Tuesday, December 2, 2014

REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL


1) THE RETURN OF THE MIDFIELD Looking at the broad grin playing across the face of Fernandinho at the edge of the pitch immediately after the 3-0 win at St Mary's, the casual onlooker would promptly have been reminded of the perfect image of relaxed happiness. For it to be Fernandinho's face that was shining like one of Santa's little helpers, told its own story.

The wiry little Brazilian has had a torrid few months off the back of the World Cup, where his country's 7-1 thrashing by Germany sent many into a spiral of serious self doubt. With the masses turning on Fernandinho (along with the log shaped Fred) as one of the main scapegoats, it is hardly surprising that he has been in subdued form so far this season for City.

The Southampton game saw something of a resurrection of the Fernandinho that played such a marked role in the second half of City's title winning season. The spring is back in his step, those little blocks and dinks and runs into space are suddenly coming naturally without the need to look, to think and to empty the lead weights from inside his boots.

The case of Yaya Touré has been an altogether more complicated one. Last season's goal machine has been replaced by a sometimes waddling, sometimes grazing Ivorian, looking not a shadow of the previous years of rumbustious attacking football, where he sometimes resembled a runaway bus with its passengers grimly trying to hang on at the back. But Touré too is waking up, with the goals beginning to go in and those encouraging signs of energy returning. The Blues may only have him for another month before the African Nations starts up, but his forceful presence can make a significant difference throughout a December packed with tricky but distinctly winnable games.

2) THE PLAYER OF THE YEAR UPFRONT The amount of words devoted to Sergio Aguero in the last three weeks is beginning to look like a government white paper. There has been a never-ending flow of high praise and plaudits from all strata of the British media and beyond. For once everyone seems to be in agreement about his worth to City and his ability in general. With Suarez gone, City can rightly claim to have the best player currently performing on the Premier League stage.

3) PELLEGRINI LOOKING FRESH That dreadful hang dog look has lifted. Has he had a hair cut too? Something has risen from the shoulders of the City manager and, whilst he will never be a man with a creace-free face, he looks fresher and more optimistic for the first time in weeks. He can see, like we can see, like everyone can see, that things are picking up, that form is coming back and that progress towards that top spot can now be resumed. With David Silva, Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov all due back shortly, he knows that his suddenly sprightly looking side is about to be augmented by three more than useful players.

4) DANGER FREE DECEMBER The month leading up to Christmas is always one of the busiest sections of the season, where the chaff is separated from the wheat. City's schedule - already freed of Capital One Cup commitments and in grave danger of having Champions League time go the same way - is a relatively comfortable one right through to the end of the year. Chelsea's itinerary looks to be marginally more difficult, but few are the opponents for either side who carry the look of possible pitfalls. By the arrival of the New year, we may see the Londoners' comfortable six point lead cut back further.

5) MAGICIAN'S SUDDEN COMEBACK Take David Silva out of the equation and City can look more than a little toothless at times. Whilst they are far from a one man team, Silva's unique brand of midfield prompting is hard to replicate. Samir Nasri, easing his way back from injury himself, reached levels of brilliance last season that dovetailed beautifully with his Spanish midfield partner, but so far has not hit the same heights, as he seeks proper match fitness. Silva sees passes others don't, he threads the ball through holes that look to be closed or closing; he twists and turns until his markers get motion sickness. With the little magician back in the side, a City team beginning to pick up pace, will become stronger still.

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