Super City keep up ‘average’ performances – SWANSEA CITY 2 MAN CITY 3

Manchester City ushered in the New Year with an ‘average’ three goal salvo and another ominous outing of their sharp-shooting armoury.

The only thing average about Manuel Pellegrini’s side nowadays is the stunning strike rate with which they dispatch opponents – it’s now 57 goals in 20 games – and no sign of the floodgates closing anytime soon.

City performed with grace and poise at a Liberty Stadium with a semblance of Swan Lake, as saturated South Wales played host to the opening Premier League fixture of 2014.

Phenomenal - Fernandinho is a vital cog in Pellegrini's City machine Courtesy @MCFC

Phenomenal – Fernandinho is a vital cog in Pellegrini’s City machine Courtesy @MCFC

West Glamorgan had previously proven particularly arid terrain for a Roberto Mancini-managed City, with a 1-0 defeat and a 0-0 stalemate in recent seasons, but ‘Rain Man’ Pellegrini figured on an entirely different outcome as the heavens opened.

First up was a fabulous shot in the 14th minute from the now flourishing Fernandinho, showing just why he was top of Pellegrini’s shopping list in the summer transfer market.

The 28-year old schemer – costing something in the region of £30m from Shakhtar Donestk – is now looking the part, as his goals and general play underpin City’s pursuit of the Premier League title.

Ridiculously still NOT a part of his country’s World Cup squad, the brilliant Brazilian drilled home a loose ball on the edge of the Swansea box, after the home side failed to clear a City corner.

It was only his third goal in 18 PL appearances, but his growing influence on all that is good about Pellegrini’s City is reflected in a 12 game unbeaten run stretching back nearly two months.

Commanding Kompany - City looked solid at the back despite conceding two goals  Courtesy @MCFC

Commanding Kompany – City looked solid at the back despite conceding two goals Courtesy @MCFC

City, minus Aguero and Silva two of their most vital vertebrae, looked more than comfortable for the vast majority of the first half, having reintroduced Zabaleta, Kolarov, Yaya Toure, Nasri and Negredo to the starting line-up.

Joe Hart – making his fourth consecutive PL appearance since being restored as City’s number one – was called upon to make a stop from De Guzman’s low rasping drive, as well as twice diving to ensure a brace of fierce Bony shots went narrowly wide of the mark.

The impressive Bony – an Ivory Coast international team-mate of City’s Yaya – was a constant source of concern for City’s backline, before he headed a clearly offside equaliser in first half added time.

Hart stopper - Joe produced another solid showing in soaking South Wales  Courtesy @MCFC

Hart stopper – Joe produced another solid showing in soaking South Wales Courtesy @MCFC

It never ceases to amaze how commentators, pundits and the media conveniently skim over the facts when it comes to reporting matters relating to City. The Sky commentary team asked the inane question ‘Was there a suspicion of offside about Swansea’s equaliser?’

It’s akin to asking whether somebody lit the blue touch paper on London’s spectacular New Year fireworks display. Of course he was offside…’suspicion’ – my backside!

I may be paranoid, but it doesn’t mean the media aren’t out to ‘get’ City. Sky commentator Alan Parry, in a typical not-so-subtle poke at Pellegrini, expressed his surprise that City’s Chilean boss had never won any major trophies during his nine years in La Liga with Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga.

Pellegrini massively over achieved with his two lesser charges and, in his solitary season at the Santiago Bernabeu, amassed a record points haul for El Blanco, missing out on the title by just three points to a Barcelona team at the peak of their powers.

The constant sniping is just oh so wearisome, almost as bad as Phil Dowd’s refereeing. The usually rotund official slimmed down during the summer but never fails to deliver a ‘fathead’ performance.

Top 10 - Yaya netted his 10th Premier League goal of the season  Courtesy @MCFC

Top 10 – Yaya netted his 10th Premier League goal of the season Courtesy @MCFC

How he deemed five City players to be worthy of yellow cards is beyond belief in a game absent of malice or any real foul play. Mr Dowd suffers from a nasty attack of ‘self-importantitus’ when the live TV cameras are around.

Back to the people who really matter on the field of play, and none more so than, Yaya Toure. The Ivorian colossus has been a profound influence in City’s rise to prominence in recent years, and so it was once again.

He scored his 10th PL goal of this season – achieved from just 19 appearances – in the 58th minute, having jinked around Swansea defenders in the 18 yard box, before firing a deflected shot past Tremmel.

Sliding in to 2014 -Yaya celebrates his goal  Courtesy @MCFC

Sliding in to 2014 -Yaya celebrates his goal Courtesy @MCFC

Yaya then acted as a not insubstantial decoy, as Aleksander Kolarov closed in on goal after an unlikely 70 yard sortie upfield. The Serbian full back, armed with his assassin-like left foot, surprised the home team as he ventured inside on his right before firing City’s third from all of 20 yards.

Historically City’s second choice full back behind Gael Clichy, Kolarov is having something of a purple patch with three goals in three competitions in the past three weeks, plus some sterling defensive displays, one in particular against Liverpool.

Pellegrini showed more evidence – if any were needed – of his own comfort levels in the Premier League as he sought to close the game out as early as the 60th minute. A trio of substitutions involving Garcia, Milner and Rodwell replacing Negredo, Nasri and Navas, showed how lessons had been learned following early season shock reversals at the likes of Cardiff and Aston Villa.

French connection - Samir Nasri helped City to their fourth PL away win of the season  Courtesy @MCFC

French connection – Samir Nasri helped City to their fourth PL away win of the season Courtesy @MCFC

City were good value for their lead and eventual win, despite a late Bony intervention when he struck a wicked  long range shot past Hart, who was clearly hampered by the driving rain and appalling conditions.

The win – City’s fourth away from home in the PL – and ninth on the road in all competitions might, just might, silence all the snide asides about results away from Fortress Etihad.

For the second time in 72 hours, City were top of the PL, before Arsenal dislodged them by a solitary point.

Pellegrini put things in perspective as he looked back on a dazzling December, and a run of form that has seen his side shave five points off the Gunners advantage.

With FA Cup and Capital One Cup ties against Blackburn and West Ham next up, he has the option of resting key players and utilising his squad to the full. Such a rotation should not be construed as arrogance, just pragmatism.

Pellegrini is as keen as ever to land silverware at the earliest opportunity and that could be as soon as March 2nd if City can navigate past the Hammers in the two-legged League Cup semi-final.

The New Year brings with it the opening of the transfer window and the inevitable speculation of arrivals and departures.

Going nowhere - Dzeko should be staying at City this January  Courtesy @MCFC

Going nowhere – Dzeko should be staying at City this January Courtesy @MCFC

Swedish striking prodigy John Guidetti looks set for a loan move to Pellegrini’s former employers Malaga, while mystery surrounds Stevan Jovetic’s prolonged absence from the first team squad.

Both elements, plus Sergio Aguero’s injury make any move for Edin Dzeko away from the Etihad very unlikely this month. Similarly, Joleon Lescott is not expected to leave before his contract runs down in the summer.

Undoubtedly Pellegrini will be strengthening City in 2014, but for the time being if it ‘aint broke’ the Engineer is in no mood to start tinkering.

#TrustOurMP

By David Walker

www.readbutneverred.com

 

Dedicated to the memory of my dear old Dad, Colin Walker, who would been celebrating his birthday on New Year’s Day had he not been taken from us far far to early. A brilliant journalist and an even better father, grandfather, husband, son, brother and friend, if I can be half the man he was then I’ll be doing alright. I miss him every single day…

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