Monday, August 29, 2011


Three games in (four with Wembley's game of two halves) and we have a picture of incredulous beauty at the top of the table. Spoiled only by the fast-withering Arsenal's act of total down-tools at Old Trafford yesterday afternoon.

That's the way to do it
Often have been the times that City have sat atop the table after one or two games, less frequently after 3 and, beyond that into the meaty part of the football season, well, more like the frequency of the appearances of a laughing Colonel Gaddafi looking for a cool glass of lemonade and a goat sandwich at a late night Tripoli coffee bar.

It has quickly become apparent that this season's incarnation of the great shambling bulk known as Manchester City is nimble, wily, forceful and precise. No more stumbling. No more lofted balls into the highstreet. This is Chicken Tikka-Taka at its most effervescent. In all three league games to date Mancini's class of 2011-12 have played the type of controlled, fast intricate passing manouevres that gives defenders a headache merely trying to watch the ball, never mind keep up with it. The eyes slowly cross.

Nasri's immediate addition against Tottenham made for even more slick, laser-accurate passing. Little one-twos, feints, touches, turns, flicks and moves into space to receive and set off again. Spurs were quickly and irretrievably tied into little tidy knots, the cumbersome-looking pair of Kaboul and Dawson having no answers to the light-footed acceleration of City's mini dynamos. Even the gutsy but hardly Maradona-esque Zabaleta was moved to perform a little arabesque in passing Modric in the second half. The mood, it seems, can be catching.

If Swansea put up brave opening night resistance and Bolton never quite gave up the race, Tottenham had a torrid time even getting to the edge of the City box. In their own stadium. When was the last time City set foot on the green grass of one of the recognised elite teams and wiped the very floor with them? You will have to go back longer than my memory will carry me to find an answer. If this were the media's favourite phrase " a statement of intent", then it was written in bold capital letters and hung high from the biggest oak tree on the village green.

The irony of all this mesmerising one touch trickery by the midget maestros Aguero, Silva and Nasri is that the biggest benefactor up to now has been the beanpole Dzeko, now displaying the full towering range of his attributes, as seen week in week out in Wolfsburg down the years. For all those laughing at his efforts last season, there is only the sound of the wind whsitling in the bushes now. Discerning as ever, the City support has picked him out for special praise already and he is fast turning into the goal machine that we thought we had bought earlier. Dzeko offers so much more than goals, though. What a pleasure to see the big man shielding, trapping, taking part in the chicken tikka-taka and banging in such a rich variety of classily dispatched goals that nobody knows what is coming next. A tap in, a thunderous screamer, a twisted backwards header, a gently flighted lob?

And Aguero? Darting urgent powerful. His light-footed performance is an obvious foil for the big man next to him, but the twist and swift flight from dawson for City's 4th, culminating in a rasping shot whilst holding the heavy-breathing defender off, smacks of wonderful artistry mixed with significant force. That low centre of gravity and tree-like thighs are not unlike his father-in-law's after all. If there are more similarities, by all means feel free to display them, Little Man.

In any normal season, we would have been looking at City already comfortable in the driving seat after three games, but Arsene Wenger's odd behaviour down in Islington has assured us of a start to the season anything but normal. That, as ever, has allowed the old enemy to steal our thunder once again, but the feeling remains that this City side has wheeled out some pretty enormous drums to bang this season. That throbbing insistent beat calls a very different tune this time out and the message is more than clear: We're coming to get you.

Here are City's opening games from the last 40 years:

70-71 15 Aug Southampton 1 CITY  1
71-72 14 Aug CITY 0 Leeds 1
72-73 12 Aug Liverpool  2 CITY  0
73-74 25 Aug CITY 3 Birmingham 1
74-75 17 Aug CITY 4 West Ham 0
75-76 16 Aug CITY 3 Norwich 0
76-77 12 Aug Leicester 2 CITY  2
77-78 20 Aug CITY 0 Leicester 0
78-79 19 Aug Derby 1 CITY  1
79-80 18 Aug CITY 0 C. Palace 0
80-81 16 Aug Southampton 2 CITY  0
81-82 29 Aug CITY 2 WBA 1
82-83 28 Aug Norwich 1 CITY  2
83-84 27 Aug C. Palace  0 CITY  2
84-85 24 Aug Wimbledon 2 CITY  2
85-86 17 Aug Coventry  1 CITY  1
86-87 23 Aug CITY 3 Wimbledon 1
87-88 15 Aug CITY  2 Plymouth  1
88-89 27 Aug Hull  1 CITY  0
89-90 19 Aug Liverpool  3 CITY  1
90-91 25 Aug Spurs 3 CITY  1
91-92 17 Aug Coventry  0 CITY  1
92-93 17 Aug CITY 1 QPR 1
93-94 14 Aug CITY 1 Leeds 1
94-95 20 Aug Arsenal  3 CITY  0
95-96 19 Aug CITY 1 Spurs 1
96-97 16 Aug CITY 1 Ipswich  0
97-98 9 Aug CITY 2 Portsmouth  2
98-99 8 Aug CITY 3 Blackpool 0
99-00 8 Aug CITY 0 Wolves  1
00-01 19 Aug Charlton 4 CITY  0
2001-2 11 Aug CITY 3 Watford 0
2002-3 17 Aug Leeds 3 CITY  0
2003-4 17 Aug Charlton 0 CITY  3
2004-5 14 Aug CITY 1 Fulham 1
2005-6 13 Aug CITY 0 WBA 0
2006-7 20 Aug Chelsea  3 CITY  0
2007-8 11 Aug West Ham 0 CITY  2
2008-9 17 Aug Aston Villa  4 CITY  2
2009-10 15 Aug Blackburn 1 CITY  2
Spurs0CITY 0

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