To sum up – that was moderately better. Better football, better atmosphere, better result. Though having said all that, considering Manuel Pellegrini has won 21 of his 25 league games at the Etihad, have things really been that bad?
Vincent Kompany’s name thankfully appeared on the team sheet, alongside Martin Demichelis, and the rest of the defence, for one reason or another, picked itself. In midfield, there were few surprises either as once more absences picked the team, though Navas was favoured over Milner, which will no doubt have annoyed a few (more on that later) and Fernandinho got the nod over Fernando, which was less surprising.
The international break had actually been welcomed by many, after sluggish form and talk of a crisis (City, the team with four trophies in the last four years, are seemingly in a crisis more often than DFS have a sale on), but the sun was out (sometimes) and it felt good to be back with renewed hope, almost like the opening day of the season.
That didn’t last long. Swansea started well, passed the ball about beautifully, and punctured all our optimism with a well-taken goal by Bony, as part of the defence considered playing offside. Yet again there was a lack of communication in the back four on this matter, and it cost the team dear, though you have to say it was a nice goal, but Bony’s run should surely be tracked by someone.
So yet again it was a case of seeing what the team were made of. And I’m glad to say they responded well. Swansea’s threat evaporated, City saw more and more of the ball, and whilst much of the passages of play once more saw pointless sideways passing, the screw was slowly turned as Swansea sat back. City were finding endless joy down the right, with mixed results, but eventually a beautiful Navas cross found Jovetic and it was all-square.
It was a pattern of play that continued for most of the following hour. Clichy’s thunderbolt was tipped onto the woodwork, City pressed, restricted Swansea, but couldn’t find the breakthrough.
And likewise in the second half. Swansea were by now sitting very deep, which allowed City possession but made finding that opening in front of goal difficult. Fabianski was in fine form, but eventually a sublime back-heel from Fernandinho found Yaya Toure, and the rest is history. City continued to press, the goal was peppered, especially by Toure, but City couldn’t find a goal to relieve the pressure.
And so, as sure as night follows day, City had a late wobble. Somehow Gomis put the ball wide when through on goal, though credit must be given to Hart who narrowed the angle leaving no space to his left, which probably explained why the ball was spooned right on the attacker’s right foot. Then a late free-kick deflected just wide of the post, and City hung on. Credit ti Swansea though, who play some excellent football, as they have for many years.
But what a quite pathetic decision that late free kick was. It seems a given that defenders standing still now equals a “blatant block” as one commentator called the yellow card for Kompany earlier. The yellow card for Demichelis was laughable as he was actually fouled himself – he had no time to get out of the way (and why should he?) and made no body movement to block Bony. It was a joke of a decision.
Not surprisingly, Navas once more came in for criticism, the man sat in front of me spending 90 minutes slating his every touch. For a man celebrating his 29th birthday, it’s probably too late for the player to change, and he will always frustrate, but he was at the heart of virtually everything City did in an attacking sense, stretched the Swansea back four, and got an assist. His late shot saved by Fabianski was a good shot, but shows sometimes his lack of awareness, as Lampard was free in the middle, and too often flat crosses were cleared, but perhaps part of the problem is that the team may not be ideally suited to his talents, as when he looks to cross we are hardly a team likely to have three attackers on the six-yard line or a wealth of good headers of the ball.
Man of the match was given to Nasri. Hmmm. Great control of the ball as always, great keeper of possession, great passing, but he’s not David Silva and you don’t see the final killer ball as much. He’s more of a Modric – the man who supplies the pass to the goal-assister, but he had a good game. But for me, there were thankfully plenty of other contenders. Fernadinho was more like his old self, Toure too, Demichelis a rock and Kompany was almost too fired up. See, they do care.
Aguero had a frustrating day, which is why it is so important that other players chip in with goals. He was in the wars too, though I didn’t see the second incident where he alleged an elbow in the face, and the TV replays were inconclusive. The first challenge that left him crumpled on the touch line was a yellow card and nothing more.
So a good result, though the team still made it hard for themselves. There are still clearly issues with the team shape, both in the ease in which we concede goals and a lack of clinical finishing up front, whilst the midfield is still lob-sided and allows too much space to opposition players, but the three points were well-deserved and much-needed.
And it’s good to have football back after a week of tomfoolery from certain football individuals. Dave Whelan managed to cause offence, then caused further offence when apologising for his previous offence, then had to apologise for the offence he caused when apologising for causing an offence. I’d advise Dave that perhaps for once in your life you consider not speaking for a while? Otherwise, it won’t be long before he’s apologising for stating the French are all cowards by claiming some of his best friends love garlic. Now as a lapsed Jew who had a lovely “swine burger” at Guerilla Eats last night (I mean, why deprive yourself of bacon all your life? Madness) I wasn’t particularly offended by what Whelan said about Jews chasing money, as it could be interpreted, coming from the mouth of a businessman, as them being canny in finance and business, which cannot be denied even if it is a generalisation. Another friend has suggested he also hinted at more odious suggestions about how British Jews may be, which I haven’t read about and is of course preposterous. Your nationality is not linked to your religion, it’s where you live/grew up etc. Anyway, only Whelan knows if he meant his comments as a badly-worded back-handed compliment or he truly has deeper issues with a whole religion, but it was certainly ill-advised rhetoric and crass stupidity on his part. My personal experience in life is that the most generous people tend to be those with the least. Maybe Jewish businessmen (and women) are being tarnished for being successful. Either way, such views help maintain such odious stereotypes.
There’s probably an element of jealousy in there too from Whelan, as it’s hard to chase money with a permanently broken leg. Considering his company have been done for price-fixing in the past, I hardly think he’s in a position to lecture on chasing money.
As for appointing Mackay, he has no excuse. The sympathy I have with Mackay is that I am always slightly uncomfortable with news stories being made out of private messages, which should remain private whatever the views. We could all go through our message history and find some things to make us squirm, but I can guarantee that most of us won’t find any racial slurs, so my sympathy for him only stretches so far, and personally when I am stressed and indulging in “banter”, I don’t slip into Bernand Manning mode. Maybe that’s just me.
Either way, whilst an FA investigation is under way, it is appalling that Whelan thinks he can make a quick phone call to the FA, decide there’s no case to answer and appoint Mackay as the new manager. Still, Mackay has been on a course now so everything’s ok, and he’ll try his best not to be racist in the future.
Congratulations to the Swansea fans, who waited a full three minutes before singing “where were you when you were shit?”
On a completely separate note, in the 1974–75 season, an average of 2,052 spectators watched each Swansea game.
So on to two extremely tough matches. Most will have given up on the Champions League anyway, but a weakened Bayern side may give us a glimmer, whilst Southampton will be one of the toughest tests of the season so far. We simply have to go on a long winning run if we have any aspirations of retaining our premier league crown.
Product whoring: Christmas (and Chanukah) is approaching, in case you hadn’t noticed. So if you fancy a stocking-filler in the form of a season review book, in which City win the league at the end (choice of two), or one where we didn’t and you enjoy reading about abject failure, then get in touch. They’re really cheap direct from me. I thank you.