Rojo's Team Assessment: Reasons To Be Cheerful!
Yesterday I took a stroll to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin to watch Manchester City take on Internazionale in the inaugural Dublin Super Cup...
It's easy to take pre-season friendlies with a pinch of salt so I wasn't expecting much or at least knew that what was likely to unfold was not likely to affect me, the dog or the footballing world.
As it turns out, it didn't. But what it did do was provide plenty of reasons to be cheerful and hard evidence that Manchester City are ready to do battle for their first Premier League Crown this season.
I am loathe to report a match detailing goals and off-sides and near misses in a match that was shown live on Sky Sports, is currently available to watch as highlights on citytv, and has been reviewed by the hack masses on every football website across t'internet. I prefer to concentrate on individual performances and overall team effort.
First off, I was hugely encouraged by the team that Mancini sent out. A back four consisting of the usual suspects all sat tall and strong in front of the ever present Joe Hart.
If anything, Kolarov's inclusion in the starting eleven may have forced my left eyebrow slightly upwards as I had certainly expected Gael Clichy to slot in after Aleks' pretty average performance last season. And yet, Kolarov didn't disappoint.
His hunger to get forward and his new found ability to actually beat the first man with a cross was really encouraging. He proved this when he set-up Dzeko's first goal (which was harshly ruled out for offside) and linked up superbly with David Silva to cause the Inter defence all sorts of problems. He looked fit, strong, fast and hungry. There are quirks to his game and he needs to track back a bit more but as a rampaging left back (obviously under strict instructions to get forward as much as possible), he did the simple things really well and didn't play a bad or wrong pass of note. He looks like a player fighting for his place in this City team but more importantly, he looks like a player WILLING to fight for that place. It's great to see and I hope he proves his biggest detractors, of which I am one, completely wrong.
Vincenzo Kompany was a rock in defence once again and our new captain fantastic can really take this City team forward this season. I can't really say much more than what has already been said about this £6 million pound bargain other than the fact that he's got a strangely big head and a really fit wife. He is without doubt a City legend in the making.
Most VMC members know or ought to know how much I rate James Milner as a player. I have constantly called for Mancini to play him in a more central role (ideally in place of Gareth Barry who is slowing down at an alarming rate, a bit like this damn computer I'm typing on) because he can change a game in an instant with his ability to pick out a pass or through ball, let alone a fierce shot that we have seen precious little of since his arrival.
Milner had a frustrating first half. Many of his passes lacked conviction and some were over hit and wayward. He almost looked like he was trying too hard. In the second half however, we saw a much improved player.
He found his touch, he made some excellent runs from deep and forced a fine save from César early into the second half. Yesterday I saw a player whose work rate genuinely matched that of Tevez. He tracked back at every opportunity and was by far the most vocal player on the pitch, often instructing players to take up more advanced positions and working particularly well with Nigel deJong who had another solid game in the holding role.
'Arry and Levy can bang on as much as they want about their supposed £40million pound man Luka Modric but my God, isn't it a good thing Chelski ain't sniffing around our £80 million pound man, David Silva?
If Modric is worth that then 'twinkle-toes' is worth double. End of. This kid just has it all and proved yesterday that he is actually getting better. Forget his magical through ball for Dzeko to score the second. Forget about his mazy dribbles down the left flank and switching to the right when it suited him, or picking out the man in space with a concise pass first time, everytime. Silva is the engine room of this City team. Everything that was good and positive about our play was almost always directly attributable to something Silva did. Whether it was a pass or a dribble or a false run to take defenders with him, Silva did it with agility, with class and with consumate ease. Sneidjer looked second rate to Silva and although the Dutch man is a class act on his day and to be fair Inter are only just starting their pre-season, I would have Silva in a City shirt first all day long.
Who played better, Mario or Edin? I can't quite decide. They're both equally capable and they both know where the goal is but both are so different it barely makes sense to compare or contrast their performances. They both scored however and it's great to see our two strikers bagging great goals in a pre-season friendly. Balotelli more than made up for his stateside hiccup with a dangerous display against his former club and proved that he has what it takes to take City forward next season with a powerful aerial display and clever runs into space. He was a touch lazy at times, lacking conviction with a pass or giving up on a poor ball too quickly. I really like him though. If Bobby can reign him in and coax him along, we genuinely could have a star on our hands. Everytime he gets the ball you know he is capable of doing something brilliant. Isn't that an exciting proposition for any City fan?
Likewise Dzeko looked sharp and confident. One thing I noticed yesterday was his intelligence off the ball. He made some great runs and deserves as much credit for the run he made to latch onto Silva's delightful ball as he does for his accurate low finish into the bottom right hand corner. He seems to have developed a great understanding with Yaya and Silva and when he controls a ball first time, he has an uncanny ability or insightfulness to lay it off without barely needing to look up. He took both his goals exceptionally well (including the harshly ruled offside goal) and this will do his confidence the world of good. His first touch is still open to criticism but hopefully he can smooth out the rough edges with more game time. He possesses a great attitude; is always first to appreciate a ball or first to celebrate a team goal. He has a lot to prove this season but my money is on him to prove the doubters wrong AND wrong (and wrong).
Manchester City look to be in good shape as the new season dawns. Last night's result and performance showed that City possess a conviction and threat in front of goal, a creative and energetic midfield to feed that threat and a very solid back line all backed up by the brilliantly capable Joe Hart.
I have taken huge positives from the Inter game and although it's only pre-season, you couldn't but be encouraged and excited. And that was without Sergio. All in all, a great performance and a great boost going into next weekend against the dirty Rags.
Let's hope we crush 'em.
Hart (7), Richard (7), Kompany (8), Lescott (7), Kolarov (8), Milner (7.5), Yaya (7), deJong (7.5), Silva (9), Balotelli (8.5), Dzeko (8.5)
07 August 14:30: The rags, Wembley, CS
15 August 20:00 Swansea, Etihad Stadium, PL
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