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Thoughts on the West Brom victory


Crisis, what crisis?

Following a week of headlines, speculation and rumour, under pressure the side delivered a victory, but more importantly a performance to silence even the most ardent of critics.

Much had been made of the three successive defeats, yet closer analysis tells that one was with ten men for virtually the whole ninety minutes; one against a side playing as well as it had done all season and one with a shadow side that almost came away with a draw. Whilst not a must win game by any means, the importance of getting the victory should not be underestimated and with results elsewhere there is a far rosier look to life; joint third with a comfortable gap to fifth, five points off the lead and a chance to draw level with United with a derby victory on Wednesday.

It was the performance however that was most telling. Reports of player (and fan) unrest with Mancini and disputes between the squad provided the backdrop to the game but the eleven on display provided a team performance perhaps only matched with the win over Chelsea; ‘buy-in' to the Mancini ethos evident when it was most questioned.

Much was made of the return of Carlos Tevez, and his return provides such an added impetus in attack. Dovetailing superbly with the masterful David Silva and his precision passing, they were joined on this occasion by Mario Balotelli, who provided a microcosm of his career to date in just over an hour on the pitch.

Attributes such as strength, skill, pace, two good feet and an eye for goal all evident, as were displays of petulance, dissent and immaturity that resulted in him receiving a straight red for lashing out, leaving Mancini to berate his young charge and bemoan his inability to substitute him in time.

Despite a two goal lead at this point, the game was not beyond doubt and with confidence having taken a hit perhaps some were expecting West Brom to still get something from the game. Here though was where City re-asserted themselves. The returning Nigel de Jong - as influential a presence as Tevez - was a factor in the midfield trio returning to their dominant form and it is no surprise that with him in the line-up the recently criticised Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry were excellent; Barry's passing stats impressive whilst it was surely Toure's best game for the club (this despite taking a battering from the opposition) as possession was controlled to great effect.

Also key was the re-establishing of the authoritative Vincent Kompany-Kolo Toure axis, and it is telling that the side has conceded as many goals in the games they have not been together than when they have lined up. Despite West Brom pressurising the City defence, they stood firm and a couple of shots aside, were in the main snuffed out.

The circumstances were not easy heading into the match. The knives were being sharpened for anything less than a convincing performance and recent history and home form favoured West Brom, so although the side won the game relatively comfortably, do not take anything away from the performance.

When it was called for most, the side proved it is committed and provided that whilst there may be issues, there is a unity of spirit there and perhaps the recent criticism has stung them and provided added motivation to succeed.

More of the same is now required on Wednesday.