Verdict: Manchester City 1 Blackpool 0
Goal: A Johnson 34 mins for City.
City continued their excellent Christmas form with a deflected Adam Johnson shot providing the only goal in a victory over Blackpool. It should have been more, but Carlos Tevez kept the game interesting by reverting to his Manchester United form – showing plenty of skill and enthusiasm without being able to finish.
Roberto Mancini’s temper was raised early on as both returning full-backs, Boateng and Kolarov, were slack in their defensive duties. This prompted the manager to have Zabaleta and Richards warming up after only a couple of minutes.
His frustration steadily rose as we failed to put the game to bed. This would have enabled the substitution of key players in readiness for the Arsenal game. The cost of not doing so will only become apparent on Wednesday.
It was encouraging to see Mancini cajoling his players throughout, doing his utmost to combat their increased signs of tiredness. It reminds us of his hunger and determination to reach the club’s targets for the current campaign. By the end he looked to have expended as much energy as anyone on the pitch.
With Balotelli suffering a minor knee injury, Mancini had been spared the decision of who to drop to accommodate the returning captain. With Kolo Toure still absent despite a return to training, Lescott was able to continue his good form in defence.
It was no surprise to see Barry return in place of Vieira, and more interesting was the continued rotation of the full-backs. Kolarov and Boateng returned in place of Richards and Zabaleta. It will be interesting to see who starts against Arsenal.
Blackpool presented Tevez with a chance in the first minute and the Argentine engineered a shot that was pulled wide. The tone was thus set for the remainder of his afternoon.
Chances continued to be created with Silva at the heart of our best work. However Blackpool showed more belief than Villa and had the best opportunity, requiring an acrobatic save from Joe Hart.
Eventually a slight deflection off a long range shot by Adam Johnson enabled City to make the breakthrough and was immediately followed by an excellently won penalty by Yaya. His strength in getting ahead of, then holding off Varney, gave way to a penalty area collapse that left the referee with little choice.
Rather than his usual blast down a central area of the goal, Tevez sought to place the ball in the corner, and missed. A return to the powerfully struck shot may in order if Carlos wants to keep taking spot kicks ahead of Mario.
Holloway brought on Phillips at half-time, a nineteen year old signed from Wycombe who, disconcertingly, proceeded to tear past Kolarov a couple of times. Mancini duly hauled the Serb off and brought on the more reliable defensive qualities of Zabaleta.
Phillips continued to cause problems until the enforced substitution of Silva enabled Milner to provide some excellent defensive cover. If Silva misses the Arsenal game, then Milner’s ability to help out in closing down opponents could see him return to the starting line-up.
As the game wore on City began to tire and our passing lost it’s fluency, even if we did continue to create opportunities. Blackpool need little encouragement to attack, but Tevez gave it to them anyway by continuing to miss chances and keep the lead down to a single goal.
Mancini’s organisation of the side as a well-drilled defensive unit saw them through with Hart, Lescott and Kompany all winning plaudits at the back. It leaves City having conceded just once in three games over the festive period.
This is a hugely impressive feat considering how tiredness usually leads to teams conceding more goals. However the final, and biggest test, is yet to come – a trip to the Emirates.
“I am still adjusting to the Premier League. I know I must improve more but I like the quickness of the game in England.
“It is a new thing for me to play in the winter. I need more power to play so many matches in close succession.
“I am looking forward to playing centre back eventually.
“Playing right back is a new thing for me because in Hamburg last season I played only in the middle and in the World Cup only on the left side.”
Despite Blackpool’s spirit and adventure, City got the win we needed to keep pace with United and ahead of the rest. Mancini still looked far from happy as this should have been a more comfortable victory that would have enabled better preparation for the Arsenal game.
The possibility of Silva being injured and tiredness amongst the midfielders is a concern. Mancini is left to ponder some interesting decisions in terms of team selection and tactics.