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Disjointed but not pointless
City’s start to the season has been a puzzling one with the team looking more than a little lethargic in the first two league games. There are clear reasons for this, however, and City certainly aren’t the only team that have struggled to find fluency. Encouragingly we have secured four points from the first available six with one of our toughest assignments away from the Etihad already out of the way.
Against Southampton, the Champions were expected to stroll to victory against Nigel Adkins’ newly promoted side and, for a while at least, we were the dominant force in the game. Setting up in the 4-2-2-2 formation that served us so well last season with a settled back four of Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott and Clichy, Rodwell and Yaya deep in midfield with Silva and Nasri just ahead of them and Aguero and Tevez up front, the Blues were relatively untroubled by Southampton’s early enthusiasm.
Aguero’s injury unsettled the team momentarily but by the end of the first half, City were a goal to the good and should really have been further ahead. They missed a string of good chances including Silva’s woeful penalty which allowed the Saints to change their focus in the second half by bringing on Rickie Lambert. This ruffled City’s feathers and suddenly they looked edgy and incapable of retaining possession, quickly finding themselves 2-1 behind. Mancini made exactly the right call in replacing the ineffective Silva with Balotelli and it was encouraging how we were able to ‘move through the gears’ as it were and find a way to win.
Liverpool were our next opponents at Anfield and I was surprised at how many media pundits predicted a comfortable City win. Yes, Liverpool had a poor home record last season and were beaten comprehensively by WBA on the opening day but this was always going to be a tough game at a ground where City always seem to struggle.
Much was made of Mancini’s ‘strange’ line-up and a move to a back three but with Clichy attending to his new born baby, Lescott carrying a knock, Silva struggling for fitness and Aguero injured, this wasn’t a particularly mystifying team selection. City were indeed below par and, if it hadn’t been for errors by Reina and Skrtel, then they wouldn’t have got anything from the game. However, credit must again go to Mancini for making effective changes (Rodwell and Dzeko for Nasri and Balotelli) which made us far more potent going forward.
A lot is expected of the champions (and rightly so) but with plenty of players unavailable over the first two games (Richards, Barry, Clichy, Aguero) and transfer dealings continuing, Mancini has done rather well in my opinion to keep the side unbeaten (including the Community Shield win over Chelsea) and in a position of strength. There is of course plenty more to come and, once the squad is complete, we should see a return to the fluent football which epitomised last season’s triumph.
Posted by Manchester City fan Stephen Baker
Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveBaker83