Manchester City v Hull City
Friday December 26, 2008, 3.00pm
City of Manchester Stadium - Att: 45,196
If Mark Hughes was hoping for a statement performance from his side given the recent attention on him, then he most definitely got it. A fantastic performance of attacking football - particularly in the first half - and one that we have shown on occasion previously in the season.
The return of Robinho was obviously a huge boost to the side, but equally as important (if not more so) was the return to the early season form by Stephen Ireland. The trio of Ireland, Wright-Phillips and Robinho are an integral part to our success and it is important they sustain their form and whilst I'm certainly not getting carried away, the performance should dispel some of the recent doom.
Hughes sprung a surprise with the inclusion of Elano for the game after many predictions that he had played his final game at the club - but you do wonder whether he will ever be a regular under Hughes? We do look a far better side with the formation that lined up today, but is it likely that a more robust 4-4-2 will be deployed at Ewood Park?
Jo had a great opportunity to impress when replacing Caideo at half-time but failed to enhance his claims at all, or even match the approach shown by Caicedo on full debut.
I know Hughes has made much of our slide last season, but historically he has enjoyed good second halfs to the season and his prediction this week of finishing top ten should easily be attainable given how bunched the Premier League is this season, and looking at the table it is not inconceivable for us to be challenging top six if a consistent second half can be put together.
Hughes referred to our start last season as "unsustainable", and in truth he could have been referring to Hull. They have made a tremendous start to the season, but in truth have caught many sides by surprise. I would expect (like ourselves last time around) them to struggle over the second half and slide to mid-table - and they are only six points ahead of us.
A little bit of transfer talk today with Marcos Senna talking positively about a potential move and Harry Redknapp suggesting we are interested in Craig Bellamy following West Ham rejecting Tottenham's bid for the player. On the playing side, I don't see where he fits into our side as it is clear we need a 'main' striker, which Bellamy clearly is not. As for his personality, that's another matter entirely.