Tuesday, May 18, 2010

2009-10 Season Review

The end of the season has come at the right time I think — both the players and the fans were starting to lose enthusiasm after a rigorous campaign. Sorry for the lack of posts, but I needed a break from the Blues! But have you been under a rock the last nine months? Here's what you may have missed:

The Good
Biggest win: Burnley 1 Manchester City 6
Burnley's defenders were for whatever reason unwilling to mark, tackle, or track the runs of our players. And for some reason they were so far up the pitch! The amount of room afforded to City's attackers was quite frankly embarrassing. And as a result, Burnley found themselves 3-0 down after only six-and-a-half minutes. All season, we have been a team that prefers to counter-attack using the blistering pace of the likes of Bellamy and Tevez, and Burnley played (or rather, didn't play) right into our hands. The sight of fans streaming out after just seven minutes was quite surreal.

Even 5-0 up at half-time, there were still plenty of nerves! When the teams emerged for the second half, it became apparent that there was a fair bit of surface water appearing on the pitch. There was a real change of the game being abandoned, and I daresay if the scoreline had not been as convincing as it was, the match would have been postponed because of the waterlogged surface. But having said that, if it wasn't for the rain, we could have quite conceivably scored 10 without too much effort.

It had all the makings of the most typical Typical City™ moment of all time. 6-0 up in the second half and the game wasn't enjoyable with the fear of the match getting called off! Thankfully the weather held to an extent, even though the simplest ten-yard pass would end up in a puddle. And yet, we still played our typical brand of passing football. If the 1967 clash against Spurs was the "Ballet on Ice", then this match was Swan Lake.

The game petered out in the last quarter, but the three points were more than truly wrapped up and hour before. With Spurs losing at Sunderland, the seemingly impossible-to-overcome goal difference of 9 was now down to just 2. As it stands, City now sit in fourth, on equal games played with Spurs and a slightly easier run home. And hey, call us obsessed, but the Rags lost at home to Chelsea too. I don't think the day could have gone better.

Shock win: Chelsea 2 Manchester City 4
There was only ever going to be one story from this match — the rivalry between Wayne Bridge and England's Bastard John Terry. And it could not have been handled any better by the City left-back, subtly but significantly snubbing the outstretched hand of Terry pre-match. It was a great way to make a statement.

Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Mancini have gone head-to-head many a time in the Serie A, as the managers of rival clubs Inter and AC Milan. Mancini had the measure of Carlo back in Italy, and this continued into his managerial career in England. City were tactically perfect in this match. Content to absorb pressure, City were more than happy to hit Chelsea on the counter. With every successive wave of attack, Chelsea would commit more and more men forward, with up to six men in the box at times. This allowed the blistering pace of Craig Bellamy and later, Shaun Wright-Phillips, to run riot down the flanks.

4-3-3 continues to be our best formation. It's one that we played with moderate success at times under Mark Hughes, and has seen limited airings under Mancini. Despite his fantastic individual quality, we actually look better going forward as a team without Emmanuel Adebayor. So that will be a selection headache for Mancini in the coming weeks when the Togolese striker returns from suspension. Whilst Roberto was previously criticised for playing a very defensive midfield three, the difference in this match was that Gareth Barry was in a slightly more advanced position, where he could feed Bellamy and Johnson on the wings.

All credit to Carlito Tevez for a sensational return in extremely difficult circumstances. The striker only returned to England a day or so before the match after flying to Argentina to be with his family because of complications during the birth of his daughter, Katie. We struggled in the games during his absence, and hopefully his return (and this result in particular) can see City build some momentum in the coming weeks.

Best performance: Manchester City 4 Arsenal 2
Man of the match I gave to Craig Bellamy, in what was his best performance in a Manchester City shirt. His positioning and tracking back was fantastic, and he took a smart chance to give City the lead on 73 minutes. But the play of the match was Bellamy sprinting all the way back to deep into his own half to dispossess Rosicky, then carrying the ball all the way back into the Arsenal box to feed Shaun Wright-Phillips for the goal.

However, it could have just as easily gone to Emmanuel Adebayor, scoring his fourth league goal in as many games. A mesmerising run down the sideline and up the byline, leaving several Arsenal defenders in his wake, really deserved a goal but Wright-Phillips couldn't convert.

Nigel De Jong's first start of the season, and his contribution as always was unheralded, yet significant. A two-man holding midfield of De Jong and Gareth Barry may be the preferred option against the 'better' teams.

Unfortunately, City's performance will be overshadowed by the antics of Adebayor, but this will be covered separately.

Defining moments:
  • Snaring Carlos Tevez from the Rags, and the bitterness that followed.
  • Carlos Tevez scoring about a million goals between November and the end of the season, and making himself a club hero in the process.
  • Beating Barcelona at Nou Camp.
  • New recruit Emmanuel Adebayor slotting home from 18 yards just three minutes into the season, when the whole world was waiting for us to fail.
  • The unbelievable rise of Adam Johnson from Championship player to first choice winger for the fifth best team in the country.
  • Johnno's last-minute strike at Sunderland.
  • Marton Fulop's more-than-satisfactory appearances for the club in a time of crisis.
  • Adebayor's performance and length-of-the-field celebration in front of the visiting Arse fans.
  • Doing the double over Chelsea, and the Rags still unable to win the League!
  • PLUS having the pleasure of watching the best side I've ever seen in Blue!

The Bad
Heaviest defeat: Tottenham 3 Manchester City 0
Wow, what a shite game. Not even at the races. Some players, like Sylvinho and Barry, were completely outplayed. Some others, like Adebayor and Robinho, didn't look like they could be arsed.

The disappointing thing is Spurs' game plan was quite obvious to see. Long ball to Crouch, or to Lennon on the right to take on Sylvinho. And if we can see that at 7am in a pub in Sydney, it should have been patently obvious to Hughes and everyone at the ground.

Yet, what was our game plan? I couldn't tell you. Bemusing subs and tactics, by a manager out of ideas and maybe running out of time.

Adding injury to insult, Joleon Lescott is to undergo knee surgery and will be out for up to two months. And with Kolo Toure heading to the African Cup of Nations next month, that £40m central defence that we were so patiently waiting for to gel, is now gone. We would have been better sticking with Onuoha and Richard Dunne.

Shock loss: Hull City 2 Manchester City 1
I think the honeymoon period is well and truly over. Elements of Mancini's team selection were extremely confusing. The out-of-form Stephen Ireland was played on the right wing (or rather, on the right side of central midfield because he surely didn't play as a winger), and again the tired and negative combination of Nigel De Jong and Gareth Barry were played in midfield.

Our team is horribly unbalanced. There is no link up between defense and attack. At times, we essentially play a 5-0-5 formation, with no emphasis whatsoever on winning the midfield. Mancini to his credit, has seen this, which is why we were linked with box-to-box midfield type players in the last window, such as Flamini, Gago, and Mariga. We really could have done with one of them today.

When Patrick Vieira replaced Craig Bellamy midway through the second half, I just about wanted to cry. Three defensive midfielders when 2-0 down? Haveagoyamug. The team were very narrow, which is surprising because the only way we usually attack is down the flanks.
The one shining light of the match was the performance of debutant Adam Johnson. He looked to be the only threat, and giving much needed width the team. Great to see a player from the Championship look so at home in the Premiership.

Worst performance: Manchester City 3 Burnley 3
Whilst this wasn't a loss, this was a hard result to take at the time — and it hasn't got much easier when you consider how much we missed out on Champs League by.A match that was essentially a must win after a torrid October, to build some sort of momentum leading into the international break. And for the second home game in succession, we let a match-winning lead slip against very beatable opposition.

After keeping clean sheet after clean sheet in August, our defence are now leaking goals at an alarming rate. Burnley had scored just two goals on the road this season, and put three past the hapless City defense. Positioning was absolutely woeful on occasions, as Burnley attacked sometimes two or three against one.

We didn't look too bad after going 0-2 down, and in the opening stage of the second half we were sublime. But we missed ample opportunities to go two goals ahead, with Tevez inexplicably missing from six yards, and Petrov unable to find Adebayor from the right (?) wing.

With Nigel De Jong in the team we've recently been criticised as too defensive minded. With Stephen Ireland in the team we looked vulnerable through the middle. Tough one for Hughes.

Defining moments:
  • The ridiculous seven consecutive draws in October and November.
  • Anyone of the three Fergie-time losses to United in the League and the Carling Cup.
  • Aaron Lennon making Sylvinho his bitch at White Hart Lane.
  • Being doubled in the League by Everton and Tottenham.
  • Still having Jo, Benjani, and Felipe Caicedo on our books.
  • Shay's dislocated shoulder.
  • Tevez picking up an injury on International duty.
  • Tevez missing key games over the January period due to a family emergency.
  • Adebayor missing seven games through suspension — four of which were from a Stoke player's dive.
  • Ade getting shot at!
  • John Terry being a twat.
  • Missing key defenders Lescott, Bridge, and Toure — often all at the same time.
  • Kolo Toure being on the whole, rather rubbish.
  • Santa Cruz unable to string two minutes, let alone two games together before getting crocked again.
  • The indescribable form slump of last years' Player of the Season — Stephen Ireland.
  • Michael Johnson's continual battle with supposed injury, his weight, and fellow nightclub patrons.
  • Robinho being a mard-arse whenever he stepped out on the pitch.
  • Robinho pissing off mid-season to play in the Brazilian league with his mates.
  • Yeah... just bloody Robinho basically!
Lastly, a big thanks to those from both here and abroad who have followed us in our first season... we look forward to next year and have some exciting Sydney developments in store!

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