City went down two nil to Barcelona in what turned out to be a bit of an anti-climax. Barcelona deserved to win but at the same time City did not deserve to lose in the way they did. Keep reading for some thoughts in this bumper edition of Typical City Analysis…
Was the Result a Touch Harsh?
Yes. And no. But yes, it was harsh. Dani Alves’ goal right at the death was not undeserved, but at the same time it created a scoreline which did not reflect City’s efforts. For much of the game City matched their Catalan guests and could, even should, have scored at least once themselves through Negredo and Silva. That no chances were converted is frustrating especially considering the gallant defensive showing following Demichelis’ red card in the second half.
Demichelis has been scapegoated to an absurd degree by almost everyone in the press and many even among the City support. The fact is, he had one of his best games in a City shirt and was sold down the river by the otherwise excellent Kompany. The Belgian played Messi onside leaving Demichelis to make up ground and somehow stop Messi scoring when he was through on goal. I have yet to hear a satisfactory answer from a dissenting City fan about what they would have preferred him to do; Demichelis did his job – stopping a certain goal.
He is old, he is slow, he sometimes plays passes which make you want to cry, but he did his job last night. We cannot ask for anymore.
Coming back to Kompany and the rest of the defence, they were generally very good in the face of an outstanding attack and a referee who apparently disapproves of physical contact. Against a team like Barcelona if you make two mistakes you will concede two goals. It is sad, but those are the stakes. Champion’s League games rest on a fine knife edge and the slightest thing can make you fall. Surviving at the top level demands not just quality, but sustained excellence.
In midfield, the importance, and brilliance, of the Fernandinho-Toure axis was once again underlined. They were astoundingly good last night, harrying the Barcelona midfield and taking the fight to them. Their task was thankless but they did it admirably. We have missed ourskinny Brazilian friend. At the beginning of the season the City fans were unsure of him and mistrustful of his price tag. The general relief when his name was announced last night spoke louder than any words could as to his importance to the team.
Another man with a thankless task last night was Alvaro Negredo who toiled and troubled but got no joy. He knows and we know he should have put that first half header on target, but it might not have mattered anyway as Victor Valdes was just great all game. Negredo struggled as a lone front man in a game where the vast majority of the game was played behind him. It is difficult to criticise him for that.
…is not the be all and end all, as if we needed another reminder. Barcelona put on a demonstration of utterly pointless possession. Having 60% of the ball is great, but when it mostly goes from side to side it is not only boring but also a waste of time.
If the game had ended as a draw, the media narrative today would have been all about how Barcelona lacked penatration. We would be hearing about what Arsene Wenger dubbed ‘sterile domination’ and how City had a good chance of progressing in the return leg.
A disciplined defence and a tenacious midfield performance made huge swathes of Barcelona’s passing game dull beyond belief and City should take the positives from that. This is not the team of 3 years ago and the tie is not over yet.
Pellegrini was taught a harsh lesson by Bayern Munich about what happens when you open up against the best of the best. The manager is a pragmatist. Yesterday the team was set up to shut down Barcelona’s strengths and attack their perceived weaknesses.
Smart people call that setting out tactics to enact a larger strategy. The other kind of people call it a lack of courage and an excess of fear.
Normally I would not touch this subject with a bargepole for two reasons; 1) Getting angsty about an anti-City agenda in the media is a short path to an early stress-induced grave, and 2) Howard Hockin does it so, so much better in his regular Paranoia Watch sections.
However, this time I will make an exception. The vast majority of the press seems to have come down with the journalistic equivalent of rabies, foaming at the mouth as their brains melt with the excitement of being able to give City a shoeing.
For F365’s Sarah Winterburn, the Premier League Owl and Jonathan Wilson there were positives for City to take home and a recognition that misfortune had a large part to play.
For apparently every single other journalist in world sport this was a failure of the evil big money against a team who play a somehow purer football. There was a school cafeteria mentality where the self conscious, disliked, self righteous, self appointed moral warriors saw an opportunity to bag on a bigger boy who they normally can’t.
They have this morning proven themselves to be small people who City fans are best off ignoring. Life is too short.
Once again, last night was an illustration that whilst City have an admirable squad, there are a few men we really, really miss when it comes down to it.
The aforementioned Fernandinho was simply excellent. The Typical City writers have been banging this particular Brazilian drum since his third match and it is a viewpoint vindicated more and more every week. He is a step above and worth more than his weight in gold (oil?) in this current team. Fernandinho’s fitness is a non-negotiable part of any success we have this season and next.
Samir Nasri has also proved to be a vital part of this team. Fan favourite David Silva was outstanding last night, but there are levels even he cannot reach on his own. Silva and Nasri elevate themselves, each other and the team to greater heights when both are on the pitch. This season’s Samir Nasri is better then his best season at Arsenal. City looked instantly more dangerous when he was introduced last night. He visibly rattled Busquets and the Barcelona defence and will be a key player in the second leg.
James Milner was unfortunately suspended last night. Following the red card he would have been a perfect substitution. When your back is to the wall there are few better people to have at your side than Milner. He has the ability to turn himself into an immovable object which would have been invaluable against the relentless Barcelona.
Finally, Sergio Aguero. The team is built around him and is not the same in his absence. We should start getting our heads around the idea that he will not be with us until his retirement (however sad that is) but whilst we have him he has to be fit as much as possible. If he is fit and firing for the trip to Spain then I believe we will win. It is as simple as that. He has form for winning games single handedly over there and Barcelona are utterly terrified of him.
Heads Up, Blues
This is not over yet. Our players are never more dangerous than when they are out to salvage their pride. Ask Chelsea and Bayern Munich.
We still have so much to play for and I for one am looking forward to it.
Written by Alex Timperley who is on Twitter