Newsletter #1876

Oh Mario, Oh Mario, Oh Mario!

New Year… same old…

Anyone put a fiver on him to get a hat-trick at the weekend though?!

Ok, not me neither, but there lies the rub. Mancini though is the one gambling the most with, some argue, his very credibility on the line. He needs a win this weekend that’s for sure and to get things back to ‘normal’, whatever ‘normal’ is at the public goldfish bowl that is Carrington.

A bumper edition today to get 2013 off to a flyer.

Next Game: Watford, FA Cup 3rd Round, Etihad Stadium, 5 January 2013, 15.00

MATCHVIEW: Manchester City 3 Stoke City 0

“Happy New Year” was the message on Edin Dzeko’s T-shirt after he scored City’s second goal, and City started off 2013 with a comfortable win over Stoke to keep the leaders in our sights. It was a very good win but it came at a cost, with Sergio Agüero picking up a hamstring injury that is likely to side-line him for two weeks.

Stoke came to the Etihad unbeaten in ten games and snugly lodged in the top half of the table. Respecting this, and bearing in mind Stoke’s threat from long throw-ins, Roberto Mancini had the advertising hoardings moved closer to the touch line (so close you couldn’t even see the lines!). Not that Stoke remotely threatened to score before City had a very one-sided match sewn up.

City’s best chances of the first half fell to Sergio Agüero, who impressed with his trickery and powerful running. Begovic blocked his shot at his near post early on and Sergio volleyed another chance over the bar after a superb diagonal ball from Barry on the right. Sergio created a chance of his own with a powerful run into the centre and his rising shot forced a very good save by Begovic. He also headed against the left hand post from an excellent Barry cross from the left.

But it was Sergio Agüero’s fellow Argentinian Pablo Zabaleta who opened the scoring after 42 minutes. Accepting James Milner’s short pass from the right, he played the ball back to David Silva. Zabaleta could have taken Silva’s clever incisive pass himself but wisely left it to Milner who cut the ball back from the by-line. Milner’s cross was parried out by Begovic to Zabaleta who steered the ball into the net. Zaba ran off in an arc past the Kippax, with his arms raised in the air before thumping his chest where his MCFC badge sits.

Joyously “Do-do-do Pablo Zabaleta” filled the air. A Zabaleta goal is always one to savour as he has a special place in City hearts.

That was effectively game over for Stoke. For a team that causes such problems with their muscular, aerial approach on their own ground they are strangely weak when they visit the Etihad Stadium. This was reflected by the fact that they returned a block full of tickets, which were gladly taken up by City fans.

The game continued to be very one-sided in the 2nd half as City looked to extend the lead. Yaya Touré played a superbly weighted long pass into Dzeko’s path and the City striker struck a thrilling volley just over the bar.

It wasn’t long, though, before City doubled their lead. Superb pressing by Zabaleta close to Stoke’s own corner won the ball back for us and induced a foul on Silva. Yaya played a clever free kick to Agüero on the inside channel and, after some trickery, his goal-bound shot was parried to Dzeko who had the easiest of tap-ins for his 10th goal of the season. He took off his shirt to reveal his New Year message on his and was promptly booked. Rules are rules, but sometimes rules are nonsensical. No surprises there given the fact they are the product of ridiculous rule-makers in FIFA.

Stoke fashioned their first chance to score but Walters wildly blazed over Whelan’s pinpoint corner.

City completed the scoring after a fortunate penalty award. Nzonzi fouled Silva outside the box but momentum saw Merlin spin round and fall in the box very painfully on his back with his arm twisted behind him. No wonder that he was down for a while and eventually rose clutching his arm and shoulder. Agüero calmly slotted away the penalty for 3-0. The referee should really have awarded a free kick but, in truth, the score line flattered Stoke.

The closest that Stoke came to scoring was when City old boy Glen Whelan’s low shot was pushed onto the post by Joe Hart.

That was it. The Potters may have brought the crockery, but City served up the feast (your reporter has his coat on!). Every City player had played well, but three players stood out from the rest.

Pablo Zabaleta is a very impressive full back and very consistent too. Now he is adding goals to his game and showing his superb technique. Sergio Agüero’s zest and skill are such a delight to behold. The most pleasing performance of this game came from Gareth Barry. He was totally in tune with the rhythm of this game. Not only was his positional play and knowledge of being in the right place at the right time absolutely spot on (his covering of Clichy’s forward runs was text book stuff) but he put his left foot to very good use in a creative sense.

City have beaten Stoke comfortably in every home League game that we have played them since their promotion in 2008, and we have yet to concede to them in these games (Stoke’s only goal here coming in a FA Cup tie). Stoke are formidable opponents on their own ground but surrender meekly every year here. Not that City took the visitors lightly. This was a very determined, professional performance from City who didn’t allow Stoke to impose their physical game on us. Now we have to take this professionalism and churn out a series of wins to hopefully close the gap and surpass the leaders over the remainder of the season.

Happy New Year to all our readers.

1-0 Zabaleta (43)
2-0 Dzeko (55)
3-0 Agüero (pen – 73)

Att: 47,192

Hart: Ever the pro, he made the one save he had to make: 7
Zabaleta: A superb all round performance capped off with a very well taken goal: 9
Kompany: Another assertive game: 7
Lescott: Good to see him back. This excellent professional slotted straight back in seamlessly: 7
Clichy: A very good all round performance with some speedy skilful runs forward: 8
Silva: A crucial cog in the City machine: 7
Yaya: Passing of the highest order: 8
Barry: A complete midfield performance and absolute joy to watch: 9 (Man of the Match)
Milner: Good to see him back too. Great tenacity and some excellent low crosses: 7
Agüero: Some lovely runs with the ball, his was a performance of real energy and quality. Such a shame that he has picked up a hamstring pull: 8
Dzeko: Linked in well. Showed a striker’s instincts to be on hand to put away the rebound for his goal: 7
Tévez (for Agüero 77): Lively: 6
Sinclair (for Silva 82): n/a
Razak (for Dzeko 90): n/a

Best Oppo: Begovic: Made some good saves: 6. The rest were pathetic.

Refwatch: Michael Oliver (Northumberland): Hardly noticed him but he was generous in our penalty award, which technically is a mistake! 6

Phil Banerjee <philban65(at)>


Three things about Roberto Mancini:

  1. He has patience.
  2. He is a brilliant manager.
  3. He is a gentleman.

Mancini is showing so much patience with Mario Balotelli, but the patience of the supporters and fans is running very thin; is it worth all the wrong happenings?

No player or manager is bigger than Manchester City!

I have, in my own mind, tried to give Balotelli another final chance, but as soon as I have, he does something bad again. This bad publicity is not right for a club that has a record by players for being the best; Barton was tame in comparison!

The trouble now is which club can afford to come in and pay for Balotelli and then risk this sort of behaviour?

There are so many more better players out there that give 100% for their club in every game. City have got to find a way to get rid of Balotelli; we just don’t know what to expect in the next game, goals or a red card.

Mancini might have given Balotelli yet another chance, but have the supporters forgiven?

As I have stated before, as much as I admire Mancini, will Balotelli be his downfall? Mancini is trying to justify the £24 million transfer fee and high wage; I honestly think that Balotelli’s value has nose-dived.

In Mancini I trust!

Ernie Barrow <Britcityblue(at)>


Just a little tittle tattle in today’s Mundo Deportivo about Agüero. His wife (Maradona’s daughter) has left him and is now domiciled in an up-market residential area of Madrid with the baby. Does not state when she arrived, though they are certain the relationship is finished.

Although now injured, his form and attitude has been fantastic during the last month of games, which has been many. Obviously he’s OK mentally. Just seen the report of Mario and Bobby having an altercation at Carrington today.

Evidently Sheikh Mansour loves the guy and his antics, as it’s all positive in his opinion, in marketing the Club. As Mario looks as though he’s on the receiving end from Bobby and defending himself, he’ll probably be forgiven again whatever the condition of the tackle on Sinclair.

Should Bobby allow his emotions to dictate his actions like this? I love the guy normally but this is not good for him and the Club.

Which leads back to Mundo Deportivo. They are adamant Pep’s decided on City.

Pat Knowles <pjamk(at)>


Thanks to Dietmar Hamman for the shout on what an appalling tackle the Bassong tackle on Nasri was; see here for it from a perfect camera angle:

I’ve always sworn off blaming refs for lost points, but I think we may have had 6 points wrongly taken from us this season, starting with Crouch’s double handball in the Stoke hand game (1-1, hence 2 points gone), the ref blowing for a Rooney foul (I thought Rooney fouls were no longer penalised?) with Yaya through on goal at 2-2 in the derby (3 points gone), and the dreadful decision at Sunderland not to call a foul on Zaba before Johnno score (2 points gone). Had those decisions not gone against us, we might today (given that United would have taken 0 from the derby) been 2 points ahead at the top.

Even more disappointing is that we were robbed at Stoke and Sunderland last season as well.

Paranoid? Well, I’m starting to think I have reason to be, all the more so as it is now clear that the FA will only take action against Ferguson when they have no choice, and the tiniest sign of dissent from other managers will be stamped on.

We’re fighting more than 11 players in a lot of games this season.

On another matter. We’re crying out for some wide play, and people are complaining about it. Well, that I am sure is why Roberto experimented with 3-5-2 at the start of the season, and remember – we destroyed Chelsea playing with that formation, and when we have started with it have looked good. The problem is now that those players who would best enable it (Micah and Maicon) are both injured. Sinclair, yes, I too am not sure why we bought him, but we can but hope he comes good. We need to be more imaginative in getting behind the double line of buses teams are now parking in front of their goals, home and away.

One thing I know that Roberto has got right and that is his statement that the difference between us and United is van Persie. Can someone please have a go at his ankles? Were he playing for us, I think the gap between us and United would be as large as the points advantage they have over us. I do suspect that Marwood made a mess of summer signings, so with Sergio (the little darling – other strikers take note, that’s how honest footballers play) out for a couple of weeks, with Carlos mislaying his shooting boots and Mario messed up with the farrago around the birth of his baby, we need a deadly finisher in the van Persie mould and a Yaya replacement.

In the best of all possible worlds, Falcao or Cavani, and De Rossi. Please Mr. Begiristain?

Happy New Year to you all – and remember, we are still at the start of a very big adventure. Keep the faith and be patient.

Jeremy Poynton <j.poynton(at)>


Loved Andy Longshaw’s festive offering. It probably helped that I read it on the back of our romp against Stoke. No, cancel that, it was good without that, and so true. If we can all see it why can’t our very well paid manager?

I see two problems. Andy is poetically right on song with the fact we have no width, and Glyn is also correct with the slow build up. Ernie said he can see something is wrong but he wonders what it is. Ernie, wonder no more, the two guys above have hit it on the head.

Ernie, you wrote that you read the owners have lost faith in Balotelli.

Whereas I read today that we won’t be able to get, in my opinion a much needed, rid of him because Sheikh Mansour likes him. So you’re right Ernie, you can’t believe everything you read.

I was playing golf this morning and was rummaging around in my bag for the right sized tee. I could only find a red one and refused to use it. Where’s my psychiatrist’s number?

Happy New Year to all MCIVTA readers, and isn’t it great we can get so p****d off with being second in the Premier League. (ED – good perspective Dave)

Dave Kilroy <dave.kilroy(at)>


It was a pleasure to see Timothy Dalton recount his experiences as a City fan in City square. Based in Los Angeles now, the former James Bond and excellent baddie in Hot Fuzz, gets over here every Christmas, and told us of how he tunes into watch City matches on TV in the middle of the night. He also recounted his father taking him to matches in the 1950s, and him standing as an 11 year old with his father in the players’ tunnel at Maine Road as the players including Bert Trautmann filed onto the pitch.

He recalled that he and his own son were invited to Roberto Mancini’s first game against Stoke, almost 3 years to the day, and they too were standing in the tunnel as Joe Hart et al entered the pitch. He came across as a really nice, warm bloke with a deep love for City.

David Hasselhoff was also invited to the game and he also came across very well. He was clearly enjoying his visit and was very diplomatic about City and United. He didn’t come across as jumping on our bandwagon either, and I would guess that if he visited United he wouldn’t find the same warmth of greeting that he received here.

Phil Banerjee <philban65(at)>


Just to throw my thoughts in here on the current debate. My patience is starting to wear thin with Mario but I wonder at this moment (New Year’s morning) if his “virus” is diplomatic and he will be moved on for someone coming in the other way this month?

We are not a bad team and actually (really hate saying this) remind me of “them” struggling into New Year in 2nd place, scraping points then turning on the gas in the 2nd half of the season. Mancini has clearly dropped enough hints he knows what needs to be done with the team and it needs strengthening.

January isn’t always the best time but a winger is a must. Are we glass half full or empty? Our team looked tired for the first number of weeks of the season because so many played in the Euro’s and Olympics. We have also suffered a number of injuries. Stretford don’t look infallible and their sheer delight in just outscoring Reading and Newcastle indicates to me that they know they are “winging” it to a degree.

However, we need a better, consistent performance in the 2nd half of the season, a good Cup run and take advantage of no European football. I think everybody has identified the lack of width as the option to stretch these packed defences. However, we should also look at the resilience of our team to be down to 10 men but win at WBA and Norwich.

As we know, it is a long way to go yet but we have had a number of positives – so few goals conceded, unbeaten away, 1 home defeat in about 2 years, a tad more consistency and 1-2 signings could well do it. If RvP was out for a month we could really put the squeeze on. Here is to another 94th minute title winner!

Mark Ballentine <mark.ballentine(at)>


It has reported on the bluemoon-mcfc forum that a female City fan was assaulted on the concourse of the South Stand (Block 118) at half time, resulting in her having several stitches in a head wound.

The police say the CCTV did not capture anything and would appreciate any help with this. So if you saw this assault take place, please contact the club and/or police.

Phil Banerjee <philban65(at)>


2 January 2013

Chelsea               0 - 1  Queens Park Rangers   41,634
Liverpool             3 - 0  Sunderland            44,228
Newcastle United      1 - 2  Everton               49,391

1 January 2013

West Bromwich Albion  1 - 2  Fulham                25,436
Manchester City       3 - 0  Stoke City            47,192
Swansea City          2 - 2  Aston Villa           20,406
Tottenham Hotspur     3 - 1  Reading               36,180
West Ham United       2 - 1  Norwich City          35,005
Wigan Athletic        0 - 4  Manchester United     20,342
Southampton           1 - 1  Arsenal               31,743

League table as at 4 January 2013

                    P  GD Pts
 1 Manchester Utd  21  26  52
 2 Manchester City 21  22  45
 3 Tottenham H.    21  12  39
 4 Chelsea         20  20  38
 5 Everton         21   9  36
 6 Arsenal         20  18  34
 7 West Brom A.    21   2  33
 8 Liverpool       21   8  31
 9 Swansea City    21   5  29
10 Stoke City      21   1  29
11 West Ham Utd    20   0  26
12 Norwich City    21 -10  25
13 Fulham          21  -5  24
14 Sunderland      21  -8  22
15 Newcastle Utd   21 -12  20
16 Aston Villa     21 -24  19
17 Southampton     20 -11  18
18 Wigan Athletic  21 -17  18
19 Reading         21 -17  13
20 QPR             21 -19  13

With thanks to Football 365

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Newsletter #1876