Thursday, April 18, 2013

WHERE NOW FOR YAYA?

There can be few sights that Premier League players find more disagreeable than that of Yaya Touré in full flight, ball at or near his feet, nostrils flared and the mad glazed eyes of a big man in a hurry, bearing straight towards them in a cloud of dust and whirring limbs. As David Luiz will testify, it fair makes your hair shrivel up. All things being equal, City fans will have the pleasure of seeing this giant human form scaring opponents witless for another four years. By then he will be 33 and it is hard to see him keeping up his current on-pitch lifestyle much beyond that.

Touré snugly fits the modern template of African Midfielders:Destination Europe. The theory goes that, once the mobile wardrobe qualities of Pape Bouba Diop and his ilk had been recognised by British and continental European coaches, all slamming doors and rattling coat hangers, this was all the clubs wanted or expected from African clubs and their bulging academies. Bring me a wardrobe, came the cry. Michael Essien carried the torch for African powerhouses under Mourinho at Chelsea. Now Yaya Touré is possibly the best example of the genre.

Built like a container ship with wings, the Beast of Bondoukou has been called a buffalo in ballet shoes, his giant frame concealing a nifty turn of speed and a pair of twinkling feet that Margot Fonteyn would have been proud of, if a little aghast that they were twelve sizes too big for her sheer pink tights.

Touré combines speed, power and technique. He dominates the central areas of the field and eats up lengths of football pitch like a labrador chasing a rubber ball. It was not always thus. Played predominantly defensively for Barcelona, he became underused in Catalonia, despite a heroic display at centre back against Manchester United in the Champions League final at Wembley in 2009. With Dani Alves, Eric Abidal and, most importantly, Mexican stopper Rafael Marquez all out of the final, Touré was drafted in to shore up the defence. He was, by general agreement, immense in that game, blotting out the United attack, which in the second half included latter day team mate Carlos Tevez. Touré´s versatility was clear for all to see at this point, even if his best position in the team was still a moot point for the Ivorian.

Touré attacks Michael Carrick in Barcelona's colours
Earlier in his career, by the limpid waters of Monte Carlo, he had fallen out with Monaco's Romanian coach Laszlo Bolöni over where he should be employed to the greatest effect. Touré saw himself as an all-action midfielder, Bolöni wished to play him further back to soak up pressure. This identity crisis continued at Barcelona, where he played more than 100 games in the blaugrana shirt, mostly as a defensive midfielder and occasionally, as in the afore-mentioned Champions League final, even further back than that.   

His move to City saw him start in a midfield that already contained the solidity of Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong. Early sightings of him by the City faithful were generally positive, but suggested little of just what was about to be unleashed on English defences the land over. As he found his feet, we were quickly to become aware that City's £24 million had secured a rare beast: Touré seemed equally at home engaged in the impossibly hectic melée of Premier League midfield scrambles or further forward taking possession into the danger zones at the pointy end of the pitch. The goals he scored did not just involve finding the target, but demolishing it. His runs from deep seemed to build up so much
In the distinctive colours of AS Monaco
momentum, only a simpleton with a death wish would choose to get in the way. He often arrived at the edge of the box with two or three defenders floating in his slipstream or hanging off his shoulders like streamers at a particularly windy wedding. He was a force of nature, the like of which we had not seen before.

He has since cemented his place in City folklore with a semi-final and final winner in the club's incredible journey to FA Cup success in 2009, breaking a 35 year-hoodoo on trophy wins in the process. As City's squad building has evolved from sweetshop syndrome to a far more measured organic construction, Yaya's presence has become ever more pronounced, to the point where he became Roberto Mancini's game changer. The removal of forwards to be replaced by utility blockers and runners was at the time greeted with doubt from those City-watchers, who failed to grasp what was being enacted. As exiting striker gave way to a Lescott or a Kolarov, Yaya was released from his den and given the freedom to roam. A season or so after these substitutions began to become a feature, he is recognised as the foremost purveyor of this art in world football. However, as Zonal Marking's Michael Cox suggested in his Life's A Pitch column, this versatility can sometimes act as a double-edged sword.


The common refrain about Touré is that he is irreplaceable in Man City’s midfield. There’s a large degree of truth to this – which other midfielder in Europe is versatile enough to play such a variety of roles? (...) There are two ways to look at this. One is that Touré is unique, and retaining him is vital to Man City’s development over the next few years. The other is more complex – if no one else in Europe has a midfielder like him, is a player in that mould necessary?
"You won't be smiling when you hear where I'm playing you!"
Perhaps at least part of the conundrum is called Gareth Barry.This is a player who has been as influential as any in City's increasingly successful campaigns. With Barry mopping, tidying and dusting, Touré has been free to rearrange the furniture of Premier League defences. Much derided by the national press, Barry has been man of the match on many occasions and does his unheralded work seamlessly and selflessly. The bigger the game, the better he does it. Witness recent outings at old Trafford and Wembley, where he was excellent in both matches. With the unflinchingly steady Barry alongside, Yaya's role looks perfectly clear. Barry mops up, Touré receives and charges. they seem perfect for each other and, when paired with nimble, skillful team-mates like Silva and Nasri, the effect can be mesmerising.

Too often this season, the effect has been less than mesmerising, however. Could it be that Barry creates a new conundrum? His is a clear and vital role, but can City go higher with this sort of player in the side? The question is as painful as it is cruel, but reaching the European zenith requires tough decisions. In the title winning season, Mancini's midfield of choice was clearly Barry-Yaya-Nasri-Silva, with De Jong and Milner the first options to call on. This season, with Nasri's form and application questioned and Silva's influence fluctuating, there has been more chopping and changing in the engine room. De Jong's steady presence as a capable fill-in has gone and neither Rodwell nor Garcia have been able to step in and do the same calibre job.Whether original targets from last summer Busquets, de Rossi and Javi Martinez would have been better suited we will never know.

Solutions please. Too late.



The question for Mancini this summer is how to best harness the power of Yaya Touré, whilst avoiding blunting other areas of the midfield. Is another season of Barry's effective scuttling worth opting for or is this the right time to look for a high quality player to sit in the hole in front of the back four? Whilst all the talk this summer will be about multi million pound strikers, it may be a less heralded position doing the dirty work that proves the most difficult one and the most important one to fill adequately.

Monday, April 15, 2013

AN ERA BEDECKED IN SKY BLUE

Two FA Cup semi finals were played out at the same venue over the weekend. They could not have been more different if one had featured a team of decorated bull elephants larruping a ball the size of David Luiz's swollen backside from one penalty box to the other

Millwall-Wigan had rain, a team out of its depth playing another that appeared to be jockeying for the title of Poorest Side to Grace an FA Cup Semi Final in Living Memory, swathes of unwanted seats and a nasty mist of fists at the end when the inevitable denouement wrapped itself around the side placed 18th in the NPower Championship.


The other went quite a long way to redeeming the good name of football. Played out to a backdrop of packed stands in bright sunshine, it featured two well-calibrated team going hell for leather for each other's throats for 94 pulsating minutes. If you were left breathless watching it, you were not alone. Fans of City and Chelsea dragged themselves to the exits at the end having been drained of most of the adrenaline needed to lift Olympic standard weights. The draining of essential body fluids during the previous hour and half had left some looking like they had just jogged across the Sahara with a lifesize Rafa Benitez stuffed into their rucksacks.

Manchester City, with their own Olympic weights lifted off those forever rounded shoulders, have reached their second FA Cup final in three years. Nothing for half a lifetime, then two almost back to back. Just like that. We are traversing strange and wonderful times to be a blue, that cannot be denied, and for the many thousands, who have waited a lifetime to see these bright brushstrokes light up their days, it takes some believing. The only advice must be to pinch yourselves to make sure you're still with us, sit back and enjoy the moment.

So Manchester City became the ninth team to reach ten or more FA Cup finals. Sergio Aguero scored in a sky blue shirt for the first time with his head and Gareth Barry ended the match outpacing the Chelsea midfield. If this wasn't proof enough that we live in a skewed universe, nothing was.
   
And this to say nothing of the man in Manchester City's goal. Costel Pantilimon's name alone conjures an image of an Eastern European circus trapeze artist. Seeing him out on the pitch, as tall as a skyscraper and as thin as a poker, dressed from head to toe in green (now there's a thing for a
goalkeeper), the mind could have been forgiven for drifting into reveries of what sort of goalkeepers giant courgettes might make.

As City's FA Cup goalkeeper, Pantilimon leads an odd life. Ostensibly ignored, nodded at by the dinner ladies as he picks up his lightly broiled sea bass at Carrington's walk in canteen and handed his meagre postbag as they wheel in Aguero's using a fork-lift truck, the stringy second choice keeper would be forgiven for yelling a few choice Romanian expletives at the seeming lack of attention.

Today, the jolly green giant can take his public bow, however, after a performance in the second half at Wembley that kept City in pole position in a game that had already been won and was a Romanian whisker away from needing to be won a second time.

City had delivered 60 minutes of ferocious possession football, played with pace and venom, cutting repeatedly through Chelsea's tired ranks. The Blues last match may have been the sapping ordeal of a successful Manchester derby, but that had been last Monday. Chelsea were still wiping the Moscow snow from their eyes late on Thursday evening. Six of those present in Russia were on the pitch from the start here, hoping their legs would hold out, pushing tired muscles forward against the natural urge to sit down and recuperate properly. City were too fast, too slick and, as it turned out, a little too rapid even for their own good. The only thing missing appeared to be the compass normally swinging from Yaya's neck to deliver the final slide rule killer pass.

Too often we came so far but not further. When the ball did hit the back of the Chelsea net, it came about after yet another coruscating run from the giant haystack Yaya Touré, an immovable object that spent the afternoon ransacking Chelsea's middle orders. This time the Beast of Bondoukou slashed his way through from the right, passed to Aguero, who moved it on to Nasri, enjoying the spaces left by Silva's absence. By this time the ball was moving with such speed, Nasri's attempted and hurried return pass to Aguero struck the hitherto faceless but soon to be hapless Azpilicueta and fell nicely for the Frenchman to stab home. His grin could have sliced a water melon.   


The half finished with an astonishing five man break from City, with Milner homing in on Chelsea's beleagured three defenders. There were fully four City men to pass to in the box: Aguero, Tevez, Nasri and the storming trooper Kompany. Milner chose an odd hybrid of overhit cross and wayward shot and all was lost.

As a happy Mancini confirmed afterwards "I think we played very well in the first half and had everything under control." This was it in a nutshell. What the Italian might lack in subtlety of phrase, he makes up for with nouse and foresight. What he might also have said was this: the game should have been up when Aguero got his head on Gareth Barry's looping cross to make it 2-0 in the 47th minute. The Argentine had never before nutted one in. Incredible. The build up, blurringly fast once again, had come about after the increasingly hapless Azpilicueta's throw-in had gone astray in
City faithful remember absent friends
dangerous territory. It was the Basque's limp jump with Aguero that had allowed a free header too. City were now so much on top thanks to this psychologically well placed blow, that you would have put more money on John Terry coming up with the Romanian for pease pudding than any royal blue fightback taking place


But football is a strange beast, a quixotic maiden, who likes to flutter its eyelashes and flash its ankles before planting a boot between your legs. Here it took one last wanton look at the City faithful, then hurried, rucked skirts in hands straight for the opposition benches where it hooked up with the Man in the Mask, Fernando Torres.

It has long been said that Benitez teams start slowly and there was evidence of this again here as Chelsea immediately took to the flanks and started to give City a real thumping. Those tired Russian legs suddenly pumped again. City, having played the minutes after the second goal a bit like the Harlem Globetrotters Exhibition Tour, were now being asked to regroup, refocus and redouble their energy. This is a tricky act when the mind has started to cool things down and it was clear the Blues were having problems getting up for the unexpected surge in Chelsea's game.


So we were left hanging on by Ba's immediate strike, City's first goal conceded in the tournament so far this season, an incredible feat, despite the weak efforts of Watford, Stoke, Leeds and Barnsley in previous rounds. Chelsea's sudden momentum was now difficult to stop. Where Yaya had bulldozered, now Mata and Hazard danced, the former denied by the string-bean torso of Pantilimon, when he looked set to score. .   

Brazil-Argentina: art + savagery
As the finger nails disappeared, we were left with two more major talking points before the lights went out. First Kompany attempted a shirt swap with Torres before the end of the match, for which referee Foy, missing more and more as the game progressed, waved play on. benitez was beside himself, a neat feat for a big man, and dark blue arms were aloft but to no avail. Then serial fouler Luiz ended up having his backside pricked like a sausage going in the oven as Aguero's celeste y blanco mist descended on seeing a canary yellow buttock. This was Brazil-.Argentina in full pomp. The beauty, the savagery, the unfeasibly frizzy hair. Luiz would later bleat to the press that Aguero should clean up his act, a magnificent honey-coated irony given the Brazilian's entire game is based on the surreptitious nudge and the unseen poke.  

It was left to Mancini to phrase it in his own way. "I need glasses. I didn't see it," he said smiling. What Mancini will have seen with this victory is a possible second FA Cup win in three years to add to the Premier League won last May.

If that, along with the delirious backing of the City faithful, does not keep the popular Italian in a job for next season, nothing will.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

PARALLEL LINES

Sometimes clubs just manage to avoid each other.

You can count the number of times Manchester City and Chelsea have met in the FA Cup on the fingers of one hand. Two hands if you are an Amazonian three-fingered frog Brachycephalus tridactylus).

In well over one hundred years of mortal cup combat the two sides, hardly strangers in league football down the decades, have met just five times, two of those in the last three years. Two of the other occasions are shrouded in so much ancient grey mist that only the record books will remember them: a 3rd round defeat in 1905 and a 4th round win in 1948. Whilst the fates have decreed that the parallel histories of these two grand old clubs have been strikingly similar, they also decided for reasons known only to themselves that it be best to keep them apart in this particular competition.


City's most recent fixture with Chelsea in the FA Cup came as far back as 1971, at a wet, grimy and tumbledown Stamford Bridge, where a 4th round match was carried off comfortably by a stunningly dominant Colin Bell and his slightly less empowered team-mates to the tune of 3-0. The goal highlights of that clinical and exhilarating performance are here:




Despite many hoping that the two sides would be kept apart in anticipation of a grand FA Cup final between two juggernauts of the modern game, the fixture as a semi-final gives a historical quirk to the occasion and allows the final a scent of the romance of the cup that certain wizened commentators like to state no longer exits. Whoever prevails at Wembley on Sunday, will be faced with the task of getting the mindset just right to take on either Wigan Athletic or Millwall in the final in May. This means the victors here will have to either guard against complacency facing a lesser light at the final hurdle or practise ignoring the sound of rioting off to the side of the pitch.

Chopper
For City fans a semi-final is still a thing of rare beauty, be it against a recognised superpower of the game or a minnow. It really matters little. To the powers that be, a different attitude appears to prevail, however. It would seem that small clubs and giant-killers are welcome up to and including the quarter-finals, where their tricky dealings with the Liverpools of this world make for fascinating and hilarious television, but thereafter we must assume the role of mickey-takers on the grounds that the likes of Oldham, Barnsley and in this case Wigan cannot find enough fans to fill Wembley. Hardly surprising that Wigan, with a 19,000 home average in the Premier League and Millwall, with 9,000 die-hards at their last home game, are struggling to shift 31,000 tickets each. If the game had been played somewhere that made sense, at Villa Park for example, the arguments and tittering might have been avoided.


City and Chelsea on the other hand will not have a problem taking up their allocations, despite the well
A rare cup semi final appearance v Ipswich at Villa Park in 81
thought-out decision to play all semi-finals in London from now on. In a week dominated by the death of Margaret Thatcher, the keen whiff of rampant capitalism hangs heavy in the air yet again in the FA's insistence on playing these games down south. The massive overspend on our national stadium now means that we are morally mortgaged to the steel bauble for life.  

City's sudden liking for cup semi-finals, be they at Wembley or elsewhere, has crept up and taken some of us by surprise. Between 1981 and 2011 there were none to savour, not even in the League Cup. Thirty years passed without a sniff. Now we prepare to take part in our fourth in four seasons, after recent efforts in the League Cup against United and Liverpool (both unsuccessful) and United in the FA Cup (turned out really quite well). How times change and how quickly.

Curiously, - and here is the quirk of fate referred to earlier, which should make non-followers shudder with mirth - to find stand-out late stage cup encounters between City and Chelsea, it's necessary to look into the histories of two competitions that no longer exist: the Cup Winners Cup and the Full Members' Cup. The latter, something of a joke replacement for the European football taken from us by The Men In The Know at UEFA in the 80s, provided us all with an unforgettably surreal day out in London in 1986, lovingly remembered here. The former threw City and Chelsea together at the semi-final stage in 1971, the Londoners winning both legs 1-0 against a heavily depleted City side shorn of their main performers.Chelsea in those days a wickedly attacking side containing Charlie Cooke, Peter Osgood and the spiteful little leg breaker Ron Harris, were a match for the best.

Old style Stamford Bridge

The Chelsea we face this weekend is a different beast. European Champions, multiple league and cup winners, their noughties revolution continues to prove those wrong, who say stability is needed to win trophies in this sport. Clearly, this is not true. Throw enough money at it and something will go right eventually. Whilst City attempt to persuade the world that this sort of "project" can be undertaken with growth and an even keel, Chelsea have opted for the alternative route with remarkable success.

So, we face a game with little tradition but plenty of history, against a side whose desperate 80s matched our own, whose current moneyed renaissance also mirrors our own. This is a side, which- until relatively recently - had an Indian sign over City. Watching Sven's fragile artists concede six, Keegan's swashbucklers ship five, a first day of the season at The Bridge with Corradi and Samaras blowing translucent bubbles up front, Gudjohnsen's floated last minute winner at Eastlands and any number of other horrendous embarrassments, would have led some us to believe this was one gig where we would always be the support act with the amps turned down. The New Chelsea, with its plethora of A listers was a constant grinding source of displeasure for City supporters.

With six wins out of the last ten, that fever has been tempered. The Londoners may even be beginning to think City have something of a hold over them these days. Maybe that, and their Thursday trip to Moscow, will put lead in their legs come Sunday. 

Marco Van Who? Colin Bell's volleying technique v Chelsea needs no fine-tuning: 



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

BRINGING HOME THE BACON

As Kun Aguero shot across the edge of the 18-yard box with three United defenders in his wake, it was hard not to think of Diego Maradona in his pomp.
That low centre of gravity, the pumping oak-tree thighs, the hapless defenders hanging onto his slipstream like jettisoned threads of cloud, the staggering run, off balance, but still too good, too strong, too fast. Away goes the shot.

-- Aguero fires in the winner
-- Mancini delighted
-- Martin: City pride restored

And not just any shot, a weak contact, a flap nor a poke. No, a full-blooded smack, rising off his right boot as he tumbles, rising still as it passes David De Gea's outstretched hand, rising still as it hits the top of the net. A magnificent physical feat from a player not yet deemed fit enough to start a game of this importance. It was quite a sight.

And it was the least City deserved from a performance of raw tenacity and great togetherness in their 2-1 win at Old Trafford Monday. Every single player in sky blue put in a mighty shift. Not a man was left needing to be urged on.

At the heart of everything, the magnificent Gareth Barry. Castigated for his comedy own-goal at Southampton, deemed past his sell-by date by the knee-jerk brigade, Barry made the whole show tick. Beyond the expected close passing, timely tackling, closing down, shuffling and shunting, he managed to notch the unlikely statistic of the player who made the most dribbles too! Absolutely magnificent.

Alongside him, James Milner matched him pace for pace. The Yorkshireman never stopped running, was full of invention and eager into the tackle when needed. If Barry and Milner deserve to be mentioned first, it is perhaps because they are the water carriers in this stellar eleven. 


Read the rest of the article on ESPN's Manchester City pages 

Read Daniel Taylor's Guardian reaction here and his match report here 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

SELECTIVE MEMORY DISORDER

Fiddling about on Twitter can be a time-consuming and unnerving experience. It's a bit like reading in the bath. After a while you check the time and realise you have turned into a prune. Last night I asked Twitter an important question: who scored the best ever Derby goal? Twitter does not allow you to elaborate, thankfully, so that was it.

You interpret the question how you want. Best can be most beautiful or most important. Here's a selection of the replies....

Question:  Best ever derby goal? Brighty? Goater/Neville? Denis? SWP? Yaya? Franny? Nellie? Edin? Hinchy? Mackenzie? Robinson? Or next Monday's winner?

Whet your appetite? Then take a look at these and prepare yourself for the ride. Let us hope the spirit, guile, skill and guts shown in some of these clips reappear in spade-loads tomorrow night. Come on you Blues, make us proud again!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Pass and Go as Geordies Pass Out and Go Home


Manchester City versus Newcastle United. One thinks with quivering legs and feverishly beating heart of the 75-76 League Cup final when Dennis Tueart launched himself eloquently into Wembley folklore; of Shaun Goater pounding through the patchy St James’ mud to score a vital winner in 2000; of Tueart again rapping a hat-trick in the seventies Maine Road mist; of Peter Barnes and of Uwe Rosler of daring deeds and swashbuckling efforts. Something about the sky blue and the black and white stripes that always produces sparks of all colours. Multi-coloured sparks made of gold and silver and orange and turquoise. Precious acts in the history of our national sport.

At the weekend, in place of the sparks, the careering juggernauts, the death-defying blows, we were delivered a gentle stroll, a simple walk in the park, a meandering story of give and go and go again.

This has been a season of some frustration. City fans, unwilling to admit to being eaten up by 2nd place in the league, stare into middle distance and pretend that all is pretty close to ok. The FA Cup, the league, you know, this is good stuff, pretty good stuff. Really it is. Is anyone really taking this in, though?

It seems little time ago back in the swirling tactical mists and stagnant ponds of Stuart Pearce, a servant of both City and Newcastle, that City’s football was so poor, so devoid of idea and of accuracy, of any hope at all in fact, that a sudden pass walloped at head height in the direction of the totem pole Samaras or the beefcake Corradi extracted excited applause from the faithful. How we looked on aghast as Samaras tripped himself up and Corradi shot for the corner flag.How we died to laugh at the incompetence of it all.

Time, luck and money have moved us all on to a new place, where passes skid along the ground, find their target time after time and end with little triangles of possession that makes Stuart Pearce’s time in charge look like a re-enactment of the Battle of the Somme. Joey Barton, let us not forget, was our midfield linchpin and artistic director. Hatem Trabelsi trawled the touchline and Ben Thatcher added the bite (and shame). What an awful time we were all having. You could count the season's goals on the toes of a sloth.

At the weekend, Newcastle, it has to be said, contributed royally to their own downfall by arriving in Manchester heavily burdened by the psychological baggage of a record against City which has deteriorated stunningly since 2000. Who in their right mind would have thought that Alan Shearer’s simple winner at Maine Road in September 2000 would be the last time the Magpies carried off the points from a visit to City? They looked so regal to our pauper's clothes that day, as if they could go on forever waiting for us to endanger their goal. In the ten matches between the sides since then in Manchester, just two paltry points have left the place with the visitors’ coach.


These days, City’s possession of the ball – on occasions like this when the opposition is made of lumps of damp papier maché and selotape – can last for minutes without interruption. In the 43rd minute, sandwiched neatly between City’s first two goals, came a good example of the sort of


overpowering possession City have these days. It was at once an eloquent expression of who and what we are these days and also a decent enough summary of City’s season thus far: that it involved a 90 second period of short passing that took the team up to and around the edge of the Newcastle box, then back to deeper than where the move had started, then back again to the danger zone to deliver a presentable chance for Edin Dzeko was somewhat typical. Brutal, aesthetic precision, a dreamy exercise in acute angles. To Stuart Pearce, this would be called “fannying around” in the aftermatch dressing down. To Mancini probably “ornate possession of ball”. Arsene Wenger would have passed out with the loveliness, the directionless, dreamy idle diagonal motion.

The lack of quality in the Premier League is revealed not only in English teams’ inability to progress in this season’s Champions League, not only in this Newcastle side’s continued participation in the Europa League (they head to Benfica for what is likely to be a good pasting on Thursday) but also here in City’s effortless 2nd place, three hundred points behind a painfully average Manchester United side. We have gradually replaced goals with passes, points with stale air. How on earth did a Manchester United side that is pale in hue compared to other robust vintages carve out such an incredibly comfortable winning margin at the top?


Post mortems will wait until the season’s pots are polished and brandished, but the clarity and size of the gap at the top of the Premier League table will warrant more than a few short sentences when the curtain comes down on 2012-2013. In the meantime we look on towards the Old Trafford derby with a glint in our eyes and on, beyond that to Chelsea in the semi final of the FA Cup. Newcastle trail off to Lisbon in the knowledge that anything they can conjour will be less supine than their showing against City. At least they are still in there with a shout. For both clubs perhaps the season still holds positive endings.

****

Hart: 6 Troubled by little, but did well with what came his way
Zabaleta: 7 Let little past him and got up the right side on many occasions without his usual successful penetration
Clichy 7 Lively up the left and linked well with Silva and Nasri
Kompany 7 Fancy goal on his return and full of running and energetic tackling. Great to have him back
Lescott: 6 Looked assured alongside Kompany, but was pulled around a little by Newcastle's occasionally interested forwards
Silva 8 Enjoying good form at an important moment of the season. Takes more punishment than people realise and gets up and gets on with it without complaint
Nasri 7 Linked beautifully with Silva for the second and appeared more interested than of late.
Yaya: 7 Usual stuff from the big man, hassling and hustling, bursting forward to frighten the Newcastle defence. Impossible to shake off the ball.
Barry: 7 Glaring miss in the first half but still contributes greatly to how everything ticks over
Dzeko: 6 Mostly ineffective against a defence that was there for intimidating. Did not manage to do this.
Tevez 8 Lively and destructive, the little man is in fine form and adding goals again.Into double figures with this opportunistic strike.

Other Tedious Stuff

Poets and Lyricists