Manchester City: A Review of January 2014

Manchester City enjoyed some excellent form in January so myself and Ciaran Murray decided to share a recent email exchange looking back at the month. We discussed the best game, booking a trip to Wembley, the joy of Jesus Navas and much more…

ROB TOOLE: January has been another remarkable month in which we’ve secured a Wembley final, reached and surpassed the 100 goal mark and ended the month at the top of the Premier League table. When we reviewed December our record in that month was played nine, won eight and drawn one. Rather unbelievably we have done exactly the same in January! I find it incredible that we have not lost a game since that horrible afternoon in Sunderland on 10th November. It is quite difficult to know where to start so I will begin with what was your favourite game of the month?

CIARAN MURRAY: That month just flew by in the exact same vein as the previous one. Lost count of the times I’ve read, “The Manchester City goal scoring machine rolls on.” There’s a little window in the build up to every game where I suffer from a disbelieving kind of despair and think that the next game will be the one that goes horribly wrong. During this month, however, that just wasn’t the case. January Blues, eh?

Aside from Blackburn (and perhaps the dead rubber West Ham second leg) any game could been nominated as a favourite. I’m going to go for Watford as my favourite. Is that a bizarre choice? I suppose only one half of that game counts, really. It was  meant to be a walkover. The Manchester City goal scoring machine was meant to steamroll over this Championship side.

It was strange in the queue for the bar at half time. No one seemed awfully concerned. Not in a cocky way. More in a “C’mon City – show us your worth now” or maybe it was an acknowledgement that this had to happen from someone sooner or later. I got back to my seat as it was announced that Zabaleta and Kompany were coming on and I was a little confused by those subs but it was exactly what was needed. What a leader we have in Vincent Kompany. And Zabaleta was just immense in his link up play with Jesus Navas (what an improvement in him, too).

The reason I’ve chosen it as favourite is that it was hard fought and taught important lessons about complacency, team spirit and defence as the best form of attack. Against a Premier League top 4 rival it wouldn’t have been so easy to claw back a result but it’s good that this did happen – to ensure it won’t again. Once Aguero got his first, it felt inevitable that City would win. Again, not in an arrogant way. Their football was just incredible and Aguero is just utterly, utterly sublime. When Mr Kolarov got the decisive one to put us ahead, it was real jubilation in the stands. Not just the usual awestruck appreciation of yet another goal. Hard fought victories are the best in a lot of ways.

We witnessed City reach 100 goals for the season during January. We now stand on 110. I’ve used up all my superlatives, really. Just unbelievable. Džeko’s second against West Ham in January was voted the best of the bunch. Would you agree with that? Or do you’ve another goal you’d rate as your favourite?

ROB:  I am not quite sure how that Dzeko goal made it to the top of the pile. It was a lovely goal but considering the vast choice it wouldn’t have even made my top twenty (probably). Maybe it was a case of short term memory for those that voted.

08-01-2014-GifNumber-44GIF via 101 Great Goals

In terms of January goals, Negredo’s first in the 6-0 against West Ham is easily my favourite. The accuracy and power of the finish was outstanding. To have the audacity to even try and volley it demonstrated a player at the top of the game. A lesser player would have probably tried to control it and wasted the chance. And what about the assist from Toure? I thought there was nothing on when he punted it up to Negredo but that’s what sets him apart from the rest. It was so route one yet so beautiful.

My favourite goal of the season, so far, is probably Yaya’s against Plzen away. If I had to use one word to describe it would be “PHWOAR”. Words don’t do justice for how good it was.

Gif-Goal-Yaya-Toure-vs-Viktoria-PlzenGIF via www.gifgoal.com

I thought it was a bit of a shame the 100th goal (Dzeko scuffing it over the line against Cardiff) wasn’t a bit better. It would have been nice if it had been a flowing move finished by Aguero or a Yaya freekick or something given that it was a historic moment. Having said that, it was a landmark moment, maybe even a triumph, for goal line technology so if you’re into that kind of thing it must have ticked all the boxes.

You have touched on it already but, for me, Jesus Navas has improved a lot in the last month. He is so exciting to watch: on the morning of the Cardiff game I woke up and thought to myself “I cannot wait to see Navas running really, really fast today” and lo and behold he ran really fast and was great to watch. What are your thoughts on our little Spanish winger?

CIARAN: He’s great, isn’t he? I think you’ve hit it on the head; he’s just so exciting to watch. He’s taken his time but he’s flourishing at the minute. I’d been worrying that, out of Pellegrini’s signings, he was going to be the one that ended up not quite making the grade.

Happy to admit that I’d no reason to worry. He’s 12 assists now and he’s shown up with a few great goals. I remember reading a brilliant tweet based on Navas saying “Width is now trending in Manchester.” Jesus is the answer the our prayers after the disaster that was last season. Adam Johnson never quite reached his potential and it was time to move him on. However, the option he provided on the wing was never replaced. Unless you count Scott Sinclair, which of course, you don’t.

I love that story that he ran so fast on a treadmill when playing for Sevilla that he broke it. I love the little jumps he does when he scores. I love how, when you Google his name, the second option down is “Jesus Navas eyes”. Have you seen those peepers? They’re like crazy blue marbles or something.

3dfa5ee7dce3912a460f6a706700d8afImage via Yahoo News

His link up play with Zabaleta down that right hand side has been scarily good. Felt sorry for Micah against Watford, or even Boyata when he’s featured. They just don’t have that understanding with him. I still think there are areas to his game we could see improving further. Sometimes he’s tempted to cut inside instead of trying to beat his man. I’ve seen him with a prime opportunity to cut back to a teammate in the box a few times now and he’s made the wrong decision. And I’d love to see more of those gut-busting runs. With the pace at his disposal, I’d love to see more defenders left for dust. He’s been a revelation, though. Getting so difficult to decide who Pellegrini’s best signing has been. With #Jovetic back too, it could get even harder.

You’ve already mentioned it but: we’re the famous Manchester City and we’re going to Wembley! Can you believe we’re getting that day out again?! What’s that – four seasons in a row? Unbelievable. How do you think we’ll fare in the final? You weren’t one of those who actually wanted United in the final, were you?

ROB: I have to keep pinching myself, to be honest. It felt like a once in a lifetime event when we won the FA Cup in 2011 at Wembley so to have made an appearance at that stadium every season since is quite remarkable. Our residency of Wembley continues it seems.

All the stats, the form, the players, everything suggests we should absolutely walk the final against Sunderland. That said, we literally did walk the FA Cup final against Wigan last season and look where that got us! Things are different this season though. We are a different beast and it is easy to see City cruising to a 4-0 win such is our attacking prowess. I also think a lot of the players that played against Wigan last season will have a point to prove and will take no prisoners. I was fortunate enough to get a last minute ticket for the final against Wigan and, as some form of coping mechanism, I have told myself ever since that it was amazing to see the team I support play at Wembley. The truth is that it really hurt so I really hope we turn Sunderland over.

But then I remember we have an uncanny ability to lose to Sunderland. Isn’t it four consecutive 1-0 away defeats them? Also, they seem to have hit a bit a form recently and seem buoyed by their last minute, extra time, penalties defeat of United in the semi-final (stifles laughter). Adam Johnson seems a personification of their change in fortune as well so it’s all pointing towards that lazy, show pony to score the winner in a scrappy 1-0!

Positive thoughts, positive thoughts!

Prior to the second leg of the United – Sunderland semi-final I thought it would be quite good to give United a pasting at Wembley but when the game came around my natural instincts set in and I absolutely wanted United to lose. The manner in which they did was just the icing on the cake. Perfect!

It seems like the collective will of the #Jovetic campaign on Twitter has helped heal our Montenegrin forward and we caught a glimpse of what he can offer against Watford and Spurs. How do you assess what you have seen and can he help fill the huge void left by Aguero?

CIARAN: You have to feel for young Stevan, don’t you? He reminds me of the kid whose parents wanted to do a holiday on the cheap at the end of the summer, thus leaving him a few days late starting school. You never quite recover. Or, remember that Simpson’s episode where Bart breaks his leg and has to sit out and watch while everyone else has a blast playing in his pool? That’s Jovetic’s season so far.

It saddens me that it’s taken until January for us to see how he fits in. We’ve glimpsed him before during Pellegrini’s bedding in phase. Now that the style and approach has been established, we can properly see what he’s made of. I think he’s been a little rusty so far. The 3 games he featured in were as a substitute. It’s going to be really interesting to see if he features from the start in another (infuriating) period of absence for Sergio Aguero. This season’s series of muscle injuries needs to be addressed by our club.

It was great to see Jovetic get his first in the Premier League. The confidence and belief that will have given him, especially with Kun’s shoes to fill, will hold him in good stead. I liked that Pellegrini also mentioned that he could fill in in the Nasri or Silva role. The boss talks about the idea that it doesn’t matter the personnel; everyone knows the shape and style. It shows the strength in depth that there’s nearly always someone to slot in. I look forward to seeing Jovetic in the near future. I hope this is the end of the injuries and that he’ll kick on. He became cult hero due to his absence. Imagine his presence giving him the same hero status!

I touched upon Nasri’s injury, which was sustained in the match against Newcastle. I swear, mate, I spend all week excited for the next time City play. During that match, though, I spent the majority of the time begging for it to be over. The disallowed goal, that horror tackle, Alan Pardew. What was your take on that moody trip to St. James’s Park?

ROB: I love the Simpsons analogy. It hits the nail on the head, for me.

You’re right about the Newcastle game. That second half seemed to last forever and I was glad to see the back of it. I haven’t celebrated a goal quite as aggressively as I did for Negredo’s goal in the last minute for a long time. Most of the times we have scored this season I am awestruck and delirious but there was something different about that goal. Jumping around, punching the air and as Howard Hockin would say directing “adult words” towards the television. It was like sticking two fingers up to all the naysayers and neutrals who would have loved to have seen Newcastle get the equaliser that most people thought they deserved. In a way, it felt more like the good (bad) old days: scoring in adverse circumstances as opposed to scoring for fun. Oh and the irony of Alan Pardew, the man with a full head of grey hair, calling our Manuel a “f*cking old c*unt” made the victory all the more sweeter.

In terms of the football, I thought it was important as it showed that we could win ugly, which is supposedly an attribute of a title winning side. We didn’t play the best football and the referee more or less gave the Newcastle players free reign to kick the crap out of our players after their disallowed goal yet we still managed to get the win and keep a clean sheet. Though I didn’t particularly enjoy the game at the time, it is up there with one of my favourites of the month.

January saw the media raise awareness that City, as it stands, are on for the quadruple. Bizarrely, some sections of the media have mocked the very idea that their industry promoted. I don’t think any City fan honestly believes that it is possible. What are your thoughts on the quadruple?

CIARAN: I think it’s a load of nonsense, myself. If you’ve supported City for any serious amount of time, you’ll realise that thinking too positively or getting too ahead of yourself is not at all advisable. We have to walk before we can run. Winning the League Cup would be a great start.

Pellegrini’s not known for his trophy haul but he’s certainly got the team playing in such a way that we can fire on all fronts. To be in a final at all, is such a huge treat given where we’ve come from. I wish it didn’t have to be built up and turned into something extreme like a quadruple! Let’s say, hypothetically, that City win three trophies. Would that be deemed a disappointment because four were up for grabs? Then if they win two? Or just one?? The media have set us up for a fall where anything less that an unprecedented four trophies won’t seem good enough.

Manuel seems genuinely one of those managers who only thinks about the next game. And I think he’s got the team thinking like that, too. No fan should really be thinking of four trophies. It’s way too early in the day and it’s borne out of an arrogance that doesn’t suit us. Premier League aside, we’ve the small matter of two games against Barcelona to contend with in the Champion’s League and a difficult test versus Chelsea in the Cup. Nope. Not into this quadruple chat at all. It would be nice though, obviously…

The first of the two Barça games, the two Chelsea games, a trip to Norwich and Sunderland and Stoke at home in February. How do you see this month panning out for the Blues? Can they really maintain this glorious run of form?

ROB: Well, it’s got to end at some point and I feel a loss is just around the corner. That said, I thought we would lose in January and we didn’t so who knows. The Barca game is obviously the one we’re most likely to lose. I haven’t really thought about it on any serious level yet. No doubt that will change nearer to the game but for the time being I am just really exciting about City playing a team with Lionel Messi in it. It’s pretty mental when you think about it. Knowing City, they’ll thump Barca and lose to Norwich.

For me, the league is the most important thing so if we’re still competing at the top I’ll be more than happy. Hopefully we can speak again next month and City still haven’t lost. Here’s hoping…

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One comment on “Manchester City: A Review of January 2014
  1. Pingback: Manchester City: A Review of February 2014 and the Capital One Cup Final « Typical City

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