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The Lonesome Death of Roy Carroll


Last Build Date: Thu, 05 Apr 2018 10:31:33 +0000


City 5 - 0 Sunderland

Fri, 08 Apr 2011 17:28:00 +0000

  • Late again, I know. But this was a particularly enjoyable victory, and its impression remains fresh. This was the best attacking performance of the season. The best of 2011, certainly. The best since Fulham or West Ham away. And, crucially, a confident re-framing after two weeks off for international football. The Chelsea defeat was so dispiriting that I feared an April collapse; no tempo, no rhythm and failure on both remaining fronts.
  • What we had instead was a display with a fluency and confidence we had not seen this season. For once, Roberto Mancini decided against combining Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry in midfield, resting the latter in exchange for an extra forward. The swap was vindicated: attacking options were increased, the midfield bottle-neck was loosened, with Adam Johnson, the pitch was wider. Sunderland were abject but the goals flowed naturally, and without need for the sweaty forcing that so often characterises the goal hunt at Eastlands.
  • Of course, there is a frustration that this was not done sooner. But what a relief that it was done at all. It's now how I imagine we will set up at Wembley, and rightly so. Barry will play, as might James Milner if he does not trust Mario Balotelli. (If he does not trust Balotelli in a semi-final at Wembley then one wonders what the point was from the start, though). Liverpool on Monday will provide fresh data.

Send Matt home

Sun, 20 Mar 2011 15:48:00 +0000

Just a quick request:

As part of the ‘Coming Home' promotion, Etihad Airways, Official Sponsor of Manchester City, is offering fans the chance to fly to Manchester to see City play Tottenham, as we blow the chance of Champions League qualification for the second successive season.

Friends of TLDORC, Matt Coleman and his partner-in-crime Gav, are in the final eight of the competition, and we're hoping to get them over from Sydney for the match.

Through their work with the Sydney Blues, they try to make supporting City as proactive an experience as they can, even though they're on the other side of the globe.

To send them home, please click on the following link, and selecting Matt Coleman.(image)

City 1 - 0 Dynamo

Fri, 18 Mar 2011 13:06:00 +0000

  • And our chance of winning a trophy this year has halved, at least. The prospect of a Manchester United-free knock-out competition was bounteously exciting. We were, I think, the strongest remaining side in the competition yesterday and, had we overturned Dynamo Kyiv, the favourites for the crown. But it wasn't to be. Rather, it was just a smaller scale Hamburg: for smaller stakes, in front of fewer people, with less emboldening crackle in the air. But it was still a good performance, brave in the circumstances, and enough to win most ties.
  • For all the expectation that Roberto Mancini might trade off our chances in this match against Sunday's game at Stamford Bridge, the strongest side was picked. Carlos Tévez was flanked by David Silva and Mario Balotelli, and we started the game with more enthusiasm and focus than I thought we might. Both full-backs got forward and despite Dynamo's organisation we created chances, more than we have often done in home games this season. David Silva and Mario Balotelli both nearly scored, and there was a strong sense that the task might a fair bit more superable than we first thought.
  • But, Mario Balotelli's homage to Nigel de Jong puts us out of it. Winning 3-0 at home, or 2-0 over 120 minutes is just too difficult against a team as technical as Dynamo. Much like the Arsenal defeat in the autumn, the 10 remaining players were brave and intelligent and, in their own way, successful. But their task was too vast. Aleksandar Kolarov scored a characteristic goal, and the chances continued. Edin Džeko nearly made it 2-0 but the longer the tie went on, the less of the ball we saw and the more running the players had to do to win it back. Even with James Milner and Adam Johnson back on the pitch it was beyond them.
  • Like the Arsenal 3-0 defeat, or that 2-1 win over Hamburg in 2009, this was at least a display of good, resolute football in difficult circumstances - even if it did not produce the desired result. Were it not for Balotelli's malicious stupidity in the first half I think we probably would have been in this morning's draw. But we paid £24m for the only ticket to the Mario Balotelli lottery, in full knowledge of its rules, and we have certainly enjoyed its bounty at times this year. He'll be fresh for his first ever derby on 16 April, and who knows what he has planned for us then.

City 1 - 0 Reading

Mon, 14 Mar 2011 11:45:00 +0000

  • After a series of difficult and disjointed home 1-0 wins, here was a 1-0 win to revel in. They didn't play brilliantly although, given recent exertions and performances, they played better than I thought they might. And, crucially, we have avoided immersion in the dreadpool of a cup final against Manchester United. Forgive me my cowardice, but the only way to think as a City fan is by identifying the worst possible outcome, and then navigating ways of avoiding it. We are not going to lose a final to United this year, and that is a relief.
  • Not nearly as much of a relief, though, as Micah Richards' goal. I don't think I've ever experienced as much of a collective nerve release as when Richards headed in David Silva's corner yesterday. The longer the game went on goalless the worse the potential outcomes seemed; the stoppage-time loss, the penalties loss. We made half-chances but Reading defended well, Mario Balotelli was thrown on for Patrick Vieira to make something happen. He didn't score, but he did win the corner from which Richards scored; his most important goal for the club since another late bullet header from a corner in the cup.
  • Before then the performance had been acceptable (which is noteworthy), without ever reaching the levels some would hope for. Reading were physical, compact and well-organised. They had an aerial threat and offered us nothing in their third. Chances were limited; most came from the excellence of David Silva, although the final third movement and sharpness was not always good enough to take advantage of his play. The Reading centre-backs forced our players wide when they did get through on goal, and their keeper was good enough to block anything hit at him. With a spine of the side restored, in Vincent Kompany and Nigel de Jong, the players were less flustered than they might have been.
  • And so it's Wembley one month from now. Of course, semi-finals should not be played there, because it devalues the final. The practical point that there will be more than 60,000 plus Mancunians on the same transport links is actually secondary to the moral point about what Wembley is meant to mean. But I don't want to sound churlish. It's another symbol of post-takeover progress; one step beyond our League Cup semi-final of last year, and, given the opposition, a chance to avenge that 4-3 aggregate defeat. There's no point in my offering a prediction, as you all know what I think. But it's good and important to be there. And we know now they can't beat us in the final.

Dynamo 2 - 0 City

Thu, 10 Mar 2011 22:20:00 +0000

  • Our first meaningful test of the season, and, well, it's like the Peter Crouch game was only yesterday. I know we're in the quarter-final of the FA Cup, and only in the last 16 here, but given the relative quality of the opposition this is at least as good a chance of winning a trophy. And, lest we forget, winning a trophy is what all this money was thrown at.
  • By many measures, this was not our worst performance of the season. I've seen us defend worse, I think, and look likely to score a goal. I'm sure we have kept the ball less well than we did this evening. But as a failure of nerve this was of a standard that they'd been concealing from us since last May. Kyiv were good, certainly the best team we have faced in the Europa League so far and better than most in the Premier League.
  • The overall play was poor, but the goals were just pathetic. The first started with David Silva - usually defensively diligent - allowing a cross to come in from the left. Aleksandar Kolarov and Joleon Lescott left Andrei Shevchenko to each other, and he darted ahead of Joe Hart and scored. We've scored too many soft near post goals this season and this was the worst of them. The second, with 13 minutes left, was even worse. Vincent Kompany got half a header on a cross, and the ball sailed up to Oleh Gusev, who was politely permitted by Micah Richards to volley the ball into the net.
  • Only Joe Hart's legs stopped it from going to 3-0 in the final minutes. Which would have been almost insurmountable. As it is, 2-0 is a horrible score-line - worse than the 3-1 we came back from Hamburg with two years ago. Dynamo are quite clearly an intelligent counter-attacking side, and will quite plausibly score at Eastlands. Should they do so, we would need four goals to progress. And we know how effective we are against well-regimented defences.

City 3 - 0 Villa

Thu, 03 Mar 2011 14:40:00 +0000

  • Not one of the great FA Cup fifth-round matches, but warmingly satisfying given recent events. This was probably our best performance in 2011, although evaluations are skewed by Aston Villa's apathy. Their selection and performance last night made their showing in the 4-0 late Christmas present look like some embodiment of dogged resistance. No Ashley Young, no Stewart Downing but no pressure, fight or anything befitting the occasion.
  • Villa's poverty was such that our midfield base of Patrick Vieira and Gareth Barry - usually so susceptible to pressure and pace - were comfortable and really rather successful. They were able to keep the ball and dictate play with more ease than in any other game this season; the pair of them completed 145 from 164 attempted passes. Our control was sufficient to give a territorial advantage, and the first goal came quickly and comfortably. A corner was flicked on and Yaya Touré whipped it into the net from four yards out.
  • From there it was simple enough. The second goal came when Yaya Touré, under no pressure in midfield, clipped a perfect through ball to Mario Balotelli. With Carlos Tévez and Edin Dzeko on the bench, Balotelli led the line (as he did last time when hosted Villa), and while his work-rate was negligible he was sufficient quality to make up for it. Here, he waited for the ball to drop over his shoulder before clipping it into the top corner. It was one of the best finishes this season, harder than it looked, and supportive evidence for the claims of some MCFC coaches that he is the most natural finisher at the club.
  • Villa had some good spells, particularly when they isolated Gabriel Agbonlahor against Micah Richards. But other than one Joe Hart save it was easy for City. The third goal came half-way through the second half, as David Silva controlled a looping cross and struck the ball sweetly into the bottom corner. A technically perfect goal, unsurprisingly. From then it was easy. Not easy enough to bring on Michael Johnson, which was a shame. But the win was easy, deserved, and never in doubt, which is more than we could say about much of our football in recent months.

TLDORC February Awards

Thu, 03 Mar 2011 14:40:00 +0000

It's David Silva.

I'll explain why later.

Though of course you already know.

City 1 - 1 Fulham

Sun, 27 Feb 2011 21:56:00 +0000

  • Oh, the annual second-half surrender at home to Fulham in the league. How I've missed you. You are the truest reminder that while some things change other things do not; as much of a reassurance that City are still City as the colour of the shirts or the songs in the stands. This is four years on the run, now, that we have gone ahead in this fixture and failed to win.
  • As it goes, it was the least painful iteration yet. As with stoppage time derby defeats, or losing to Spurs, or losing to Everton, the repetition lessens the pain by robbing its surprise. The 3-2 under Eriksson stole my soul for a good week, even outweighing my thrills at the Sun/Ball/Corluka/Elano back four. The 3-1 in April 2009 was just pathetic, the 2-2 last year was better. As I said, predictability is a strong antidote.
  • Of course, dropping two points is a problem. Finishing fourth is important, even if it's not as important as finishing first in one of the cups. That said, given we've still got Spurs at home and Chelsea away things are still in our own hands. More worrying than the result is the performance. Our reliance on David Silva was made clear by a display that was barren of any wit, pace or imagination. I could write for a while about how Gareth Barry and Yaya Touré don't set a good enough tempo, or how our two new full-backs aren't as quick as they ought to be, but you've seen it for yourselves before this season.
  • Still, some big performances in the big games and we'll still get fourth. A nice distraction from the league this week, with an FA Cup fifth round game with Aston Villa.

City 3 - 0 Aris

Sun, 27 Feb 2011 14:27:00 +0000

  • Didn't watch much of this game, so this is a fairly vague placeholder. As this season progresses, my emotional energy is increasingly poured into the two cups, at the expense of the Premier League. I've always been more excited by the prospect of winning something rather than finishing fourth in something else. Last year, I was more upset by the League Cup exit than by the failure to finish fourth. Now, with us still in the last sixteen of the Europa League and of the FA Cup, I'm enjoying an array of excitements that are entirely novel as a City fan.
  • The game was notable for Roberto Mancini's continued European expansionism. For all his domestic austerity, Mancini has been cavalier so far in the Europa League. I think it's probably to do with wanting to try new options, to give games to our forwards, but he has played variants of 4-2-4 much of the time, even in Turin when we needed a draw to win the group. On Thursday it looked like a 4-2-1-3, with David Silva behind the Carlos Tévez, Mario Balotelli and Edin Džeko supergroup. It worked, as Džeko scored twice (he's a cup specialist, you see), and could have had a third. Of course, the best player was David Silva but that barely needs to be said.
  • And so: Dinamo Kiev. I don't know much about them. I wanted Beşiktaş because I wanted to see Guti and Quaresma at Eastlands. But Kiev have got Andriy Shevchenko and he used to be fairly good. Whether the team are up to much I've got no idea. I've never seen them play, but they are 12 points off the lead in the Ukrainian Premier League. Shakhtar Donetsk are top, though, and they're a very good side so I guess it's understandable. Anyway: we're getting closer.

NoCo player ratings

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 15:10:00 +0000

Hart One or two poor decisions from crosses but played well once he had settled. Made more saves than he might have wanted to. 6

Richards Another powerful performance, including one of his best ever crosses as a City player - which Edin Džeko headed straight at the keeper. Scored with an athletic volley when the game was won, but he has deserved it with recent performances. 7

Kolo Touré Not as commanding as he might have been. Our defence without Vincent Kompany just isn't the same. 6

Lescott Like Kolo, he's (just) good enough with Kompany but not good enough without him. This was not nearly as smooth as it ought to have been, and while this is largely the midfield's fault it is not entirely so. 5

Zabaleta I think that he is limited when Aleksandar Kolarov plays in front of him. They're both fairly predictable and not very quick and so Zabaleta has the space in front of him closed off. He did ok here, defended well enough but with little forward incision. 6

Yaya Touré Should have been much brisker, given the occasion. He was playing alongside Patrick Vieira in a midfield two, and he left his colleague in the field more than he should have done. 6

Vieira Don't be fooled by the two goals (good as they were). He was woefully off the pace for the first thirty minutes. So slow he was practically third to every loose ball, and, unable even to keep the ball properly. 5

Silva As usual, the best footballer on the pitch. There were fewer special moments than usual but it was still just one long exercise in movement and touch. His corner led to one of Vieira's goals, too, as it happens. 7

Balotelli Lively and bright, playing off Džeko. Some good movement and technique but was frustrated when he picked up a silly booking, and was even more disappointed when he came off with a head injury. Needs a goal. 6

Kolarov Some good things - good feet, covered well, strong - one of his corner kicks was headed in my Vieira. But any hopes that he's our Gareth Bale fall down on the fact that he just doesn't have the pace. 6

Dzeko Looked a bit clumsy at first, but he improved when Tevez came on and set him up with perhaps the best bit of play in his time in blue so far. Was rewarded at the end when Tevez gave him a cross in return, which he headed in. Two in two (against Notts County). 6


Tevez Improved our energy and our penetration when he came on, scoring one and setting up another. 7

Barry Two important passes in the build up to goals. 7

Jo Too late to mark n/a

City 5 - 0 Notts County

Mon, 21 Feb 2011 12:44:00 +0000

  • Our delirious mad-cap FA Cup adventure continues. Two rounds now conquered, but in four games, and having scored, somehow, 12 whole goals. And all this without a single good team performance yet. This was, in parts, one of our worst displays this season. For the first 30 minutes of the first half and the first 20 minutes of the second we were outplayed by Notts County. They were, quite predictably, brisker and firmer and braver in their football than whichever combination of the bored and the inadequate Roberto Mancini sent out to play.
  • Had County scored early then we might have had a very difficult and unpleasant afternoon upon us. It would have made this look like a daring, blissful away win. But they could not push their way through and, with technique and training on our side, we took the lead. David Silva curled a corner in, Patrick Vieira - the worst player on the pitch - darted to the near post and headed in via a hand ball. Magical.
  • We then had a good spell before the break but could not make it 2-0. The second half started much like the first but, just as it seemed as if County might equalise another corner - this from Aleksandar Kolarov - was headed in by Vieira. He might not be able to play the ball any more but he is good at picking his run through a crowded box and heading in. The crowded box claimed a victim, though, as Mario Balotelli clashed heads with a defender and had to be removed.
  • He was replaced by Carlos Tévez, giving him some necessary pitch-time with Edin Džeko. They combined enjoyably for two late goals which made the scoreline rather better than it might have been. First, Džeko received the ball, facing our goal and just 50 yards from it. He trapped the ball with his right foot, spun, and played Tévez through with his left. Carlitos ran through, beat the keeper and scored. The fourth came as Tévez was released wide by Gareth Barry - he looked up, paused, and chipped a cross to Džeko who headed in.
  • An extra layer of flattery was applied to the scoreline by Micah Richards, who scored his most acrobatic volley for the club since his equaliser at Goodison Park in September 2006. It was good for him, because he's now playing well and consistently for the first time in years, and is surely now our first-choice right-back. Anyway, it was more than enough to send us through and on to a fifth round tie with Aston Villa at home next week. Win that, and it's Everton or Reading.

Aris 0 - 0 City

Wed, 16 Feb 2011 13:17:00 +0000

  • I've actually already written about the game here, so please take a look if you're interested. So just a few more thoughts here:
  • This was worryingly similar to too many recent games. Facing a team that, for the first half at least, defended deep and in numbers we looked short of ideas and pace to get round them. It is possible to pick the lock, of course, and we've succeeded in doing so this year. But it requires fluency and trust in attack and again we didn't have it.
  • For now, playing all three of Edin Džeko, Carlos Tévez and David Silva does not work. Two of them, fine. But all three squeezes out Tévez - he was barely present yesterday. We had most of the ball yesterday, and managed to put Džeko into goalscoring positions a few times. But in his quite understandable enthusiasm to score, he turned down passing options and snatched at shots. Integrating a new centre-forward into a previously coherent system was always going to be difficult, and so it is proving.
  • That all said, Aris were bright and lively on the break. Darcy Dolce Neto (best name left in Europa League) was a very handy right winger while Raúl Bobadilla could handle himself up front. It was a new centre-back pairing, again, for City, with Kolo Touré and Jérôme Boateng together. Playing Boateng there is a new thing for Mancini but it's his natural position and he did well, again. I wouldn't mind his accompanying Vincent Kompany more often in future.
  • While 0-0 in the first leg is a good result, Aris could cause problems at CoMS. They're a good unit with some exciting individuals and if they steal a goal on the break then progress might be difficult. We'll have to start well next Thursday, with as strong a team as possible. Even if that means playing Jô against Notts County.

Send Blue Roo Home

Mon, 14 Feb 2011 22:18:00 +0000

Just to say, if you haven't already, that you should go vote to bring Matt and Gav to Eastlands as part of the Coming Home with Etihad campaign.

They're do the Lesson in Pride blog which is a great effort given the times our games are on.

Have a look here.

United player ratings

Mon, 14 Feb 2011 14:22:00 +0000

Hart Could not have done much more with either goal - certainly not the second one. Punching and distribution better than for England in midweek. 7Richards Continued in the trend of recent improvements with a fearless performance down the right flank. Given the occasion, this was his best game this season. In the opening spell, his direct running was an important contrast to our midfield ball-players. He needs to learn to cross but even without that he's a threat. Completed 8 from 8 tackles, although Ryan Giggs had some fun with him once or twice. 7Kompany One of his best games yet in a towering season. For 78 minutes he dealt masterfully with Wayne Rooney, making every tackle and interception perfectly. To see important players do so well in the biggest games is rewarding, especially given that our top performers haven't always shown up to recent derbies. Might just have reached the cross for Rooney's goal, but one wouldn't want to be too critical. 8Lescott Surprisingly preferred to Kolo Touré but he was strong and competent. Even distribution, not always his strongest point, was fine. 7Zabaleta Stayed at left-back as Aleksandar Kolarov was kept on the wing. He was fine, really, except for when he wasn't: shamefully sloppy in pursuit of Nani for United's opening goal. There are moments when you wonder whether he's quite good enough, and this was one of them. Attacking play limited by Kolarov's presence. 5Milner Nominally replacing Nigel de Jong, he shuttled manfully out to the right, never really creating much but keeping the ball well. Went off injured after an hour. 6Barry Got through some important midfield work, and his passing was fairly competent, completing 48 from 56 passes. I think his big game performances have improved this season after a few evasions last year. 7Silva Hard to describe. Started by inspiring a beautiful piercing move in the second minute, which climaxed with him skewing the ball wide from three yards out. Then went on to play glorious football for an hour, drifting and turning and passing better than anyone else on the pitch, before finally scoring a goal - with his back. As with Kompany, it was impressive to see our best players bringing their best game to the biggest stage. 8Yaya Touré Completed more passes than anyone else on the pitch (61 from 79), and he was dynamic and subtle in our enjoyably strong start. Only had space to run into once or twice but he moved the ball well and worked harder defensively than usual. 7Kolarov Looked very unfit and blunt. I don't know whether it's because he played for Serbia in mid-week but he was slow off the ball and his first touch would have embarrassed Kelvin Etuhu. Hooked early in the second half but it could have been sooner. 4Tévez Very quiet at the start, which owes something to the excellence of the United defenders. Had he been in the game more we might have turned that early possession into chances or goals but he was very well-smothered. Improved when Džeko came on, as he could play deeper and with one of the defenders distracted: he completed more passes in the 30 minutes he was behind Dzeko (23) than he did in the hour when he was on his own (19). 5Subs:SWP Livened City up with some width and vigour. His cross led to Silva's goal and he was a surprisingly effective option. City career might just be salvaged. 7Džeko Expert assist for Silva's goal. Otherwise quiet. n/a[...]

United 2 - 1 City

Sat, 12 Feb 2011 16:26:00 +0000

  • If we have to lose a derby then we might as well do so to a goal that brilliant. After the horror horror horror of last year's derbies, I feel inoculated against almost anything that could happen on the pitch. I wouldn't have necessarily chosen today's outcome but the pain inflicted is of a different category from that of last year. In fact, I feel rather pleased with elements of today, particularly the start which was surprisingly engaging and lively.
  • The system was maintained from the West Brom game, but the news was that we started the game with some ambition, passing the ball, finding more space than expected behind United's midfield. David Silva, who was excellent throughout, skewed a perfect chance within minutes. In retrospect, it would have been better had he scored. That said, the prospect of being 1-0 up at Old Trafford with 85 minutes left is terrifying in its own way.
  • But with Carlos Tévez strangely quiet, there were not too many more chances and if you don't exploit your spells of superiority with a goal then you get what you deserve. United improved and went ahead just before the break: good play from Ryan Giggs and excellent from Nani, but ultimately preventable given Pablo Zabaleta's defensive negligence. The second half started slowly but two substitutions improved our shape: Edin Džeko and Shaun Wright-Phillips replaced James Milner and Aleksandar Kolarov and City switched to 4-4-2. I'm not SWP's loudest fan but he was useful on Saturday, stretching the play and crossing to Džeko, who expertly turned and shot into David Silva's back. Silva's positioning and body angle was perfect and the ball sailed in.
  • At 1-1 there was a spell when I thought we might just nick it. But then, out of nowhere, came the goal. You've all seen it and there's not much to say about it. It was one of the best goals I've ever seen against City. No complaints, really, losing to a goal that good. In the final 13 minutes we looked stunned and unlikely to find a second equaliser. Which might say something about the difference of mentalities between the teams.
  • So, another Manchester derby defeat. But no feeling of having been shot in the stomach from close range. It was a decent performance, and very good patches. We lost to an unpreventable moment of magic. Fourth place is now the target, and we will have just as tough a battle with Spurs as we did last season. And the cups, of course; I have a particularly good feeling about the Europa League - United aren't in it.

West Brom player ratings

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 15:23:00 +0000

Hart No mistakes, and some very good saves too. Too early to say if he's come out of his mid-season dip but this was an important step. 7Boateng Back at right-back, where he was defensively comfortable, and he got forward well but he's just not brisk enough to have the impact in the final third that Kolarov does. 6Kolo Touré An easy enough match for him, in defensive terms. Used the ball well, which he does do when things are easy - completing 47 from 52 attempted passes. 7Kompany Showed how helpful he can be to the attack when he is comfortable in doing so. Comfortable stepping up beyond the half way line, and it was his forward run that led to Tévez's second goal. Defensively safe, too. 7Zabaleta Back at left back, where he was predictably sturdy. Not much going forward, perhaps because of Kolarov's position just in front of him. 6Milner Employed in a slightly different role: alongside Gareth Barry in a 4-2-3-1 set-up. He didn't have much of the de Jong work to do, but he was tidy on the ball and lively off it, which is as much as we could have asked for, really. 6Barry Like Milner, little defensive work to do but he saw a lot of the ball. 42 from 50 passes made, nothing too incisive. Decent afternoon out. 6Silva So good to have him back - this was his best game since the 4-0 Christmas win over Aston Villa. His movement into spaces, his control and use of the ball were excellent. It was a perfectly imagined and executed pass to Carlitos for the second goal: one of 49 successful passes from 51 attempted. 8Yaya Touré Not really his game: he's a counter-attacker, and West Brom were generally too deep for him to have space to charge into. Passed the ball well enough, but only won one of six aerial challenges (using him as a target for Joe Hart's kicking is the plan, I think). Came off after an hour - not sure he's recovered from his sore throat. 6Kolarov Deployed on the left of midfield, a smart move to provide some much-needed width and pace into our attacking play. It was his run forward that won our first penalty, and he was useful and dangerous throughout - having a 35-yard shot tipped onto the bar later on. Barely even ventured into our half, which was heartening in its own way. 7Tévez Scored goals number eight, nine and ten since his December strop, which is strikingly focussed given what an ugly little incident it was. He even scored two excellent penalties, which was nice after his misses against Blackpool and Leicester City. His record from the spot is now 8/10, which looks much better than 6/8. When he doesn't just hit it down the middle he takes them well. (I don't want to turn my nose too far up at his penalties, if only because we were so spoilt by the perfection of 10/10 Elano). His other goal was excellent too, moving fiercely between the lines and finishing well. 8Subs:DžekoMancini gave him half an hour, where he looked understandably keen to score. As Michael Cox pointed out, he took as many shots as he made passes. 6SWP He's back! One thrilling run across the whole pitch nearly ended in one of those school-yard goals he used to specialise in. n/aRazzak I hadn't heard of him. Did some stepovers. n/a[...]

City 3 - 0 WBA

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 14:29:00 +0000

  • A very welcome return from the better aspects of our play. For probably the first time in 2011 we played the way Mancini wanted: controlling the play, incisive when necessary, thanks to the Silva / Tévez hotline, and defensively austere. The second half was disappointing, I suppose, but after conceding 13 goals in our previous six games it is difficult to blame the management for so fetishising a clean sheet.
  • With de Jong still out, James Milner partnered Gareth Barry at the base of midfield while David Silva and Yaya Touré were partnered in the band of three by Aleksandar Kolarov, moved upfield à la Gareth Bale. As well as cover for Pablo Zabaleta this equipped us with his piercing runs from the left, a much more useful and direct option than anything Jô provides. One of these runs got beyond Steven Reid, who tripped Kolarov, and Tévez converted the penalty.
  • It was soon 2-0: Tévez took the ball from deep, and gave it to David Silva, who has such a gift for spotting angles, Tévez received the return pass, cut back past a tackle and scored his second. As a swift, intelligent team goal it's the best we've scored for a while. It's fortunate just how strong the mutual understanding is between our two best attacking players, and how quickly it was formed. Tévez makes the runs Silva wants him to, and Silva is always capable of finding him. Before the break it was 3-0: a needless Jerome Thomas handball gifted our second penalty, and Tévez had his hat-trick.
  • The second half was very different: the players sat back, let West Brom have the ball, and held onto the advantage. It wasn't much by way of performance art but it succeeded in doing what we wanted. Given recent problems, it was fairly welcome.

Birmingham 2 - 2 City

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 13:35:00 +0000

  • This was six days ago, and I didn't really watch it, and it was shit. But for the purpose of completeness I've got to write something. My mood has certainly improved since then, thanks to Saturday. But this was an infuriatingly lazy disposal of two points. To be 2-1 up at Birmingham, having given away the lead once, with just ten minutes left: it is so far removed from the standards that the management expect that one wonders just what Roberto Mancini said and did on Thursday and Friday.
  • Scoring two goals in an away game ought to be enough. Particularly at such a goal-desert as St. Andrew's. So to concede twice to an opposition as flat as Birmingham is a deeply unserious approach to a title challenge. Both goals pointed to serious problems. The first was free-kick whipped into the area; Joe Hart and the defence dithered, Nikola Zigic kneed the ball and Hart was too slow to stop it. Hart was averaging nearly one error per game in January and this was very much in that tradition.
  • The second goal, though, was even worse: Patrick Vieira arrived a week late to a tackle in the box and Craig Gardner converted the penalty. Vieira came on at half time for Nigel de Jong and again displayed why he is no longer fit for purpose in the Premier League. The more you watch of City the more you realise that there is a larger gulf between the side with and without de Jong than there is for even David Silva or Carlos Tévez. Not just for play-breaking but for leadership, ball retention, a cool head under pressure: he's an indispensable figure. Why Mancini thinks that Vieira is a more legitimate alternative to de Jong than Pablo Zabaleta is beyond me.
  • That said, Aleksandar Kolarov's first Premier League goal for City was enjoyable. He strikes the ball with a clarity and force we haven't seen at City in years. He's got two goals for City now, from a combined distance of over 40 yards, and I'm sure there will be more to come. He nearly won it for us with the final kick of the game. I'm sure there will be more this season and in future.

TLDORC January awards

Fri, 04 Feb 2011 18:35:00 +0000

Sorry this is late. In fact it's so late it's invalid; I have to pretend it was written before Wednesday's triumph at St. Andrew's and yesterday's defeat of WBA. Because February's football has started. This, however, is all about January.

A strange month: the results were good enough. We took seven points from four league games, which is probably only one or two points short of par. We managed to stumble through in the FA Cup, despite three deeply flawed performances. We even brought in one of world's most exciting centre-forwards for £27m. But I don't think we really played as well as we might have done. Most worryingly, our defensive impermeability collapsed. After a run of conceding seven goals in 13 games, we then shipped nine in our next five. Given that defensive solidity is the thing Roberto Mancini values the most, it's a serious failing.

Player of the Month

The fashion over Christmas was to downplay the importance of Carlos Tévez to the side. The main motivation for this was, of course, his transfer request. No one wants to look desperate after rejection. News of that broke on the evening of the West Ham game, when we won with style and ease with Tévez off in Tenerife. Then the purchase of Edin Džeko pointed to a post-Tévez future and a new approach. Advent was infused with a sense that the Carlos Tévez chapter of City's recent history was nearing its end, and that we would be, if not better, then certainly healthier, for its conclusion. Since expressing his 'absolute commitment to the club', then, Tévez has proved us all wholly totally wrong. It has become a truism to accuse him of childishness, but Tévez has responded to the arrival of Džeko like a spoilt child reacting to the birth of a younger sibling: with feats and noise designed to win back the attention and affection currently diverted elsewhere.

Because in January Tévez produced some of his best football in a City shirt. At the Emirates he was heroic, desperately isolated up front but crucial in holding onto the ball as we held on for a point. To be as effective an out-ball as he is given his height is a striking achievement: but his strength, balance and tenacity allow him to back and spin in and out of difficult situations. He was as important to our draw as anyone. At Leicester City he scored his first of 2011, smartly flicking in a cross and working hard in difficult circumstances (ie being on the same side as Jô). Then two more against Wolves; dancing past three defenders for his masterpiece first, before a near-post header for his second. When Leicester came back he was nearly unplayable: thundering home the first, playing a dream pass to Zabaleta for Vieira's goal and then winning a penalty, which he missed. In six January games he scored four goals but missed two penalties as well, which isn't too surprising given his approach. We need him as much as ever.

Performance of the Month

How about Zabaleta against Arsenal? Handled Theo Walcott perfectly.

Goal of the Month

Tevez's first against Wolves. Reminiscent of another stocky shuffling Argentine playing in Spain.

Notts County 1 - 1 City

Sun, 30 Jan 2011 20:58:00 +0000

  • Well we are probably more likely to reach the fifth round than we were on Sunday morning. And that's not meaningless. But this was not one of the great Manchester City FA Cup performances. A City team hollowed of its core, on a Passchendaele pitch, up against spirited but limited football league side, to whom we conceded a soft goal. That said, the fact that we equalised betrays a strength of spirit not always associated with City sides. And that the equaliser was Edin Džeko's first as a blue doubled the relief.
  • I appreciate that the need for rotation, of course I do. But I sometimes think that Roberto Mancini does it with insufficient discrimination. Our team has an obvious core: the spine is Vincent Kompany and Nigel de Jong, the brain is David Silva and Carlos Tévez. To remove all four is not only to remove our best four players, but also to leave us invertebrate and thought-free. We had this when we went out of the League Cup at the Hawthorns in September, and here it was again. In the first half, we lacked Silva and Tévez: the midfield of Patrick Vieira, Gareth Barry and Yaya Touré had enough of the ball but they could do little with it. One could forgive James Milner and Jô for creating nothing from the wings at the Emirates. But this was Meadow Lane and they were just as poor. Both players Milner has his uses but I'm not sure he is a top class winger.
  • As the game went on, Notts County improved. Patrick Vieira no longer has the legs to run a midfield as he used to; with Nigel de Jong in the team there would not have been the same concession of momentum. The hosts then took the lead, as a pathetically marked corner was headed in at the near post. That's our fifth consecutive game without a clean sheet, which must infuriate Mancini.
  • Just when I thought this was going to be latest embarrassing cup exit, we equalised. Micah Richards, probably our best attacking player, thundered down the right flank again. (He plays as if the by-line is the finishing line in a race, which while obviously rather lacking in subtlety, means he plays with more drive than the strolling Jérôme Boateng). Džeko ran between two defenders and shot high into the net.

Villa player ratings

Mon, 24 Jan 2011 20:57:00 +0000

Hart A blip? Yes, probably. Which isn't to say that he is not a very exciting and talented young goalkeeper but Darren Bent's goal came from Hart's failing to deal with Ashley Young's shot as powerfully as he should. His was not the only error that allowed the goal, certainly, but it played a part. Unfortunately, the game being as it was, he had little chance to redeem himself later on. 5Boateng When we need him most he was quiet, again. There was one good cross to Gareth Barry in the first half, reminsicent of his delivery in the World Cup. But after that he was insufficiently present in the final third, when we needed his width and crossing the very most. He defended well enough but in this 4-3-2-1 his role is primarily to provide attacking width and he didn't do it. 5Kolo Touré One of the many responsible for the Bent goal. After that he defended well, making 9 from 11 tackles, which allowed us to maintain the pressure on Villa's defence. 6Kompany Defensively good, although our defending was largely irrelevant after the first 20 minutes. From that point on, he saw an awful lot of the ball, completing 66 from 77 passes, which says a lot about the game. Tried to force the pace, going direct, which he's adept enough to do without it being wholly wasteful. 6Kolarov Continued in his confident 2011 performances. The only natural wide player in the side, he was our best attacking outlet in the first half at least, bursting forward, stretching the pitch and providing different angles of attack than the usual Yaya/Silva/Tévez options. Put in some of the best corners I've seen in years - one too good even for Tévez. Faded in the second half, unfortunately. 7de Jong As often in these games, he was a luxury. Against a counter-attacking side, there was very little play for him to break down. As it was, our domination of the ball saw him play more passes than I think he has ever done for City: completing a Xaviesque 81 from 84. Which is all well and good when we're ahead but is not exactly what we want when we're 1-0 down for 72 minutes of the match. It's not his fault, of course, but it was frustrating. 6Yaya Touré Like de Jong, saw more of the ball than ever before as we passed it around in front of Villa. 80 passes made from 86. But unlike de Jong these tended to come from within the Villa half, which just made their sideways direction and inherent caution all the more disappointing. He is a brutal counter-attacker, and this sort of lock-picking football just isn't his game, but there was barely a pass inside a defender or even into the final third. 6Barry I am a fan. Let there be no doubt of that. I sleep in a t-shirt with his face on (this is literally true, unfortunately). But he was very poor out there. I don't know if it's to do with facing his former club but he looked overawed out there. He was second to everything, when he did get the ball he was inevitably pushed off it, he had no ability to impose tempo or imagination on proceedings. It was one of his worst ever showings for City, on a par with the 1-1 against Stoke at Eastlands in the Cup last year. Hauled off after 57 minutes but it should have been at half-time, if not sooner. 4Silva Quiet, which I suppose was a function of Tévez of having stepping on his toes in the space behind Džeko. Saw as much of the bal as anyone but could not unpick the Villa defence. I would not have minded his moving onto the left wing, just to deliver some crosses in. 6Tévez One of his worst games this season. Nothing that he t[...]

Villa 1 - 0 City

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 19:26:00 +0000

  • It's not that losing is inherently upsetting, I don't think. The 3-0 defeat to Arsenal this year was one of our more proudly cohesive and cooperative performances for a while. The aggregate defeat to Hamburg towers over everything else we achieved under Mark Hughes. Et cetera. But to lose in precisely the same way to Aston Villa as we did five weeks ago to Everton, identical in pattern and narrative, that was a weekend-toxifier. And to do it all with Edin Džeko on the pitch just makes the pain of frustration worse.
  • It started, like the Everton defeat, with a soft goal conceded. Kolo Touré mis-hit a pass, David Silva lost it, Ashley Young was allowed to shoot, Joe Hart could only palm it away and Darren Bent finished. He has inflicted 1-0 defeats on City with Charlton and Sunderland before: it should not be a surprise any more. Nor should we be by the fact that while City are excellent when in lead we are fairly helpless in games in which we go behind.
  • The remainder of the game was loyal to the script. We dominated possession, while Villa were happy to defend deep and narrow. They prevented us from passing through them, which, with David Silva, Yaya Touré and Carlos Tévez in the side, would always be the inclination. We tried and tried to find a gap in the fence but we just could not. To be fair, Villa defended well as a team, and James Collins and Richard Dunne were both excellent individually. So our failure to pick through them should not itself be surprising, or, for that matter, frustrating.
  • What is frustrating, though, is our failure to anything differently. We were set up to provide an alternative aerial threat. Džeko was signed with the explicit purpose of giving us a Plan B in attack for precisely this sort of situation. He relies, of course, on service from wide areas, but even with both new eight-figure sum full-backs on the pitch not enough crosses reached him. Aleksandar Kolarov was our best attacking player in the first half, but faded, while Boateng looked too casual throughout. Adam Johnson came on and brought some extra width, but not enough, and James Milner stayed on the bench. For all our possession the best chances we had were shots from distance and one header wide from the new boy.
  • Of course, if we had not conceded the early goal it would have been a different game: Villa would not have parked the bus and we might have opened them up a bit more. Defensive errors, worryingly frequent in 2011, certainly need to be eliminated. But the failure to create chances and score goals against teams that defend in numbers is the limiting factor this year. It will improve, as new players acclimatise. But for now it's still infuriating.

Leicester player ratings

Wed, 19 Jan 2011 15:02:00 +0000

Hart Another two goals conceded, taking it to seven in the last three games. (The previous seven goals we conceded took 14 games to go in). Can't find too much fault though; could do nothing with the penalty, or really with the second either. Box command improved from the Wolves game, too. 6Zabaleta Probably surprised by the early Leicester expansion, and was doubled up against a few times. But his positioning was fairly good, and he made most of his tackles. Useful going forward, including the run to the byline and pull-back for Vieira's goal. 7Kompany Must wonder what is happening around him. Had one hairy moment, from which he admirably rescued himself. Otherwise a decent game. On a better day might have done better for Dyer's goal. 6Lescott Not as secure as one would hope, had some difficult moments, including for at least one of the Leicester goals if not both. 5Kolarov With David Silva nominally playing on the left, Kolarov obviously has an important role to provide width. He did that well, and more and more of our attacks have him involved. His debut City goal, which had been on its way for months, came at the end, firing in precisely from distance. Clearly in the Jensen/Tarnat/Garrido tradition of left-backs with a good shot on them. 7Vieira I just don't think he's got the fitness for this anymore. Or, maybe, not for starting games against energetic enthusiastic teams. He was overrun in midfield, and while Yaya and Milner have to bear some responsibility for this, the gap in competence between Vieira and Nigel de Jong is astonishing. Scored a tap-in, but that's not really the point. 5Milner Useful at filling in gaps when other midfielders went forward. His passing was fine, and he got forward at useful moments. Looked fit towards the end of the game, which might be a function of his being on the bench a lot as much as anything else. 6Yaya Touré Did not get to change the world going forward, rather spending most of his time in midfield, keeping attacks going and all that. Got a shot away with his left foot, straight at the keeper. 6Silva On his way back from injury, so only got an hour of play, but had a part in our second and third goals. Got the shot away which led to Vieira's, and played that perfect pass through to Johnson for the third. Not always involved in the game, but not much less sharp than before. 7Tévez Has clearly reacted to the signing of Edin Dzeko in the best possible way, with a series of performances reminding everyone just how important he is to us. He was huge in this game, just as he was against Arsenal, Leicester and Wolves. He carved the first goal out of nowhere, as he does, and then created the second with a through ball as good as anything David Silva has done this year. He won (and missed) a second half penalty but caused problems all evening. 8Johnson Played wide and high on the right, to stretch the play. Got in behind once early on, and shot at the keeper. Later in the first half, in a similar position, he took his time and finished well. Otherwise had a decent game, including the crucial decision not to pass to Jô in the build-up to Kolarov's goal. 7Subs:Barry Did some things well enough in midfield. 6Jo Not obviously terrible, but only because of limited time on the pitch. n/a[...]

City 4 - 2 Leicester

Wed, 19 Jan 2011 09:34:00 +0000

  • What's the point of buying world class players if not to win games by themselves? This was, overall, a mediocre performance. The defence continued its surprising recent descent into lazy permeability. The midfield, without Nigel de Jong, was absent for much of the game, and just like last Sunday Leicester were allowed to play some very attractive football. But, with David Silva and Carlos Tévez, the cousin imps, in the side, goal scoring chances come like the rain; we scored four but five, six or seven was possible.
  • It was good just to see those two playing. I hope that from this stage of the season we will see serious teams in the cup competitions (by which I mean Jô-less teams), and we lined up with a Silva-Tévez-Johnson front three, with Vieira-Yaya-Milner in midfield. Despite not starting the game well, we went 1-0 up when Tévez barrelled through two challenges and thundered the ball into the top corner, his fourth goal in the last three games. Leicester equalised, and at 1-1 things were looking nervy.
  • But, quality footballers play quality football as a matter of course, and Silva and Tévez soon made it 3-1. First, Carlitos picked out his compañero Zabaleta with a javelin pass as good as anything we have seen this season. Zabaleta pulled it back to Silva, who shuffled into space and shot - Vieira tapped in the rebound. One minute later Silva outdid his captain: turning in the centre-circle and sliding the ball between most of the Leicester midfield and defence, to Adam Johnson, running off the shoulder of the back four. The angle of the pass and the run were identical to those for Johnson's goal at the Boleyn Ground; but the distances were doubled. Johnson finished without going round the 'keeper.
  • Early in the second half it could have been 4-1; Tévez was felled in the box (if 'clear goalscoring opportunity' means anything then Jack Hobbs should have gone, but he didn't), and took the penalty. As against Blackpool, though, he missed: firing straight at the 'keeper's legs. His record is 6 from 8; not disgraceful, but fortunate in that two of them rolled in off Brad Friedel / Jussi Jaaskelainen. He is a wonderful striker but not a natural penalty-taker, I think. This ceded some momentum to Leicester, and with Patrick Vieira tiring in midfield it was too easy for them to run at us. Nigel de Jong is missed just as much as Tévez and Silva when he is absent.
  • Unsurprisingly, given our recent Mark Hughes tribute acts, Leicester pulled one back: Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott were caught just out of place and Lloyd Dyer finished past Joe Hart. It would be unfair to blame Lescott entirely for defensive lapses in recent weeks, and I'm not going to, but only because Kolo Touré has not been playing well either. At 3-2 it was worrying, but finally we had some deliverance in the form of Aleksandar Kolarov: after months of clean shooting just wide, he scored from distance. 4-2, safe, and through.

Wolves player ratings

Sun, 16 Jan 2011 15:39:00 +0000

Hart There was a very good save just before the Milijaš goal, and he was left stranded by his defenders for the second and third. Lots of punching from balls into the box, and most of the time it was just good enough to be safe. 6Zabaleta Difficult game defensively, he looked uncomfortable against Wolves' high early tempo; facing not just Stephen Hunt but also the inclinations of Steven Fletcher and Kevin Doyle to pull left. Missed too many early tackles, but improved with the team. Clipped in a very astute cross to Tévez for the fourth goal. 5Kolo Touré The opening goal came about after he cleared the ball into Vincent Kompany, and he looked ponderous and not fully fit all afternoon. Bundled in a goal, which was nice, but came off early in the second half for Joleon Lescott. 5Kompany Acceptable, rather than excellent: Doyle and Fletcher were difficult and he looked mildly unsettled at times. Improved, as everyone did. Got the near post flick for Kolo's goal. 6Kolarov One of his better games. He is so important within our narrow system, and here he was excellent at maintaining the width and stretching defenders. Had one of those famous shots turned round for a corner. A goal is coming. 7de Jong Slow to get into the game, and could only watch as we attempted to lose the match in the first half hour. More influential later, made a few important interventions, including that famous overhead-kick clearance of his. 5Barry Like everyone, started slowly but found his way. Has an important role aiding and abetting Kolarov's surges, whether playing the ball through to him or just dropping into the left-back position. But he saw a fair bit of the ball, no major mishaps. 6Yaya Touré Scored our third goal, starting and finishing a move that took the ball the length of the pitch. Could have scored a second later on when he barged through but shot at the keeper. 6A. Johnson Didn't find Stephen Ward as accommodating as he might have hoped; got off a shot to the near post in the first half but generally his impact was limited, which is a shame as the return of Silva means he might not get a game in the league for a bit. 5Tévez A reminder that Džeko will have to do very well indeed to be City's primary striker. Playing nominally on the left, but effectively slightly deeper, he was allowed to play facing goal all game. This freedom allowed him to score his first, as he danced past three defenders past scoring, an individual goal nearly as good as Silva's at Bloomfield Road. His second was a header from close range. 8Džeko A good debut; he led the line intelligently, showing off his strength, footwork and team-play. Looked a bit short of sharpness in goalscoring situations but this was his first match in over a month. 7Subs:Lescott Gave away the softest of penalties, pushing Kevin Doyle in the back when he presented no immediate threat. Lost his man (I think) for Wolves' third. 4Milner Worked hard to close out the win 6Silva Too late to mark n/a[...]