Robert Toole & Robert Pollard
City have somewhat stuttered at the beginning of this Premier League campaign. With two wins and three draws and some rather haphazard performances so far City went some way to rectifying their errors with a confident display against Fulham. Here we look at some of the major talking points of the game.
1 – Mark Halsey
It started badly for City after referee Mark Halsey wrongly awarded a penalty to Fulham, which they scored. Pablo Zabaleta brushed his palm onto the waist of John Arne Riise outside the box who made the most of it and dived into the box. If the ‘challenge’ had been made inside the box it shouldn’t have been a penalty but given that it was outside of the box was absurd.
City have not been doing themselves any favours in defence recently but when decisions like that go against you it is an extremely bitter pill to swallow. Fortunately it wasn’t costly and City came away with the three points. It’s not the only decision in recent weeks not to go our way – the Peter Crouch handball decision being a particularly obvious example – and Mancini was right to lament the run of bad decisions that have gone against us recently.
Halsey has history with City, in fact, this was the first match City had won with Halsey as the referee since 2005. In that time, 15 games have been played, with City losing the last 8 straight games with him in the middle.
2 – Silva shined
Roberto Mancini has expressed his fear that the gifted Spaniard may burnout, given his exertions during another successful summer for the Spain national team. He has, therefore, had a stop-start first few weeks of the campaign, with Mancini eager to keep him rested. He is crucial to City and getting him back to his best is vital.
Silva looked a different man against Fulham and posed a constant threat from midfield. He linked well with Zabaleta and managed to hold possession superbly despite constantly being surrounded by a plethora of white shirts. It was without doubt Silva’s best performance this season and it is little coincidence that it was City’s most assured performance as well such is the Spaniard’s influence on the team.
3 – The omission of Joleon Lescott
The starting line-up was very strong – approaching our best – with the only debatable decision being the inclusion of Nastasic over Lescott. On the surface, Lescott’s place being uncertain seems harsh. He was outstanding last season and his aerial ability is an asset. However, at 30 years old and with less than two years left on his deal, Mancini is clearly looking to stay one step ahead and ensure we are well equipped for years. Nastasic impressed again here, like he did on his debut in Madrid, with a calm, assured performance defensively, whilst looking extremely comfortable on the ball. The tussle between Lescott and Nastasic will be one of the most intriguing elements of our squad over the coming months.
4 – Dzeko is useful
Though Dzeko blows hot and cold with alarming regularity, he is an extremely useful player to have in the squad. Scoring the winner within a minute of coming off the bench was testament to that. Question marks remain as to how good he can be as a permanent fixture in a top side but his goals from the bench are proving vital. Since the start of last season, he has contributed 6 Premier League goals from the bench, more than any other player. It seems his role as impact sub is set to continue a while longer.
5 – Mancini used his bench well
Ever since Mancini arrived at City, references to Mancini’s “Italian mentality” have been prevalent. Although that phrase doesn’t explicitly call him out as being negative, it certainly implies a level caution in his managerial approach.
How that phrase is still used is beyond me, and yesterday’s game proved he almost certainly has the most gung-ho attacking attitude of all the managers in the league. His substitutions when searching for the win were brave, taking off Barry for Nasri and replacing Garcia with Dzeko, leaving us without a defensive minded midfielder on the pitch. The only like for like replacement being Balotelli for Tevez. Italian mentality? I don’t even know what that means.
Mancini and Dzeko have given their thoughts on the match which can be watched below: