At the start of the season I described the City performance against Newcastle by using the word “Wow” – the win at West Ham was a wow of sorts but in a different way.
City blew away Newcastle, the win at Upton Park was more stylish, more creative and in some ways more impressive.
For one thing, everyone in the team made a telling contribution, the only player who was ok rather than scintilating was Gael Clichy. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t terrible, but by the exceptional standards of the others, he was just ok. I’m a big fan of Clichy, but maybe the fact that he’s not played as often and the odd mistake he’s made has effected his confidence, but just like Joe Hart, it’ll return, so no worries there at all.
Sergio Aguero’s first goal was very Romario-esque. When the Argentinian with legs like mini-tree trunks, was first signed by Roberto Mancini, the former Blues boss often compared him to the Brazilian. If you don’t know Romario, take a look at the goals he scored for Brazil at the 1994 World Cup Finals, and you’ll see the similarity. It wasn’t just the finish that was special, there was also the disguised dummy by Alvaro Negredo as Fernandinho played the forward ball.
I saw some things at West Ham from Fernandinho, or Nando as apparently they call him – a useful nickname if he’s partial to piri piri chicken – that gave me more of a handle on what he’s all about.
I’ll be honest, up until now I was still trying to figure him out. Yes, he quietly gets on with a short passing game that keeps things ticking along, unfussily, but up until Upton Park, he’d been sailing under the radar a little, and despite playing in that unsung “Barry” role, not quite doing enough to be “special”. That changed on saturday. His anticipation in the tackle was good, and he was always looking forward.
A bit like his English language skills,he’s quickly getting better. I spoke to him after the game, both formally with an interview, and then casually as I walked back to the press box. His body language was good, he made eye contact and smiled. I like that, it shows a level of sincerity. I congratulated him on his linguistic skills and compared him to Pablo Zabaleta, who embraced English culture and the language from the start. He even tweeted an acknowledgement to me when I thanked him on social media afterwards; a gentleman.
There was a lot more smiling from Manuel Pellegrini too. He’s clearly a man who takes his time to assess everything around him. So far he’s been cautiously polite in interviews but no more. Maybe because of the manner of the win at West Ham, he seemed a bit more relaxed. I took the opportunity to ask for a quick snapshot in the tunnel and he duly obliged.
What could he have had to complain about. He’d selected Javi Garcia in central defence, many reacted on twitter with worry, but it proved to be a trouble free game for him. Vincent Kompany was signed as a defensive midfielder, have we forgotten that?Look at his “Rolls Royce” performances these days in the heart of defence.Maybe Garcia has a future in that area too? In truth the jury is still out on that thought, but I’m sure in the fullness of time, we’ll know.
Next stop Moscow and I’m off with the club and players on their flight on monday afternoon, due to arrive in central Moscow by 11pm,because of the time difference. A sensible idea,I think,to go a little earlier than normal, and with conditions there likely to be near freezing, they’ll train on the much discussed Arena Khimki pitch on tuesday night. They’ll assess the quality of the repaired playing surface, there’ll surely be no repeat of the “unprepared” excuses used after the trip to Kiev in similar weather circumstances. You remember? Mario was allergic to grass, yes that one.
This is a big week for the Blues, two wins, and everything will seem possible.
On Tuesday night I’ll be presenting Blue Tuesday from the BBC bureau while Peter Barnes will be joining in from Media City and our special guest is one of those former City players you might just come up with on longaway journeys in answer to the question, who’s the most obscure player you’ve seen playing for the Blues, apart from Glauber Berti. Don’t miss it,6pm tuesday 95.1FM BBC Radio Manchester.