Date: 5th December 2011 at 11:27am
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For those avid readers who thought I`d left the country, then you are correct as I spent much of last week away on business in Spain and didn`t have full access to the internet.
I do not intend to recap the results of the last week when a creditable 1-1 draw at Anfield was overtaken by a third-choice team eliminating Arsenal from the Carling Cup and probably sentencing them to another trophyless season, whilst the third string from Stretford was driven to the exit door by ?.Crystal Palace.
So this set us up nicely for what once-upon-a-time would have been a banana skin match against potentially awkward opposition chomping at the bit to claim a major scalp. Paul Lambert set his team up to do just that, frustrating and stifling everything that City could put together, at least for the first half-hour.
In that time there were still chances for City and indeed one for Norwich, which could have re-written the history of this match had it not been once again for the brilliance of Joe Hart.
A touch of class was needed and once again it was out there, this time in the shape of Sergio Aguero. Nasri spotted a surging run by Richards which resulted in him cutting the ball back to Aguero around 10 yards out and surrounded by opposition defenders and with nowhere to go. Miraculously, he dropped a couple of shoulders, jinked here, feinted there, retained possession of the ball as up to six defenders closed in on him. The only visible gap was between two pairs of legs and with precision he toe-poked the ball through that gap. A stadium was astonished, a stadium was relieved, City were 1-0 up.
And when you come to the Etihad this becomes the acid test of your plan B. What happens now? Do you limit damage and settle for a small defeat, or do you go for it and leave the door open for the crucifixion? For the remainder of the half Norwich chose the first option, but the half time chat came up with the second.
Out of the blocks as the half started, their fans were treated to the customary comic cuts defending that Kolo Toure gives you when he chases the ball in the wrong part of the pitch. Clearly confusing Kompany, who left it to Toure, Morison got the benefit and zeroed in on goal. Hart forced him wider than he would have liked and although it did open up for him his shot went in amongst the Canaries fans rather than in amongst the netting.
It was time to look lively and City began to put together their moves and fluency and once again light up their own stadium. A free kick some 30 yards out for a foul on Dzeko by Crofts, in the inside left channel was lined up by Nasri. The chargers loaded the far post area as the cross came in. As they all ran to the near post, none of them getting anywhere near the ball, the clearly confused Ruddy didn`t realise until too late that it was going into the net, and it did. A bit of a soft one that but as David Platt says – “They are all goals”.
Cruising at 2-0 it was showtime and after 68 minutes we saw why. A fast moving build up down the left between Nasri and Silva whose laser-like pass found Yaya Toure just inside the box. He let it run across his body to his right foot and curled a gem around the keeper and into the net.
Once again though, as the Pedmachine tells you every week, the chances come at both ends and City continue to let this happen and to the chagrin of Joe Hart they did so again after 81 minutes when a cross from the left looped over Kolo and Richards and on to the head of Morison who for once muscled Kompany out of the way to head home for 3-1.
Hart went mad with his defence and was quite right. This should have been a routine piece of defending for this team and another clean sheet opportunity went begging.
City decided not to sit on their laurels and ratcheted it up another gear. And the goals went from the sublime to the outrageous. Again building down the left Clichy found Yaya who had seen Johnson run from a long way out and into the box. Yaya found Johnson`s who played it back to Balotelli whose first attempt was well blocked by Ruddy. The ball looped into the air and as it came down, Balotelli waited patiently for it and in slow motion scored literally with the shrug of a shoulder.
Then as the match drew towards its end, Kompany hit a superb pass from the left hand corner of the Norwich penalty area and found Johnson at the right hand corner of the box. This time Johnno changed feet and hit it early finding the bottom corner as he does so typically.
Sadly for Joe Hart the score was 5-1. He would have preferred the goals against column to have been empty. Thankfully though this team seems to be moving from strength to strength and we are starting to ask ourselves – “Where can this end?” The football on offer is scintillating at worst and simply unreal at best. There are goals in it from all over the field as this match has shown with 5 different scorers. Gone is the dependence on one man and arrived is the all-star cast that for me plays better football that the Real Madrid “galacticos” and is more on its way to emulating what goes on at the Camp Nou than any other team these islands possess.
The Etihad is bursting at the seams week-in, week-out once again forcing Stretford`s finest noisy bin-men to re-write their songsheets. And it seems the Premier League history is being written as every week passes by. I`m probably more anxious now than when we were a yo-yo team, but it is a different type of nervousness.
The defining part of the season for me is the next 2 weekends when we play Chelsea and Arsenal back to back. If City can net the full 6 points and not give any light in the tunnel to Stretford, then the planning starts to move to another phase. Their scruffy 1-0 wins are keeping them in it, but there will come a time when they become 1-1 draws and that is when City can make their true mark.
This City team is starting to look quite complete. It moves the ball with precision and fluidity, seems to score fairly freely and seems to keep the opposition out with reasonable frequency. There is quality in every area of the field and the papers are starting to tell us that another intake is expected in January. Obviously for fine-tuning purposes.
The Bayern match and Champions League qualification might just be one step beyond for this season, but if we were to win the Premier League, I would start to fancy City for next season, given a favourable draw of course.


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