And yet again – phew.
If you want, you can file this under “title-winning performance”, though I’m not sure it really means anything. Anyway, this was an ugly victory, but it was a victory, and that’s the important thing.
It was especially important considering that City don’t have any strikers left. This may have been a game against the bottom side, but considering the injuries and the energy-sapping midweek heroics, this immediately became a “win at all costs” game where the level of performance wasn’t of great importance.
And that will be the theme for the next month considering the constant flow of games and the lack of strikers running into 2015. Manuel Pellegrini has a week to devise a revolutionary new formation. The Xmas rush of games has always been about survival, it is brutal on squads, and City could not have been handed a kinder fixture list, though that will backfire if points are dropped.
This seemed a tired performance, which is understandable. The energy levels will have bene sapped by recent exertions, and it’s almost a relief that City got knocked out of the Capital One Cup to Newcastle as it now means the squad has a week to recuperate.
Another changed line-up was understandable with games coming thick and fast. Fernando replaced Fernandinho, Navas dropped out as did Zabaleta and due to Edin Dzeko damaging his calf in the warm-up, City were forced to give Pozo his first start, what with Stevan Jovetic falling to pieces again during the week. It wasn’t the most inspiring of line-ups, but the manager had little choice, and the last minute enforced change rather ruined his plans. It was perhaps less surprising then that throughout most of the game, the team lacked shape. Still, Silva was back, partnering the evergreen Frank Lampard.
Leicester started well, and only a good Mangala block stopped a Vardy attempt on goal. A Cambiasso free-kick curled narrowly wide, and it soon became clear this was ont going to be a stroll in the park for City.
However, slowly the visitors gained a foothold in the game, dominating possession and probing at the Leicester back line. Toure forced a good save from Leicester’s stand-in keeper, and then Frank Lampard found acres of space in the centre of the penalty area to put City ahead, after excellent work from Nasri down the left.
It was Lampard’s 175th premier league goal, bringing him level with Thierry Henry – an amazing achievement.
And after that? Pretty much nothing. Much of the game became a midfield scrap featuring a bouncing ball going back and forwards, and there were no major chances for either side. City saw it out in what was quite simply a poor game. It’s probably best I leave it there.
Thus it was hard to pick out a man-of-the-match in such a dull game, but it’s probably best to look at a defence that picked up its fourth clean sheet in five games, in a team that has now won seven on the trot in all competitions. Mangala was at the centre of a soft penalty claim for the home side, but again did well in general, especially when blocking a Vardy attempt early on. There were no stand out performances in a gritty, hard-fought victory, but Mangala probably shaded it for the award.
In the end, few shone. Silva, back from injury, couldn’t impose himself, though along with Nasri the two were imperious on the ball at times as you would expect. Leicester harried our players well, and it proved difficult to string a sequence of passes together. The defence coped well with what it had to deal with, though Fernando once more did not offer the dynamism of his similarly-named compatriot. Pozo had another frustrating day, but he wasn’t getting much service – it was almost as if his team-mates didn’t trust passing to him.
There was one other incident of course, as the glass man did his hamstring yet again, and that will be the last we see of Vincent Kompany this year. Clubs can pick up large injury lists through misfortune, but it would be foolish to ignore the possibility that there are other factors at play. Arsenal’s annual crippling injury list is not down to bad luck, nor is United’s current one. Poor training regimes can contribute, and the question also has to be asked as to whether Kompany (and Dzeko) were rushed back into the team. Better to apply caution to such injuries and drop a few points than do serious damage and thus end up losing even more points anyway.
So talk has naturally turned to the prospect of bringing in a new striker. There are numerous problems with this. Firstly, it’s not January yet. Secondly, there’s no point spending significant amounts of money on a short-term fix. Thirdly, who would improve us?
There had been ridiculous talk of recalling Guidetti or Negredo, which of course can’t and won’t happen.
It seems that Guidetti is once more considered a top class striker and we should get him back. I doubt we can get him back and nor should we, as there is no evidence he would be any good for us, none whatsoever. Negredo also can’t come back and nor should he – and why on earth would he want to come back? Absolutely ridiculous suggestions.
Fernando Torres has been suggested, a player I haven’t seen play well in years – the fact it’s possible to get him tells you how well things are going for him presently.
A loan deal is sensible as we have a short term problem here (hopefully), but I don’t know how you get a decent striker on loan in January.
Bony at Swansea is the best player to have come up in chatter, but whilst I like him, I am not totally convinced if it’s a good deal for City long-term, and we should only be making permanent transfers with the long-term in mind.
Talk also continues about the prospect of extending Frank Lampard’s loan deal at City. Leaving the football aside, it would be worth extending his stay at City just to send spittle out of the mouths of our fine red-top hacks. City clearly would want to extend his stay, especially with Yaya’s January departure, he seems to want to stay too, but of course there is the small matter of New York City. Of course they owe their existence to their parent club, but that does not mean we can mess them around. However, before those outside the club get even more exasperated at utilising a player who was a free agent in the summer, I am sure that if City did extend his deal, it would be made worthwhile for Lampard’s next club. A deal that suits all sides would be excellent.
So what to do next week? I’d stick with Pozo – it is far from ideal for numerous reasons – he is probably not ready for the first-team just yet, he is not an out-and-out striker, and his confidence may be dented by his appearances so far. However, we aren’t blessed with options, unless we bring in another youth player, though swathes of them are out on loan anyway. For his two appearances so far, Pozo has been rushed onto the pitch with no plan. At least now, the team can spend a week training and planning how to utilise him in the team. It might just work.
And so onto the Dog and Duck v The Red Lion. The biggest fixture for United still, as it’s one they’ve got a chance of winning.
How bitchy. I’ve become everything I used to hate.