Article by Jake Hartley
City eased into the group stages of the Europa League on Thursday evening after dominating the entire 90 minutes against the Romanian side, FC Timisoara. City will now face Italian giants, Juventus, Austrian side, FC Salzburg and Polish side, Lech Poznan in Group A.
City looked comfortable from the outset at the City of Manchester stadium as they dominated possession and never really gave Timisoara a chance to cause a huge upset. Roberto Mancini brought in 7 changes from the side that overcame Liverpool 3-0 on Monday night. Great players like Adebayor, Silva and Zabaleta were recalled to form a very strong side despite the absences of players like Tevez, Yaya Toure and Milner.
Timisoara tried to keep the scoreline as low as possible by having 9 men behind the ball when City attacked, leaving the lone Timisoara frontman to wait for his side to snatch the ball away from the Blues. It was one of those changes that gave City the lead at the end of the first half. A patient and well worked move from City resulted in the veteran, Patrick Vieira sliding a perfectly weighted pass in between the Timisoara defence to release Shaun Wright-Phillips.
The lively winger struck the ball early to leave the keeper rooted to the spot and watch the ball nestle in the corner of the net. City’s dominance continued throughout the second half with Silva and Adebayor guilty of missing one on one chances to increase the blues lead.
The game was put beyond Timisoara’s reach when Silva flighted a free-kick to the back post for the impressive Boyata to head home his first City goal in front a small crowd who instead of waiting for City to get to the latter stages of the competition, turned up to witness a comfortable 2-0 victory.
David Silva was handed his first home start of the season by Roberto Mancini and looked lively especially in the 2ndhalf. He was zipping around the Timisoara backline trying to find spaces to slot through balls for Adebayor, Jo and Shaun Wright-Phillips. Many of his through balls didn’t always come off for the tiny Spaniard, but you can see that the intelligence is there and in time, he will be laying on opportunity after opportunity for the City players.
I think it may be a while before we see the best of Silva as he attempts to settle into the English culture, but once he finds his feet in the Premier League, he will be like a conductor with the ball supplying the orchestra to do the business.
First time goalscorer, Dedryck Boyata had a very impressive game at the heart of the City defence alongside his National idol, Vincent Kompany. The 19 year old, centre half may have come up against a poor attacking unit, but, whenever Timisoara looked like they could cause our defence a problem, Boyata was there. He used his pace to catch up to Timisoara attackers, he used his strength to muscle them off the ball and retain possession for City and he used his aerial ability to win numerous aerial battles and even grab himself his first City goal.
I remember being very worried about Mancini including this lad in the Carling Cup side to face Manchester United, as I thought his inexperience would be exploited by the likes of Rooney and Co, but I can see why Mancini rates him so highly, he defiantly has the attributes to be a top class defender in time.
I worry alot about City and Mancini’s decisions, especially after he signed Patrick Vieira from Inter Milan in January. Although, Vieira won’t be able to put in great performances every week in the Premier League, he can produce crucial performances for us in the Europa League, when the match is at a slower pace to suit the ageing Frenchman.
Last night, Vieira was very impressive in central midfield alongside defensive terrier, Nigel De Jong. Vieira was constantly finding players with his accurate passing and even unlocked the stubborn Timisora defence for Shaun Wright-Phillips to open the scoring. I realise that we were playing a Romanian side equivalent to a Championship/league 1 side in this country, but I still believe Vieira can shine in Europe this season.
I was fairly unhappy with the performance of £18 million striker, Jo last night. He was played out wide on the left of a front three and failed to impact the game in any way. He had a glorious chance to score in the first half, but headed straight at the busy Timisoara goalkeeper and his overall game just isn’t up to scratch.
His first touch often sees the ball bouncing away from him and I just can’t see why Mancini is sticking with him. Unfortunately, I can see Jo being in the 25 man squad that the Premier League requires this season and hope that he proves me wrong when Mancini decides to play him. What do you think of Jo ?
All in all, there were some very positive performances from the City players last night, but there will be sterner tests for us as we progress in the competition. Mancini has stated that he believes we can win the competition and I hope were there competing in the Final in Dublin on the 18th of May.
Even the most ardent supporter of Mark Hughes must admit that Roberto Mancini has had a positive impact on the club’s results. Under Hughes, City was inept away from home. On the current three game Premier League road trip, the Blues went undefeated and picked up seven points, continuing a strong push for the 4th and final Champions League spot.
Joleon Lescott’s late scratch denied the defender the opportunity to audition at left back for Fabio Capello, but Javier Garrido filled in admirably. City’s shape was helped by the presence of Patrick Vieira who despite several clumsy fouls, positioned himself particularly well in the deep lying midfield position. Vincent Kompany continued his recent outstanding form helping to organize the backlin. Kolo Toure’s return was a successful one, although their were several occasions where the Ivorian looked out of position only to recover quickly.
Going forward, the wide play provided by Adam Johnson and Craig Bellamy was outstanding and as always Carlos Tevez was on the mark. Seven points from a three match road trip is the type of form that puts a club into Europe or even title contention. Let’s hope this proves true for City.
Manchester City’s roller coaster week ended on high with a shocking victory at Stamford Bridge. After a frustrating home draw versus Liverpool and a disappointing FA Cup exit in midweek, City appeared to be on the back foot for the first forty minutes. The Citizens record at Stamford Bridge is one of those statistics you constantly hear from opposing supporters and wish would go away, and initially it appeared the record of futility would continue.
The last City manager to win at Stamford Bridge was Peter Reid, and that was in the first year of the Premier League era. But today, with Fleet Street focused on pre match handshakes and scandal, City hung in the match without conceding but a lone first half goal, and then took control.
Possession stats tend to lie in football. While I have not seen a final number on today, Chelsea certainly controlled possession. But after Lampard’s initial strike, Cheslea’s ball movement was less crisp and the possession ultimately less valuable. Having been handed a blueprint on how to expose Chelsea’s frailties at midweek by Jose Mourinho, Roberto Mancini deployed Adam Johnson and Craig Bellamy in wide positions to put pressure on Chelsea’s replacement fullbacks. When Adam Johnson fell down on the job (literally in some cases), SWP was inserted to force Flourent Malouda to play deeper than he would have liked, opening up more midfield space for City. Malouda is replacing the injured Ashley Cole at Left Back.
Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy were titanic forces today as they have so often been when City is successful. Bellamy’s pace gave Ivanovic, replacing Jose Bosingwa fits all afternoon, and Tevez had his way with Chelsea’s sloppy center back tandem. Also poor for Chelsea was Obi John Mikel, a replacement for Michael Essien, who is also out injured.
Wayne Bridge acted professionally today, while his opposite number in the tabloids John Terry continued to play the victim. Despite the classless taunts from many (but not all) Chelsea supporters, Bridge had a workmanlike outing which contributed mightily to the Citizens victory. John Terry on the other hand played poorly and continued his history of complaining to the officials every time Chelsea was on the wrong end of a decision.
It should also be noted that Roberto Mancini had tremendous success at Inter in exposing Carlo Ancelloti’s preferred diamond midfield. Today simply continued that pattern, though the venue and sides were different.
In typical City fashion, Sunday represented a missed opportunity. But unlike City of yesteryear, the opposition did not leave Eastlands or Maine Road feeling as if they had gotten the best of the critical tie. The battle for fourth is very much alive after Liverpool failed to take three points in match most with a historical outlook would have considered a lock for the Reds. As this season has progressed both City and Liverpool have resorted to more negative football in big games, particularly away from home. For the Blues it was a coaching change that did this, but for the Reds, Rafa Benitez has seemingly changed his tactics to ensure survival.
The bottom line is that City continue to be right in the race for fourth with a tough set of fixtures coming in the next few weeks.
City’s backline looked surprisingly comfortable and confident without captain Kolo Toure and Micah Richards, both either benched or injured depending on what source you believe. Joleon Lescott had among his better games since joining City from Everton, and Pablo Zabaleta continued his strong recent play under Roberto Mancini.
Going forward, Emmanuel Adebayor, left alone on an island worked hard but was largely frustrated and ineffective as City’s midfield was run over by a stronger unit from Liverpool. Garreth Barry and Stephen Ireland were particularly poor, while Adam Johnson’s initial flashes of brilliance gave way to poor distribution, chronic diving and bad corner/set piece taking.
This match was a forgettable affair, but a result ensures City stays in the race for a Champions League place.
If the Blues somehow manage to finish 4th in the Premier League this season, chances are we will look back on Garreth Barry’s late equalizer as the most important goal City has scored since promotion back to the Premier League.
The City performance while visibly poor, and perhaps aided by some poor officials decision, can count as a job well done. Stoke is a very tough side to break down at the Britannia, and City’s late flurry of goal scoring chances despite not having Carlos Tevez or Craig Bellamy available, speaks highly as to the motivation for this current City side.
A less resilient and determined team would have lost last night. This result bodes well for City’s 4th place chase. Ultimately, I still believe has too much quality and historical pedigree to be overtaken, but should the Blues actually achieve this lofty ambition, we will look back on Tuesday’s night’s draw as the key result.
I was tied up with a major press announcement of a new NASL team in Edmonton and did not get to focus as closely on the match as I would have liked. I will re watch the match Wednesday and have some more complete thoughts.
One of the worst first halves since the Stuart Pearce era for City gave way to an equally frustrating second half even if the level of football was more acceptable. Wayne Bridge who has had to deal with so much this week was the lone bright spot among players who featured in the City starting XI.
Rather than emphasize the negative, which could take all morning to outline, let’s focus on the two new Manchester City players that made their debuts in this match.
Adam Johnson played a vital role coming in for the ineffective Stephen Ireland after Hull’s second goal. Johnson played in a floating role behind the two strikers, Tevez and Adebayor and provided a definite spark . Johnson seemed more effective when pushed towards the right hand flank. Johnson played some nice balls into the box and was able to take on defenders.
Patrick Vieira added a degree of calm into the City midfield which has been disjointed in the past several games. The on field leadership and experience Vieira provides is missing from a group of City players, that while accomplished do not have significant experience winning major honors, and leading title winning teams.
Saturday’s performance was the worst of the season for the Blues. But perhaps we saw a glimmer of hope going forward from the two newest additions to the squad.
Manchester City is taking baby steps towards asserting itself as a big club. Another step occurred today at the Riverside, where a watered down City side survived Boro 1-0 to advance in the FA Cup for the first time in three seasons.
Shay Given was not tested until the last ten minutes of the match, as Robert Mancini’s tactical changes continue to impress at the back. For those critics, who point to the level of opposition, I would clearly state that the sort of opposition that ran through City under Mark Hughes (Burnley, Hull, Bolton, even Scunthorpe to a certain extent) are now being thoroughly outclassed under Mancini.
Tactically, Mancini got it right, although in the first half Benjani was isolated up top, playing as a target striker with nobody to play off of. The spine of the City side was very strong today, and that showed as the match wore on and the Blues asserted control.
City’s youngsters were a mixed bag: Vladimir Weiss struggled while Dedryck Boyata was outstanding.
In a match that represented a microcosm of City’s season thus far, Craig Bellamy and Roque Santa Cruz, the two players in the side who had previously played for Mark Hughes stepped up to try and save the embattled manager. But is it enough?
With Roberto Mancini who won two Serie A titles as a manager at Eastlands today (Mancini’s Inter were awarded a third title after the fact) the press is active with speculation about Hughes future.
After scoring two quick goals, the second on a penalty that should not have been given, city’s defense collapsed, once again showing an inability to man mark properly on set pieces and to deal effectively with dangerous crosses. City’s attack looked outstanding today, but when have the Blues not looked potent going forward, save the midweek trip to White Hart Lane?
Hughes 4-3-3 formation has not allowed City to keep its shape well, when establishing a lead in matches, nor has it provided any possession advantage late in matches. Perhaps a change in tactics, and not in manager’s would solve some of City’s problems?
City’s injury crisis worsened today with Micah Richards and Shaun Wright Phillips exiting with injuries.
Another fixture, another draw. City’s form continues to be a mystery as another local derby ended with as many questions as answers. The Blues were on the back foot for much of the first half, but two pieces of outstanding team play, saw City equalize before the half. Craig Bellamy’s sending off still remains a mystery but plenty of positive signs can be taken from this match.
Carlos Tevez has gotten beyond his early season injuries and has really broken through. Stephan Ireland, for perhaps the first time since early in the season showed the quality that made him the club’s best player last season. Sylvinho despite an advanced age, showed good understanding of Craig Bellamy’s game and prior to Welshman’s sending off, the Brazilian defender was linking up well with him.
Ultimately, however not having Nigel DeJong was a killer for City. Without the seasoned midfielder playing in front of the back four to break up opposing attacking chances, the Blues looked disorganized and at times desperate. Vincent Kompany’s performance was about as poor as I can recall from the Belgian International.
Despite the negatives, a victory at White Hart Lane on Wednesday, would put City in great position to crack the top four by Boxing Day. City has two less loses than anyone in the league, but with eight draws, the side still is having trouble learning how to win.
Santa Cruz 5