Verdict: Manchester City 2 Bolton Wanderers 0
Goals: Tevez 30 mins, Adebayor 73 mins for City.
City emerged with three points thanks to moments of brilliance from Adam Johnson and Emmanual Adebayor, along with a defensive mindset that achieved a clean sheet. Like the previous two games it was far from pretty as this time Roberto Mancini sought to shore up the midfield with de Jong, Barry and Vieira.
The defence lined up as expected, given that Kompany was fit and Micah Richards wasn’t. With Tevez and Adebayor the established strike pairing, all eyes were on the midfield. Mancini went conservative, with Adam Johnson as the single attack minded player against a Bolton side that played only one defensive midfielder and was missing several first choice defenders.
We started with a midfield diamond – de Jong at the base and Johnson at the tip. Asking Barry and Vieira to do the legwork on the sides was never going to work for long. In fairness we started quite brightly as the formation caught Bolton out. Bridge was enjoying the freedom of the left flank and nearly created chances for Tevez and Adebayor. However it fizzled out and Bolton started to see more of the ball.
Mancini made one of his now customary formation changes with Johnson moving over to the right and Tevez nominally on the left. In reality Bridge was being asked to patrol the whole flank and didn’t last the 90 minutes. The switch still worked ok as Johnson demonstrated his skills wonderfully on the right flank.
There is definitely a sense of a younger Martin Petrov about the Wearsider, with the big difference being his happiness to play on the right flank. It was no surprise that the first goal came courtesy of a Johnson run, as he induced a clumsy foul from Robinson.
Tevez sent his penalty straight down the middle once again and was fortunate to see it go in off Jaaskelainen.Ã‚Â The Argentine is going to need to bring a bit more variety to his penalty taking strategy.
As in the Portsmouth game, City sat back and Coyle’s trademark passing game started to tell, with Jack Wilshire in particular looking dangerous. Fortunately Zabableta was making up for a disappointing display at Hull and paid close attention to the Arsenal loanee.
Many eyes were on Patrick Vieira and understandably it was a mixed offering given his time out with injury. The positional play was fine, but those long legs didn’t always make the tackles and the passing was a little hit and miss. Obviously the pass for Adebayor’s goal was the highlight.
The other pleasing aspect was seeing him last 90 minutes, and he looked ok when we switched to a central midfield two following the introduction to Shaun Wright-Phillips. Prior to this Bolton had been dominating and the crowd were getting understandably restless. Credit to Mancini for opening the game out at this point by playing Shaun on the right and switching Johnson to the left.
Bolton had more to think about defensively and the game opened up. The extra space enabled Vieira and Adedayor to link up for the clinching second goal.
With Kompany back in the defence, we coped better with the physical threat of Bolton than that of Hull and saw the game out for a welcome clean sheet. Toure had a mixed game against Kevin Davies and there is definitely a case for playing Lescott and Kompany against the physical threat of Stoke. But would Mancini drop the captain? It shouldn’t be a major issue as all outfield players need to be rotated these days.
Likewise in midfield, if we’re going to play a central midfield trio, then there is a case for Ireland being one of them. De Jong is rarely permitted over the halfway line and neither Barry or Vieira have the legs. Ireland’s runs and link-up play would keep the opposition midfield from becoming camped in our half – not an enjoyable sight for most City fans.
Rotating Barry and Vieira would surely make sense as we seek to keep them fresh. De Jong could also do with the occasional breather.
One final thought goes to our frustrated wingers as Petrov and Wright-Phillips started on the bench once again. Shaun will be sweating on his World Cup place if young England aspirant Johnson continues to keep him out of the side. Shaun’s eagerness to get involved once he came on was tangible.
“We had to bounce back after the defeat at Hull and we did that in a really professional way I thought.
“The last couple of home games we have perhaps not won in style but we have done it with conviction. Two-nil at home is a convincing result and it gives us confidence for the FA Cup.”
With the upcoming two games against Stoke followed by Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs, there’s no doubt City will need to play better in all those fixtures than they have in the last three. Finding a midfield balance that can accommodate both Tevez and Adebayor in attack seems to be eluding Mancini at the moment. At least the manager will now have a full complement of defenders to choose from, but we’ll still need to show a lot more to win the race for fourth place.