Manchester City didn’t run up a cricket score when beating Crystal Palace 1-0, but Edin Dzeko did something that has eluded most of England’s batsmen during the ill-fated Ashes series.
The enigmatic striker completed a half-century when his sizzling shot secured three hard earned points and took him to a 50-goal personal milestone in City colours.
Dzeko continues to delight and frustrate City’s fans – not always in equal measure. His goals to games statistics and goals to minutes played ratio are impressive when set down on paper.
There are lies, damned lies and statistics and despite Edin often having the deftness of touch of an anvil being dropped from forty feet, the fact remains he does score goals.
In terms of minutes played and goals scored, City’s third choice striker is 9th on the all-time list of Premier League scorers with a return of one per every 141 minutes on the pitch.
It’s noticeable that a certain Sergio Aguero tops the list with a successful strike rate of a goal every 118 minutes.
Edin has had 46 starts and 43 games coming off the sub’s bench to hit 34 PL goals. In cup competitions, he’s netted 16 goals from 29 starts and 11 substitute appearances.
The problem, if indeed it can be construed as a problem, with Dzeko is the amount of chances missed and a seeming inability to create opportunities for himself or others.
The contrast with Negredo is stark, it’s pointless comparing Edin with Sergio because of the gulf in class, but that has more to do with Aguero’s excellence rather than Dzeko’s deficiencies.
As it stands Edin scored a crucial goal and credit to him for a superb finish, having first created the space for the shot and his willingness to take on the responsibility.
With half-a-dozen changes that saw Boyata, Clichy, Nastasic, Garcia, Milner and of course, Dzeko, start. Manuel Pellegrini was seeking to optimise his options amid a hectic fixture schedule.
It was a calculated risk and one that ultimately paid off. Three points are three points irrespective of the margin of victory.
The solitary goal was sufficient to achieve a new PL, record of 54 scored in the opening half of a season, surpassing the previous record of 53 achieved by a free-scoring team by the name of …Manchester City in 2011.
It was the 60th consecutive PL home game where City had scored, so woe betide any fan in sky blue who could honestly and rationally come away from the Etihad with any grumbles.
Yes, the performance left a lot to be desired but, against a team well drilled by Sgt Major Tony Pulis, the bus was parked and the handbrake super-glued into the on position at all times.
It was always going to be a campaign of attrition rather than a blitzkrieg.
The fact that GI Joe – that’s Goalkeeper Incredible – Joe Hart was voted as Man of the Match by the Etihad crowd says it all – it was a much deserved accolade, commensurate with his bravery and skill.
Rather like the malicious malcontents of the football media, Joe saw most of the match via a one-eyed perspective.
Restored and instantly re-established as City’s number one keeper, Joe showed lion-heart courage when diving at the feet of Palace’s Cameron Jerome, sustaining a gruesome looking gash around his left eye.
Despite a wound that was initially glued shut, before an after-match stitching attempt, Joe played a blinder with a trio of world-class saves from long range attempts by Puncheon, Jedinak and, the best of the lot, a 25-yard drive from Ward, destined for the bottom right corner of City’s net.
A fully functioning Hart – is a joy to behold for both club and country.
Lacking the fluidity of an Aguero, Negredo, Nasri trio, City relied on the sublime Silva, Navas and Fernandinho to try and breakdown the massed platoon of Palace defenders.
It was the Brazilian midfielder who came closest to breaking the deadlock on two occasions in the first 45 minutes. He created his own opportunity with an exquisite first touch before shooting over Peroni’s bar. The Palace keeper denied him again when ‘Freddie’ headed towards goal on the stroke of half time.
Credit to Palace who, sensing City were not at their cohesive best, sniffed the chance of a point or even a coupon-busting win. For the second time in 44 hours City fans were deprived of the luxury of a three or four goal buffer going into the latter stages of the contest.
How perverse though that when City ‘win ugly’ it’s interpreted as Pellegrini and his men somehow failing. When the likes of ‘The Special Needs One’ Mourinho, 3G, Bleating Brendan, Whinging Wenger or out to pasture Sir Baconface, do or did, grind out a winning margin it’s a virtue not a vice.
Bloody hypocrites! Manchester City and everyone associated with the club give not a jot (polite way of putting it) and are happy to let actions not words define their season.
Pellegrini is a perfectionist but also a pragmatist. He subscribes to a philosophy that serves up exquisite portions of the beautiful game but, when needs must, he is prepared to win games by whatever means. In his words Manchester City can win with “…different faces…”
He gets little recognition or praise from the jaundiced journalists who dwell in the UK media. City fans know only too well about the two-faces of football journalism in this country.
The irony is the praise bestowed on plucky Pulis and his default position of Neanderthal play.
Young Tony is the walking, talking, living, breathing best exponent of ANY club shop with whom he has an affiliation. It would be wrong to say he has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to City…no, the man has a gargantuan chopping block! It dates back to the 2nd Division Play-off final with Gillingham in 1999 and the FA Cup Final against Stoke in 2011.
Rather than take the plaudits for a gutsy Palace performance he reverts to type blathering on about City’s financial prowess chirping how his nemesis have a team costing ‘£350m’ and where one player’s wages would pay half of his team’s weekly wage.
Quote of the day from putrid Pulis: “It would be lovely to manage that team (City) I would be sat on the side with a cigar in my mouth.’
It would require a huge Havana – one of Cuba’s finest to fill that cavernous trap. What dear old Tony doesn’t understand is that to manage City you need an impeccable work ethic, man management skills, diplomacy, the talent to get the very best out of your players and, in Pellegrini’s case, a willingness to make sacrifices and be thousands of miles away from your loved ones.
That’s why Manuel Pellegrini doesn’t sit puffing on a cigar, he applies himself to the task at hand and lets his rivals indulge in adolescent comments, egged on by the sychophants who kiss the backsides of Messrs Mourinho, Moyes, Rodgers etc.
City were table toppers for less than a day following Arsenal’s win at Newcastle, but with eight wins and a draw from a hectic December, the momentum is building up in Manchester with four trophies up for grabs in 2014.
By David Walker