I’ll be honest, at half-time I had consigned myself to an FA Cup exit. I reassured myself that at least my wallet wouldn’t suffer further, as I couldn’t see City coming back. Typical City was alive and well after all.
My pessimism was increased by the cold, hard fact that Watford fully deserved their lead. They counter-attacked superbly and played aggressively. Credit to them for pushing men forward and for their counter-attacks and swift interplay. They may only have one win in fourteen, but that was done mostly to the ex-manager and the Watford fans I watched the game with commented that this is technically a better side than last season, but without the results to justify that claim. That said, City should still have won comfortably of course.
But in the end, it was the senior players that dug City out of a hole, further evidence of what a superb first XI we have, a quality that decreases when you dig further into the squad.
Without spending too much time on a painful first half, there were some important lessons for Manuel Pellegrini once more. Like Blackburn away, when major changes are made to the team and partnerships are trialled for the first time, the result is catastrophic. Lescott and Demichelis can do a job alongside Vincent Kompany, but together they were a mess. Demichelis will rightly take the brunt of the criticism as he continues to commit too early, especially disastrous when he is too slow to recover. City cannot afford to play a game without a top-notch senior player in defence and unfortunately at the moment that man is Vincent Kompany, and only him. Whilst I don’t want us spending big money on an ageing psychopath, it makes the constant overtures towards Pepe more understandable. Demichelis has the experience, but is just not good enough anymore to lead a defence.
But remember that like at Old Trafford, we have a new manager this season and should thus in theory be “in transition”. Our two central defenders yesterday will probably not be there in 2 years(or even 1) so we will have to muddle along until reinforcements are brought in, presumably in the summer.
As for Pantilimon, further proof he is a back-up and nothing more, his effort to prevent the second goal rather pitiful for a man of such stature.
And then there’s Micah Richards. Once more he appears to be the wrong weight, or build, and he was poor. He is simply not athletic enough right now (as has happened in the past) to cover for Zabaleta, even against a mid-table Championship side. It would be easy to write him off as we wait endlessly for the Richards of old, but until he plays a run of games, we can’t really judge where the player is at right now. Will that ever happen though?
Likewise for Rodwell. I have no doubt there is a class player in there, but he spends so little time on the pitch he suffers when he does, not helped by a lethargic Toure (at first) and a youngster in front of him. Will he ever get a good run in the side though? I doubt it. He needs to play alongside the likes of Silva and Nasri, not in a weakened side.
In midfield the problems were confounded in the first half, with Lopes unable to influence proceedings, but he wasn’t the only one. We can’t read too much into the player from yesterday’s showing.
At half-time, with goals needed, the obvious thought is to throw on some attacking players. That Pellegrini did the opposite may have baffled a few but soon made sense. City had enough up front to haul themselves back into the game, but it was a weak defence that had undermined everything in the first half. It was little surprise that City came at Watford strongly in the 2nd half and no surprise either that Watford retreated. Kompany drove the whole team forward and once more Zabaleta and Navas constantly probed down the right. City in the end got a deserved victory, but still left it late. With a goal pulled back within 12 minutes, the omens looked good.
But then I saw the 70 minute mark arrive and City were still losing. Then eighty minutes was fast approaching and I felt queasy. I would happily have taken a replay with 12 minutes to go. Thankfully that wasn’t necessary and some praise is merited for City keeping going, something that wouldn’t have happened three years ago and beyond and for Sergio Aguero for being, well, Sergio Aguero.
Special praise though should go to ITV for their highlights programme on Saturday night, the picture quality making me reach for the remote control to adjust my settings, reminiscent of the “Back In The Big Time” promotion video I have on VHS in a drawer somewhere. When Andy Gray’s dulcet tones popped up during the Everton game, I knew it was time to turn off. Apparently the commentary for the Wigan game wasn’t even by the guy who had originally done it for ITV, so who knows what went on there? Whatever, the channel continues to display ineptitude at covering the national sport.
The quadruple is on! Sorry…..
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