Wednesday, December 3, 2014

THE ART OF TIMING

Chelsea and Roma may well like to take note. A significant corner has been turned in season 14-15.

Manchester City, in this majestic form, are building up a head of steam just when it is most needed. Roma away will decide who goes through with Bayern to the knockout stages of the Champions League and the December league fixtures stretch out in front of us in a string of approachable, winnable games leading all the way to 2015.

Looking at this sumptuous performance on the ground of City's greatest nemesis of recent years, the powers that be at the Italian giants will be scrurrying back to revise their gameplan in double quick time. What looked like a highly promising opportunity to progress now appears like a grim challenge laced with poison for the Italians.

For all those saying tonight was a watershed, that important point was clearly reached during the dying minutes of the Champions League match at home to Bayern, when City - having been outplayed by the ten men of the Germans - somehow managed to pull a positive result out of the hat. The relief could be felt immediately. Elation and relief. But do not get the two mixed up. It may have felt a little like the Aguero moment against QPR all over again, but this was a moment of cold realisation for all around, that Manchester City had not lost any of their powers and were about to remind all those doubters what they had to offer.

So quick are we to jump on the slightest sign and portray it as the death of an empire that some were heralding Chelsea as champions elect without even letting the 2014-15 season drop into a decent rhythm. Foolish as they may look this evening, it is safe to say that City are now hard on the Londoners' coat tails, with much of the old swagger back on show, the old dash and panache to the fore and with half a team still to return from injury.

How quickly the tide can turn.

Post Bayern (and this will surely be seen as some sort of magical marker in this 14-15 season) we have seen two majestic away wins at grounds traditionally rendering little or nothing for City. Moreover, a 3-0 win at St Mary's and a 4-1 stroll at the Stadium of light do not simply represent a change of fortune, but a tidal wave of confident, lazer fast one touch passing through the side to an individual at the pointy end of the operation, who is outdoing himself on a weekly basis.

Stand up and take several bows, Sergio Aguero.

The little man has received the plaudits from all directions of late, but - from a City point of view - we are surely watching the best striker ever to don the sky blue shirt in the long and illustrious history of this great club. I go back a fair way, less than some, more than many, and have enjoyed many years of watching City strikers carry out their difficult job as best they could. From the sharp finishing of Denis Law, the inimitable goal-poaching of Franny Lee, the elegant left foot finishes of Neil Young and the eloquent extravagance of Rodney Marsh, the dash and panache of striker on the wing Dennis Tueart, the goals from all angles and heights of beanpole Niall Quin and the score with any part of the body available Shaun Goater, a good many have passed before our eyes, but none with the combination of power, balance, acceleration, touch, control, awareness and deadly finishing that Sergio Aguero possesses.

To watch the little man from Buenos Aires carry the game single handedly to a visibily petrified defence is quite something to behold. His touch, his assuredness, his need for no time at all are from another dimension. For a young man who grew up with the sound of gunfire backing his efforts on the dry dust football fields of his parched youth, it is those that try to bar his way to goal that are now worried about being taken out by sniper fire.

With nineteen goals dispatched already, Aguero is on target to complete his best ever season in the Premier League. Steer clear of injury and surely the awards will come at season end for a player on the very unplayable apex of his abilities. Before being removed from the field of play at The Stadium of Light this evening, Aguero was enjoying an average evening (for him) having sent the City equaliser into the net with such ferocity and assuredness of touch that Costel Pantilimon looked like he had been bolted to the turf with a staple gun. The net would surely have sailed away had it not been well fixed to the North East turf.

His part in the second goal was an exquisite one touch flick under pressure to get the ball as quickly as was humanly possible to the waiting Stevan Jovetic, who smacked it with aplomb into the Sunderland net.

His third magic moment came after 70 minutes, turning James Milner's cross into the net with a piece of impudent, clinical, ultra-accurate finishing that we are perhaps sadly beginning to take for granted. Do not take anything he does for granted. Do not look upon his actions and think quietly to yourself, here goes the little fella again, because his is the art of an athlete at the very pinnacle of his powers, a low slung one man battering ram with the gentle caress of a fine artist. The fourth and final City goal
was no ordinary finish but the work of a man in the absolute peak of condition. That he was spared further loss of sweat shortly afterwards was understandable with Everton arriving in Manchester at the weekend and the all important trip to Italy coming up next midweek.

In the meantime, we had witnessed another startling break forward end with right back Pablo Zabaleta lifting the ball over Pantilimon with the deft touch of Lionel Messi, a sturdy night's work from an initially perturbing centre back partnership of Boyata and Demichelis, the continuing lively improvemetn of Yaya Touré and Fernandinho's seasons, a rocket-heeled display of the full back's art from Gael Clichy, the first signs of real cohesion from Stevan Jovetic and an all round team performance which augurs more than well for the next few weeks.

Manchester City are returning to the kind of exhilirating form that has brought them two league titles in the last three seasons and countless unforgettable scenes that we will take with us to the grave. It might just be that Sergio Kun Aguero -in this kind of form- is set to outdo anything we may have witnessed so far.

2 comments:

  1. I think we're running out (as the Sunderland defence did at times tonight) of superlatives to describe Aguero at the moment, Simon.
    He is being rewarded for the extra work he's putting in to maintain and enhance his fitness, and I think a little credit should be given to the conditioning staff, because whatever they have devised so far is certainly working at the moment.
    I agree with you, he is our finest forward, and I share your vintage. An early candidate for all the available awards. A great comeback from a disappointing World Cup, and plenty more to look ahead to. A very special player.

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    1. Let's just hope his latest injury does not keep him out of the crucial games ahead, Graham, and exclude him from possible awards at the end of the season. Would be nice to see a City player get an individual award, as it hasn't happened for a long time (Peter Barnes in 76?). Thanks, as ever, for your contribution/comments/opinions. Always welcome.

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