City buried any worries about the recent blip in form with an outstanding performance against the Chelsea team which had previously ended the team’s immaculate home record. It was a decisive performance and City are deservedly into the next round of the FA Cup. Here are a few thoughts…
This Was Not Revenge
There will be a lot of talk about ‘revenge’ after this game, but let’s take a cue from Pellegrini who rejected the idea that it was a motivator in his post-match press conference. Let’s talk about City instead because, frankly, the players deserve it after a game like that.
Yesterday evening saw a complete team performance. At any time in the game, the 11 City players on the pitch had the measure of their opponents and thoroughly dominated the game. When you can restrict a team like Chelsea to having no shots on target for 90 minutes you are doing something right.
Much of this impressive display was rooted in the midfield. Toure was outplayed by Nemanja Matic in the previous game but, as so often before, used that to motivate himself and last night played on a different level. Matic could not touch him as Toure fought to give himself the freedom to play his own game. Milner also had an excellent game, playing as Pellegrini’s anti-Hazard weapon of choice. He was energetic and relentless in shutting down the young Belgian – a feat even more impressive when Hazard’s previous terrifying display at the Etihad is taken into account. Finally, Javi Garcia. Typical City’s very own Bob Toole took an enormous amount of flak in January for even suggesting that Garcia has improved this season. It would be nice to think that last night’s performance would quiet the naysayers on that front; He was excellent throughout. Strong and decisive in the challenge, read the game well, and refused to allow the Chelsea midfield to dictate the pace of the game. His grin when he picked up a yellow in the latter stages of the game said it all; Garcia looked like he was enjoying himself, and suddenly Pellegrini has a legitimate option for Tuesday night in the absence of Fernandinho.
The defence and the forward men also acquitted themselves fantastically well. Lescott’s performance in particular was a welcome surprise at the back. He has not been getting as many games as he might like recently, but last night’s was a solid one. After City got bullied in the previous game, Lescott’s strength was the perfect tonic. His last ditch tackle on Matic as the Serbian was on the verge of shooting from 8 yards was another standout.
At the other end of the pitch it was one of those nights where things just clicked into place. Aguero and Negredo have spent the season hovering up the headlines, and deservedly so, but on the evidence of last night we may have another top class strike partnership unfolding in the wings. Both Dzeko and Jovetic had excellent games individually last night. Crucially, they also had a great game as a pair, looking a constant threat and opening up gaps in the defence for the grateful Silva (and later Nasri) to exploit almost at will. Jovetic’s goal should stand him in good stead for the Barcelona game on Tuesday where he will now surely play a part.
This Was Necessary
…and so onto Tuesday night and Barcelona! The Catalans have unfortunately started playing themselves back into form just before their trip to the Etihad. They are sat at the top of La Liga and both Messi and Neymar are fit for the Champion’s League clash – As if they weren’t a formidable opponent already.
City though…we could not have asked for a much better preparation than this week. The cancelled game against Sunderland gave the players a longer rest and this win against Chelsea will give them that bit of confidence and belief which could be the slim margin we will need.
Seeing this season’s Samir Nasri back and still in the form of his City career is a massive relief. He will be a key player against Barcelona. The cheers which greeted his arrival on the pitch were thoroughly heartwarming.
On a similar note, having Jovetic finally fit is already helping reduce our reliance on Aguero which had looked to be something of a deathblow. The Montenegrin does things a little differently from our other strikers, seems to see slightly different football geometry, and that might be another of those fine margins that are required to progress in the Champion’s League.
See you on Tuesday, everyone.
Written by Alex Timperley who is on Twitter