Date: 20th November 2011 at 9:56am
Written by:

The record numbers of spectators fuelling the Etihad Stadium continue to witness the evolution of the new brand of Manchester City. The shedding of the “typical City” tag looks to be getting to be complete as City continue to confound their critics with a brand of football that is bordering on the completeness of the Dutch national team of the seventies and the Barcelona team of the present day.

In the same way as Fergie was once told “You win nothing with kids”, City have been told “You cannot buy success”. Whereas the generation of Fergie`s team was a one-off there is more evidence to suggest that major honours can be achieved by the astute use of the cheque book.

Roberto Mancini is clearly demonstrating that he can preside over the metamorphosis from one style of “typical City” to a new one that oozes pure footballing class in everything it does.

The hard fought 3-2 win at Loftus Road seems an age ago against the background of International Fortnight, but once again against the only other unbeaten team in the country, Mancini showed that he has assembled a squad for all seasons. And the record 47408 crowd packing into the Etihad yesterday were treated to another demonstration of precision and power from a team that is going places.

Pardew’s game plan was clearly to follow Warnock`s lead and send his team to confront City at the earliest opportunity, get into City`s faces and use its own power to make something historic happen.

Billed as the meanest defence in the Premier League against the most potent attack, the stage was set for one of those thrilling encounters that the two clubs have produced in abundance over the years but which have inevitably ended in victory for City. And so it was to prove again yesterday.

From the off Newcastle robustly thrust themselves at City gaining a corner in their first attack as they unusually played into their own fans in the first half. Their 4-4-2 formation with Hatem Ben Arfa making his first start since his injury here last year alongside Ba up top, looked a little ambitious, but in the early exchanges it looked a reasonable selection. Ba looks like a striker in the mould of Darren Bent or Kenwynne Jones, who puts himself about but with an understated level of skill that does leave centre backs having to make decisions. He did this throughout the match but the luck just didn’t fall his way.

As I said when reporting on this match last season, Ben Arfa is a player that I like. He is quick, has good feet and is a handful when in full flow. Once again lady luck was looking another way yesterday.

Well ahead of City bothering the scoreboard programmers yesterday this combination set up a move that against any other goalkeeper in the country would have resulted in a goal that would have changed the face of the match. Joe Hart stood tall and blocked a shot from Ba that served notice upon Lescott and Kompany that they needed to be tighter.

City took a few minutes to shake off the Newcastle start and as usual a further few minutes to get the ball rolling around between the blue shirts. And once they did that there was only going to be one outcome to this match as City swept aside the challenge of the Magpies to break another Premier League record appertaining to success at the start of the season.

At this time City had Newcastle chasing shadows and any stoppage in the play was a respite to them as City`s incredible fitness and energy closed them off at every opportunity.

With Richards marauding down the right like a man seeking to demonstrate to another Italian manager that he is worth a shout, the Mags back and central lines needed to pay attention. Chances were created for Balotelli and Aguero, both off target. At the other end Ba was getting amongst the City defenders and too was off target.

And so to the golden five minutes ahead of half time when City effectively and proficiently put the game to bed. On 40 minutes Clichy`s cross found Aguero who moved it on to Yaya Toure. His shot was clearly handled by Ryan Taylor, who was lucky to survive without a card from the referee, Chris Foy.

Up stepped Balotelli in his disdainful style stroked the ball nonchalantly into the bottom corner with Krul looking helpless. Mario certainly gave the fans another celebratory treat crossing his arms and coldly staring into the North Stand.

On the stroke of half time interpassing between Toure and Aguero ended with a diagonal ball into Richards. Ryan Taylor spun as though he was playing a part in the Road Runner, was bossed out of it by Richards who hammered it home for 2-0.

Not wishing to sound arrogant but a team like Newcastle isn`t going to score three against City at the Etihad, so we could head for our half time refreshments in the knowledge that today`s job was pretty well done.

The fans were not best pleased that chips and the like were unavailable at half time due to a Fire Steward isolating the gas supply by accident when dealing with another incident earlier on, but they were to be warmed up again in the second half as City skipped their way to another memorable victory.

Newcastle continued to make a game of it and on another day against another team may not have gone home empty handed, but there is currently a steely determination about City which is starting to manifest itself at every match.

Ben Arfa and Ba continued to look lively without turning their work into a threat and their robust organisation at the back would have held out poorer teams than City, but it is midfield where games are said to be won and lost. If you govern the half way line you govern the match and Milner, deJong, Toure and Nasri did just that in this match.

And so we move towards the seventieth minute, with Super Mario’s work complete for the day and the inimitable Silva on the field it was perhaps fitting that his first contribution ended in the third goal for City. A throw-in from Richard to Silva saw the Canario spot Richards run before has set off on it and as Micah surged into the box like an out of control juggernaut, Ben Arfa decided to hitch a lift on his back, wrestling him to the ground under the nose of Mr Foy. Penalty number two.

In the absence of Mario, Aguero’s spot kick and celebration looked a bit more conventional as Krul headed to his right, the ball to his left.

With the faithful declaring “Easy Easy”, City were clearly home and dry, but not without a late scare. Week after week I tell you that this fantastic City team will give you chances and it is up to the opposition to take them. In earlier play the Mags were unable to their advantages, but they did so, finally, in the final minute. A “going nowhere” pass rebounded off Lescott, into the path of Ba who beat Hart to it before Gosling tapped the ball into an empty net.

That apart this was a good test for City and one that they stood up to in a style that, dare I say, had “Champions” written all over it. There will be sterner tests over the next thirty days when every other major team in the Premier League, except the one City disposed of so ceremoniously last month present themselves against the Blues. For me City needs to beat Napoli on Tuesday. That is the key to the month. No pressure then against Bayern and squad rotation should carry the day.

Oh and if you were watching Mr Capello, did you not see a right back masterclass performed yesterday by…Micah Richards? Not a donkey formerly known as Glen Johnson, nor an out-of-position Jones, but a tried, tested much improved and determined right full back. Get on the case Fabio.

Before I close I must mention the referee. This was a game of challenges, a game of two penalties, a game between the country’s two unbeaten teams. Whereas Vincent Kompany might have been aggrieved to be sent off against Wolves recently and was wondering why similar fates were not meted out to Taylor and Ben Arfa yesterday, was it not refreshing to see Chris Foy control this match without having to go into his pockets?


Your Comment