Poor old Blackburn Rovers. Those nasty old Manchester City players wouldn’t give them the ball to play with! ‘Aren’t they mean?’ says Soccer365’s Howard Johnson
A note to Blackburn Rovers footballers. That little round thing that you saw, albeit fleetingly, at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, is called a football. I know that you didn’t get to touch it all that often, so you might not be 100% sure as to whether it’s animal, mineral or vegetable. But nonetheless you can take it from me that that’s what it is. A football. Normally the idea is that two teams share possession of the football for around about half of a game’s allotted 90 minutes each. You will clearly realise that this is not, in fact, what transpired on Saturday in Manchester. You may also feel that the ball had a magnet inside and that David Silva’s boots were the attracting force. This is, in fact, untrue. You may feel slightly bewildered by what happened to you in your 3-0 defeat. This is entirely understandable. But do not despair. You can rest assured that you will not face a team called Manchester City every weekend. Other teams are not as greedy or as mean-spirited. Other teams will let you have a go of the football. Other teams will not make you feel humiliated. Other teams will not give you such a spanking.
Should Manchester City go on and win the Barclay’s Premier League, as sponsor-friendly City boss Roberto Mancini so likes to call it, then last weekend’s win against Blackburn will barely get a mention. The manner of victory was, well, perfunctory. But if anything it’s City’s ability to be ruthless and efficient in such games, to close the deal with minimum fuss against such inferior opponents, that will have sealed the title. City were once called ‘the loveable losers’, the team most likely to win the ‘cup for cock-ups’. Not any more. This new breed of City team is the complete opposite, an outfit that is utterly predictable in its effectiveness. Very rarely have City allowed themselves to be complacent this season, to be knocked out of their stride by an inferior outfit. I can remember it happening at Everton, where the team didn’t turn up and was deservedly beaten. But importantly Mancini knew how to get his team back on track ¬¬– and quickly – and that game looks more and more like a one-off blip, an aberration. The City players’ skill sets have dazzled on many occasions this season. But it’s their tough kernel that has contributed every bit as much to seeing the team at the top of the Premier League table with just 12 games left to play. The headline-grabbers may well be the majestic Silva, the artistic Aguero and the amazing-if-eccentric Balotelli. But Mancini knows just how much he needs the stout yeoman Zabaleta, the ever-industrious Milner, the quietly efficient De Jong in order to realise his vision. You can’t be an artisan with the ball until you have the ball. And most Premier League sides are way less generous than Blackburn when it comes to letting you play with it. City are prepared to work for their rewards. And the collective spirit that they show is where much of their strength currently lies. As Mancini was quick to point out, each of his strikers – Aguero, Balotelli and Dzeko – got on the scoresheet against Blackburn. This is not now a one-man team, a criticism that could perhaps have been levelled at City with some justification 18 months ago, when it was pretty much The Carlos Tevez Show. Now that the recalcitrant Argentinean is back in Manchester there are no guarantees that he will even be given the opportunity to make his mark between now and the end of the campaign. It’s an interesting microcosm that shows just how much things have changed.
Nothing is won as yet, of course. There are 36 points still up for grabs and City now need to be both ruthless and greedy in equal measure if they’re to realise their dream. But they do now seem to have a certain toughness about them that will help them to see the job through. Manchester United might yet have a thing or two to say about that, of course. But the noisy neighbours are now starting to show that they really do have a thing or two to shout about. And if – according to the mealy-mouthed Portuguese club – those long-suffering City fans aren’t allowed to raise their voices to tell Porto’s Hulk that he’s not incredible, then at least they can hail their own superheroes in blue without fear! It’s Bolton Wanderers next up at the Etihad. It would be a brave man indeed who’d bet against Manchester City getting the job done in what is fast becoming their usual cool, calm and collected fashion! Manchester City, the league’s most efficient team. Well whoever would have thought it?!
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