Tottenham 1 Manchester City 5
Another Riot in Tottenham
Sunday 21st August 2011 : Alan Westwood
for GYKO at No Heart Lane
spoke of sending out a "signal" to the other contenders but this
felt far more emphatic than that. Their first two games had already
been won to establish an upbeat tone for the campaign ahead but
Manchester City's true statement of intent was delivered here. To
beat Swansea City and Bolton Wanderers is one thing. To dismantle,
even humiliate, Tottenham Hotspur is quite another.
A first league victory in this corner of north London for 20 years
returned City to the top of the formative Premier League table,
albeit briefly, but it was the manner of the success that will
reverberate through the division.
The visitors were irrepressible, sparring through the opening
half-hour before ripping Tottenham to shreds. City were supposed to
be a team restricted by an overly cautious approach though, in
tearing into Spurs, they did not so much release the handbrake as
rip it out and fling it from the vehicle altogether.
This club had felt confident enough in their strength in depth to
loan Emmanuel Adebayor to Tottenham, the team who had denied them a
place in the Champions League some 15 months ago, and even
supplement his wages. The reality is, as Harry Redknapp implied in
the aftermath, that they are now competing on a completely different
plain. This summer's signings have hoisted them further clear of the
pack. In Edin Dzeko, so anaemic after being prised from Wolfsburg in
January, they now boast a player who is threatening to make a £28m
fee seem like a snip.
The Bosnian scored four here and now has seven goals in four
appearances, including the Community Shield, this season. Behind him
the blur of forward-thinkers utterly flummoxed a Spurs team denied a
fit natural defensive midfielder from the outset.
The lack of a shield allowed the debutant Nasri to join David Silva
and Sergio Agüero in revelling in this fluid attacking line. The
Frenchman had trained three times with his new team-mates but has
already tapped into their philosophy.
Tottenham's bright start was deceptive. At no point did the home
side come to terms with the subtlety in their opponents'
approach-play. The result was a rout and Tottenham's heaviest home
defeat in eight years. Dzeko's first three goals were all
immaculately constructed, the first two reliant upon Nasri assists.
The France international worked space in exchanges with Gaël Clichy
and Agüero to centre for the opener just after the half-hour, then
floated a cross for the second as half-time approached.
Dzeko, on each occasion, eked space from Younes Kaboul to convert.
The power mustered by the Bosnian in his header as he leaped up and
back was particularly impressive. "He gets in there," said the
assistant manager, David Platt. "The way he manipulates the
football, gets into position, even scores dirty goals – we'd seen
signs of it last season but he's come to terms with the pace of the
game here now."
In between that brace, Spurs had passed up an opportunity to level
with Peter Crouch heading Gareth Bale's marvellous cross wide. The
England striker was abused by fans seated near the tunnel as the
teams retired at half-time as frustration boiled over, yet neither
the mood nor the performance lifted thereafter. Luka Modric, never
in the right frame of mind to flourish despite the odd flash of
quality, departed a little after the hour mark by which time City
were four up and the contest killed off. There was to be no
competing with them on this occasion.
Yaya Touré's low centre offered Dzeko his hat-trick when the striker
tapped in from on the goal-line as Spurs defenders were by-passed at
will while Agüero got his own reward by teasing away from Michael
Dawson and finishing from an unkind angle. Kaboul's headed riposte
was unexpected only as it appeared the stuffing had been knocked out
of the Londoners. The loss of Rafael van der Vaart with a hamstring
tear rather summed up their plight. The team will recover its poise
but, at present, is rather limping along.
These will be a frantic last few days of the transfer window at
White Hart Lane, with Scott Parker and Craig Bellamy likely to join
Adebayor at Spurs. Lassana Diarra and Gary Cahill could also still
arrive from Real Madrid and Bolton respectively with steel required.
"The place needs a little bit of a lift now, and I've told that to
the chairman," said Harry Redknapp. "I feel we have to freshen the
place up a bit. We'll get one or two more in."
City, in contrast, feel their transfer business is done. Dzeko's
fourth, curled in from distance, merely confirmed their dominance.
Carlos Tevez was never even required to spring from the bench. This
was less a warning signal and more a full-scale alert; this team's
challenge has never felt more persuasive.
Tottenham Friedel, Corluka, Dawson, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon
(Defoe 53), Modric (Livermore 66), Kranjcar (Huddlestone 46), Bale,
Van der Vaart, Crouch.
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Pavlyuchenko, Bassong, Walker.
Booked: Assou-Ekotto, Van der Vaart.
Goals: Kaboul 68.
Man City Hart, Zabaleta (Richards 64), Kompany, Lescott, Clichy,
Toure Yaya, Barry, Silva, Nasri, Aguero (Savic 75), Dzeko.
Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Milner, Johnson, Tevez, Balotelli.
Booked: Barry, Zabaleta, Toure Yaya, Savic.
Goals: Dzeko 34, 41, 55, Aguero 60, Dzeko 90.
Att: 36, 150
Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).
Bolton Wanderers 2 Manchester City 3
Sunday 21st August 2011 : Brian Booth for GYKO
at the Reebok
Manchester City may be unfeasibly rich
but the price on their head is also extremely high. Although Bolton
Wanderers pride themselves on putting all visitors to a rigorous
test, there was a keener appetite to them as they rallied and made
Roberto Mancini's side defend at length before the win was clinched.
The verve from the victors, who had led 3-1, ought to be
appreciated, even if the manager himself will now be intent on
restoring some of the usual stringency.
Regardless of the view from either technical area, this was a
spectacle to be relished by anyone craving goals,
entertainment and an element of uncertainty about the outcome. From
the doggedly professional perspective, City allowed too much fun to
seep in and the centre-half Joleon Lescott was particularly
fallible. In the long term, all the same, Mancini's line-up is only
likely to take the Premier League title if there is a commitment to
Players such as David Silva and Sergio Agüero epitomise that but it
was the influence of James Milner that was crucial to the win. The
England midfielder embodied the balance between diligence and impact
that Mancini has to strike in his line-up.
The money and the shrewdness with which City now spend it are
starting to make an impression. There was a stylishness to the
visitors for a while but they had mislaid a little of their old
efficiency. Bolton claimed the last goal of the day with a Kevin
Davies header from a free-kick in the 62nd minute.
Still, it was a sign of City's means that Agüero could then be taken
off, with Carlos Tevez, who admittedly wishes to leave the club,
coming off the bench.
City will not forget the stress they had to undergo against an
impassioned Bolton. Owen Coyle, manager of the hosts, was surely
irritated by the build-up to this match.
While people swooned at the impact of Agüero's debut from the bench
for City in the 4-0 defeat of Swansea, virtually no attention was
paid to Bolton's victory by the same score at another promoted club,
Queens Park Rangers. For a while the sceptics seemed to have a sound
basis for supposing that the visitors would make the most of
superior means and demoralise their opponents.
The course of the match was to be more complex but City did move 2-0
in front of Bolton as their build-up steadily improved, with
imperious interchanging for a while from the trio of support
strikers behind Edin Dzeko.
The opener in the 26th minute was, however, provided by a rare
moment of haplessness from the Bolton goalkeeper, Jussi Jaaskelainen,
who will surely be too proud to make the excuse that Silva's drive
from outside of the area bounced in front of him. The save ought to
have been routine.
City were exhilarated then and Barry increased the lead with a
handsome 30-yarder but the visitors may have been a little too
intoxicated by the impact. Bolton responded almost immediately, with
the marking so lax that Ivan Klasnic had a simple task six minutes
from half-time to tuck home Martin Petrov's well-placed low ball at
the near post.
A third goal came for City two minutes after the interval. Dzeko
kept Zat Knight at bay while taking Milner's lobbed pass and firing
past Jaaskelainen. Now that he is operating in the centre the
scorer's importance has become marked. If City relaxed then, it
showed a very poor understanding of Bolton's pride and purpose.
Mancini's side are still trying to school themselves and embrace the
expectations of a club that were last the champions of England in
Over the course of the subsequent decades they ceased even to be
regarded as contenders. Although the squad itself has been upgraded
so extravagantly, this is still a step into the unknown for many.
City have to school themselves in living with the realisation that
any opponents will raise their game against them and show a most
unusual appetite. Dealing with that environment is a way of life for
many clubs but City are coming into that category belatedly.
Mancini himself will feel part of an experiment. He is far from
being a novice when it comes to the wealth, expectation and tortuous
politics of sport since he was an effective manager of
Internazionale. It would be nonsensical, in the context of football
history, to put City among the clubs of such eminence but Mancini
must feel the stress when the wish is for instant glory.
On their last trip to the Reebok, in May, the 2-0 margin of victory
suggested efficiency. City are a better and more expansive side now
but each away match is liable to be an occasion. Mancini's side are
starting to realise their ambitions and the desire to put them under
stress is also climbing.
The encouragement for him lies in the fact that the character and
style of play being instilled look natural to his line-up. It was
essential to the aspiration that such a process should take place
but the speed at which City are turning into sprightly
crowd-pleasers is an agreeable surprise.
Bolton Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson,
Eagles (Pratley 78), Muamba (Mark Davies 59), Reo-Coker, Petrov,
Kevin Davies, Klasnic.
Subs Not Used: Bogdan, Alonso, Blake, Wheater, Blakeman.
Booked: Muamba, Kevin Davies.
Goals: Klasnic 39, Kevin Davies 63.
Manchester City Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov,
Milner, Barry, Toure Yaya, Silva (Zabaleta 88), Dzeko (Johnson 80),
Aguero (Tevez 68).
Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Clichy, Savic, Balotelli.
Goals: Silva 26, Barry 37, Dzeko 47.
Att: 24, 273
Ref: Mike Jones (Cheshire).
Manchester City 4 Swansea City 0 City
Strike Agüerian Gold
Monday 15th August 2011 : GYKO at the Etihad
Manchester City are off and
running and, in the process, the seemingly ceaseless issues
surrounding Carlos Tevez no longer seem quite so important. Roberto
Mancini's team were rampant throughout the second half and, as
debuts go, it is difficult to think Sergio Agüero could have done
much more to ingratiate himself with his new supporters.
Agüero was introduced shortly after Edin Dzeko had opened the
scoring against a Swansea City side who out passed their opponents
for the first 30 minutes before fading badly. Within nine minutes of
coming on he had made it 2-0. Still not satisfied, he then created
the third for David Silva but it was the moment when he made it 4-0,
with full time approaching, that he fully announced his arrival in
Agüero's second goal of the night was struck from 30 yards: a
swerving, dipping, brutal shot that speared into the net. The Etihad
Stadium has a new hero and, if he continues like this, maybe
Mancini's team may yet score the "10 to 15 extra goals" he believes
will turn them from Champions League qualifiers last season to a
side with realistic aspirations of winning the league.
Mancini eulogised about the £38m signing, reflecting on a "perfect
night" that began with City's players warming up in T-shirts bearing
the slogan "I Love Manchester." Tevez, in Manchester against his
will and off-message for longer than the club will care to remember,
was nowhere to be seen. True to form, the club captain – and it is
surely only correct that title is removed from him for good – was
not even in the stands but this did not feel like a night for
recriminations. "I'm not surprised by what I saw tonight," Mancini
said. "Agüero has scored a lot of goals in Spain and Argentina –
he's a fantastic striker."
By the end, Swansea were grateful to hear the whistle. They had some
good spells and can be encouraged by the way they dominated the
opening exchanges. Yet, for all their neat and attractive football,
they were seldom a genuine threat and Joe Hart made only one
noteworthy save all night.
Brendan Rodgers has assembled a side who are capable of keeping the
ball under pressure and they will win many admirers but he may yet
have to impress on his team that, when they are on top, it is
crucial in this league that they make it count.
Instead Mancini's team recovered from a difficult start and, by the
closing stages of the first half, Swansea's goal was being subjected
to concerted pressure. Silva, almost inevitably, was prominently
involved. One diagonal shot brought a splendid flying save from
Michel Vorm. Another effort from the Spaniard struck the crossbar.
Dzeko looked busy, sharper than he was last season, and was also
identified by Mancini for special acclaim. Adam Johnson, chosen
ahead of Mario Balotelli, worried the Swansea defence. Yaya Touré
found his passing range after struggling early on.
Vorm, a £1.5m signing from FC Utrecht, had an inspired 15-minute
period when he kept out everything and Swansea had a bit of luck,
too. When Gareth Barry slashed a left-foot effort through a
congested area the crossbar shook for a second time but Swansea had
lost their early verve and it was no surprise when Dzeko began the
Silva started the move, wriggling away from Leon Britton inside his
own half and advancing through the middle. His pass sent Johnson
scampering clear, cutting inside from the right before trying to
curl a shot past Vorm. The Dutchman got both hands to the ball but
turned it straight into Dzeko's path, six yards out for a relatively
The match would soon turn into an ordeal for the team embarking on
their first top-flight season since 1983. Agüero's debut goal was a
simple tap-in at the far post after Micah Richards had sent over a
low cross from the right.
Three minutes later Dzeko's pass sent Agüero clear. The Argentinean
lifted the ball over the oncoming Vorm and adjusted his body to hook
it back from the byline. Silva was waiting on the penalty spot to
stroke his shot into an exposed goal.
And then the special moment. Agüero's second goal was unstoppable –
"world-class from a world-class player," as Rodgers said – and, in
that moment, we had the confirmation that the club of Abu Dhabi
wealth and ambition had ushered a new superstar into the Premier
League. Carlos who?
Man City Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Toure
Yaya, De Jong (Aguero 59), Barry, Silva (Milner 82), Dzeko, Johnson
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Balotelli.
Goals: Dzeko 57, Aguero 68, Silva 71, Aguero 90.
Swansea Vorm, Rangel, Caulker, Williams, Tate, Britton (Allen
65), Dobbie (Routledge 65), Agustien, Dyer (Lita 81), Graham,
Subs Not Used: Moreira, Orlandi, Moore, Gower.
Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).