City were victorious at Craven Cottage in the face of fierce resistance from Fulham. A rearranged lineup following injuries to Aguero and Zabaleta within the last week proved strong enough to claim victory in a very entertaining game. Here are a few thoughts…
There will be plenty of speculation about whether the away form has been sorted after wins at Bayern Munich and now Fulham. The team do seem to be getting there, but whatever the problem is has not been completely solved yet. Fulham’s first goal was one of those speedy breakaway goals which happens occasionally. Their second was a spectacular own goal from Kompany which we will undoubtedly be seeing in never ending .GIF format for a long while yet. It had all the hallmarks of the atrocious luck/individual error which has already cost us points away from home this year.
However, the simple fact is that if this game had been played 6 weeks ago a City loss following Fulham’s two goals would not have been a surprise. On Saturday there was never any real sense that City would lose (beyond the usual woe-is-me rumblings from the City fans.) The midfield created so many chances that it was inevitable more goals would arrive eventually, and so they did. The defence generally played well and looked solid. Fulham is not a particularly intimidating place to go, unlike, say, the Allianz, and their fans could kindly be described as ‘docile,’ however it says something to both the characters of the individuals and the team as a whole that the players refused to be bowed. They carried on and got back in front. A few more away wins under the belt and we’ll be on our way very nicely indeed.
Spot The Odd One Out…
The most important difference between this current vintage of City player and the versions that made up the team 3 years ago is their personal characters. From top to bottom, the squad appears to be filled with players who have worked out the meaning of life – that doing something is better than not doing it. Trying to do something adventurous is better than not trying to do something adventurous.
This applies from Zabaleta, Kompany and Demichelis in defence, through Fernandinho, Yaya, Milner and Navas in midfield, all the way to Aguero and Negredo up front. It also applies to Pellegrini whose substitutions won the game.
A willingness to stick your neck out and get involved is what separates people who drift through life from those who win at it, a fact which applies especially to football. If we win the title this year it will be on the back of players who never, ever hide in games and are willing to take risks to win the big prize.
There is, of course, one glaring exception to this happy-go-lucky, can-do attitude. Edin Dzeko once again looked like he was playing a different game. There were all the hallmarks of a classic Dzeko performance: A first touch involving the ball bouncing five metres off his shin; the ball repeatedly getting lost under his feet; turning with the ball and running directly into a defender.
Only the most hardcore Bosnian super fan can now seriously suggest Dzeko has a place in City’s future. He simply wasn’t good enough. Compare and contrast when he was substituted just after half time and wandered off the pitch looking fresh as a daisy to Negredo bent double and exhausted at full time. The latter had basically been sprinting for an hour and a half, had been aggressively bullying the Fulham defenders and had played the most sensational cross we’ll see this year for Milner’s goal.
Dzeko cannot and will not do any of the things listed above, ever. If Aguero’s injury was meant to be his chance to show Pellegrini what he can do then it hasn’t started well. Barring massive improvement in the next few games, it is time to admit that his City career is coming to an end.
Finally, Martin Demichelis. If anyone is wondering how he made almost 20 clearances yesterday then look at the weather report. Any high clearance or goal kick went into the wind, stopped in mid-air and then flew back towards the City defence. Demichelis met pretty much all of these with his head. His ability with his head surpasses even Kompany, both in attack and defence. His positioning and ability to anticipate passes is also top notch and he doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything or anyone. You don’t get to play for Bayern Munich for seven years if you are a complete donkey. The thought of him teaching a rapidly maturing Nastasic his trade alongside Kompany is mouth watering.
Fulham gave our defence more than enough to think about and Demichelis played his part very well indeed. We are luckier than we think to have him around.
Written by Alex Timperley