While we were busy celebrating Christmas with our friends & family, stuffing our faces with turkey, trying to work out the latest episode of Dr. Who and cringing at some of this year’s Cracker jokes, Manchester City’s players were in a hotel preparing for 2 games in 3 days, for our entertainment.
Is it right that 2 top-class Premier League games, in City’s case against Liverpool and Crystal Palace, are played in such a short space of time? With modern-day football teams putting as much effort into every game they play, as they do, is it now a little unfair to expect those games to remain entertaining? City are a team that these days, are known for slick, athletic, fast, free-flowing one touch football, how can that be repeated just under 48 hours after such a big match against Liverpool.
The first game on boxing day had everything. It was attacking football, by both teams, full of drama, controversy and played at a very past pace. City started the game brightly, with Jesus Navas and Vincent Kompany diverting a couple of headers towards goal, only missing by a few mere inches. Coutinho gave Liverpool the lead before a Kompany header got City level. A fast counter attack, involving Silva, Navas and eventually Negredo, helped City take the lead, with what proved to be the winning goal.
The game carried on at the same frantic pace throughout the second half and left everyone, lucky enough to be in the Etihad Stadium, players and fans alike, breathless. As those in the crowd went home for a turkey butty, and a snowball or two, the players had ice-baths and were in the next day for massages and recuperation.
Less than 48 hours later we were back in our seats, although we could be forgiven for thinking it was February 2nd (groundhog day) rather than 28th December ; but this wasn’t going to be a day or game just like the previous one. This time it was dour, defensive Crystal Palace, managed these days by former Stoke boss Tony Pulis, who drove the team bus onto the pitch and parked it in front of their goal.
If ever City needed to be quick, athletic, slick and inventive, this was the game, but City manager Manuel Pellegrini decided he had to make half a dozen changes because of fatigue. Palace kept an unchanged team, though their style of play doesn’t rely on mobility, it’s more about never moving far from your own penalty area.
The result was a far less entertaining game for the supporters, though eventually a goal from Edin Dzeko sent the majority, who attended, home happy. After that less inspiring game, maybe it was time for a Jack Daniels rather than just a mulled wine.
Why were these two games played so close together? The history of festive fixture congestion is because traditionally they attract bigger crowds, but surely both these games would have been sell outs anyway. Some have suggested a winter break – well I’m not suggesting that, but maybe there could be one less game over Christmas, so that at least we wouldn’t have to see the quality dip so dramatically, as it did in the City v Palace game.
Surely 2 games in 48 hours isn’t really necessary in this day and age!
– Daniel Cheeseman