Newsletter #1844

Well that was rather a humdinger wasn’t it?! Perhaps more spills than thrills but, nonetheless, a battling result where we kept our nerve well – the new ‘typical City’!

Results for some of our likely title contenders were mixed (being polite!), so all in all not a bad first weekend’s work.

The injury to Sergio seems as though it will not be as bad as it looked and with Manu Adebayor now moved on we may well see some transfer movement. Young Harry Bunn has also moved to Crewe on loan until 6th January.

Some lovely match reports to entertain you this evening so sit back and enjoy the show.

Next Game: Liverpool, Anfield, 26 August 2012, 4.00pm


City began the defence of the Title, coming from behind to defeat newly promoted Southampton. That we made heavy weather of this game owed much to some poor finishing and some uncharacteristically shambolic defending in the second half, but credit is due to a game Southampton side who fought to the end.

Roberto Mancini reverted back to his tried and trusted 4-4-2 with Sergio Agüero and Carlos Tévez leading the attack. Joe Hart returned in goal after a minor back injury. New signing Jack Rodwell made his début in midfield alongside Yaya Touré with Silva starting from the right flank and Nasri from the left, both having a licence to roam. Joleon Lescott was restored to his left sided centre back role alongside Vincent Kompany, with Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy filling the right and left full back berths.

The game didn’t start off well, with a potentially serious injury for Sergio Agüero after 10 minutes. He sustained it as he broke at speed into the Southampton half and was tackled by Clyne. Immediately Sergio’s hand went up as he writhed in pain and the Etihad held its breath. It looked like a fair tackle and replays later showed that he was unlucky to get hurt as Clyne had got the ball. Sergio’s right leg had got caught in between the Saints’ defender’s legs in Clyne’s follow through and, as a result, his knee twisted badly and it looked like he would have to be stretchered off. After a few minutes’ treatment, Sergio walked off but after a few tentative steps, it soon became apparent that he could not continue and he was wisely placed on a stretcher, making his trip round the pitch to strains of “Sergio! Sergio!” from the City faithful.

There was no malice in the challenge but it did not stop Clyne receiving low-level booing whenever he received the ball.

City were slow to find our customary rhythm as an enthusiastic Southampton team (wearing a strange red pin-striped shirt – surely Southampton are red and white stripes?!) sought to frustrate us. Some of the challenges from Southampton were typical of a team that has just got promoted. They were not malicious, but they mistimed a lot of their tackles as they adjusted to the pace and skill of the top flight.

We should have been ahead after Tévez was fouled in the box after a clever turn, but Silva’s truly terrible penalty had neither direction nor power. It was far too close to the grateful Davies who jumped on it and the chance was gone.

Carlos Tévez was in good form and he was a lively creator. His powerful right wing cross was not capitalised on, then he wriggled clear of a handful of Saints defenders but his low shot was saved by Davies. Samir Nasri also grew in influence, prompting and probing, and in the 40th minute, he played a superb chipped, defence-splitting pass down the inside right channel and Tévez drilled the ball into the net at the near post. The stadium replay showed Tévez might have been slightly offside but it was not an easy one to spot and the goal stood. City finished the half strongly, substitute Dzeko, Tévez and Silva all forcing saves from Davies.

“Stand up for the Champions” was the chant. Having made one breakthrough, surely City would build on the lead and make the game safe after the break?

Unfortunately, this was not the case due to our profligate finishing. Nasri used all his trickery, will-power and persistence to beat two defenders and reached the left hand bye-line, crossing the ball for Dzeko, who was not ready for a tap-in and the chance was gone. Then Yaya Touré spotted Clichy’s run down the left and floated a superb diagonal cross that the City left back half-volleyed just over the bar. In another Tévez-inspired move the City striker crossed from the right, the ball was palmed out by Davies to Nasri, who teed up a great chance for Silva, who grazed the bar. He really should have scored.

Coming to the home of the Champions (still pinching myself!) must have been daunting for a club that was playing in the Third Division just over a year ago. After a tentative first half, Southampton started to ask serious questions of our defence and they fired a shot across our bows when Adam Lallana shot wide. The warning was not heeded and the visitors equalised just before the hour after a clever one-two in the box, substitute Ricky Lambert (who has scored a hatful of goals in the lower divisions) curling a right foot shot past Hart’s outstretched left hand and just inside his left hand post.

City’s defence was all at sea and looked vulnerable to swift counter attacks. The game began to resemble that famous game on May 13th. City attacked in an attempt to regain the lead, and when a City corner was cleared out to Rodwell, he tried to pass it first time, but his ball was intercepted by Lallana who broke quickly into the City half. With City’s defence stretched and out-numbered on the counter, the Saints’ quick breaking forwards pulled our defence all over the place and another sub, Steven Davis, converted with a low left foot shot to give the visitors the lead.

Coming up two Divisions in two years is an impressive achievement for Southampton and their erudite manager, Nigel Adkins, and they may just emulate Norwich and do well enough to earn a mid-table finish. On this evidence Southampton will not have problems scoring goals and they have plenty of pace on the flanks as well as enough creativity and movement in the centre.

Roberto Mancini rang the changes, bringing on Balotelli for the below par Silva, and within a minute this paid dividends, albeit indirectly. A corner was cleared to Kompany who shot, only for Yaya to control it before being tackled. The ball squirted to Dzeko who took a touch and steered the ball inside the left hand post.

Dzeko equalising to make it 2-2? Sounds familiar! “Oh, oh, oh, Edin Dzeko!”

City remained vulnerable to the counter, with our defence all at sea, as Southampton’s quick attackers buzzed around our box menacingly. Gael Clichy made a double intervention to thwart the Saints, managing to clear to Yaya Touré who pirouetted and turned away from his marker and embarked on one of his thrilling runs. Is there a more exciting sight in football? The powerful, elegant Ivorian advanced into Southampton’s half and threaded a lovely pass for Nasri on the run, but Balotelli put the Frenchman’s superb cross into the side netting. It had been a scintillating, quick fire move and Mario really should have scored.

City pressed for the winner. In tandem with Nasri, Yaya was the dominant player by this stage; he forced a smart save with a free kick and he created a good chance for Dzeko with a cross but the Bosnian headed wide.

The winner came in the 80th minute. After more delightful prompting and probing, Nasri chipped a pass out to Clichy on the left. The City left back crossed, the ball was headed back into the danger area by Southampton left back Fox, and Nasri volleyed in a beautifully taken and well deserved goal to regain the lead for City. The Etihad was bouncing again as he revealed an “EID MUBARAK” (“(may you enjoy a) blessed Eid” or “Happy Eid”) caption on his T-shirt.

The game had more than a passing resemblance to May 13th except that we got our winner earlier than the last minute of stoppage time, and there was time for Southampton to come back in search of another equaliser, as our defence retreated. Standing off only invited pressure and we were fortunate that Fonte fired over when well placed in stoppage time.

A win is a win. We hadn’t played that well, but to win when not playing at your best is the hallmark of Champions. We looked rusty and like we were suffering from the delays in people coming back after well-earned Euro breaks, as well as FIFA’s crass International week. Our defence in particular needs more time together to re-acquaint themselves with each other. Have we perhaps over-used the experimental 3-5-2 in pre-season?

Maybe we needed to get back into the groove with our usual 4-4-2 formation? With regards defending as a team and the balance, surely we have to be more circumspect as to how many people we commit forward, and improve in getting back? There was at least one instance where we had three defenders to Southampton’s five attackers. Lessons have to be learned from this and the QPR game.

We have to be positive about this result though. City were backed into a corner again but The Boys in Blue showed the character to come out fighting and turn the game round. I’m not sure, though, that they realise what it does to our health!

1-0 Tévez (40)
1-1 Lambert (59)
1-2 Davis (67)
2-2 Dzeko (71)
3-2 Nasri (80)

Att: 46,109

Hart: Couldn’t be faulted. Kicking and distribution was fair: 7
Zabaleta: Outpaced at times down our right flank: 6
Kompany: Not at his best and caught out a couple of times: 6
Lescott: Struggled at times in the second half, and along with his colleagues, was guilty of dropping too deep: 6
Clichy: The pick of our defenders, he covered superbly throughout and was good going forward: 7
Silva: Some lovely touches but it was not his day and his poor finishing nearly cost us: 6
Rodwell: Neat and tidy. Made a great start with a powerful sliding tackle in defence. It was a shame that his misplaced pass outside the Southampton box led to their goal and hopefully he will not let this affect him. He has much to offer us: 6
Yaya Touré: An absolute joy to watch: his range of passing and all round ability mark him out as a World class footballer to be savoured: 8
Nasri: City’s best performer (he just shades it from Yaya), he was a creative livewire. A sumptuous pass for Tévez’s opener was topped off with a superb volleyed winner, but there was so much to enjoy in between. He is getting better and better: 8
Tévez: A full, uninterrupted pre-season does wonders, and he looks as fit and sharp as ever. Super finish for his goal and some clever work created chances for others: 8
Agüero: A speedy recovery, Sergio: n/a
Dzeko (for Agüero 13): His face suggested that he was not happy warming up (which is good – players should want to play). His touch was good and he took his goal well. If he is to be a more regular starter, he needs to convert more of his chances: 7
Balotelli: Should have opened his account when set up, but still put in some good work in his inside left role: 6
Kolarov (for Tévez 87): N/A

Refwatch: Howard Webb: Kept good control but the game was played in a great spirit (football bashers might note that most games are played in a sportsmanlike manner, but I doubt they are reading this!): 7

Best Oppo: Lallana: Creative and a danger going forward: 7

Report dedicated to Sid Waddell: Passionate, excellent darts commentator, who died this month. Rest in peace.

Phil Banerjee <philban65(at)>



The start of a new season and a home “banker” first game up against newly promoted Southampton – back in the big time after successive promotions but without anything (on paper) to pose a threat – we were already counting the large “+’s” to our goal difference and confident of keeping pace with the +5 from Swansea and Fulham.

Mancini reverted back to the trusted 4-4-2.

Hart passed a late fitness test and started in goal, a back four of Zabba, Clichy, Lescott (happy 30th birthday) and Sir Vincent Kompany, a début for young Jack Rodwell alongside Yaya Touré in the centre of midfield, Silva wide left and Nasri wide right with a duo of Argentinians up front in Tévez and Agüero.

A packed bench with talent in the shapes of Pantilimon, Kolarov, Milner, Savic, de Jong, Dzeko and Mario.

City started ok – Southampton looked a bit tentative on their first day back in the limelight.

Silva looked sluggish and it was Nasri who sparkled as our main creative force. Several chances fell begging but more worrying was seeing Agüero carried off on a stretcher barely 10 minutes in, following what I thought was a late tackle but which the ref (Mr Howard “of the Swamp” Webb) didn’t even give a free kick for. Dzeko replaced Agüero.

A pathetic penalty from Silva that my Gran could have saved (and Kelvin Davies did) following some Tévez trickery spurred City into more and more attacks and it was a matter of time before the floodgates opened – surely!

After 39 minutes Tévez duly obliged, fed on the right by Nasri, and shooting inside the near post past a despairing dive from Davis in the Southampton goal.


Here we go.

Half time and all’s well – it could easily have been 4 or 5 without overtly flattering the Boys in Blue.

Second half and the goals will surely follow… how wrong could I be?!

Chance after chance went begging, Silva guilty of his worst performance in a City shirt had me pleading with Mancini to “get him off” – Dzeko could easily have had a hat-trick and Tévez the same. Clichy missed a sitter and the alarm bells were ringing: 1 goal is never enough in the Premier League.

Sixty minutes and Lambert (on as a sub for Jay Rodriguez just into the second half) showed a class finish and Hart, unsighted by Clichy, could do little to stop a perfectly placed shot into the far corner. One-one, a great finish but caused by our own defensive lapses and failure to clear the threat (or the ball).

Seven minutes later and it got worse – Steven Davies, on as another sub for Southampton, again the beneficiary of some suicidal City defensive work. A ball given away on the edge of the Southampton box by Rodwell led to a failure to clear the danger and another low, accurate shot beat a despairing Joe Hart dive – City 1-2 Southampton… this can’t be happening!

Mancini was obviously woken from his summer slumber and realised what, for 70 minutes, had been obvious to 46,000 spectators at a full Etihad Stadium – David Silva was having a ‘mare – and relief was palpable when the 21 sign was held up and Silva was replaced by Mario… Come on! Twenty minutes to rescue the game.

Two minutes later and Dzeko benefited from some penalty box ping-pong and hammered the loose ball into the net, 2-2, and this time plenty of time for a winner!

More City pressure and one or two hairy moments of Southampton playing on the break and the ball falls to Nasri in the penalty box, whallop – nothing was going to stop that ball and it thundered into the net, 3-2 to the Blues in the 80th minute. The last few minutes of normal time and the 3 minutes added on actually had us praying for the whistle; the way City defended, it couldn’t come quick enough. Kolorov came on for Tévez with 5 minutes to go and played on the left of midfield with Mario switching to centre forward.

To some audible sighs of relief Mr Webb eventually blew for the end of the game and City emerged victorious, 3-2, but not without some scares and our confidence being brought back down a notch or three.

City Players

Hart – Did ok, cant be blamed for either goal, didn’t have to make any saves all match – 7
Zabba – Solid as usual – 7
Clichy – Missed a sitter, guilty for 1 Southampton goal, threat going forwards – 5
Lescott – Did he do anything? Anonymous all game – 5
Kompany – Average, decidedly average – 6
Silva – Shocking, woeful and wasteful – 3
Nasri – Man of the Match, made 1 scored 1 and always a threat – 8
Yaya Touré – Solid, some good balls but no real zip – 7
Rodwell – Average start, 1 poorly placed pass led to Southampton’s 2nd, I’m sure he’ll be a good buy given time – 5
Tévez – Looked eager and up for it, ran tirelessly, great goal – 8
Agüero – Hardly time to judge, came off after 10 minutes – hope he’s ok! – N/A
Dzeko (10 minutes, on for Agüero) – Solid game, could have had 3 goals but we’ll settle for the 1 – 7
Balotelli (70 minutes, on for Silva) Looked fit – 7
Kolorov (85 minutes, on for Tévez) – Did little wrong in what time he was on – N/A


Lallana looked a good player and Lambert will score a few goals, but based on this performance I can’t see much for them apart from a relegation battle – that said they almost turned us over so who knows!

My thoughts:

We need to hang on to de Jong; with Yaya on African Nations duty again in January we will be woefully short in centre midfield if we have any injuries.

We need a solid centre back; Kolo Touré doesn’t cut it and I’d love to see Savic loaned out for a season to gain some experience. Arsenal seem to be a feeder club these days, how about a cheeky £25 million bid for Vermaelen, he’s only 26 and a class act? Failing that, Jonas Olsen at West Brom has impressed in the last couple of seasons and could be a good choice.

Apart from that I can see us off-loading the dead weight and makeweights to trim the wages a tad (Santa Cruz, Adebayor, Weiss, Michael Johnson to name four) and the squad is pretty near complete… for what it’s worth I’d like to see John Guidetti given a chance to show what he can do in a City shirt, with Alex Nimely sent out on loan with Razak, Abdi Ibrahim, Suarez and Rekik because we need the Academy to be our proving ground for the next few years and not rely on the cheque book. The League Cup alone is not enough for the “squad players”.

Neil Whittle <Neil.Whittle(at)>


New Rag strike partnership:

Pudgy and Percy.

I’m here all week.

Andy Johnson <fastandyj(at)>


19 August 2012

Wigan Athletic        0 - 2  Chelsea              19,738
Manchester City       3 - 2  Southampton          46,190

18 August 2012

Arsenal               0 - 0  Sunderland
Fulham                5 - 0  Norwich City
Queens Park Rangers   0 - 5  Swansea City
Reading               1 - 1  Stoke City
West Bromwich Albion  3 - 0  Liverpool
West Ham United       1 - 0  Aston Villa
Newcastle United      2 - 1  Tottenham Hotspur

League table as at 21 August 2012 inclusive

                    P  GD Pts
 1 Fulham           1   5   3
 2 Swansea City     1   5   3
 3 West Brom A.     1   3   3
 4 Chelsea          1   2   3
 5 Manchester City  1   1   3
 6 Newcastle Utd    1   1   3
 7 Everton          1   1   3
 8 West Ham Utd     1   1   3
 9 Reading          1   0   1
10 Stoke City       1   0   1
11 Arsenal          1   0   1
12 Sunderland       1   0   1
13 Southampton      1  -1   0
14 Tottenham H.     1  -1   0
15 Aston Villa      1  -1   0
16 Manchester Utd   1  -1   0
17 Wigan Athletic   1  -2   0
18 Liverpool        1  -3   0
19 Norwich City     1  -5   0
20 QPR              1  -5   0

With thanks to Football 365

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Newsletter #1844