Manchester City vs. Reading: 6 Things We Learned from Late Victory at the Etihad
Prior to this fixture, Manchester City already held the honour of being the Premier League’s latecomers, scoring the most goals in the final 30 minutes of their games.
With Gareth Barry’s 93rd-minute winner, the Citizens upheld that statistic, but were far from convincing in their victory.
Brian McDermott’s men will have been looking forward to going in at the Christmas break, having just earned a historic point against the champions of the English elite, but were left empty-handed in the end.
As such, both sides certainly have plenty to think about in the fallout of Saturday’s result, as do those who may have been watching.
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Manchester City Lacking Clinical Nature
Having finished the title-winning campaign of 2011-12 as the division’s top scorers, it goes without saying that Manchester City have let their standards in attack drop this time around.
At this stage of the season last year, the Citizens had scored an incredible tally of 53 goals, some 20 more than the 33 goals they have managed to amass so far this campaign.
While one would probably like to argue that while their attack has declined, their defence may have improved, this simply isn’t the case either.
In truth, Manchester City had actually conceded one less goal at the Christmas break last year (14) than the 15 goals they have allowed to slip by them this season—a disappointing statistic, regardless of their unbeaten streak at the start of the campaign.
The Christmas period is a perfect moment to look back and reflect on the season’s developments thus far, and it’s impossible to say anyone other than City have worsened in all areas since this time last year; at least that’s what the facts on paper say.
Reading Willing to Learn from Their Mistakes
Brian McDermott made four changes to his starting lineup for the trip to Eastlands on Saturday, after seeing his side drubbed 5-2 by Arsenal the previous Monday.
These changes mostly occurred in defence, with Chris Gunter, Alex Pearce and Ian Harte all coming in for Shaun Cummings, Kaspars Gorkss and Nicky Shorey, respectively.
With Sean Morrison out of action with a foot injury, the Royals’ defence already looks considerably weaker, making it of paramount importance that McDermott finds his sturdiest combination without the youngster.
By ringing the changes after such a demoralising defeat, the Reading boss showed that he isn’t afraid of bruising any egos and that he was obviously unhappy with the performance displayed by his men during midweek.
Although the slight deficit was largely down to a “Park the Bus” mentality, Reading’s defence seemed to work much more effectively at the Etihad Stadium and showed a solidity not too well known to the club’s fans this season.
If the Berkshire outfit can perform like that against the reigning Premier League champions, it at least shows that they’re willing to learn from their mistakes, a vital trait for any side seeking top-flight survival.
City Willing to Give the Kids Their Chance?
Since the Abu Dhabi takeover of 2008, Manchester City have undertaken a transfer policy of spending, spending and a little bit more spending.
With all this multi-million pound superstar talent flooding the side, it’s sometimes difficult to see where there’s a place for youth production.
That being said, the very definition of “youth production” has changed massively in the last 10 years. What was once solely interpreted as a youngster born and bred in the surrounding area (or even in the country in which the club is based) can now mean a starlet, at the very least, bought by the club at an under-ripe age.
With Matija Nastasic have already become a considerable trusted staple in the City setup this season, Roberto Mancini proved some doubters wrong in regards to his development policy, handing Karim Rekik a Premier League debut at the age of 18.
The Dutchman was impressive in his first league feature, holding off the likes of Jimmy Kébé and Jem Karacan with some certainty and opening the door for future inclusion, it would seem.
What’s more, Abdul Razak also managed to make the league bench for the sixth time this season. While he may have failed to come on, the fact that he is in the manager’s plans is still hopeful.
Royals Got the Result They Deserved
While everyone undoubtedly loves an underdog result, the predictions of Manchester City’s win prior to kickoff ultimately proved to be correct, even if it came in a manner unexpected by many.
At the end of the day, to say that Manchester City didn’t deserve the three points simply because they lacked a distinct finishing touch in front of the goal are wrongly placed; at least they were fashioning chances.
This is something Reading can’t exactly boast of due to the fact that they were too occupied ensuring that the Citizens didn’t go ahead in the first place.
To put this pressure into numbers, Manchester City had 17 total shots at Adam Federici’s goal, 10 of which were on target.
This is compared to Reading’s total of six shots, only one of which managed to test Joe Hart (via BBC Sport).
To rub salt in the wound, the hosts accumulated a dominant tally of 12 corners whereas Reading had just three, rounding off the unanimously pro-City figures.
As we can see, City deserved everything they got from this encounter and Roberto Mancini can actually see it as encouraging that his side are ready and willing to scrape these late wins, a vital part of any title-contending campaign.
Lescott Will Be Lonely This Christmas
Another game, another display watched from the bench by Joleon Lescott, who would be growing more and more distant from his once assured starting place at the Etihad Stadium.
With Vincent Kompany, Matija Nastasic, Maicon and now even Kolo Toure getting a look in before the Englishman, Lescott heads into the Christmas break with just seven Premier League starts this season.
The 30-year-old, as reported by Jamie Jackson of the Guardian, may consider the option of a January departure and, for the sake of his career, may be right in doing so.
With his side struggling to score goals for 93 minutes of the fixture against Reading, it’s of little surprise that Lescott didn’t figure in the eventual 1-0, but playing time seems to be very difficult for the defender to come by these days.
What’s more dissatisfying for the former Everton talisman is that the introduction of Karim Rekik, an 18-year-old academy player, was preferred to Lescott in favour of a defensive shuffle that would allow him entry.
A demoralising gift from manager Mancini as we head into the festive period, to say the least.
McDermott Right to Trust in Current Batch
As is reported in the Reading Post (h/t Sky Sports), Brian McDermott isn’t desperate to spend Anton Zingarevich’s riches in January and will only buy as he sees fit.
With lucrative ownership becoming a bigger and bigger priority among some managers, it’s encouraging to see that, despite his side’s sorry league position, the Reading boss isn’t prepared to sacrifice his morals in favour of potential success.
And “potential” is the correct word there because, as the likes of QPR, Shanghai Shenhua and Leicester City (just to name a few) have shown us, money doesn’t necessarily buy you love.
After all, it was the likes of Jimmy Kébé, Jem Karacan, Mikele Leigertwood, Adam Le Fondre, Hal Robson Kanu and numerous other Reading favourites that delivered the Royals to the Promised Land in the first place. So why renege on that relationship now?
McDermott’s men put in a very respectable performance at the Etihad Stadium in what was a match between more than just two teams at opposite ends of the table, but two teams with polar opposite transfer policies, at least in recent years.