West Brom 2 Manchester City 3: Some Thoughts

Date: 5th December 2013 at 5:24 pm
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*We won away! Never felt more like singing the blues…..

*Well on the whole that was better – the home form replicated, at least for a while.

*The MCFC twitter feed promised surprises ahead of the line-up announcement, an announcement guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of City fans.

*And whilst the team was hardly surprising, it did kick off a new wave of online angst. Dzeko came in for Negredo, and the left-back spot was rotated once more with Kolarov back in, Demichelis was favoured over Lescott and Pantilimon keeping his place as expected. The better news was the return of Kompany, which triggered off an aftershock of panic that he had been brought back too early and would end up limping off the pitch at some point.

*The return of Dzeko may have frustrated many, but he did score all the goals against West Brom last season, and Negredo’s goals have come largely at home. This is something of a false argument however, as all the team have tailed off away from home so you can’t place the emphasis on Negredo – City have quite simply scored a lot more at home. Secondly, what Dzeko did last season is irrelevant.
However, with three games in six days, there was always going to be changes, and this was the game Pellegrini had probably identified as the more winnable of the two away games this week.

*But whilst rotation is to be expected, it is still acceptable to question if it has been done the wrong way round. City are struggling away form home and utterly imperious at home. Would it not make more sense to play the strongest eleven away and make the odd change at home?

*So a non-English starting XI for City. I look forward to Neil Ashton’s “the day football died” article in the Daily Mail. City’s English contingent were reduced to throwing chewing gum at the coaching staff on the bench. I guess it passes the time.

*Heavy traffic meant yet another new kick-off time – 8:15pm. The Bleacher Report’s American correspondent wonders how this could happen when the kick-off time was announced weeks ago. They obviously don’t have traffic jams in America.

*Onto the match, and for half an hour, City were irresistible, that home form finally transferred away from Manchester. Aguero missed a sitter before he scored, Dzeko battled and ran and was involved in everything, and City should have been five up, but for wasteful finishing, the wrong run or the odd mis-control.

*Having not put the game to bed though, the worry surfaced that City would pay for their profligacy, and West Brom came into the game as the first half drew to an end. Thankfully there was no real incisiveness in the play. The second half continued the theme, with City content to protect a lead and chances were at a premium. With the third goal came a chance to relax, but history shows that to be a foolish notion. City eased off, and there was still time for the token calamity goal before a minute of panic at the end. But three points is three points, our goal difference is a mile ahead of everyone else, so there was no need for a sleepless night (unless you like cricket).

*The truth is that City’s failure to assert themselves for longer was slightly disconcerting, but we can’t expect them to batter any team for ninety minutes. My main worry with Pellegrini teams remains the same – the team is quite “open” and doesn’t look set up to close out games. Maybe that will come with time. As it turned out, it was more comfortable than it felt at the time. West Brom’s first shot on target was their second goal, in the 93rd minute.

*For Edin Dzeko, a mixed night. In the first half he seemed to be a player reborn. Tracking back, covering the pitch, involved in the goals and a threat upfront. His finishing was still wayward, but then so was Sergio Aguero’s. In the second half, it was back to his default settings. Not as involved, the ball bouncing 5 yards off him every time he tried to control it and easily dispossessed – a reminder as to why his future probably lies elsewhere, though in his defence he may well have been knackered.

*Demichelis impressed too for a while, as for all his wild swings at the ball, he has the experience to anticipate well, and cover for colleagues. He was undoubtedly poor for West Brom’s second goal though, and Pantilimon’s huge frame prevented him getting down quick enough.

*Man of the Match? Fernandinho. He almost spared us more talk about Gareth Barry, but then Everton went and won at Old Trafford. The Brazilian was everywhere, mopping up, setting up attacks and he continues to impress. He also makes Yaya Toure look lazy.

*And not far behind was our captain. Kompany did everything we expect of him – intercepting, tackling, blocking (with one notable goal-bound block from Berahino standing out), bursting forward and marshalling the defence. He has been sorely missed away from fortress Etihad.
Jamie Jackson mentions today that he was dubbed the “Glassman” whilst at Hamburg due to his fragile physique, and we can only pray that he improves his injury record in the future.

*Chris Foy had a good game, not falling for Shane Long’s dive early in the second half and getting City’s penalty shout spot-on. He also didn’t feel the need to wave yellow cards around, with Pantilimon oddly being the first recipient of one for time-wasting, though he was actually too lenient by the end, especially after a Yaya Toure hack. Still, the break from cycling seems to have done him the world of good.

*And now for two more stern tests, in what now looks like a three-horse race for the title. Agent Moyes is doing a sterling job over at Old Trafford, but Arsenal continue to win as do Chelsea despite their faults. Southampton away and Arsenal at home will help shape the season further, and a defeat in either would be costly. PlayCity’s strongest eleven please Mr. Pellegrini.

*Elsewhere? I hate him with a passion, but those goals by Suarez last night….my word.

*Final thought – we may all mock United at the moment (and rightly so), but be careful – it wasn’t all bad news for the club last night. Massive floodlights? Pah.
Wednesday night’s Barclays Premier League tie between Manchester United and Everton, broadcast across the globe, will be a world first as the club debuts the largest, brightest and clearest pitch-side electronic boards in football.
The pitch-side digital platform will be used to connect the fans to the club digitally, not only linking to social media activities, but also communicating key information. This new system has been specially positioned at pitch-side so that the view of fans inside the stadium will be unaffected, despite the panels being the largest in EuropeThe crystal-clear quality will further develop the club’s strategy of single sponsor visibility, giving a premium and clean look whilst avoiding the need for jumbotrons or multiple displays within Old Trafford.
Sir Bobby Charlton said: “This development is consistent with United’s history of a pride in being the first in the world, and the best at what we do. While I am continually amazed at just how far around the world the coverage of our games goes, the work that is done by the club to communicate with fans both at home and abroad using the latest technology has to be good for everyone involved.”

Be scared. Be very scared.

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