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Manchester City: One down, 37 to go

It may have only just begun but I think you’ll agree it’s already been a pretty crazy season in the Barclay’s Premier League!

A quick scan of the league table tells its own story. At the top, free-scorers Fulham and Swansea are duking it out for the title while West Brom find themselves in a strong position to bag a Champions League place come the end of the season. Meanwhile, down at the bottom and Liverpool and Manchester United are in crisis as two giant clubs flounder in and around the relegation zone. The shadow of the guillotine hangs provocatively over Liverpool’s straight-shooting middle-manager Brendan Rodgers while United’s big money acquisition of Robin Van Persie has so far been an unmitigated disaster, the grey-haired Dutch philanderer spending most of his time picking splinters out of his arse on the bench without a single goal to his name for his new club.

I am, of course, being entirely facetious but the above is fairly akin to the sort of knee-jerk, reactionary bullshit which tends to permeate the football world around this time of year. If a new manager hasn’t gotten his team off to a flyer on the first weekend of the season then it’s surely only a matter of time before he finds himself out of a job, while new signings are seemingly branded expensive flops if they haven’t scored a double hat-trick on their debut. It can therefore only be assumed that many football fans and writers are either senseless morons or there’s something about this sticky weather that temporarily warps people’s heads.

Thankfully, City fans are unlikely to adopt the same kind of fuckwittery at this stage of the season this time around. Having delivered the club’s first league title in 44 years last time out, manager Roberto Mancini practically walks on water for most of us and we’ll probably have to wait at least until he loses two games on the bounce somewhere around the busy Christmas period before the press file their annual report of disharmony in the camp. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that City have kept most of last year’s title winning squad together over the summer and even more to do the fact that this season began in exactly the same way as the last one ended, only with fewer grown men weeping on their knees at the end.

It is quite spooky how similar the QPR and Southampton games were though. On both occasions, City were expected to win comfortably and led by a goal at the break only to have their nonchalant start to the second half torn wide open thanks to two gobsmacking goals from their plucky opponents following a combination of poor defending from us and quick counter-attacking by them. Edin Dzeko once again scored his trademark equaliser before the Blues once again managed to grab a dramatic late winner (although Samir Nasri’s strike on Sunday wasn’t nearly as dramatic or late as the Sergio Aguero goal which preceded it). It may well just be a case of history repeating itself but you almost get the feeling that the whole thing was planned for the benefit of Sky TV(“I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again” sounds a bit daft now, doesn’t it?). An erstwhile non-football supporting acquaintance of mine once bored me with his conspiracy theory that everything that happens in the Premier League nowadays is a complete set-up making it more and more like WWE every year. I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t see where he was coming from at the moment.

On a more serious note, I do hope we’ve learned our lesson at the second time of asking. Although results at the end and the beginning of the season often only provide minor snapshots of the bigger picture, the fact that City have scraped 3-2 wins in their last two competitive games (three if you count the Community Shield) against inferior opposition shouldn’t be overlooked. Perhaps Mancini has finally had enough of everyone slagging him off for his boring, negative tactics and will instead throw caution to the wind this season with a cavalier “it-doesn’t-matter-how-many-you-score-we’ll-just-score-more” approach to matches. Either that or he’s been given a DVD of the Kevin Keegan promotion season in 01/02 and thinks it looked like a good laugh. Roberto, if you’re reading this, I preferred it last season when we were “boring” and breezed past teams by a comfortable four or five goals, so let’s have some more of that please.

Thankfully, it won’t be long until the transfer window slams shut again and we can all switch our attentions back to the situation in Syria or something of equal importance instead of scouring the back pages for the latest yield of the Rumour Mill (or “Bollocks Factory” to give it a more deserving moniker). For City, the slightly underwhelming signing of Scott Sinclair from Swansea appears to be a mere formality away but HRH Sheikh Mansour still doesn’t seem to be any closer to really getting his wallet out, meaning it’s unlikely the club will have made any significant improvements to the squad before the 1st of September. Whether that proves to be a mistake remains to be seen and there’s a lot to be said for building a team around a nucleus of stability, but one failed transfer that admittedly did disappoint me somewhat was that of the bloke with a girl’s name who looks like he buys his shirts from the same place as the much loved late TV prankster Jeremy Beadle, Daniele De Rossi. In case you missed it, De Rossi toyed with our emotions this week by calling a Hugh Abbott style press conference in which he announced that he (drum roll…) wouldn’t be leaving Roma anytime soon. Why he felt the need to gather the nation’s press for such a pointless announcement is a mystery but at least we now know that the Italian midfield mentalist won’t be donning a sky blue shirt this season after all. Get yourself on Twitter Dani lad, it’s much more convenient.

If, like me, you’ve spent most of the summer telling anyone who’ll listen that Kun Aguero is about to blossom into one of the greatest forwards the game’s ever seen then you’ll have been delighted to hear that the worrying knee injury sustained in the first few minutes of the Southampton game isn’t nearly as bad as first feared. Thankfully, the Argentine dreamboat is expected to be back in action after the international break in a few weeks time meaning we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief. I can’t tell you what went through my mind when he went down clutching his knee in the 7th minute on Sunday but “having kittens” would be the understatement of the millennium. In Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure we have a strong spine of a team, but if you ask me, a long term injury to any of them would be a much easier pill to swallow than if it happened to Sergio. Make no mistake, the guy is going to be crucial to everything we do this year and I pray he stays fit and doesn’t give us anymore scares like last Sunday.

So, with one game down and three points on the board we travel to Anfield at the weekend, a ground which has been a mostly unhappy hunting ground for as long as I can remember for City. Brendan Rodgers started life as Liverpool’s manager in a similarly comical fashion to his predecessors with a 3-0 defeat to West Brom last weekend but you’d expect them to come out fighting in their first home game of the season and will no doubt provide a tough early season test for Mancini’s men. As last season proved, every single point on the quest for title glory is a valuable one but that doesn’t mean we should get too carried away if results don’t go our way during the league’s embryonic stage.

I’m not a betting man by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m still willing to wager that (hilarious though it’d be) neither Liverpool nor United will be embroiled in a relegation battle this season, nor will Swansea or Fulham win the title. Call it a hunch.

 

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