Manchester City: The August 2015 Review

Manchester City’s excellent start to the season has meant that the first Typical City monthly review of the 2015/16 campaign is a happy one. As usual, Ciaran Murray and Rob Toole cast their minds back and ponder the biggest talking points of the month. On the agenda in this edition is the Chelsea game, Raheem Sterling, the goal of the month and much more…

Rob: City couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season. Four wins, four clean sheets and 10 goals scored. There are plenty of choices but what was your personal highlight of the month? 

Ciaran: Personal highlight was quite simply the Chelsea game. It was absolutely incredible and there was not one negative aspect to the game or the day even. You and me have moved into the South Stand after being in a pretty dead section of the stadium for the past few seasons. There was a buzz from sitting there that I’ve rarely experienced at the ground. So many people were saying it was up there with the best games at the Etihad in terms of atmosphere. I was buzzing for days after and I know you said the same. Pleasingly, the atmosphere was still pretty electric for Watford. It could help the Etihad become an intimidating fortress again after last year’s relatively poor home form.

The match itself was so exciting and we handed Chelsea a proper pasting. Beating the champions like that sends a proper message around the league and sides must surely be dreading playing City. It was lovely to see Aguero get off the mark for the season, to see Vinny add to his tally following on from a goalless and altogether disappointing campaign and to see my little fave Fernandinho overcome a personal test against the despicable Diego Costa and to score a sensationally taken goal. It’s hard to think of any poor performances this season but there wasn’t a player that day who didn’t excel in his given position and role. What a day and what a way to open the new stand!

Raheem Sterling was pretty impressive in that game and has had a really solid start to his life at City. How would you assess the young winger’s first four games? And in general, how have you rated City’s business in this summer’s transfer window?

Rob: Individually, I would say Sterling has been steady and is gradually improving game by game without being sensational. That said, his presence alone has seemingly transformed the dynamic of the team. We look like a completely different proposition now and with every passing game the huge fee for him is being justified. I saw a good article by Seb Stafford-Bloor about how the opposition fear what Sterling might do even if he is not at the top of the game. Given his steady start to life at City I think it pretty much hits the nail on the head. The potential threat is a pretty powerful weapon at City, if you think about. If Aguero isn’t bothering you then there could be Yaya or Sterling or Silva or Nasri or Navas or Kolarov or Sagna or Ferna…you get my point. 

It was lovely to see him get off the mark against Watford last weekend, too, even if it was on a screen in the concourse because I was still finishing my half time refreshment. I blame the queue. The best thing is I think we all know he is going to continue to get better. I’ve heard on the grapevine that Jordan Ibe is better than him anyway so I fully expect us to sign him in January! 

As far as the other signings are concerned, I’m pretty pleased. I haven’t really seen any of them play before apart from Delph but the fees we have paid would suggest we have are trying to build a squad that can genuinely challenge for the title and make serious inroads into Europe. It’s going to be a waiting game, I guess, but I’m looking forward to seeing how they get on. 

Before the season started a number of fans were laying eggs about the state of the defence but both Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala are playing like men possessed at the moment. What have you made of their form so far and what do you attribute the changes to? 

Ciaran: Given that this is the August review, I’ll cast your mind back to the first of the month. City, featuring a back four made up of Kolarov, Sagna, Mangala and Kompany conceded 4 goals in a woeful first half against Stuttgart; the 14th best side in Germany last season. Pre-season doesn’t matter of course, and the reaction that day was over the top but still, it’s astonishing to be sat here at the end of August in the knowledge that the same back four has not been breached once in the Premier League.

The partnership at centre-back has impressed me so much, ya know. I put it down to a number of factors that seem to have all clicked together at the right time. Kompany was taken out of the firing line at the end of last summer, had a long rest in the summer and came back early to get himself up to speed. His dedication to the cause is not in doubt and the fire in his belly is back. Scoring in the first game, then going on the score in the second, seems to have given him huge amounts of confidence and, to paraphrase Gaz Medina, the fans seem to be falling in love with our captain all over again. He looks sharper, fitter, hungrier, more measured in position and less rash in the tackle and in his decision making.

He’s in good company. Eliaquim Mangala, for me, is the Mangala of the Match – every match. What a guy! Seriously, though, most of us saw the potential within him last season but unfortunately we also saw the raw, naive side to his game and how a mistake was never far away. He seems much more settled at the moment, the protracted transfer saga of last summer and the pressures that come with his price tag have eased and, as he predicted it would be in an interview with Daniel Taylor last season, his second season is already looking better, just as it did when he was at Porto. Having his former Porto teammate, Nicolás Otamendi, breathing down his neck wanting a starting place is presumably helping Mangala, too.

Everyone in the side at the moment is chipping in with defensive cover at the moment, I’ve noticed. The options up front and the passing and possession by the more attack minded players are helping the defence out and Fernandinho has been playing out of his skin as a shield for the back four. Sagna has been immense at right back and Kolarov has been extremely effective at both front and back. I really didn’t expect to be gushing about our defence in this way given how the month starting but perhaps a meaningless friendly at the start of the month was an invaluable kick up the arse for City’s defensive unit.

I’m struggling to think of a player having anything resembling a poor performance so far this season, which leaves you with a fairly difficult task. Who’s been your player of what’s been a flawless month?

Rob: What a tough, but great, question. I could easily pick anyone in the team and be fully justified in my decision, I think. That said, I’ll go for Fernandinho because Garth Crooks chooses  any player who has scored a goal in his team of the week and given that Ferna has scored two this season that obviously means he has been the best player. Joking aside, he probably has actually been the best.

I must admit, I had my doubts whether he could rekindle his debut season form in the current campaign. After a fairly poor second season where he appeared to suffer a World Cup hangover and found himself in and out of the side, I began to question him. What with so much being made of the age of City’s squad toward the end of last season I probably got caught up in the hype and I feared for him. I’m glad to have been proven wrong so soon into the season, though. 

When Ferna is on top of his game he is a joy to watch. Like you say, he works his socks to protect the back four, but given that he isn’t an out and out defensive player he always seems to have something a bit different up his sleeve. Whereas others in his position may be rather ponderous in possession he has the quickness of mind and feet to either release the ball quickly or dart forward to set up an attack. I think that is his natural game and, so far, he has been aided by his team mates covering him when he does get forward.

I love how both the goals he has scored, so far, have been more or less identical. I’m not sure why,  but I do, so there you go. The one against Chelsea was particularly enjoyable. It is what turned that game from just a “good win” into a “pasting”. When I celebrated the first two goals against Chelsea I sort of felt aggressive happiness, like you know, when you punch the air and say a few naughty words. When Ferna scored, though, I just remember jumping on the spot for ages like a small child so full of joy (and sugar) that the only way they know how to deal with it is to jump around a lot. I suppose that kind of joy is what he is like when he plays. He always has a smile on his face and looks like he is having fun. Long may it continue.

Talking of goals, we have seen a few wee treats already this season. What would be your favourite so far and why?

Ciaran: Really thought you’d say Silva but I can’t disagree on Fernandinho. Some great goals, aye. The biggest wee treat, though, was definitely Nasri’s goal against Everton. The finish itself was sumptuous but it was really all about Yaya’s pass. Such is the competition for places in the starting lineup, Nasri’s appearances will most likely be from the bench, as injury cover or in cup competitions. That makes it easy to forget what a great player he is and what a great chemistry he has with Yaya Toure.

Already at 1-0 through Kolarov, on the 88th minute, and with the pressure from Everton building, substitute Nasri ensured the points. A brilliant, deft chip from Toure into Nasri’s path saw the Frenchman use his quick thinking presence of mind to lift it over Tim Howard as he rushed out. Yaya’s pass, though! Like a film action hero walking from a building as it blows up behind him, the big Ivorian didn’t even look as he set up his little mate. Too cool to even look at the carnage he’d caused; his delicate, nonchalant yet explosive best. I’ve watched the vine of it about a 100 times. A no-look pass I couldn’t stop looking at. Yaya’s third league assist of the season when last year he, unbelievably, only managed one (thanks to @CityAcrossPond for that mad stat). Like so many of our players this season, Yaya looks ready for battle. I hope we see plenty of Samir Nasri this season – I’m so glad he’s staying and is willing to fight for his place.

Hope September’s review is as enjoyable to write as this was. City are back.

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