: when he tried to let the ball run out for a goal-kick but was shrugged off by Chamakh. That aside his positioning and tackling were very good. 6

de Jong Did an important job trying to stem the flow of Arsenal attacks through the middle of the pitch. Tried to puncture Fàbregas with a rather nasty lunge early on but after that he was very good, running hard, closing off space and making six successful interceptions. He even showed some decent footwork of his own in the Arsenal half as we tried to get back into the game. 7

Silva For the first half an hour he was the equal of Fàbregas and Nasri, showing some excellent touches and jinks, inducing a sharp save from Fabiański in the first few minutes. He rather drifted out of the game in the second half, as Arsenal stifled possession, but had our best effort of the second half with a low drive. 7

Yaya Touré Briefly moved to centre-back after the sending off but soon moved back into midfield: his physicality was important to link with Silva and Tévez. Threatened on the break once or twice but again looked like he was playing at 70% and came off at half-time. 5

Barry Like Yaya, he started in midfield, had a brief spell in defence and then moved back into midfield. It was his negligence in allowing Nasri to run beyond him that cost us the first goal, which was a shame. That aside he had a decent game, covering ground and working hard before coming off for a more exotic option. 6

Milner Worked as hard as anyone to make up for our deficit in midfield. I think he will be increasingly useful as the season goes on, here he was tasked with covering most of the pitch and while the quality wasn't always there he did characterise our application and intelligence. 6

Tévez Threatened Johan Djourou in the first half, getting a good shot in and linking well with Silva, but picked up a knock with saw him withdrawn early in the second half. Needs to be fit for the derby. Needs to be fit for the derby. 6


Bridge Still struggles with the basics, unfortunately. It was his block (either trap it or clear it, don't split the difference), that teed up Alex Song for the goal that ended the game. That aside there was not much else to talk about. Nothing in the final third. 4

Adebayor Ran hard without the ball, which suggests that his Europa League hat-trick was the boost that he needed. Had two good headed chances and missed both of them, but I do think he'll get more games in the next week or so as Tévez is protected. 6

Balotelli His first touch at Eastlands was excellent, as he brought the ball down from the air. Not much more to say. n/a

City 0 - 3 Arsenal

  • Playing for 85 minutes undermanned against Arsenal is difficult. In fact, of all the teams in the country Arsenal are the side against whom playing 10 v 11 is hardest. Their passing, movement, their confidence in possession stack the odds in their favour almost insurmountably. So to lose 3-0 in a match that was almost wholly framed by Dedryck Boyata's early dismissal (about which there can be no complaints) is no disgrace. In fact, we played with unity and tenacity, and those players that stayed on (Wayne Bridge aside) can be fairly proud of themselves.
  • What would have happened in 90 minutes of 11 v 11 is unknowable and not worth wasting time on. But in the first five minutes we looked sparky, and David Silva drew the first of a range of good saves from Łukasz Fabiański. But we could not make the pressure tell and Boyata was off for chopping Marouane Chamakh soon later. It was a big call from Mancini picking Boyata over Joleon Lescott, who isn't exactly error-prone himself, but it might have been a step too far for the youngster. What Mancini did get right, though, was his next decision. He moved to 4-3-1-1, with David Silva behind Carlos Tévez. So many coaches would have abjured magic and gone 4-4-1. But Mancini chose to maximise strength rather than compromise weakness, a bold move from a supposedly 'negative' manager.
  • What followed was a surprising even passage of play. We kept things tight in the middle, while naturally sacrificing space in wide areas. And while Arsenal scored first - Gareth Barry, playing at left back, decided against tracking the wonderful Samir Nasri into the box - we created our own chances too. Silva and Tévez drew saves from Fabiański while Richards and Adebayor missed when they ought to have done better. We needed Joe Hart to save a penalty to keep the deficit to one but the game did not feel over.
  • There was a definite sense, though, that our chances of equalising were diminishing by the minute. 10 v 11 is tiring, and our share of possession was noticeably shrinking. The longer the game went on, the more of the ball Arsenal had, the more exhausted our players were and the less creative we were on the break. When Alex Song thumped home Arsenal's second (assisted by Wayne Bridge) it was clear that we were going to lose. But we still worked hard, defending well enough and working the occasional opening at the other end. Nicklas Bendtner's third was a reward for Arsenal's possession but felt tough on our ten remaining men.
  • So there were at least as many positives as negatives. At no point did we fold or collapse or implode. We continued to play our football throughout, and had we caught Fabiański on one of his off-days we might have scored once or twice. We played England's best possession footballers undermanned and for the best part of an hour we made them sweat. It's a disappointment from a table perspective but I would have taken being equal on points with Arsenal and United almost one quarter of the way through the a season. And, if we're going to lose, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon than watching Cesc Fàbregas and Samir Nasri play football.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Marwood meets Winter

There's a very interesting Henry Winter interview with Brian Marwood in today's Daily Telegraph, where Marwood sheds light on what exactly his role involves, and where he is seeking to take City.

There's a fair bit of management speak in there: a justification of the 'Elite Development Squad' monstrosity, a reference to a 'brand map' of Paul Scholes, the mention of which seems, on a fundamental level, to miss the point of Paul Scholes. But there's also a lot of real interest, and it's more honest too than it might have been.

There's this, on the difference between the social lives of Adam Johnson and James Milner:

Mancini quietly criticised Johnson recently. “Roberto is just trying to keep his feet on the ground. Adam’s world has changed dramatically and we have to help him through that. We’re asking players that when they go out, go out at the
right time. Not drinking 48 hours before a game. We hope they live their life
the right way.

“I don’t worry when James Milner goes out because I know it will be to the pictures, going bowling, and he’ll be in bed with his Horlicks at 10pm. We have other players who want a drink but they need to be responsible. It impacts on their performance. We do saliva tests on them all the time.

There's a lot on the importance of the Academy to the club's long term vision, and how it is to be used to inculcate the club ethos:

“Now that we want to be a club in the Champions League we are trying to
create an even better player with good habits on and off the pitch. But we are
dealing with a lost generation. Some young [academy] players are well-adjusted
but with far more players we have to do lifestyle skills on them. If you look
out that window, we have some boys over from Africa, who are so far advanced of
our boys technically and in terms of behaviour."

Then there's things about scouting, recruitment, wages, and an interesting comparison between Roberto Mancini and George Graham:

“I find Roberto very engaging, very warm, an extremely nice individual. Roberto is very disciplined; he’s about organisation, shape. He’s like George Graham. People looked at George as a [stylish] player and thought he’d be the last person to be a manager but he was one of the most successful managers."

I recommend all of it.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Poznań player ratings

Hart Had a few saves to make but nothing too difficult. Blameless for the goal. 7

Richards This felt like an opportunity missed. Jérome Boateng is clearly first choice right-back now so Richards should really be making an impact in games like this. But he was surprisingly quiet going forward, even if he defended well enough. 6

Boyata Generally good, including one crucial interception in a one-on-one when the visitors were looking to get back into the game. He will be limited to these sorts of games for the rest of the season but he's looking increasingly competent. 7

Lescott As the senior man in the back four he ought to have taken responsibility, but he was error-prone and lacked focus. He made the initial mistake for the goal we conceded and was fairly suspect throughout. At the mercy of Kolo Touré's return from injury. 5

Zabaleta Missed a clearance when we conceded but otherwise competent enough. Took a few kicks - and surprisingly did not retaliate - and even broke into the box a few times. 6

Vieira This is his sort of game: time on the ball and fairly pliant opposition. He was comfortable throughout, without ever quite being commanding, but it was a nice pass through to Adebayor for our first goal and there was some astute switching of play too. 6

de Jong Demonstrated what a clean and precise tackler he can be when he chooses to be. He made a number of crucial interventions all across the pitch, and was always in the right place when he was needed to shut down opposition attacks. 7

A. Johnson Nearly scored one of the best goals we've seen in years, cutting in from the right and hitting the angle of post and bar. For the most part he was lively, beating defenders and putting crosses in, without making it obviously clear that the stage was beneath him, in the way that Silva did. Shouldn't expect to start on Sunday. 7

Silva Just delightful. This was his best all-round performance for City, and further development from his match-winning cameo at Blackpool. Over the course of the evening his movement off the ball, his touch and his dribbling was unlike anyone else on the pitch. His two assists for Adebayor: a cross swung in from the by-line, and one from deeper that curled past two defenders to Manu were both perfect. He didn't score himself - one Kinkladze type run threatened to match his goal last week - but he was a joy to watch. This is going to be special. 9

SWP Good to see him getting a run out, and he looked surprisingly high on confidence despite barely playing recently. The ball stuck to his feet as he charged down either flank, and while his final ball and shooting wasn't quite there he still caused problems and had a bit of fun. 7

Adebayor Hard to quibble with a hat-trick. He took all three goals well, and his turn into the first one was as sharp a spin as we'll see this season. The second was one of those far-post arched-back headers, and the third a good finish from Silva's precise cross. Let's hope this means he will be a useful option in future, with confidence restored. 9


Yaya Touré Little impact n/a

Jo Little impact n/a

Bridge Little impact n/a

City 3 - 1 Lech Poznań

  • After the minor disruption against Juventus, our Europa League campaign is back on track. What's more, with Juve only managing a draw in Salzburg, we now have a serious chance of winning the group. A win in Poland two weeks from now should be enough. I must say I was disappointed with the level of the opposition. I wasn't expecting Barcelona but they are Polish champions and so at the very least you anticipate a base level of organisation and energy. But it was a professional and, at times, exciting performance from City.
  • The big question before the game was whether we could win without Carlos Tévez. He was rested, and replaced by Emmanuel Adebayor. Gareth Barry, James Milner and Yaya Touré were also rested so behind Manu was a three man band of Adam Johnson, David Silva and Shaun Wright-Phillips, with Nigel de Jong and Patrick Vieira anchoring behind them. I had been keen to see Silva and Johnson starting together - Mancini does not seem too keen on having both of them on the pitch at the same time - and while Johnson provided a few quick thrills, Silva produced his best performance yet in blue: a masterclass of movement, touch, vision and passing.
  • His two crosses for our second and third goals, the first from the byline, the second from deeper, were so good that they almost detract attention from Adebayor. Because this really ought to have been his night. All three goals: one off a spin, a perfect header and a half-volley were excellently taken, and a reminder that his skill set is unmatched by many other strikers in English football. I know I'm a critic of his, and this has not changed my mind to the extent of wanting him to start on Sunday, but it was, well, heartening to see him scoring goals again.
  • It wasn't perfect. Without Vincent Kompany or Kolo Touré we were fairly messy in defence, conceding sloppily early in the second half. We ought to have conceded a second when it was still 2-1, and it took our third goal for us to settle again. That said, Mancini chose to rest Kompany and I don't think he'd do that for games against stronger opposition.
  • Now it's only two days of rest before Arsenal come to Eastlands on Sunday. We'll have Tévez back, and Kompany and Milner and probably Barry too. Mancini has spoken of maybe including Adebayor alongside Tévez. In my mind, there are teams that you can afford to play 4-4-2 against at home and teams that you can't. And Arsenal are certainly of the latter category. But that can wait. For now we're four points away from the last 32.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Blackpool player ratings

Hart A few saves, and powerless with either goal. Quite liked his proactive distribution today, too. 6

Boateng His third consecutive start and possibly his most assured performance. We're yet to see the buccaneering runs of the World Cup but that will come in time. He was put in more two-on-one situations than he ought to have been but coped as well as can be expected. 6

Kompany I think I'm still waiting for him to make a major mistake this season. He was excellent, again, winning four tackles and five interceptions. His reading of the game is so intuitive he almost doesn't need to be as exceptional an athlete and technician as he is. 7

Generally good but one mis-step when he abandoned DJ Campbell to help out Kompany, leaving his man free in the box. Campbell's skewed finish was a gift. Tidy in possesion: 19/19 passes completed. 6

His first start in a month, and first Premier League start of the season. It would be kind to say that he looked out of match practice, but a fully-fit Bridge has been known to make mistakes too. He was caught on his heels a few times, gave away the free-kick we conceded from, and often lost out physically. Inventive in the final third, though. 5

A. Johnson
Restored to the starting eleven, but this was not a vindicatory performance. He glimmered, now and then, and might have threatened, but nothing quite came off for him. Caught offside a few times. 6

de Jong
Understandably inhibited given recent events. He was clearly reticent about sliding in on Charlie Adam, which was good in a moral sense but actually made us less effective in the midfield battle. 5

Had to do lots more work today, not just because of the formation but also because of de Jong. He made five important tackles and was neat in possession (26/29), although was certainly not the best midfielder on show. 6

Milner I thought he was good today. Quite adaptable, even when stuck out on the left. He chased back, he swung crosses in, he ran at his man. His neat back-heel to Silva was nice answer to those who question his subtlety. 7

Tévez What more is there to say? Time and time again he bails us out. Yes, Silva's cross was good and yes Carlos was off-side but that flicked finish was such a characteristic combination of audacity, bravery and technique from the captain. It's not just that he's an excellent finisher, but his energy and imagination allows him to create chances ex nihilo. Just look at his second, as he robben Evatt and deflected it off Cathcart to put us ahead. Two more goals, three more points: we'd be useless without him. 8

Adebayor First Premier League start of the season, but he didn't look near fit. The ball just bounced off him repeatedly, and he had to drop deep to have any impact. We improved by a distance when Silva came on for him. 4


Silva Came on and changed the game. One lovely assist, one sort of assist and then that Kinkladze-like goal. I think he'll start behind Adebayor on Thursday but his long term role in the side is still not clear, even if his class is. 8

Richards Fifteen minutes at right back, won a header or two, went on a run. Fine. 6

Vieira Did ok for the last few minutes. n/a

Blackpool 2 - 3 City

  • The most enjoyable win of the season. More so than Chelsea, certainly. That was a bigger achievement, yes, but it was a measured, planned and mechanical performance, a chess victory. This was thrillingly chancy, a burglary from our much more assured and coherent hosts. It was more ice hockey than chess, especially as the game opened up in its final quarter, and the goals started to flow. Up to that point, though, Blackpool had been the much more impressive side, outplaying us from the start. But winning when you don't play well is meant to be the sign of a successful side, and this was our second consecutive such win - and our fourth straight league victory.

  • I'm still shocked that we won. Away wins in the league have been sufficiently scarce sufficiently recently for me still to value them like precious stones. (We won two from 19 in 2008/09.) So to go somewhere like Bloomfield Road and win feels like achievement enough. But this wasn't just a generic away game, but one against a Blackpool side playing with real confidence and cohesion, whose last game was their win at Anfield. They carried this form through today, and out-pressed and out-passed us all over the pitch. I don't want to sound patronising, but they were excellent today. The point is this was precisely the sort of game we always used to lose. I tend to revel in the 'typical City' stuff, and part of me does enjoy the loyalty to archetypes. But this sort of snatched away win; well, I could get used to it.

  • We didn't help ourselves. We played flat 4-4-2 for the first time this season, with Emmanuel Adebayor and Adam Johnson back in the side. Deprived of not only Yaya Touré, but also Nigel de Jong's reckless essence, we were outmanned in midfield. David Vaughan and Charlie Adam passed around us, we could only hold our shape and hold tight. When we did get the ball they harried us until they had it back; there was no invention, only long balls to the front men, most of which bounced off Adebayor. Fortunately, Blackpool didn't create too much themselves. Except for the moment Joleon Lescott abandoned the forgiving DJ Campbell in the box we defended well enough. But there was no question of the better side.

  • Just our luck, then, that we had David Silva on the bench. He came on and - in concert with Carlos Tévez - won us the game. Silva has an ability to move into spaces other players just don't see, and after two minutes on the pitch he drifted into the left channel and crossed to Tévez who flicked the ball in. He had been off-side, too. Blackpool pulled one back but we instantly retained the lead, again through Silva and Tévez. They swarmed on the dawdling Ian Evatt, Tévez won the ball and fired - via a deflection - into the bottom corner. Somehow ahead, we looked comfortable enough before Silva scored a fantasy of a goal. He received the ball from a Milner free kick, feinted outside and cut in to beat Stephen Crainey, before doing exactly the same to David Vaughan. He then curled the ball past Charlie Adam and Matt Gilks into the far corner. It was like nothing we've seen since Kinkladze. It's when I see things like this that I become increasingly certain that at some stage this season, David Silva is going to reduce me to tears.

  • We managed to concede one more in stoppage time before the final whistle. But we emerged with the three points, and a further-buttressed sense that all of Roberto Mancini's talk about 'winning mentality' might actually have some meat to it. We might not yet be playing the football we want to, but for as long as we can defend properly, and keep Silva and Tévez involved in the right areas, we might be able to hang on to second place for a few more weeks yet.

Saturday, 16 October 2010


I'm concious that I haven't written anything about Malcolm Allison. This isn't because I don't think it's an important topic, but rather because I don't have too much to add. If you're looking for a narrative of his time at Manchester City, or an assessment of what he was good at and what he was not; well, you'll have to look elsewhere.

(What I will say is that his maverick ringmaster shtick, and the style of football that is its by-product, has become the paradigm, or at the very least the measuring stick, for City fans. This is why Kevin Keegan felt so right, why Stuart Pearce did not, and why people are more sympathetic to Roberto Mancini the man rather than the tactician just yet.)

So here are some extracts from accounts of Allison that are more useful.

James Lawton in The Independent:
The rise of City is one of the landmarks of England football history. It was brief but stunning: promotion to the First Division, the title two years later, then the FA Cup, and, at the end of a three-year cycle, the League Cup and the Cup-Winners' Cup.

He returned to Vienna for that triumph, a superb performance against the then formidable Polish team Gornik Zabrze. Rain streamed down his face as he sat beside Mercer in the Prater Stadium but he was the picture of exhilaration and on the balcony of his hotel room he greeted the dawn with a glass of champagne, a fine Havana cigar and the declaration, "This morning I feel like Napoleon."

This was two years after his personal Waterloo – ejection from the first round of the European Cup in Istanbul. After winning the First Division in a brilliant finish, Allison, always a newspaperman's delight, announced, "Next stop Mars."
Brian Glanville in The Guardian:

The worst thing that ever happened to him was what, at the time, appeared the best – when, in 1971, he was made manager of Manchester City, after he had been there for six years. With Allison as assistant manager and coach, under the benign aegis of Joe Mercer as manager, City had flourished, winning the Second Division Championship in 1966, the League title in 1968, the FA Cup in 1969, and in 1970 both the European Cup-Winners Cup and the League Cup. Once a star at Everton and Arsenal, and an England wing-half, Mercer was never a great coach – Allison's speciality – nor a major tactician, but he did keep the rain off Allison.

David Lacey in The Guardian:

When Manchester City blew the chance of another title in 1972, after Allison had signed Rodney Marsh, critics blamed him for upsetting the balance of the team in order to accommodate Marsh's eccentric skills. But Allison remained unapologetic. "I believed in Rodney's touch of theatre," he said later. "If you asked Manchester City fans today whether I did the right thing in signing Marsh they would answer a firm 'yes'. They have learned to live with his extravagances, his inconsistencies. It is, after all, the price you pay for the promise of magic."

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Five blues but no goals for England

Despite the presence of five Manchester City players last night, England could only manage a 0-0 draw with Montenegro at Wembley last night.

Joe Hart and Joleon Lescott both started, and were fairly untroubled all night. Hart was beaten once, by a volley from Milan Jovanović late on, but it thumped into the crossbar as it plunged downwards.

Gareth Barry played alongside Steven Gerrard in central midfield but could not replicate his recent improved form for City. This was the Barry of early 2010: lazy, sluggish, and careless in possession. He must be fairly tired given how he's started with City but this was not too impressive.

The one that stood out was Adam Johnson. With Montenegro lining up with three holding midfielders (sound familiar?), there was never much space for him on the inside but he had real success going outside and down to the by-line. He put in a few decent crosses with his right foot; when he improves this aspect of his game he'll double his threat. He also hit a few free-kicks over.

Shaun Wright-Phillips came on late, which is bizarre given that with no injuries he would not get into an 18 man MCFC match-day squad of my choosing. He tried hard, running quickly with his head down, but didn't really get anywhere.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Silva scores for Spain

David Silva scored the third goal in Spain's 3-1 win over Lithuania last Friday.

You can see every perfect touch and feint here.

Friday, 8 October 2010

More from Mancini

There's more from Roberto Mancini's Gazzetta interview beyond his admission of a 'con le palle' confrontation with Tévez.

This system, he said, would change shortly. "It's out of necessity. [Emmanual] Adebayor has just recovered from injury, [Mario] Balotelli not so. Without flying full backs like [Jérôme] Boateng and [Aleksandar] Kolarov, who can push forward, I've had to adjust the team to get results and stay in touch with the leaders. But only until everyone is back and fit."
I take his point. Injuries have forced us towards 4-5-1, and the absence of our first choice full-backs has been a particular blow. (No one we've used at full-back this season has been of the level of Kolarov or Boateng, and some of the time we've been playing with centre-backs at full-back instead.) When we have those two back, plus the option of Adebayor alongside Tévez or Balotelli from wide, we'll be better.

That said, one could just as easily argue that those limitations mean we should try to maximise creativity where possible. I would certainly claim that in the absence of attacking full-backs or a partner for Tévez it makes more sense, not less, to play all three attacking midfielders (Adam Johnson, James Milner and David Silva) and two of the cautious options. Aces full of grunts, as it were, makes more sense when there's no Kolarov, Balotelli or Boateng than it does when they're all available. It's when Kolarov and Boateng are galloping up and down the flanks that we'll really need Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry to fill in the gaps.

"Adam is young, but he has got what it takes. He just needs to understand it is not enough to dribble past an opponent six times to feel entitled to think he reached the top. You need to dribble but you also need a cutting shot like the goal against Juve [in the Europa League], or the 2-1 win against Newcastle. If I didn't believe in Adam's potential I would not work him like this."
I do like that last line. The distant fear, for me, is that he'll get so frustrated by the bench that he'll storm off to Villa or Spurs. Obviously I'm being silly and this is miles beyond the horizon. But I'm keen that this is more of a Ferguson/Giggs relationship than, say, a Mourinho/Balotelli one.

And on the merits of the issue Mancini is correct. Johnson does need to add shooting to his dribbling skills. Given he doesn't really cross that well, his running at defenders is only valuable if he can score (or 'win' a penalty, which he is very adept at doing.) Up until last week, he'd scored one goal for City and won three penalties. That ratio is now up to three and three, after his goals against Juventus and Newcastle. Maybe he's learning from the criticism. But he's certainly moving in the direction Mancini wants him to, which is good for the both of them and good for all of us.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

'Now and then a good shake-up is healthy'

Roberto Mancini has been speaking in Italy about his recent much-publicised falling out with Carlos Tévez:
"What happened in our dressing room happens in others as well. And when it matters it is good that it happens. Against Newcastle we had gone to sleep in the first half, so the confrontation with Tevez was exactly the alarm call everybody needed.

"The confrontation with Tevez was really ballsy. And in the second half City deservedly won. The alarm call worked well. We [Mancini and Tevez] sorted everything between us before the restart. And when I took him off at the end we shook hands again. Now and then a good shake-up is healthy."
I didn't write about this when the reports first came out, because I didn't really know what to make of it. I suspected, though, that it was less surprising, and less problematic than people presumed. As Ryan Giggs suggested in his interview with Simon Hattenstone this week, it is the reporting, not the existence, of these events that is noteworthy.

Roberto Mancini and Carlos Tévez are both notorious for their tempers. Given how poorly we played in the first half I would be disappointed if there had not been tension and discord at half-time. Tévez was appointed captain to channel his inner magma as constructively as possible, and this sounds like a vindication of that approach. As Paul Wilson writes on today:
Be that as it may, the main reason City should take a relaxed view of tempers snapping in the dressing room is that it shows the club cares. Plenty of people maintain the only thing that matters to City's expensively assembled squad is the bottom line on the wage slip, but when members of a team are falling out among themselves at the same time as they are climbing to second in the Premier League it tells you that ambition has finally arrived at Eastlands. The real thing, not just the easy soundbite. The captain falling out with the manager over tactics should not be mistaken for just the latest bit of slapstick in the endless City comedy show, this is the development that shows how much has changed at the club.

Long term strategy

One of the big topics in football right now is the impending introduction of UEFA's new 'financial fair play' regulations, compliance with which will be necessary to participating in European competition. In brief, teams can only record losses (defined in a particular way) of €45million in the three years after 2011 if they want to play with the big boys. It's to prevent precisely the sort of exorbitant benefactor-driven spending that we have enjoyed for the last two years.

Now, given our recent strategy, and our £121million losses this year, we are some way off this. It might even seem as if reaching such a point would be insurmountable. But there is a masterful blog post this week on Swiss Ramble (think David Conn but with even more detail) about how City can do it. You really ought to read it now.

It's so good that I'm not even going to quote from it, but will give a brief summary: if we sharply slow down transfer spending, qualify for the Champions League and increase turnover through commercial deals, stadium naming rights and the SportCity development we might just squeeze through. But it really is worth giving up the time to go through it.

Fortunately, Brian Marwood seems to have the same idea. In an interview with David Conn in The Guardian today he confirms that the 2010-11 squad will be the backbone of the club for a while yet, and that the spending of the summers of 2009 and 2010 will not be matched in the future:
"We are comfortable where we are. Now the intensity of signing players is levelling off, allowing this group to build and develop – they haven't gelled yet...

"We have fast-tracked a lot; we need to put the structure in place. We talk about elite development, the academy, because that is the foundation. That is the future for Manchester City."
This, along with the above blogpost, points out our strategic direction with some clarity. It also reinforces the importance of buying players from the 1986-90 generation: James Milner, Adam Johnson, David Silva, Mario Balotelli, Jérôme Boateng all fall into that bracket, Aleksandar Kolarov misses out by six weeks. This provides the basis for an improving squad over the next four seasons, and contrasts with Mark Hughes' targeting of the more experienced 1979-82 generation (Craig Bellamy, Kolo Touré, Gareth Barry, Joleon Lescott and Wayne Bridge.)

In the past I've been sceptical of claims that a particular binge of spending was a one-off, not to be repeated. Delaying the return to sensible spending by one more transfer window feels like delaying a diet by one more weekend. But the onset of the UEFA regulations mean we might have to live up to our words now. With the squad we've got that's not too much of a concern.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Bellamy speaks to 5 live

Craig Bellamy did a revealing and personal interview on BBC Radio 5 live, and had some interesting things to say about his time at City.


- Spurs agreed a fee with West Ham before we did, and when we matched the offer Gianluca Nani orchestrated an auction between us and Spurs, in the knowledge that we would pay above the odds for him.

- When he arrived at City he had a special fitness coach, Raymond Verheijen, who kept him fit. This was very important to Bellamy, who said that at City he 'just felt free': free from fear of injuries, and free to play football for the first time in years. 'Everthing about me felt immense'.

- Nothing was said about Mark Hughes' sacking, which was a shame. But he said that when Roberto Mancini came in his got promises from Garry Cook, Brian Marwood and even Khaldoon that he could stick to his personal fitness plan.

- But then Mancini brought in his double-sessions, which were so much of a strain on Bellamy's knees that they would limit his ability to perform on weekends. This led to the famous argument when Mancini told him to 'go home for the rest of the season'. He did not sound too bitter about this, saying that Mancini 'was always going to do it his own way.'

- Then this summer. He sounded put out (understandably) at being cut from the squad and asked to train with the reserves. He said City proposed he go to Wolfsburg as part of an Edin Dzeko deal but he only had two preferences: Champions League or Cardiff City. Garry Cook told him that someone above him (Bellamy suggested Sheikh Mansour himself) blocked his move to Spurs, and Bellamy implied United were in for him but the prospect of a move was never realistic.

Monday, 4 October 2010

'I started earning my medals three years ago'

Vincent Kompany, Player of the Season-elect (why not), has been talking about his good so far this season. And he's characteristically modest and thoughtful:
"I am progressing - that is all it is. I think I have performed ever since I have been at City.

"I always think you can only be as good as your last game, so I have to do equally as well in my next match, or even better if possible. That is the attitude I have. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

"The team is getting better, and I am getting older and have more experience. I am willing to learn.

"I started earning my medals three years ago - I started performing three years ago, and I am still working. The hard work is what is showing now."
He's certainly right that he's been earning medals for three years. The fact that he was signed before the takeover but is one of the first names on the team-sheet now is a shining achievement in itself. Of the other players we signed that summer, Pablo Zabaleta and Shaun Wright-Phillips are on the fringes, Jô is somehow still in the set up and Robinho and Tal ben Haim are long gone.

(It's worth praising Mark Hughes here for spending £6million on a talented but injury-prone 22 year old. Had Stuart Pearce not signed Joe Hart for £600,000 it would be the single best piece of business by City over the last five years.)

Kolo Touré, who looks back to his best alongside Kompany, had this to say:
“We are happy with what we are doing and happy with the way we are defending as a team. There are still some mistakes we can avoid but Vincent Kompany and myself feel comfortable in the way we are gelling as a partnership.

“Vincent is a very intelligent footballer who is great to play alongside. We all know the importance of having a sound defence and the whole team is playing its part in that regard.”

VK wins again

It's tucked away underneath the Newcastle stuff but Vincent Kompany won September Player of the Month. Read here.

Newcastle reax

Ian Herbert, The Independent
The tackling of De Jong – who was known as Rassenmaher ("lawnmower") in his Ajax days – is something of a running joke at City's Carrington training ground. David Silva first arrived this summer to find someone had posted up an image of De Jong's notorious challenge on his compatriot Xabi Alonso in the World Cup final. Perhaps it is because the timing of his tackles is relatively good that they do not look as horrific as, say, Wolves' Karl Henry's on Wigan's Jordi Gomez on Saturday or Stoke's Andy Wilkinson's on Fulham's Moussa Dembélé, which have intensified the debate on players' safety this season.
Ian Whittell, The Guardian
Indeed, for all the hundreds of millions invested by City in recent seasons, only Tevez can match Johnson for the excitement he generates among home supporters, who were calling for his introduction long before Mancini finally succumbed to their wishes and replaced one of his three holding midfield players in order to add width and flair to a team that was running out of ideas.
Mark Ogden, Daily Telegraph
Newcastle were unfortunate, but City have underlined their emergence as a growing threat to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United for the title this season.

It was anything but an impressive performance, but Mancini’s team still emerged victorious and Kidd, who assisted Sir Alex Ferguson at the outset of United’s domestic dominance, insisted that the points, rather than the performance, are the key.
That said, we got the win; three points that takes us second in the table. Although aided to some degree by Martin Atkinson, there have been frustrating afternoons over the past couple of seasons (in particular at home) and left bemoaning the ability to finish sides off and take all three points. Credit should therefore be given to the side for being able to craft out a victory when it was not entirely deserved.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Newcastle player ratings

Hart A quiet day at the office. Probably powerless for Newcastle's goal, and that aside he had a few saves to make low down but nothing stretching. In the air he did well against a number of launched high balls. 6

Boateng Not the easiest conceivable first Premier League start, up against a rampant Jonás Gutiérrez. There were occasional issues with his positioning, but in one-on-ones he was good, making six successful tackles. Final balls into the box - one of his strengths in the World Cup - were a bit awry. 5

Kolo Touré I know Kompany sliced his clearance for Newcastle's goal but had Kolo been closer to Gutiérrez it would still have been avoidable. That aside he did fine, and made one important interception when Newcastle were breaking. 6

Kompany There was the miscued clearance for Newcastle's goal, yes. But that aside this was another display of defensive perfection. He was under every header, against the imposing Shola Ameobi and Andy Carroll, he was serene with the ball on the ground. He even joined in up in the final third when we were searching for a late goal. 7

Lescott Back in the side in the absence of Pablo Zabaleta, he again looked like a decent centre back shunted out of position. He made no successful passes in the final third, and often looked scared of putting a cross in. Lucky not to concede a penalty when he chopped Ameobi in the box at 2-1. 6

de Jong I might as well say it: Nigel de Jong's reckless tackling is wrong, and increasingly embarrassing. He's a talented and effective footballer, no doubt about it, but the way he goes for the ball endangers fellow professionals and is inimical to the finest traditions of Manchester City. Hatem ben Arfa is the second person, after Stuart Holden, to have his leg broken by de Jong in 2010. Today's was not his worst offence, and it was not done with the express intention of leg-breaking, the possibility of ben Arfa coming off worse cannot have been unknown to de Jong. This needs to stop now. 5

Silva A quieter contribution than I had hoped for, but with some moments of quality. He grew most into the game in the final twenty minutes, as he started to appear in the spaces that Newcastle created. Came close to his first Premier League goal once or twice, particularly with a right-footed shot into the side netting. 6

Yaya Touré Frightfully off the pace today. He was second to everything today. Over the course of his 57 minutes on the pitch he made no successful tackles and no successful interceptions, and just 24 successful passes. If we had put James Milner in his place and Adam Johnson out wide it might have been a very different game. 4

Barry A good game in a defensive sense, with some important tackles and interceptions. Going forward he was fairly blunt, most notably when through on goal in the first half. 6

Milner Worked hard, to make contributions from either wing. His final ball still isn't quite up to scratch, yet, but the left wing is not the ideal place for him to be deployed. That said, there were a few good passes and also the assist for Johnson's goal. 6

Tévez Ran off the shoulder of the centre backs effectively, particularly when winning the penalty which he converted. I know he's now got seven in seven from the spot for City but I still don't rate him as a penalty-taker. This has hammered down the middle, and deflected off Tim Krul's knee into the roof of the net. He's done that a few times before (once against Bolton, once against Villa I think), sooner or later it's going to bite him. Later contribution good. 6


Adebayor Very lively when he came on, getting into good positions. Could well have grabbed a goal before he was upstaged by another substitute. 7

A. Johnson If he wants a regular place in the side he's going the right way about it. Scored within minutes of coming on today - his first Premier League goal at Eastlands, and it was a stunner, beating two defenders before a roaring finish. Comparisons with Arjen Robben are, well, less silly than they might be. 7

Vieira Came on late, made one good tackle. n/a

City 2 - 1 Newcastle

  • It can't always be like last Saturday. This was a woeful performance; hangover-sluggish, stinking of 'will this do?'. But, thanks to the crucial interventions of Martin Atkinson and Adam Johnson, we managed to escape with three points. This is what the top teams do, I suppose. The 'Big Four' are no strangers to the unconvincing, referee-abetted home win. But at no stage was this enjoyable; there was a thread of embarassment, starting with Nigel de Jong's breaking Hatem ben Arfa's leg and continuing through two errant penalty decisions, both in our favour.

  • But the main reason I'm frustrated isn't just that this was a flat, pedestrian performance, but that the causes of this were obvious and avoidable. Roberto Mancini went for the same line up (full-backs aside), that beat Chelsea. A central midfield of de Jong, Gareth Barry and Yaya Touré is perfect for containing the champions but in games like this it's limited. There was too much creative burden on James Milner and David Silva; whereas with Adam Johnson starting as well we would have been more varied and better balanced.

  • Brian Kidd said after the game that Mancini deserves credit for bringing Johnson on when he did. True enough. But the right decision, surely, would have been to play him from the start? Despite our lack of tempo in midfield we managed to create first half opportunities thanks to Newcastle's high line. With Johnson in the side we might have not needed a gift from Martin Atkinson to go ahead; he awarded a penalty for a tackle that probably took the ball and was certainly outside the box. I don't know which decision was worse, that one, or the failure to punish Joleon Lescott for chopping Shola Ameobi in the box. Either way, we were the beneficiaries of some generous charity from the officials.

  • We did look livelier with Johnson and Adebayor on, it must be said. Johnson's goal was thrilling, going inside Joey Barton, outside José Enrique and firing into the far bottom corner. I don't think my comparisons with Arjen Robben are entirely facetious. Adebayor, of whom I am not the biggest fan, looked lively and determined, causing problems across the front line. When might just have poached something on the break when 2-1 ahead, too, as David Silva drifted into the spaces Newcastle vacated.

  • So it was ugly, lucky, and not much fun. But there's an international break coming and there's no better way to go into one than with a win. Blackpool away isn't for fourteen days, and no-one's going to be talking about Martin Atkinson by the time that rolls around. Grinding out wins is so at odds with the traditional culture of Manchester City that I still don't quite know how to react to it. But if Roberto Mancini is hoping to cultivate a winning mentality at City then there's no better way to do it than results like this.

TLDORC September Awards

Another successful month, building on the foundation of August. It started just as the last month ended, with a dreadful, point-costing defensive mistake. Joe Hart came out for a long ball, missed it and Nikola Kalinić scored. But from that point on we were - excluding the West Brom game that Roberto Mancini wrote off - defensively excellent, conceding only once more to Vincenzo Iaquinta from distance. We took seven points from a possible nine in the league, including a win over Chelsea that felt like a definitive moment, and four from a possible six in the Europa League. The one disappointment - the surrender at the Hawthorns - was in retrospect smart strategy from Mancini, saving our key players for the Chelsea game four days later.

Blackburn Rovers (h) 1-1 (thoughts, ratings, reax)
Red Bull Salzburg (a) 2-0 (thoughts, ratings, reax)
Wigan Athletic (a) 2-0 (thoughts, ratings, reax)
West Bromwich Albion (a) 1-2 (thoughts, reax)
Chelsea (h) 1-0 (thoughts, ratings, reax)
Juventus (h) 1-1 (thoughts, ratings)

Player of the Month

This might have gone to Carlos Tévez, who scored two and sent up the other two of our four Premier League goals in September. It is increasingly notable and worrying just how dependent our attacking play is on him. But I'm not going to go with Tévez this time. As good as he's been he hasn't been perfect. Whereas Vincent Kompany has been.

He nearly won it in August, too. Were it not for Joe Hart's performance at White Hart Lane he would have done. Because this season Kompany has just been imperious. I've always been a big fan but with the arrivals of Kolo Touré, Joleon Lescott and now Jérôme Boateng I had worried if he would find a place in the side. But it has been made quite obvious this year what some of us had suspected ever since his arrival two summers ago - that Kompany is the most talented defender at the club, and has all the gifts required to be one of the best in the Premier League.

If you were to construct a dream Premier League centre-back in a laboratory, how different would it be from Kompany? Would he be much quicker, or stronger? More dominant in the air? Would he read the game more astutely? Would he be calmer with the ball at his feet? Would he attack the ball from set-pieces with more venom? Would he be any more articulate off the pitch, or fluent in more languages? (I suppose if Kompany spoke Spanish he would be able to speak to all eleven that started against Chelsea.) I do think he's near-perfect.

In September he had his best ever month in a City shirt. He was only on the pitch for two of the four goals we conceded, and was powerless to prevent either of them. He didn't make a single mis-step, was always correctly positioned and successful in every tackle, leap, block and pass he attempted. The zenith, not just of the month but of his 85 game City career was in the defeat of Chelsea, when he silenced Didier Drogba - as he did at Stamford Bridge in February - as we stifled the rampant champions, who created no chances from open play. Every single step and jump was judged right that day. And so he becomes the first player to win a TLDORC Player of the Month in three different seasons.

Individual Performance of the Month

It should by rights be Kompany against Chelsea but I've said enough about that now so I'll give it to David Silva in Salzburg instead. Not just for his first goal for City, but a range of touches, movements and passes that are going to delight throughout the season.

Goal of the Month

Jô's strike on the turn against West Brom was a quality finish but it has to be Tévez against Chelsea (four in three for us against them now). He got the ball on the half-way line, drove at the defence - as Silva lured John Terry away - and drove the ball into the far bottom corner.

Goal of the Month

Friday, 1 October 2010

Juventus player ratings

Hart Might have done better for Iaquinta's goal. It was a good hit, and it took a deflection, but it wasn't prohibitively far away from him. That aside he made a good save or two, and hate some famous del Piero free-kicks to deal with. 5

Boateng One half at right back and one at left back in his first start for City. He stood off Iaquinta when he scored his opener, which was a shame. That aside he was good, making some important interceptions but also looking good with the ball at his feet going forward. 6

Kolo Touré Solid for the most part. Not too stretched, but wasn't caught out and tended to keep things simple. 6

Kompany Another excellent performance from our early front-runner for Player of the Season. His positioning was perfect, and he was immaculate with the ball at his feet. There was one moment where he was opened up by Krasić and might have conceded a penalty, but he didn't. 7

Zabaleta Faced up against Krasić who, it's fair to say, saw him coming. He dived in too often, and had he not gone off with a hamstring strain in the second half he might well have picked up a card or two. 5

Yaya Touré Had responsibility for linking midfield to attack, and for the most part he was sluggish in his passing. That said, his assist for Adam Johnson was as precise and imaginative pass as we will see all season from a City player. 6

Vieira This was the perfect game for him, in Europe, at home, and he sat just in front of our back four, always spare. He ought to have dictated the pace of play. But he didn't. His passing just wasn't sharp or astute enough. He took too much time on the ball and slowed down, rather than built up the momentum of our play. It's frustrating as we will need to call on him as the season goes on. 5

Barry Probably our most active midfielder, going forward or out to the left to support when necessary. More effective than Vieira or Yaya in generating some momentum in moves. Hit the post with a headed flick in the first half. 6

A. Johnson Scored his second goal for City, running in from the right, receiving the through past and finishing after jinking past the 'keeper. In that sense it was like his goal for England in Switzerland last month, although with less space to work in. He was probably our most threatening forward, and did look like fooling their left-back at times. 7

Adebayor His first start in a month, as the lone striker. He got a fair bit of service but his rustiness showed; the ball just wouldn't stick. This blunted ours, and we invariably had to build through Tévez, which isn't ideal. Unfortunately when Adebayor is out of nick he looks fairly useless, which isn't always the fairest reflection on his work rate. But he's going to have to show more if he wants a permanent place in the team. 5

Tévez Pushed out to the left, and it led to one of his least effective performances for a while. He tried hard, and isn't actually too bad a left winger, but we did miss him close to the goal. He stuck close to the touchline for the most part - and won a tackle in our half in the build up to Johnson's goal, but it just wasn't his game. Cut inside to fire in a few non-threatening shots. Moved inside later on. 6


Boyata Played the second half at right back, and did well. No risky shoulder barges in the box, and he advanced will down the right. He doesn't know what to do with the ball in the final third, but that should come in time. 6

Silva Brought a real change to the performance of the team once he was on. Ghosted into space, demanded the ball and moved it on. Everyone plays better when he's around. 7

Milner Introduced some more energy into midfield, even if there was no real uptick in imagination. n/a

City 1 - 1 Juventus

  • This insight is not unique to me, but what better to mark the progress made under two years of ADUG ownership than to be disgruntled at a home draw with Juventus? In the pre-Mansour era the only way we'd get a team of Juve's calibre to Eastlands would be to do battle over the Thomas Cook Trophy. And now we're hosting them in Europe, seeing them defend deep, content with a draw, and find ourselves grumbling about how we couldn't beat a team there for the taking.
  • That said, those complaints are not ridiculous. If Saturday showed us the best aspects of Roberto Mancini's Manchester City (it's not an open question, it did), then last night showed us the less attractive side. At times we looked flat and passive, as if we were waiting for the game to happen to us. Weighed down by three defensive midfielders, with Patrick Vieira a third wheel, the one player closest to a touchline in the final third was Carlos Tévez - pushed out to the left of a front three. Our imagination was dulled, and it was not until David Silva arrived that we started to move the ball with any verve or ingenuity.
  • It could have been worse. We didn't start playing for the first fifteen minutes, during which time we went 1-0 down. Jérôme Boateng stood off Vincenzo Iaquinta who shot from distance (literally as he struck the ball I lent over to my friend and said 'don't worry, this is fine'), and Joe Hart didn't get across quick enough. Momo Sissoko and Claudio Marchisio were too sharp for our midfield and Miloš Krasić might have had a penalty were it not for his Tom Daley impression. It took us a while to grow into the game, and when Adam Johnson equalised before half time it felt deserved. Yaya Touré dissected Juve's centre-backs with a pass more incisive than anything we've seen from him so far, and Adam Johnson skipped around Alex Manninger and scored.
  • That should have been a platform to set up a second half victory. But Juventus defended very well, with two compact banks of four and marginal space between them. With Tévez stuck out on the left we struggled to break through, only Adam Johnson running at the left-back threatened to cause problems. When David Silva came on he brought the intelligence and nuance we had been lacking, and I suppose if he'd played for longer we might have scored. Only scoring once against a Juventus side that sets up defensively is no shame, even if there is a stubborn feeling that a sharper performance would have won the game.
  • It might well be two points dropped. But four points from the first two games is good, and I don't think that our qualifying from the group is much more or less likely than it was yesterday. We have home ties with the two lesser sides to come, and if we win those - regardless of what we get in Poland - that should be enough. But before we can get carried away with that we have to do better at breaking down a black and white striped team on Sunday.