Having beaten the champions of Germany in midweek, Manchester City finally – finally – decided to strut their stuff on the domestic stage and remind everyone just why they are the reigning champions of England.
This was more like it – pace, precision passing and passion, a raw desire to ensure each Saint stayed tackled when tackled, and second balls were snapped up like flat screens TVs in a Black Friday scrum in your local Asda.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men had come to play. Buoyed by a sensational last gasp five minute Blitzkrieg of Bayern Munich, City seemed to have realised that the gold Premier League logos they bore on their sleeves weren’t just an eye-catching accessory…they actually meant something.
They symbolised that, at long last, City are shaping up as if they mean business, ready and willing to throw a spanner – albeit one carefully crafted by a qualified Engineer – into the Jose ‘Jolly Up’ jamboree, you know, the one where Chelsea have already won the title in November?
As the City-hating members of Her Majesty’s Press would willingly testify, Manchester City are a one-man team, wholly reliant on Sergio Aguero’s goals.
Oh how Messrs Ashton, Custis, Herbert, Ogden & Co must have choked on their Sunday roast as little old Citeh had the temerity to win 3-0, without Sergio celebrating his 100th PL appearance with a goal.
Instead the sensational Argentine chose to chip in with two assists and a wonderful display, one that often occupied four Southampton defenders at-a-time, as City laid waste to the Saints impressive defensive record.
Not only did City spoil the hopes of the Premier League’s surprise package, they also inadvertently succeeded in highlighting the hideous antics of referee Mike Jones.
All arms and legs like an animated stick insect on heat, Jones the Jerk (we’ll just call him JJ from this point on) delivered a master class in the art of how not to officiate.
As ever, perspective is required – JJ is shyte.
Yes, we all know referees are human, they only have a split second to make a decision, the ‘game’s so fast nowadays’ blah dee blah dee blah dee blah.
Even ex-Man in Black, Graham Poll, now a Daily Mail analyst, described JJ as the weakest in the laughingly called ‘elite group of referees’ in the Premier League.
Woefully inadequate, JJ was all of five yards away with a perfect view of Jose Fonte’s scything down of Aguero in the 10th minute. Stonewall, it was a granite like penalty to everyone but JJ who decided Sergio had dived, duly yellow carding him into the bargain.
No, hold that last statement, Stan Collymore on TalkShyte Radio muttered Sergio had gone ‘star-shaped’ to the floor and then proceeded to block anyone on Twitter who dared challenge his assertion.
But, quicker than a flat screen TV shelf stocker on Cyber Monday, Stanley Victor denied ever saying Sergio had over-egged the pudding. Stan should know all about puddings… there’s plenty of Spotted Dicks or Raspberry Fools at his employer’s radio emporium.
But back to matters of substance.
Aguero was felled again, this time just outside the 18 yard box, but JJ wasn’t having any of that fancy simulation nonsense…he knew best.
He also displayed his aptitude for his job with a chronic misapplication of the ‘advantage’ rule. With Mangala deep in Southampton territory, JJ halted the City attack and hauled them back 35 yards into their own half after a Saints offside.
Good old JJ, he just knew instinctively that it was the right thing to do…unlike Fourth Official Phil Dowd.
BBC Match of the Day camera’s caught Dowd raising his eyebrows in bemusement towards Pablo Zabaleta, acknowledging JJ’s unique interpretation of the rules.
But JJ knew best and he didn’t want to keep it to himself, opting to tell Manuel Pellegrini and chuck in a quick admonishment of the Chilean for good measure.
JJ has, quite rightly, been universally ridiculed – the man is not fit for purpose. Granted, the role of a referee is very demanding and unforgiving, but JJ and his colleagues are supposed to be ‘professionals’. So why do they consistently abuse the description week in and week out? It has to stop.
Despite Ronald Koeman’s team having a not-so-subtle 12th man in their midst, City were imperious as they dropped down to 10 and finally nine men. Mangala’s two yellow cards were warranted, but the biggest concern is Vincent Kompany’s hamstring injury, with critical games coming thick and fast.
Thankfully, Aguero seems free of the frequent muscle injuries that have so blighted him in the recent past, (may every City fan forgive me if he is subsequently injured), and he was instrumental in this accomplished fourth away win of the season.
His deft lay-off keyed up Yaya Toure’s 20-yard drive to open the scoring in the 51st minute.
With the game won, Sergio surged up field for the umpteenth time to hit an exquisite cross for Gael – or should that be Goal – Clichy to score in the 88th minute – his first successful City strike in 120 appearances and 3-0 to the champions.
Substitutes James Milner and Frank Lampard were the ‘inbetweeners’ making it 2-0, combining for the ‘Milly & Lamps’ Show as Super Frankie buried his 174th Premier League goal in the 80th minute.
Lampard has been an absolute delight during his loan spell and long may it continue, certainly into February and, if possible, all season long. Lampard is just one goal behind Thierry Henry in the PL all-time top scorers and only four behind Shrek from The Swamp. What an achievement for a midfielder!
A clean sheet – only City’s fourth in 13 PL games – was only really threatened twice, on both occasions where Pelle failed to make an impact from within the six yard box.
Another ‘Pelle’, City’s trusted MP was tellingly impactive, with a tactical plan to shut down Southampton’s supply lines down the flanks.
Nasri and Navas gave sterling support to Zabaleta and Clichy and kept the Saints on the back foot.
Yaya and Fernandinho fresh from their self-enforced Champions League rest, looked like the formidable duo of 2013/14, Jovetic was lively in support of Sergio and Demichelis, a late sub to bolster the defence, was vintage as he supplied the through ball culminating in Gael’s goal.
Joe Hart – hopefully now shorn of his ‘Biggles Flies Undone’ Movember moustache, was largely untroubled apart from a mad scramble when he and Captain Kompany thwarted Davis and Pelle.
With the gap to Chelsea closing to six points. City now go up against their biggest bogey team of recent times when visiting Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.
Four successive 1-0 defeats have made for horrible return treks from the North East, and with Mangala banned and Kompany injured, Pellegrini needs a new Ministry of Defence.
Demichelis and Sagna will likely get the nod, with Boyata an uncomfortable selection for many fans and Nastasic just about persona non grata in Pellegrini’s eyes.
Injuries or no injuries, City need to stop being dim on Wearside and give the travelling fans an illuminating experience – one that goes with those shiny gold Premier League sleeve logos.
By David Walker
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