The way I see it, we had three levels of good going for us today and one level of ugly. To wit:
The First Level of the Good: Aleksander Kolarov: The Citizens as currently constituted are an enormously fun team to watch for a variety of reasons. High up for me on the list is Kolarov getting the time for a cannon shot and watching defenders react like someone just pulled the pin out of a grenade.
- Exhibit A: 4th minute, a sniper shot, found the net.
- Exhibit B: 25th minute or so, he almost tore off Sebastian Larsson's elbow (PK anyone?).
- Exhibit C: 85th minute, Kolarov took a pass from Milner, wound up and crushed it off of Craig Gardner's flailing arm (Seriously, PK? Is anybody home? Should we check the replay? Oh, we don't have that? Never mind).
He had some great crosses, one to Balotelli that should have resulted in at least a shot on goal if Balotelli wasn't throwing a tantrum all game (more on that later) and, of course, the cross to Aguero. And let's not forget some first-class defending; 53rd minute he made a sliding stop to keep Adam Johnson from either scoring or allowing Joe Hart to make his miracle save du jour. (UPDATE: I forgot his drawing a foul just outside the box to set up Milner's goal). This is the second straight game a MOM poll would be superfluous. Nice game, Aleksi.
The Second Level of the Good: Welcome back, Messrs. Richards, Milner, Barry and Lescott. The first two were especially strong. Micah looked like a kid at a birthday party and what dark forces were at work that denied him a goal I am not sure but if anyone deserved a group hug after finding the net, it was Micah. As for ‘there's only one' James Milner, he was literally all over the field, making his case for more time without complaining; hard not to respect a guy for that. Barry did fine except when he passed to Balotelli (more on that later) and I didn't notice Joleon today which, in my opinion, is a good thing.
The Third Level of the Good: Mancini: As most of you are aware, Adam Johnson left town shaking his fist, saying young players should avoid the Etihad like the plague lest they never see the pitch and strongly hinted that others at the Etihad will express their unhappiness in the not so distant future. I think Mancini, in order to keep complaints at a minimum, does three things:
- He believes there should be competition at every position; it keeps players sharp because they know if they play badly, there's someone just as capable of taking their place. Aguero, Silva, YaYa, Hart and, if he matches last season's form, Kompany--those guys can write their own ticket. Everyone else has to fight for time.
- He lets players know where they stand, either by word or example. Kolarov and Richards got the message last season-it's not that they weren't good, it's just that Glichy was playing the best football of his life down the stretch and Zabaleta had a streak of games where he didn't make a mistake.
- The chemistry on the team is very strong. Yes, we had l'affaire Tevez and Balotelli goes mental (more on that soon) but for the most part, this is a group of players that get along well. I think that's a credit to Mancini and his staff and a credit to the organization.
So that's my two cents. Question for y'all: is Johnson right? Is it only a matter of time before this little experiment explodes or are Johnson's quotes much ado about nothing? Personally, I think Mancini is making it work.
The One Level of Ugly: Not so Super Mario: Hey, mohawk? You were asked to play midfield today which means you can't laconically hang out in the land of strikers. You actually have to, you know, track back which means you may have to (perish the thought!) hustle back. And every time you get a pass at your feet, you don't have to create contact in the hopes you get fouled and then whine when you don't get the call. Yes, you made a good pass to Tevez which led to a foul which led to the first goal but the rest of the match, you were no more than an instigator and not in the good way. You got subbed off in the 50th+ minute and a couple of minutes after that, Aguero put away the kind of cross you couldn't get a boot on. But you didn't see that because you stormed off into the tunnel, not that anyone was going to stop you. Sincerely... every fan with eyes.
One Final Note: Chelsea is scary. I know it's early but they are just as scary as we were this time last year. I mean, they are terrifying. That is all.
EDIT: Commenter realfootballer points out that we should all be grateful for the return of 4-2-3-1 and I can't say I disagree; Barry and Milner as holding mids with my man YaYa allowed to roam free upfield had a nice effect on the offense and defense both.