Friday, 8 April 2011

City 5 - 0 Sunderland

  • Late again, I know. But this was a particularly enjoyable victory, and its impression remains fresh. This was the best attacking performance of the season. The best of 2011, certainly. The best since Fulham or West Ham away. And, crucially, a confident re-framing after two weeks off for international football. The Chelsea defeat was so dispiriting that I feared an April collapse; no tempo, no rhythm and failure on both remaining fronts.
  • What we had instead was a display with a fluency and confidence we had not seen this season. For once, Roberto Mancini decided against combining Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry in midfield, resting the latter in exchange for an extra forward. The swap was vindicated: attacking options were increased, the midfield bottle-neck was loosened, with Adam Johnson, the pitch was wider. Sunderland were abject but the goals flowed naturally, and without need for the sweaty forcing that so often characterises the goal hunt at Eastlands.
  • Of course, there is a frustration that this was not done sooner. But what a relief that it was done at all. It's now how I imagine we will set up at Wembley, and rightly so. Barry will play, as might James Milner if he does not trust Mario Balotelli. (If he does not trust Balotelli in a semi-final at Wembley then one wonders what the point was from the start, though). Liverpool on Monday will provide fresh data.