|Barry: critics running for cover|
For people with large football brains (LFB) this meant a juicy moment of truth against Arsenal, the form team, carrying with them in to a cold barren Manchester afternoon the form player in Robin van Persie. The obituaries were already being written. Ian Wright fizzed electrically about balls and asses, mental strength and baby orangutan. The Nevilles prepared themselves for lift-off. Piers Morgan called City fans "oil-suckers". It was all going to go off big time. The nation held its breath long and hard, daring that harrumphing sound to come out right on time.
Millwall, Cardiff, Bury. Jamie Pollock´s greasy forehead.
And when the game of football started, what did the people with LFB witness? A rip-roaring match in which Arsenal did indeed bring their crisp confident form to town. And were beaten. Beaten by a powerful, willful, committed and elegant Manchester City side playing the open, one-touch slide rule football that has had many sky blue devotees rubbing their eyes in disbelief for most of the season so far. Chicken tikka-taka writ large, served with raita and popadoms, chappatis and chutney. Let us not forget (how the hell could we) that if this season's lights went out now, immediately, irredeemably, 2011 would be remembered for the rest of our lives as the year that contained not a single home defeat, an FA Cup win, entry into the Champions League, a 5-1 win at Spurs, a 6-1 win at Old Trafford and a cup win at Arsenal. If they carted us all off to the Maine Road in the sky now, there would be no kicking and screaming. If they put me back on the Brian Horton Elephant Pills tomorrow, I wouldn't squeal for a single second.
Macclesfield, Stockport, Northampton, Lincoln. Walking aggressively at Walsall. Feeling ill at York. Etcetera.
|Telegraph readers stunned by marks out of ten|
It will no doubt have disappointed a few to witness certain solid pillars of truth and reason that are handy to grab onto in a pub argument had just vanished into thin air: Here are the things that will not have made it within 40 miles of Mark Ogden's Telegraph piece today:
- Balotelli can be relied upon. He can contribute a hard shift of running and chasing without tangible reward; he doesn't always rush down the tunnel in a huff because he has been subbed against his will;
- Zabaleta is more than capable of putting an international speed merchant like Theo Walcott in a small box marked "done and dusted" and clasping it shut with masking tape;
- Gareth Barry can bestride a midfield containing Silva; Nasri and Yaya and still show up as peerless;
- Superstars like Aguero can put in a blood and thunder performance despite squandering their side's best two chances and still have his head clear enough to place it (his head) alongside Vermaelen's swinging boot and set up the winning goal with bravery and elan;
- Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany can stand up and accept the loud applause for being best of breed in their positions this season;
- Kolo Touré can still hack it with the best when he diverts his thoughts from "does my bum look big in this home kit?".
Nevertheless and these wonderful discoveries notwithstanding, we can still find in a national daily newspaper of all places the following:
Vincent Kompany: 6 - Not the usual assured performance from the City captain, perhaps a side-effect of the unexpected change of defensive partner, with Joleon Lescott making way for Kolo Toure.
Pablo Zabaleta: 6 - Not a natural left-back, but the Argentine rarely lets City down and he did well in place of the suspended Gael Clichy and injured Aleksandar Kolarov. Hit the post with a second-half strike.
Yaya Toure: 6 - Never as effective in a defensive midfield role as he is when playing in a more advanced position, but the Ivorian anchored well in tandem with Gareth Barry, despite his inclination to break forward.
Gareth Barry: 6 - Rightfully booked for a dangerous first-half challenge on Mikel Arteta, but the England midfielder otherwise did his usual steady job in front of the back four for City.
Per Mertesacker: 7 - When the German’s lack of pace is not exposed, he marshals the Arsenal defence well. Commanding in the air and his presence appears to be calming one for Szczesny.
Andrei Arshavin: On for Walcott, 69, 6/10, Marouane Chamakh: On for Mertesacker, 82, 6/10
|Crack journalist begins another City match report|
To top the lot off, Mertesacker, a stumbling flour-sack of a defender, is awarded a higher score than any of them. The mind truly tingles with the expert opinions of the great and good. Maybe it was a Christmas joke, sent by the well-meaning to warm us all up on these cold pre-festive days. If so, it certainly got my blood circulating speedily, but not nearly as quickly and fluently as the sight of six-out-of-ten Vincent Kompany, the best central defender in the Premier League, striding out from the City area and charging past opponent after opponent on his way upfield. What a grand sight that was. What a grand old game it was too. What a shame some people cannot see the quality for wool before their eyes.