Manchester City v Chelsea
Sunday 16th August 2015, 4pm KO
Live on Sky Sports
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass.
– Manchester City v West Brom, Hawthorns, August 10th 2015
City are back! It wasn’t so much a bang as a crushing perseverance with a relentless methodology not seen since the opening scenes of Gladiator when Russell Crowe and his conscripts rolled into Germania and left all in their wake.
City were superb on Monday night as they dominated the game from the off and after the first 10 minutes in which City never ventured into their half I was the most confident I’d been City were going to win a game since they strode into Old Trafford in the David Moyes Era.
I’ve felt that at times last year we were guilty of playing rather unimaginative football and rather than passing into space for players to run onto and raising the tempo of our football we passed it into feet, often to men under pressure, and gave off the overall impression of “there you go, you do something with it!’ So it was with great delight when we started the game with bright fluid passing, players running onto passes, movement off the ball, lots of it, and with Silva, Bony and Toure in the ranks we could even afford to take a touch, hold it and play others in.
The five man midfield really clicked as Raheem Sterling and Jesus Navas hugged both touchlines stretching the West Brom defence across the entire width of the pitch. This created space for Silva in the final third and allowed him to run riot. With City balanced correctly it meant that West Brom were unable to double up on any one play having to mark each player man-for-man. Yaya Toure knew this from the start and looked like the player of old happily helping himself to a couple of goals (OK he lost one in an arm wrestle to Dave) and could have helped himself to a couple more.
Defensively it was much better, OK it wasn’t perfect as the shape still required a lot on Fernandinho to track back in transition and he was booked for one foul too many. When fit Delph will fit into that role really well and it should in turn increase the protection of the back four. Both centre backs looked in general comfortable and assured and it shows just what it means to Vinny when he scored the third. They will be building statues of him in generations to come.
I must make mention of the performance of both Aleksander Kolarov and Bacary Sagna and what might be the most accomplished performance by a pair of full backs in a City shirt in years. I’ve written in the past of my criticism of Kolarov in the past but on Monday night he was at his best, starting high up the field, working well with Sterling and keen to overlap the winger and he might have had a goal too but for a last ditch deflection.
Last season Bacary Sagna was often the go to guy to blame for City’s poor defence last season, Sagna was clearly someone who needed to play a regular run of games and by virtue of not being Pablo Zabaleta it was clear that it was going to be hard to win them over. Fresh with his new haircut, which gives him a youthful look and the feel of a new signing, he was solid defensively and a threat going forward camping himself inside the West Brom half. Its key that Sagna has a bigger contribution to the side this year as Zabaleta has been playing football for three years solid without a break thanks to a succession of international tournaments, he needs protecting. One aspect where he is ahead of Zabaleta is that he combined well with Jesus Navas. Often when Navas and Zabaleta played together they occupied the same space nullifying the attacking threat of the other but Sagna and Navas attacked in tandem and gave a real attacking threat down the right hand side.
What of the new signing? I thought I would keep you in suspense for at least a little wide. I’m not sure in the new era someone has settled into the side as quickly as Raheem Sterling. The young winger gave us pace, width and a cutting edge that we often lacked last season. If there was one criticism it was that he was trying a little too hard, he had a couple of great chances to score but he took an extra touch rather than shoot first time, but I’m being a little harsh and I think he’s going to be a superb addition for the side.
One side note, its amazing how players are the heralded as the best in the world or world class throughout the Premier League when they have half a dozen decent games and then the same media subsequently cut them down when they make a mistake? I only suspect that in half a dozen games time when Sterling has a couple of goals and assists to his name he’ll never be mentioned in the media again then shamefully omit him, Silva and Aguero from any post season awards (they just don’t give them to outsiders).
Finally I couldn’t not mention him because if they are building statues of Vincent Kompany in the future they will be naming towns after David Silva. The most surprising thing about David Silva’s performance on Monday night was that people were surprised by it. There was a moment of terror over the summer when I read a tweet from the brilliant City Watch account that one paper suggest City might cash in on Silva as £30m represented good value for someone who is 30.
If that had been true that would have been the most devastating moment in the history of the club as they must now do there upmost to keep him at the club for the rest of his career. Silva is City, when he plays we play, when he’s at his best we are our best and on Monday he was at his best. The man could find five yards of space in a phone booth. In the first half West Brom couldn’t handle him and he ran riot. His movement was superb, his vision unreal and passing spot on. In the second half despite being two goals down Pulis took off James McLean and brought on a defender just to stop Silva! (The beauty of this was that the way the team was setup it made no difference.) Yacob was either thoroughly pissed at Pulis for given the task or determined to leave early to avoid the match traffic as he could have been sent off on no less than three separate occasions and the challenge for what should have been a stonewall penalty at the end was worthy of a demotion to Sunday League parks. Merlin is the one I think when of when I consider by season ticket renewal, he’s a privilege to watch and every minute should be savoured.
Just think about this for a moment: The Guardian rated him as the 35th best player in the world! Criminal.
Justice for Eva! When the media attempt to compare us to Chelsea as somehow clubs similar its offensive. This is the club whose supporters wouldn’t let a bloke onto the underground because of the colour of his skin, the club captain with a litany of offences two many to mention (including racism) and a manager so loathsome that he has publicly slandered a club employee just because his team failed to win a football match.
I didn’t see the incident but the simple fact is this. If a player requires treatment or tells the referee that he wants treatment then then the player must go off. Now if its a serious injury the club doctor must make an assessment as to whether or not they can continue. For example in the FA Vase final Glossop North End captain Dave Young was knocked unconscious for several minutes. Once he’d come round the physio simply used the tried and tested non-league method of pouring water on his head and letting him get on with it. Several minutes later the Wembley doctor pulled him out of the game. It didn’t matter that it was a cup final, that there were several minutes to go, that it was the biggest game of his career or that his side was trailing his long term health was more important.
Now if Hazard was faking it then lambast him in the media. Oh wait you can’t because he’s your best player and he’s one cross word from joining PSG should a verbal tirade of similar magnitude come in his direction. Of course the media lap it up as classic Mourinho diversion tactics but the whole thing has a horribly sinister tone to it. Thats what you get from a horribly sinister club.
I’ll refrain from suggesting the team this week as I’d like to see it remain unchanged. According to Pellers at the press conference on Friday everyone is available apart from Delph, Fernando and they will make an assessment on Clichy.
The referee remains a concern as Martin Atkinson has a clanger in him and the prospect of him being remaining unswayed by John Terry screaming in his face is about as likely as finding some human compassion in Katie Hopkins.
Out of all the teams on the opening weekend City were the quickest to demonstrate a pattern of play and that makes me confident. There will be a Eithad record 54,000 in attendance after the successful test event in the week and I’m sure if the team start well there will be a great atmosphere all geared up for some Mourinho bating. Justice for Eva!
2-0 Let’s win this for Eva.