As I made the walk from The Emirates Stadium to Highbury & Islington station last night, I couldn’t help but crack a wry smile at the chants of “Boring, boring City” that echoed through the streets. Arsenal had just been held to a goalless draw by a resolute and somewhat fortunate Manchester City, and as a blue who had spent 90 minutes sitting on his hands in amongst the Gunners, I was more than happy with a share of the spoils.
The outrage from many quarters over the ‘anti-football’ on show was predictable but also just further proof that Roberto Mancini is doing something right if his every move is now scrutised with such depth. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Mancini’s defensive mindedness in the beginning having been used to free flowing football under Sven Goran Eriksson and Kevin Keegan, but where did that get the club?
Since the Italian’s appointment just over a year ago, City have turned into a solid unit at the back and have conceded the fewest amount of goals (16) in the Premier League so far this season. The performances of Vincent Kompany at centre half have been lauded in many quarters, while Nigel De Jong has grown into one of the best holding midfielders in the country. Joe Hart has cemented his place as England’s first choice goalkeeper, and he has kept 10 clean sheets in just 22 games.
If you never concede a goal, you’re going to win more games than you lose.
– Bobby Moore
What Mancini has also shown with City is an ability to pick his battles. Against Aston Villa last week he made the decision to rest Carlos Tevez, something which left many scratching their heads. However to compensate for the Argentine’s absence, he chose to play Mario Balotelli, David Silva and Adam Johnson in what was a very attacking front three. What resulted was a 4-0 demolition, including a contender for team goal of the season which was a culmination of over 30 passes. Boring City indeed.
Mancini’s hands were somewhat tied for last night’s game with both Silva and Balotelli absent through injury, and he did look to be playing for a draw from the off with the inclusion of James Milner as part of his front line. City were overrun in midfield, but it’s hardly revolutionary to suggest that Arsenal’s midfield three of Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song and Jack Wilshere are more technically gifted and offer better movement than Nigel De Jong, Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure. It was therefore no surprise that the home side enjoyed the majority of possession and created more chances. City actually did try to play football of their own (only twice did we hear the word “Hoof” echo around the stadium) but they just weren’t allowed to get a proper footing in the game. The point picked up in London sees City still in second spot in the table, having picked up 10 points from a possible 12 over the festive period.
The level of interest in Manchester City in general is at an all time high at the moment and it will remain that way for a long, long time. This week’s training ground scuffle between Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor was used as another example of the supposed lack of harmony and unity within a squad of egos, but let’s not forget City have always had something or other going on in the background. For the club’s supporters at the least it’s not much different to when Joey Barton’s fist met Ousmane Dabo a few years back, only this time points are actually being picked up on the pitch as well as in the proverbial ring.
It’s glaringly obvious that certain sections of the mainstream media are dying for City to fail, while fans of other clubs haven’t been the most welcoming of the new regime to say the least. It’s hard to blame them though as the same thing happened Chelsea when Roman Abramovich took over and they started to challenge the status quo. Winning ugly is still winning though and if Roberto Mancini ends more than three decades of a trophy drought then there won’t be too many objections coming out of Eastlands.
As Mancini himself said last night, “I prefer one point and being booed than zero points and being applauded off the pitch”.
You won’t hear any arguments from me.
Neil is openly a Manchester City fan so any accusations of bias are probably spot on. You can also follow him on Twitter.