Verdict: Manchester City 2 Newcastle United 1
Goals: Tevez (pen) 18 min, A Johnson 75 min for City. Gutierrez 24 min for Newcastle
A disappointing performance was redeemed by a brilliant winning goal from substitute Adam Johnson. A result that takes City up to second place making the league table a better spectacle than much of this game.
Roberto Mancini reverted to the same midfield and attack that had defeated Chelsea, while at the back Boateng made his first Premier League start and Lescott came in for the injured Zabaleta at left-back. Two perfectly understandable changes.
The question marks are over City as an attacking force when playing sides they’re expected to beat. Tevez has the strength, workrate and skill to play as a lone striker, but can get crowded out against a packed defence. We need someone to offer more support, and Yaya Toure in the creative role isn’t the solution.
The Ivorian has a lumbering gait that doesn’t do him any favours, but this performance was his worst so far. At least Mancini had the good sense to haul his expensive signing off.
With Milner and Silva both best suited to playing in this role, Mancini needs to have a rethink. Yaya’s physical presence may offer more defensively than Silva, but Milner’s workrate would still make him a decent candidate in this position.
Neither Milner or Silva offer pace on the flanks, while both Barry and Yaya are slower still. As a result it can be quite painful watching this midfield attempt to get forward and offer support to Carlos, never mind break beyond him.
Barry managed it once, only to be let down by indecision when bearing down on the Newcastle goal. Silva was the only other midfielder from the starting eleven who looked like getting close to scoring. The Spaniard still isn’t creating or scoring goals, even if he is starting to offer more telling touches.
Then there is the possibility of playing Tevez as a deep lying striker with Adebayor up front. The Togolese made a difference when coming on against Newcastle, giving a focus to our attacking play. Doubts continue to surround his long term future, but on the pitch his work rate is good at the moment.
After the international break City are playing twice a week again, and Mancini needs to cultivate the best out of Adebayor rather than rely soley on Tevez. Following the Juve game, we were horribly flat and there was a distinct feeling of having got away with three points here.
City’s next match after a European game is at home to Arsenal. We’ll need to be at our sharpest against the Gunners and after this stuttering performance, Mancini will have to think carefully about how many players to rest against Lech Poznan.
City had fortune on their side with the two penalty decisions – cynics will say this marks us out as a ‘big four club’ in the making. In the first Williamson slid through Tevez and may have got a touch on the ball. Alan Hansen said on Match Of The Day, the defender takes a big risk when making that kind of challenge and shouldn’t have allowed Tevez to get goal side in the first place. It was a debatable decision, not a “diabolical” one as Chris Hughton claimed.
Hughton had a stronger case for feeling aggrieved when shortly after we went ahead, Lescott needlessly stuck a foot out and took away when Ameobi’s leg when Kolo had the danger covered.
As for the other moment which is proving the most controversial with the media, de Jong made a strong tackle, as is his wont, but kept his feet down and got the ball. Therefore the referee can claim to be correct to have allowed play to continue.
Hughton’s claim that it was “a needless tackle” has been picked up by the press, but Ben Arfa was going through and it’s de Jong’s job to make tackles in those situations. Joey Barton has certainly made a few.
Trailing 1-0, Newcastle pushed up and played a high line. With good passers like Barry, Yaya and Silva it seemed only a matter of time before we punished them on the break. Instead an obvious failing by Mancini allowed Newcastle back into the game.
Silva appeared to have a free role and was roaming across the midfield, rather than picking up the Newcastle left-back when they had possession. This enabled Newcastle to double up on Boateng who already had his hands full with an in-form Gutierrez.
Our German defender gave the impression of someone still coming to terms with the Premier League and the movements of his teammates. He could be seen complaining about the lack of cover in front of him, and for the goal Gutierrez waltzed unchallenged into our penalty area. The Argentine may have been fortunate to see Kompany’s block land at his feet, but better defending wouldn’t have allowed the initial shot.
Boateng also needs to get tighter on his opponents as it was to easy for Newcastle to put over crosses on his side. Fortunately Kolo and Kompany held their own against Ameobi and Carroll.
“We didn’t play at our best but we did the job and that is what mattered. We can look at the league table and feel we have done a good job so far.”
Following the victory over Chelsea, this win was vital if we’re to maintain a challenge for a top four place. With that achieved Mancini can now take two weeks to think how better to juggle his resources for Premier League games after European weeks.