Manchester City entered the Capital One Cup in the third round, a luxury afforded to English teams that qualify for European competition and one the Blues have become quite accustomed to.
City headed into this competition as holders of the trophy having triumphed over Sunderland back in March. Championship side Sheffield Wednesday were the visitors, which, on paper, wasn’t the most daunting of tasks. Though, having suffered cup embarrassment against Wigan last season, Manuel Pellegrini must surely have learned a lesson about complacency. So it proved as City romped to victory, though it didn’t always look like that would be the case.
Yes, seriously; some of you will be looking at this and wondering how I can find the negatives in a thumping victory, but there are a couple of things that I feel I should address.
The first half saw City come up against a Sheffield Wednesday team that were incredibly well organised. It is unreasonable to expect to win every game against inferior opposition at a canter, but City certainly weren’t helping themselves at times. Too often they were slow in tempo, sloppy in possession and hesitant in the final third. That’s not the first time that has been observed this season either – the defeat to Stoke also drew similar criticism.
There seemed to be a lack of imagination not commonly associated with Pellegrini’s side. David Silva was unquestionably missed and there didn’t look to be anybody capable of taking up his mantle.
Despite finding some good positions for crossing, Bacary Sagna’s lack of pace still strikes me as something City need to work around on the right side. When he’s paired down that flank with Navas it’s always going to be difficult for him to reproduce the excellent overlapping play that is such a big part of Zabaleta’s game. That isn’t Sagna’s fault, but it is an issue to resolve.
The only other obvious downside to this one is finding out there are fans so naturally downbeat they find time to moan after a 7-0 win.
The Good (The very, very good)
Well, where to start? The second period, was frankly, a contrast so sharp it was hard to believe we were watching the same two teams that had competed in the first half.
Three goals in the opening nine minutes of the half completely killed the game off and erased memories of a first half in which it had looked like City could toil all night without getting any reward. Particular highlights were Frank Lampard, whose experience and class still shine like a particularly shiny beacon despite his age. He grabbed the goal that got City on their way, as well as rounding the scoring off in stoppage time. He might quietly be one of the shrewdest pieces of business done this summer, if his impact this week is anything to go by.
Jesus Navas’ incredible pace and delivery were evident throughout the second half, the Spaniard taking advantage of an opposition rapidly diminishing in confidence as City hammered nail after nail into their coffin. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with his start to the season and performances like this will strengthen his claim to be a regular starter this term. He also scored an absolutely blinding goal so skillful and sweetly struck that it forced a guttural noise from me the like of which I’ve not produced before.
In the interests of keeping things brief, I’ll finish by saying that I was delighted to see Jose Angel Pozo make his City debut and do so well. In his short time on the pitch he managed to play a big part in one goal, as well as getting one for himself. It’s clear the young chap is highly thought of at City and this experience will do him no harm at all.
Oh, one more point – how good was it to see Dedryck Boyata and Scott Sinclair on the same pitch? Could this be a glimpse of a beautiful future? Watch this space.
written by Richard Burns