Now that was better. The away-day hoodoo put to bed, and like the previous 3-1 victory, the win was thoroughly deserved by a City side who were the better side for the vast majority of the game. 63% possession told the story, along with 9 shots on target compared to West Ham’s two.
As is often the case, the team line-up raised an eyebrow or two, with the inclusion of Javi Garcia in defence, ahead of Joleon Lescott. Thus the traditional slating of him commenced long before a ball was kicked in anger, but thankfully in the end he did just fine. Micah Richards also got the nod ahead of Pablo Zabaleta, showing that Manuel Pellegrini has faith in using him (unlike others) and we can expect plenty of team changes whilst City fight for trophies on multiple fronts.
Another poor United result buoyed spirits prior to kick off. You can never write them off, even without Ferguson in charge, but we are getting close to the point of taking more notice of Arsenal’s results than United’s. Strange days.
With every good result, it is hard and probably not necessary to single out individuals. Great performances were scattered across the park. There must be a mention for Sergio Aguero though, who was imperious, and is back to full-fitness and thus is back to his best. Likewise David Silva.
Like the manager who is gradually imposing his brand on the club and slowly reaping the rewards, Fernandinho continues to improve, and thus as Gareth Barry hacked his way round Goodison Park, we are spared, at least for a few days, more pining for players since departed.
It’s a shame you don’t get an assist for ignoring the ball, but Alvaro Negredo deserves one in the lead up to City’s opener. His knowledge of Aguero’s positioning suggests that their partnership is moving onto a new level.
Even with Andy Carroll absent, it was feared that city could suffer from an aerial threat, not an uncommon feature of a Sam Allardyce team, especially as the defence had already shown vulnerability in this area in previous matches. In the end, City coped admirably, and this helped nullify the home team’s threat. City players won 21 of their 29 aerial duels, with Garcia winning the most headers – 5 – along with Fernandinho.
You could argue that the West Ham keeper could have done slightly better with Aguero’s header, but I won’t dwell on the matter as I struggle to spell his name.
Better substitutions from Pellegrini this time too, as he seems to have learned some lessons from recent weeks – the changes helped tighten up the midfield and nullify the moderate West Ham threat.
There’s no need for negativity right now, but I still wonder about Gael Clichy. I never thought I’d say these words, but you can see an argument for Kolrov’s inclusion in the team for some games – mostly due to the fact Clichy just will not cross. Every time he gets near the opposition penalty area, a check back inevitably follows. Kolrov, for all his faults, can put in a mean cross, though his team mates seem to have a problem anticipating them.
Thankfully there were no presents from City for Sam Allardyce on his 59th birthday. Devoid of any controversies to blame West Ham’s defeat on, Allardyce used the trusted excuse of City’s wealth. I imagine he will do the same when next they lose to United. That might be some time away though.
Everyone seems to love cheeky Kevin Nolan, but is there a bigger gobs**te on the pitch outside Old Trafford than him? Bred the Ryan Giggs way, namely to get in the referee’s face at any opportunity, he is never to blame for anything, happy to try and get opposition players booked and always the victim when any decision goes against him, even if the decision to book him followed the decapitation of David Silva.
For his goal celebration ALONE, Nolan should be the most reviled footballer in Britain, if not globally. What could have possessed him to think one day: “How should I celebrate if I score? A salute to the crowd? Run the length of the pitch waving my shirt above my head? Perhaps some TOP
BANTZ with team-mates, or a complicated dance routine? Nah, I think I’ll impersonate poultry.”
The worst goal celebration since Robert Earnshaw last machine-gunned the crowd, let’s all pray that he never scores again.
And whilst we’re at it, thank god Gareth Bale has buggered off to foreign climes so that we are not subjected to his appalling (trademarked!) heart celebration.
So two tricky league matches successfully navigated. And so onto Russia. CSKA Moscow are out of form, and lost to Zenit St Petersburg this week, but no game on the other side of the continent is ever anything less than difficult. I was in Russia in June and it never went dark, but if you believe stereotypes the game will be played in bitterly cold, dark conditions, and it will probably be snowing too.
Actually, I’ve just checked the forecast and it is going to be cold. Fancy that. Anyway, City enter a vital winner-takes-all section of the Champions League campaign now, the two legs against CSKA probably deciding who joins Bayern Munich in the knock-out stage of the competition. A draw would be no disaster, especially if City can finish the job off in the return game, which would then require CSKA to turn over Bayern. And even then, with Bayern’s last game probably a dead-rubber for them (again), there are further opportunities for City. Let’s hope the quick dash home for the early kick-off is rewarded with a professional performance.
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