Soccer 365’s Howard Johnson crosses his fingers that Spanish maestro David Silva gets back to his inspirational self to inspire City to the title
Roberto Mancini has been upping his game. Not as a manager, you understand. City are in their worst run of form of the entire season. But in his grasp of the English language. He’s called the run-in to the title ‘Squeaky Bum Time’, though I suspect his consiglieri David Platt and Brian Kidd might be fighting it out to claim that one. Roberto is right, though. And after watching our nail-biting 1-1 draw with those muscular madmen of Stoke at the weekend, I think I’d be well advised to buy a few pairs of reinforced adult nappies. This title run-in isn’t going to be easy on the backside.
To be fair I’m losing faith. Three months ago I thought City would, if not cruise to the title, then certainly drive there in fifth without too much interference from the GPS system; now I’m distinctly pessimistic. The truth is that we’ve been pretty poor in recent times. Results have been ground out through gritted teeth rather than accumulated with absolute insouciance. The wonderful, extraordinary, free-flowing, high-scoring footy that we saw week in-week out in the earlier stages of the season has all but disappeared. Watching City just now is like a visit to the dentist. Necessary, but unpleasant all the same. And if you have to point the finger at anyone for this alarming slump then (much as it hurts me to say it) most of the blame lies at the usually inspirational feet of David Silva.
What has happened to the Little Genius? It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the brilliant Spaniard was waltzing through opposition midfields at will, spraying jaw-dropping passes all over the pitch, collecting assists at a rate of knots and scoring match-winning goals every other game. Now he looks like a shadow of his former self, unable to be decisive, crowded out of games by powerful but infinitely-less-skillful opponents and distinctly unhappy out on the pitch. It’s such a shame. Silva had everybody purring earlier on in the campaign because it was such a joy to watch a player with his exceptional vision. Now he can’t even pick off a team as willing yet workmanlike as Stoke. Class is permanent and form is temporary. We all know that. But oh, how we could do with Silva on top of his game right now.
And we’ve got Manchester United waiting in the wings. As I write they haven’t yet collected a win from their Monday evening meeting with Fulham. But if they’re not sitting three points clear of City by the end of that game then I’ll eat my City bobble hat! We’ve still got a superior goal difference of four, which might count for an extra point in the final analysis. But right now the Eastlands meeting with Ferguson’s lot on April 30 is taking on even greater significance – so long as we haven’t blown it before then, of course. Especially when we’ve got a visit to the Emirates to negotiate, against a resurgent Arsenal. Now that will certainly be ‘squeaky bum time’, especially on a personal level, given that I’ll be heading over from France to be at the game. Will the Johnson presence inspire City to heights of derring-do? Not if the last time I watched City away at Arsenal is anything to go by. It was a while back, to be fair, but I’d barely got into my seat that day before Uwe Rösler had been sent off for diving and Anders Limpar had smashed one into the top corner. Not a good day at the office, it must be said.
What’s most worrying about our situation right now is that winning a league title when you haven’t had one in the trophy cabinet for donkey’s years is the biggest ask of all. Look how long United themselves had to wait before securing their first league title in 16 years back in 1993. Since then they’ve collected the Premier League trophy on numerous occasions and will rightly now consider themselves favourites to land it again in season 2011/12. But history is meant to be learnt from as much as it’s bound to be repeated, so while the general mood chez Johnson is downbeat, we as City fans have to make sure that we work hard to accentuate the positive.
Will United drop points and give us an unexpected bonus? It’s hard to see where they might slip up before the game against City. But in a season where they’ve been beaten 6-1 at their place by us and have lost at home to the frankly awful Blackburn, then I guess anything is possible. Fingers and toes crossed, then, that they cock it up somehow, someplace. But above all, fingers crossed that The Little Genius finally runs into a bit of form at exactly the right time!
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