City closed the gap on United to 12 points after a hard-fought victory away at Villa last night in a match that never really got going. Here are a few thoughts about the game.
1 – Gutted for Rodwell
Jack Rodwell is a talented player. I saw enough of him at Everton to know that he has plenty of ability: a lovely touch, a great engine, and good tactical awareness. However, his luck with injuries has been rotten. His hamstring has proven troublesome throughout his career, and the problem shows no sign of abating in a City shirt. City are trying everything – from redesigned car seats to yoga – in an attempt to beat the problem. Having started in the win over Chelsea, where he put in a performance worthy of great praise, he made the first XI at Villa Park last night. Unfortunately, after another good opening, he was forced to withdraw after 25 minutes, and again it was his hamstring that was the cause of his exit.
The look of despair on Rodwell’s face was enough to make anyone upset. The lad is clearly desperate to make an impression, but his hamstrings simply won’t allow him to. Mancini said afterwards that he expects him to miss a further three to four weeks. With the season rapidly drawing to a close it seems his first season at the club will almost entirely have been wiped out by injury. My heart goes out to him and I sincerely hope his recovery is a speedy one and that he contribute something before the season is out.
2 – Tevez Situation
The way Mancini is using Carlos Tevez continues to baffle me. The Argentinian rarely plays the full 90 minutes, with Mancini instead opting to start him from the bench, or, like last night against Villa, withdraw him early. I cannot see the point in this. I don’t like Tevez, and with his bumper contract and his desire to run down the last 18 months of it, I want him sold in the summer, but whilst he’s here and playing we should be using him properly. He’s undoubtedly one of our best players, and he’s certainly fit enough to play every game for the full 90.
3 – Kolo Looking Solid
Kolo Toure continues to impress in his role of Kompany’s understudy. I’m not afraid to admit that I had written him off at the start of this season, so worried was I that his form had subsided, but he has been excellent almost every time he’s been called upon. Last night, he was excellent again, complementing Nastasic brilliantly.
Due to the size of his contract, it makes sense to allow him to leave in the summer, but for now I’ll say he’s played his part this season very well indeed.
4 – Nastasic Outstanding…..again
I’ve been raving about Nastasic all season but it’s difficult to stop. Very few 19-year-old centre-backs are playing week in week out for top sides in Europe; even fewer are playing the game with as much ease as Nastasic. It’s not an exaggeration to say he has barely broken sweat since making his debut at the Bernabeu. Last night at Villa, he was his usual self, sauntering round the pitch one step ahead of the opposition, rarely even close to being ruffled.
The fact that the calamitous Stefan Savic moved to Florence as part of the deal to sign Nastasic from Fiorentina makes the deal even sweeter for City fans. It would arguably be Mancini’s best bit of business had he not saddled us with Savic in the first place.
Nastasic barely has to make last-ditch tackles because he reads the game so well. It’s incredible that a teenager can display such an acute understanding of the art of defending. When the end of season awards are handed out, Matija Nastasic had better be in with a shout for Young Player of the Season or else there’s something seriously wrong with the way nominations for these things work. He is the one true success to emerge from a dire close season spending spree.