Professional Manchester City Put in Gritty Holiday Shift Beating Crystal Palace

Phil KeidelContributor IIDecember 28, 2013

Dzeko's tally was all City needed to take three points against Crystal Palace.
Dzeko's tally was all City needed to take three points against Crystal Palace.Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Manchester City 1-0 Crystal Palace proved two things to be true. One, nobody wants to work in the languid days between Christmas and New Year's Day.

Two, the truest definition of "professional" is the worker who gives the boss a credible effort even when he does not much feel like working.

City had already been pressed into all-hands-on-deck service against Liverpool on Boxing Day. That 2-1 victory propelled City up to second in the Premier League table.

The league's impetus to squeeze as many matches into the holiday period—where football fans often have disposable income and free time on their hands—meant City had only a day to rest before their next league match.

With Arsenal idle for 24 hours, a win over moribund Palace at the Etihad would put City atop the Premier League table for a day, perhaps longer.

But for the Citizens, that motivation to come back to the shop so quickly over the holidays fairly equated to your boss sporting for pizzas as a bribe to extract more labor from you on Dec. 28. 

And as with your workplace, some of the Citizens had earned vacation which the boss was loath to compel them to forfeit.

Where you work, this means senior employees can "work from home," i.e., not check voicemails and generally blow off anything work-related while you are stuck answering the phones.

This encounter with Cameron Jerome left Hart bloodied but unbowed.
This encounter with Cameron Jerome left Hart bloodied but unbowed.Clint Hughes/Getty Images

Where City were concerned, this meant that Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta would join Alvaro Negredo and Samir Nasri on the bench as forgotten men like Javi Garcia and James Milner got to play.

It was a fine plan City manager Manuel Pellegrini had, trying to beat Palace with a side that resembled the group that beat Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena in a Champions League match. Only this time it did not work.

City fussed and fumbled around the pitch for the first 50 minutes—45 minutes plus an unusual five of stoppage time occasioned by Joe Hart's mangled eye. The Sky Blues retreated to the changing room goalless and clueless.

It was the functional equivalent of an office staff spending the morning playing Candy Crush.

Eschewing any substitutions after the break, Pellegrini obstinately stuck with the plan quite nearly to the detriment of the entire operation. Eventually, though, Pellegrini tacitly conceded that the work was not getting done.

Negredo and Nasri went on, and Toure was about to do so until Edin Dzeko finally converted a chance to provide the eventual winning margin.

A capacity crowd witnessed City's just-enough-to-win performance, the sort of effort everyone who has ever punched a clock to earn the rent money can relate to.

Maybe 80% of success is just showing up after all.