Manchester City V Aston Villa
Tuesday, 28th December – 15:00 (GMT)
Robert Mancini was brought in as Mark Hughes’ successor in a bid to bring some continuity to the club, as well as success, and while the Italian is on target to complete the club’s primary objective of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League, in what is Mancini’s first full season in charge as Manchester City chief, fans would like to see some entertaining football every now and then at the City of Manchester Stadium, as opposed to the indifferent displays they’ve had to endure throughout the entire first half of the season.
Can anyone remember the last time City blew an opponent away in Manchester? Well it was right at the very beginning of the current season (2010/2011), when Liverpool, who have turned out to be terrible travellers, came to town and were put to the sword immediately and throughout in what remains City’s most expansive and most exciting home performance of the campaign thus far, and with the midway point of the season upon us we’ve yet to really see anything of a similar calibre since.
The one thing Mancini has brought to the fore is consistency, and some continuity on all fronts, with points arriving on a more regular basis and the starting line-up almost identical each and every match day, with the exception of the odd injury hiccup, and the Italian has had to deal with a few of those. However, the one negative he did bring with him from his time in Italy was that he was TOO defensive, which is ironic as when Mark Hughes was in charge, the club were crying out for someone with some defensive nous – As City’s fluency in the final third would have been complimented nicely by some stability and fortitude at the back. Instead, Mancini has reined back City’s willingness and desire to really take the game to their opponent’s, opting to control encounters more in the midfield rather than overwhelm opponent’s with all-out attacking aggression.
Under Mancini, although we haven’t always been his biggest admirer, we have little doubt he will be a success at Eastlands. It would take some capitulation for them not to go one better than their fifth-place finish of last term by breaking into the top-four this season, while there’s even the possibility of silverware coming to Eastlands. The Citizens are prominently placed in the Barclay’s Premier League – Sat third, two points shy of Manchester United although having played two games more – and victory on Tuesday would see them go top, albeit for only a couple of hours. In Europe, the UEFA Europa League is a real possibility, what with the embarrassment of riches Mancini has at his disposal, and they are outright favourites, while a favourable run of draws in the FA Cup could see them land a rare coup in the oldest knock-out competition on the planet.
There is plenty to be positive about if you’re a Man City supporter, and I suspect they’re a growing breed what with success supposedly around the corner. Still in the running for three pieces of silverware, and well on course for UEFA Champions League football next term – What was once a fantasy for the fans. Blessed with outrageously rich owners. Carlos Tevez signing a new contract, and even Mario Balotelli rumoured to be unhappy in Manchester and eager for a move back to his native Italy – What have they to complain about. Well, the football hasn’t exactly been entertaining at home this season, with City opting to win matches in a clinical, economical manner as opposed to blowing teams out of the water. Of course, the fans will be delighted should the team finish the season inside the top four and with a trophy, but they also want to brag about the kind of football their team play, something they aren’t currently able to do.
On Tuesday, when City tackle Gerard Houllier’s lacklustre Villa side, Mancini can afford to ease off the defensive gas and instead apply some frightening speed at the other end, where the likes of David Silva, Adam Johnson, James Milner, Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez are all bursting at the seam to go out and play with an element of freedom for a change, something they haven’t been able to do this season and have instead found themselves suffocated by a combination of Mancini wanting his players to control the game in a calm, methodical and organised manner and a huge expectancy from the fans to entertain them. We feel it’s fair to say they won’t have a better chance to let their hair down and go wild in the aisles than at home to Aston Villa, whom have been woeful on the road of late and are aiming to avoid registering their seventh away defeat of the campaign, what would be their fifth in six away league contests.
Furthermore, defensively Villa have been all over the place. In eight away matches, Villa have shipped eighteen goals – Comfortable over 2 goals every away match. It isn’t as though their defensive frailties has arisen because of their desire to play on the front foot, as they’ve been equally as woeful in front of goal. Stoke City, Wolves, Tottenham and Fulham – A total of 5 goals – are the only teams who have conceded to Villa at home this season, while Newcastle, Sunderland, Blackburn and Liverpool have all comfortably avoided conceding against a Villa offence which simply doesn’t pack the same punch without the injured Ashley Young, a Gabriel Agbonlahor lacking in match practice and confidence, the strength and aerial presence of John Carew and the midfield genius of James Milner, who now represents Man City.
We have absolutely no doubt that Villa boss Gerard Houllier is a man under immense pressure. The supporters want rid of him, the results have been dire under his watch so far while reports of changing room dissent continue to dominate all the headlines in Birmingham. Villa are a mess, with the only bright spark being the emergence of Marc Albrighton. The rest simply isn’t worth talking about, certainly not in a positive light.
Manchester City haven’t been consistent enough at home to suggest they would normally be value at odds of 1/2 (1.50), however we find it impossible to envisage anything other than a home win, and with Villa shipping goals in plentiful supply on their travels and City desperate to give their fans something to cheer about, preferably with a couple of goals, I really do think this could turn into a rout. If that does so happen to be the case, it could be Houllier’s last game in charge as surely the board won’t accept too many more dismal displays from their team. After all, there have been far too many already. Plus, the relegation zone once again looms large.
December 28th, 2010 / Matt - Category: Premier League Tips