Thoughts on the Fulham victory

LONDON ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Clint Dempsey of Fulham is closed down by Pablo Zabaleta of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Manchester City at Craven Cottage on November 21 2010 in London England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Was this a season defining victory? Maybe, but what it did illustrate was that when faced with pressure and criticism the side has the character and fortitude to put up a performance that suggests it will be in the mix for the title, let alone a top four position.

Make no mistake, Fulham were complicit in their downfall yesterday with some poor defensive play that led to three of the City goals, but in the opening forty-five minutes at least, it was a display as ruthless and dominating as seen for some time as Fulham were dismantled in every area.

Post-game Mancini stated that there was no difference in tactical approach in this game compared with the goalless draws against United and Birmingham - performances that led to a(nother) wave of criticism at the Italian, this was a far more purposeful one; and whilst they way Mancini sets up his side attracts plenty of comment, this performance was what the formation can deliver.

Throughout the side there excellent performances: the partnership of Kolo Toure and Vincent Kompany repelling what threat Fulham could muster, but it was the midfield trio who set the tone. Nigel de Jong, combative, strong and proving quite how good technically he is was a starting point so often. The duo of Barry and Yaya Toure, whose appearance can often be lethargic, were purposeful and more effective further forward than they have been which meant Fulham's midfield pairing were over-run time and again. It is also worth noting that once again the passing completion stats were in excess of 95% for all three.

A key component in the victory yesterday though which has been missing this season was the play of the full-backs. Aleksandar Kolarov, now fully fit, turned in the type fo performance that Wayne Bridge was touted as offering, but has yet to deliver. Strong defensively, the energy and quality going forward provided an extra option in attack and both he and the excellent Pablo Zabaleta helped spread the play superbly.

David Silva was very good once again: his technique, touch and control a joy and he was dangerous every time he gained possession. Jo was a surprise choice, playing on the left hand side position ahead of James Milner and although oft-maligned, his penchance for drifting infield took some of the burden - but crucially not the space - from Carlos Tevez.

Much like the West Brom victory, an important win was delivered when most needed. The side has proved they have some steel and undoubtedly have their managers back. What they need to show now, if they are to mount a serious tilt at the title, is the ability to be able to unlock games where sides set out to frustrate and restrict - something they have to wholly convince of.

Post-game, Mark Hughes was gracious in defeat, disappointed no doubt but acknowledging the quality of the City side on display (ironically starting seven players he brought to the club), saying:

"On their performance today certainly they're contenders. "They were excellent. If they have belief and there's some forward thinking, and maybe they're a bit more attack-minded as they were today on more occasions, there's no reason why they shouldn't be. They've got as good a chance as anybody.

"It's wide open. No one is running away with it.

"I don't like getting beaten by anybody in that manner, irrespective of whether it is City or not. This was our worst performance of the season, and it came against a very good side. We know that we are better than that."

If they can become more ruthless in this aspect, the side may well prove Mark Hughes correct.

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