Verdict: Wigan Athletic v City
Goals: N’Zogbia 45+1 for Wigan. Petrov 47 for City.
Martin Petrov struck as City came from behind to gain a point with a mixed performance that was divided by Pablo Zabaleta’s sending off. Prior to the Argentine’s dismissal, there was a disjointed look to Mark Hughes’ side with stray passes and a lack of cohesion in our attacks. Reduced to ten men, City found their focus, looked compact and could even have snatched a win.
After all the speculation about who would be fit for City, it transpired that only Bellamy and Toure missed out. Petrov came in on the wing and Micah Richards was recalled at centre-back as Hughes retained the same formation we saw at Villa.
Early on, the absence of Toure was noticeable in our distribution from the back. Richards hoofed a couple of balls in the general direction of Adebayor when we really needed to be playing more football.
Wigan’s passing was neater than City’s and they moved the ball around more comfortably. Their understanding always gave the man on the ball an option. This contrasted sharply with City who failed to look the sum of their parts. Adebayor struggled to get into the game, while poor passing was emphasized by players not making themselves available to the man with the ball.
This begs a question of the tactics and coaching – Martinez has only been at Wigan a couple of months, yet to often his team seemed to have a better understanding of one another.
The highlight of the first half for City was a beautifully pinged ball by Tevez to Adebayor on the edge of the Wigan penalty area. The Togolese took the ball expertly inside the defender with his first touch, but then gave the defence chance to recover with a poor second touch.
Surprisingly, the absence of Bellamy was most noticeable in the erratic delivery of set-pieces by Petrov. These have been our strength recently, but not today. Barry used to have a good delivery with his left foot at Villa, and it would surely have been worth letting him take a few.
Just prior to half-time, City had a let-off when Wigan had a goal disallowed for a foul on Barry by N’Zogbia. The City player seemed to play for the free-kick after getting himself between N’Zogbia and the ball, and it was a relief when the referee obliged him.
This warning wasn’t heeded and on the stroke of half-time Wigan took the lead. A lumped pass to Scotland was laid off to Rodallego despite the challenge of Richards. Zabaleta was out of position having moved upfield, and the Wigan man was able to get in his shot unchallenged. Given parried the ball, and it rolled across the goal for the incoming N’Zogbia to knock it over the line ahead of Bridge. Disappointingly, the England man lacked the determination to get their first.
After ending the first half with a whimper, City started the second with a bang. A terrific interception by de Jong, sent the ball to Wright-Phillips who passed it upfield for Tevez. The Argentine took on the Wigan defence and rolled the ball neatly back across the edge of the area. Initially it looked set for Wright-Phillips, but went through to Petrov, who calmly took aim and fired low into the bottom corner. It proved to be City’s best move of the match.
Disappointingly we failed to capitalize on this excellent start and Wigan were once again the better side at knocking the ball around. Eventually City started to get more into it and create moments of danger. Adebayor was played in once more, but failed to get his shot away. Wright-Phillips’ attempt to score from the follow-up was deflected wide.
The gameplan was then changed by Zabaleta’s needless lunge on Scotland. Wright-Phillips initially moved to full-back. Shortly afterwards, Adebayor limped off and Kompany made a welcome first appearance of the season, taking over at centre-back, while Richards moved to right-back.
Going down to ten men seemed to focus City as they paid more attention to keeping their shape, and retaining possession of the ball. Wigan only managed the odd half chance until Rodallega had a late shot saved at point-blank range by Given.
City broke forward when they could, and credit should be given to Hughes for two bold substitutions in bringing on Ireland and Santa Cruz. Ireland showed a couple of decent touches, while Santa Cruz once again failed to make an impact. This was a shame as Tevez had been doing a sterling job prior to going off.
While credit goes to the players for the way they closed the game out after Zabaleta’s dismissal, it shouldn’t obscure the fact we didn’t do enough in the first part of the match to earn the victory.
De Jong and Barry didn’t get forward quickly enough to augment the attack. Barry is the one who needs to do this more. It may be worth trying a midfield duo of de Jong and Ireland at some point.
It may look like a point gained, but the fact is City have dropped a place this weekend with Arsenal easing in to fourth spot. With the exception of the goal, City didn’t put in the kind of performance prior to the sending off that is good enough for a top four side.
“We’re a bit frustrated, I felt we were quite comfortable in the first half and then switched off at a hopeful long ball that got punted upfield.
“The sending-off stopped us in our tracks, we had to regroup and make sure that we were going to take something out of the game.”