Sunday, 23 January 2011

Villa 1 - 0 City

  • It's not that losing is inherently upsetting, I don't think. The 3-0 defeat to Arsenal this year was one of our more proudly cohesive and cooperative performances for a while. The aggregate defeat to Hamburg towers over everything else we achieved under Mark Hughes. Et cetera. But to lose in precisely the same way to Aston Villa as we did five weeks ago to Everton, identical in pattern and narrative, that was a weekend-toxifier. And to do it all with Edin Džeko on the pitch just makes the pain of frustration worse.
  • It started, like the Everton defeat, with a soft goal conceded. Kolo Touré mis-hit a pass, David Silva lost it, Ashley Young was allowed to shoot, Joe Hart could only palm it away and Darren Bent finished. He has inflicted 1-0 defeats on City with Charlton and Sunderland before: it should not be a surprise any more. Nor should we be by the fact that while City are excellent when in lead we are fairly helpless in games in which we go behind.
  • The remainder of the game was loyal to the script. We dominated possession, while Villa were happy to defend deep and narrow. They prevented us from passing through them, which, with David Silva, Yaya Touré and Carlos Tévez in the side, would always be the inclination. We tried and tried to find a gap in the fence but we just could not. To be fair, Villa defended well as a team, and James Collins and Richard Dunne were both excellent individually. So our failure to pick through them should not itself be surprising, or, for that matter, frustrating.
  • What is frustrating, though, is our failure to anything differently. We were set up to provide an alternative aerial threat. Džeko was signed with the explicit purpose of giving us a Plan B in attack for precisely this sort of situation. He relies, of course, on service from wide areas, but even with both new eight-figure sum full-backs on the pitch not enough crosses reached him. Aleksandar Kolarov was our best attacking player in the first half, but faded, while Boateng looked too casual throughout. Adam Johnson came on and brought some extra width, but not enough, and James Milner stayed on the bench. For all our possession the best chances we had were shots from distance and one header wide from the new boy.
  • Of course, if we had not conceded the early goal it would have been a different game: Villa would not have parked the bus and we might have opened them up a bit more. Defensive errors, worryingly frequent in 2011, certainly need to be eliminated. But the failure to create chances and score goals against teams that defend in numbers is the limiting factor this year. It will improve, as new players acclimatise. But for now it's still infuriating.


Ian said...

Sitting in the Villa end was even more desultory ! I live in Birmingham - born n grew up in Manchester !
Dzeko needs time only 2 EPL games and a winter break in a slower paced league will soon be cured. Kolo T is the player we need to lose i am sorry to say. AJ didn't do too much when he came on though most of the play was at the other end. Not to be downhearted though. We are still 3rd even if the chasing pack win their games in hand. Moving up 4 places is unlikely (5th last year etc) lets keep things in perspective and aim for 3rd and a cup, at least if we are in the mix we can strike on for higher.

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pjdemers said...

I think its wishful thinking to believe that things will improve as players acclimatize. It is a pattern not a coincidence that we are unable to break teams down when chasing a game and it is because of Mancini's rigid adherence to his system.

Once again this game was crying out for a player like Bellamy. A direct player who can get to the byline at speed and stretch the opposition. There was no player on the bench other than Johnson who could provide this and Mancini's insistence on playing him as an inside-out winger renders him ineffective as his nature is to cut inside to his left foot.

Carlos Tevez borders on useless when we have to chase the game not for want of effort but for his need to resort to his blind alley dribbling instead of looking to play quick one or two touch passes or play the early ball for players making runs behind the defense.

Mancini is an excellent coach but he has clearly been found out and until he stops obstinately adhering to his inflexible system and starts varying our style of play expect more of the same frustration.

Andy said...

Agree with pjdemers, we were too predictable so made it easy for Villa to defend against. On the (too) few occasions we did get to the byline we looked dangerous and Villa were vulnerable but unfortunately we reverted straight back to down the middle. Tevez has the ability to win us games but for the good of the team he has to learn when to pass and not be greedy

nick said...

I was there too. Agree with most of the above which proves that everyone could see it, but our coach!
Mancini does a lot of good things, but one of his more frustrating attributes is his rigid adherence to formations even when they are not working.Case in point was swapping Tevez and Dzeko! Instead of making your big striker play out of position on the left, why not try a different formation entirely?!
Also, this formation surely requires overlapping fullbacks which Kolarov did for one half, and Boateng didn't at all for the entire game. Who's chips has Micah pissed in, I wonder?

Rios Dos Santos said...

We've done well so far with Plan A, now we just need to work on Plan B. Then we will be challenging for the top...