Ah, it’s good to be back. Over the traditional sounds of an English summer, the drone of lawnmowers, the smack of leather on willow, a pint of urine flying through the air towards a yellow jersey, chasing daddy long legs around the house and the click of the mouse as you enter Page 3567 of Bluemoon’s Pogba thread, it was time to get back to the real business.
With Arsenal completing the treble before the season had started, City were up against it from the start, and I watched the opening game with a sense of trepidation.
The trepidation was due to the pre-season, another rather pointless affair that from a distance seemed to leave the squad ill-prepared for the challenges ahead. What do I know, eh? The South American contingent had to have a rest of course, it’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is, the season is long and tiring. With injuries elsewhere during the summer, and the usual globe-trotting, it was a lucrative but not particularly beneficial pre-season and it wasn’t our strongest 11 that opened the season at the Hawthorns, the defending at Stuttgart still fresh in plenty of minds, friendly or not.
So, all things considered, there was little surprise in the line-up. The back five was predictable, the only surprises the inclusion of Fernandinho alongside Yaya, and perhaps the inclusion of Navas over Nasri, but he remains a Pellegrini favourite, the manager well aware that he would protect his full back. Bony, with little football himself over the summer due to a mystery illness, started up front.
And from the start, a pattern was established. City passed, passed some more, then some more again. The stats tell a story. By half-time City had made more passes than 16 other Premier League clubs had done over the weekend, and by full-time they had made over 200 more than any other club. The visitors dominated the ball, but seemed, as is often the case, to want to pass the ball into the net. Thankfully it didn’t take long for City to get a break, taking the lead after nine minutes, as Navas cut back for Toure, whose shot lacked power but somehow flicked off Silva then off Craig Dawson’s leaden feet before trickling into the net.
City continued to dominate, the home side breaking forward sporadically, with little threat, and the second goal was expected, and what a beauty it was, Toure announcing his intentions for the season ahead with a trademark curled shot past a sprawling keeper having burst forward before having the ball returned to him by Bony.
So 2-0 it was at half-time, though Sterling could have wrapped up the game by then. Through on goal, the keeper spread himself well, but it was admittedly not the best shot, lacking power or direction to get round Myhill. West Brom did have the ball in the net, but it was comfortably offside.
It felt inevitable that West Brom would come at us stronger at the start of the 2nd half, which is what happened, though they created little, bar the odd header wide, and Berahino mis-controlling in front of goal, when he should have been given offside anyway.
Then for the most enjoyable moment as City not only scored from a corner, Kompany evading Lescott to loop the ball in off his shoulder, but his celebration told you a million stories. Relief and joy from the captain and a clear determination that this season will be different, this season will be better.
After that, City eased off, and the game petered out, though additional chances did come (including in the 2nd half another save from a Sterling shot from a narrow angle), and there were strong claims for a penalty after Silva was clipped, but at 0-3 it was never going to be given, especially as it’s City we’re talking about. Aguero, Nasri and DeMichelis came on to gain some fitness, and that was that.
So job done, a professional 90 minutes, with few criticisms. The Man Of The Match was obvious, David Silva utterly imperious, untouchable, a class above everyone else. Despite being hacked at for 90 minutes, he never stopped weaving his magic on the Hawthorns pitch. The defence all performed admirably, Yaya was back to his best, accompanied by a 96.5% pass completion rate, Sterling was lively, but perhaps tried a bit too hard, Bony held the ball up well and toiled, but couldn’t see enough of the ball, though he still came away with an assist and one shot pushed wide by Myhill. Navas was Navas, and only Fernandinho struggled for me, repeatedly fouling and looking off the pace – this is hardly surprising for him and others in the first game of the season – it’s too early to be drawing conclusions from individual performances, Silva apart.
I wonder if David James still thinks we’ll finish 5th? Everyone’s entitled to their opinion of course, and I do think it will be a very competitive season, with a few teams with a claim to the title, but it is rather naive to write off a team that hasn’t finished out of the top two in the previous four seasons, despite an appalling run from January to March of this year. It’s predictable that in the world of football, where knee-jerk reactions are the norm, that City are now title favourites for some.
Any other business? Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, challenge everything you believe to be true, and come to some very difficult conclusions, admit some tough things. I’ve been through a similar thing recently. It hurt – it really hurt. For 40 years, I had held this view, I knew it to be fact, I knew that there was no alternative view – but then, slowly but surely, the unthinkable crept up on me. At first a lingering thought at the back of my mind, which lingered and lingered until it became time to confront my fears and face an uncomfortable truth.
Sweet potato fries are nicer than normal fries.
There, I’ve said it.
Likewise, the endless Liverpool sycophants in the media need to accept what happened over the summer, namely that one of their players chose to move on, to a team he feels has a better chance of winning silverware, Liverpool received a handsome transfer fee, and we should all move on.
As do opposition fans. I would put West Brom fans high up in my list of favourite fans, but booing Sterling because a player with no connection to them left once club for another club was both pathetic and embarrassing. This will of course continue all season as a sizeable minority of football fans are cretins, but thankfully I don’t think Sterling will care, and will not let it affect his game. After all, there is only one way to answer people like that.
And so onto the big one, far too early in the season. City have a bit of breathing space at this early stage due to the inadequacies of others on the opening weekend, but victory on Sunday would be a huge statement of intent, and leave City, often slow starters, with a five point gap over the champions.
I’d take a draw.