Roberto Mancini's Stars Shine Bright As City Dominates Liverpool
The season maybe only two rounds of matches in, but based on City's impressive victory over a flat Liverpool team it seems highly probable Manchester City will finish ahead of the 18-time League Champions for the second season in a row, which may help reinforce the idea that there's a shift of change ahead in the English Premier League.
Further evidence to consider, if required, is the fact that Roberto Mancini has not only incredible strength in-depth, but still developing his crop of expensive superstars, something a few experts suggest may take him months.
City's win was comfortable to say the least. Mancini set his team up in a fluid 4-2-3-1 cum 4-3-3 system, the lumbering Yaya Toure supporting lone striker Carlos Tevez as the advancing member of a midfield trio, along with Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry. Toure kept his game simple, dispatching passes accurate on the deck with zip, ensured Milner, Adam Johnston and Tevez's demands were met satisfactory by receiving a regular share of possession.
James Milner made a good start to his Man City career, cutting back neatly from the right for Gareth Barry to slot past the hapless Pepe Reina. Milner enjoyed a certain amount of freedom in his role, largely deployed on the left he would regularly drift inwards whilst, also fulfilling his defensive responsibilities on the rare occasions Liverpool attacked.
Adam Johnston demonstrated once again his growing talent, a player blessed with pace and the ability to make clever use of the ball in tight spaces.
City's extra man in midfield was clearly apparent. With Joe Cole suspended, Roy Hodgson changed his formation from the 4-2-3-1 used in the first half against Arsenal to a 4-4-2, Torres and Ngog up front, Gerrard and Lucas behind as the central midfield unit. However, Gerrard's influence on the game was limited due to City's fluid creation of producing triangles and accurate passing.
City's dominance was confirmed 10 minutes into the second half, Carlos Tevez reeling away in celebration after lightly glancing the ball of his shin through Reina's legs. Whether Tevez made any contact on the ball remains debatable, but his positioning certainly wasn't: two yards from the goal line almost on Pepe Reina's shoulder. Tevez exhibited his perfect predatory instincts to influence matters, right place right time, no coincidence.
Tevez added a third, from the penalty spot, Adam Johnston brashly tumbled over by Skrtel; 3-0, and well deserved.
In the aftermath, City will enjoy talk of serious title contenders for at least a week, for Liverpool fingers will point at Torres' fitness and questions will be made of Hodgson's tactical setup in an away game where five in midfield seemed the more considered approach.
For some observers however, having watched an impressive display from Gareth Barry playing in a deep-lying central midfield pair, utilising sensible box to box runs and arriving late, unmarked, in key areas, what greater influence could Steve Gerrard carry in a similar role in a similar setup?
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