City offered up a disappointing draw at Carrow Road yesterday and slipped to third place in the Premier League. Injuries and fatigue seem to finally be taking their toll on a squad which had seemed invincible over the last few months. Keep reading for a few more thoughts on the game…
Whenever City drop points recently the prophets of doom stalk the streets and declare the end of the world. Yesterday was not good, granted, but it’s early February and calling the title race off already is madness. It is forgivable coming from journalists who have to sensationalise news to sell copies and gain clicks; We live in a world where a journalist’s value as a writer can literally be measured by how many people click on their articles – expecting the papers not to declare this a ‘turning point’ in the title race is unreasonable. From City fans, I expect more. How can anyone who saw the end of the 2011/12 season be existentially anxious for our season already?
This is not to say we should ignore the negative aspects of yesterdays performance. With the exception of Joe Hart who had a solid game, hesitancy ran through the team. Passes went astray, risks were avoided in favour of safety, and there was a lack of decisive action in defence. We are not used to seeing the sort of dithering that was on display yesterday and hopefully Pellegrini will sort it out soon.
Martin Demichelis was a one man summation of the mood of the team. He looked like a man suffering some kind of football PTSD after his less than satisfactory performance against Chelsea. He got lucky a few times and spent the game looking more in fear of making a mistake than usual. On the other hand, Demichelis showed glimpses of the player we know he can be with several fantastic interceptions when Norwich looked to be away, and the usual excellent heading ability (except for that one glaring chance he missed from corner.) As Demichelis goes, so does the team of late. When he is good, City tend to play well, when he has an horrorshow City tend to be bad. It is a coincidental rather than a causal link, but it makes for an interesting shorthand window into how City have played this year.
It Will All Be OK
But as stated above, please can we not get carried away. In an ideal world City would have won yesterday, or at least played better, but they didn’t and there are a few mitigating circumstances that should be considered.
Firstly, the injury list is stacking up. It is becoming a well worn refrain that any team without Aguero, Nasri, and Fernandinho would struggle, but repetition does not invalidate the point. All the qualities City lacked at Carrow Road – invention, decisiveness, relentlessness – are, not coincidentally, embodied and provided by the three injured first teamers. In addition to this Pellegrini has stated time and again over the past week that neither Dzeko nor Negredo are at full fitness with ankle and shoulder injuries respectively. Jovetic looks like he is going to be a very, very good player for us but he cannot be expected to put 90 minutes in every week after a long layoff. He has started to give us hints of what he might be capable of and if he reaches full fitness he should be a sight to behold. He said this week that he chose City over Real Madrid and I have a suspicion we may be extremely grateful for that over the coming years.
Secondly, our February and early March Premier League fixtures should offer encouragement. Not only do we have relatively simple fixtures in between games against Barcelona (x2) and Chelsea again (FA Cup) but our title rivals have showdowns against top teams which will distract media attention. The next month is going to be vital but thankfully it is also manageable and the team can be expected to pick themselves up again very shortly.
Life is Good
Bumps in the road are inevitable. It would have taken an enormous amount of Red Bull to stretch the form of the last two months all the way into May. It is unfortunate that this slight setback came at Carrow Road as it has been a happy hunting ground for City in recent years (and an hilarious one before that, as Bob Toole recently reminded us), but it is better to get this out of our system at Norwich rather than at Anfield, the Emirates or Old Trafford. Chins up, Blues.
Written by Alex Timperley who is on Twitter