NORWICH CITY v MAN CITY – Are City made of the right stuff?

If stuffed canary is off the menu at

Carrow Road

it really will turn into a Christmas most ‘fowl’ for Roberto Mancini’s ManchesterCity.

Any

failure to gobble up three precious points against NorwichCitycould see City emerge as lame ducks in the Premier League title race and looking like prize turkeys – all trussed up and nowhere to go.

If

ever City needed to recapture the form of last season, now is the time. Having been downed 5-1 at the Etihad last December, the Canaries were well and truly plucked in their own backyard, as the returning Carlos Tevez bagged a hat-trick in a 6-1 slaughter.

This time out, a stuttering City will be happy with a win of any description amid a real sense of bewilderment among the Sky Blue support and, who knows, even the players?

The quandary is this – City sit second in the PL table seven points off the pace of leaders Manchester United. Historically City would’ve been more than happy simply to be in contention in English football’s top tier, but ‘second’ doesn’t figure highly in Sheikh Mansour’s vocabulary.

Convention and valiant failure went out of the window when the Abu Dhabirulers re-routed hundreds of millions of dollars, to make ManchesterCitythe glossy veneer in a public relations charm offensive, to promote their slice of Middle Eastern paradise.

Perfectionist Mancini will be pained more than anyone by the malaise that afflicts his galaxy of highly skilled – and equally well recompensed – squad of players.

From the outside it looks as if the Italian was not well served by his employers in the summer transfer window. Of the new recruits, only Matija Nastasic has emerged as a quality acquisition, whereas, the jury is still out on Javi Garcia. Maicon does bring something to the party, albeit as a veteran full back.

Cynics would say Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair can only have been recruited to hold up the numbers in respect of the required quota of eight ‘home grown’ players. Even more so in the case of third string goalkeeper, Richard Wright.

Midfield ‘destroyer’ Nigel De Jong’s sale, for a reputed £3.5m to AC Milan, is cited as a principal factor in the downturn in performances. However, that is something of a myth as NDJ didn’t do much ‘sliding in’ in the first half of the campaign, as a result of injury and bench dwelling.

City’s state of the art physio rooms and medical centre at Carrington has never been short of bodies, with at least four or five stricken players out of first team contention at any given time. In isolation, it doesn’t explain City’s painfully pedestrian play in most games, but it certainly hasn’t helped.

The swift incisive passing game that unlatched PL defences and unleashed, Aguero, Dzeko, Balotelli and towards the end, Tevez, to such good effect has disappeared.

I

n its place is a mantra of why take one touch of the ball when you can have three? Why attack the opposition when they’re off balance and stretched at the back, when you can take your time, allow them to regroup and try and bore through a 10-man rearguard?

The Etihad faithful are perplexed by ‘tippy-tappy’ football where City appear to want to walk the ball into the net. Anguished cries of ‘SHOOT’ are a prominent accompaniment at every game.

For all of the defensive changes, both in personnel and formation, this season City have conceded 16 goals in 19 games – the same as last.

The big disparity is goals scored – 34 so far this campaign, 19 less than in 2012, a staggering goal-a-game shortfall. The disparity is spectacularly puzzling because City have had a fit and raring to go Carlos Tevez throughout, whereas last year he was pre-occupied with birdies and Argentine golf courses.

It’s outrageous, but possibly true, that just seven months after overseeing the greatest single moment in the history of ManchesterCity Football Club, Roberto Mancini is a ‘dead man walking’. A lack of high quality activity in the January transfer window will be a real ‘pane’ to City fans and would almost certainly see Mancini gone by June.

Is it coincidence that Real Madrid are also contemplating the ‘unthinkable’ and dismissing the ‘Special One’ ? Jose Mourinho’s champions fell a staggering 16 points behind Barcelona in La Liga before the winter break – surely City’s ex-Barca hierarchy wouldn’t draft Jose in?

It’s pure speculation, as are the names being bandied around as potential player departures and arrivals.

But, like most City fans, I am not prepared to write off this season at mid-point. Mancini HAS UNDENIABLY changed City’s mentality and, it is still within the compass of this squad to claw back the points and hang on to their hard fought crown.

They can start by setting their sights on a bird shoot this weekend.
 
Anything less will see an antagonistic repugnant Glaswegian hypocrite celebrating his 71st birthday on New Year’s Eve with one hand on City’s PL trophy.

 

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