An unanticipated internet malfunction means this report is quite late. Perhaps it’s got something to do with it being -15 degrees outside. Perhaps not. Either way, I had to let each and every single one of you know how cold I am in the hope of attaining a little sympathy.
Although my 3-0 prediction was close and I said the win would be ‘driven’ by an Agüero masterclass, I don’t exactly feel like Mystic Meg sat here this evening. Don’t get me wrong, Sergio showed snippets of artistry – the acceleration he showed to gallop past Joel Ward and unselfishly square to Silva for our fourth was a real highlight – but it wasn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. The striker’s standards are remarkably high and if we’re judging him on Bayern Munich hat-trick-like criteria, this was only just an above average performance. In fact, before his deflected effort trickled past Wayne Hennessey, I thought he looked quite lethargic and he lost the ball on a number of occasions when we were pressing forward. Two goals, an assist, but still only a 7/10 performance from Sergio who is making small strides towards his best. Is he there yet, though? No chance.
For me, it’s Fabian Delph who deserves the loudest applause for his robust display in the 4-0 win over Crystal Palace. I have to admit that I was never behind the £8m move last summer. Some, taking his age, nationality and impressive form at Aston Villa into account, called it a bargain while others remarked that the transfer wouldn’t exactly leave European giants Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich quaking in their boots. I took the latter point of view and saw it as a callous means of boosting our homegrown quota while also burying a promising career.
It turns out that I, and plenty of you lot out there, was very, very wrong. Delph has been much more than the utility player I expected him to be and provides the hustle and bustle in the midfield that Touré, De Bruyne and Silva do not. Energy and work-rate are words commonly associated with the 25-year-old, but he’s also a technically gifted midfielder that has the ability to drive at opponents and shoot from long range. His 30-yard screamer (that the woeful Hennessy should definitely have saved) that got the engine running on a snowy day in Manchester demonstrated just one of the rather unfamiliar, but intriguing, items Delph has in his locker and I’d love to see him bag a few more for us this season. I’ve really warmed to the bloke that showed his commitment to excellent banter when he parred Villa quite amusingly six months ago and his thick Bradford accent melts in your ears like Yorkshire Butter. An all round top fella, is Fabian.
But before Fabian’s pearler on 22 minutes, we were extremely poor. Damien Delaney miraculously failed to nod in from two yards after just a couple of minutes and we struggled to get our foot on the ball in a scrappy opening 20 minutes. Pellegrini’s team selection, given how effective Sterling and Navas were on the flanks and how obvious it was that fatigue was getting the better of De Bruyne against Everton, surprised me. Neither of the nippy wingers started, but the Belgian, who was pretty ineffective yet again, was put in a four man midfield alongside Silva, Delph and Fernando. With very little width in the side and discouraged by our start to the game, I was struggling to see how we were going to break down a team that had conceded just eight goals on the road this term.
Fortunately, Pardew stuck with the same goalkeeper that took it upon himself to help 20th place Villa out a little six days ago by allowing Joleon Lescott’s tame header to trickle through his legs to give the Brummies their second win of the season. Delph’s long-range whack, although packed with power, should never have got past Hennessey; but fortunately for us, it did – and there’s absolutely no doubt that his manager called him a c*** in the dressing room at half time.
It was 2-0 20 minutes later when Sergio unleashed a dipping strike from outside the box. This one was no fault of Hennessey’s, but of a deflection that came off Scott Dann’s head. The goal sparked life into the Argentine and he became the focal point of our attack in the second half.
Kolarov picked up a calf injury just minutes into the second period and it didn’t look good at all. The Serbian is a pretty hard geezer and wouldn’t be seen dead on a stretcher, but the fact he required one to get off the pitch doesn’t fill me with confidence. Pellegrini says we’ll know more about the injury today, so let’s hope it’s nothing serious.
Moments later, after Clichy came on to replace Kolarov, Yaya was summoned from the bench at the expense of Iheanacho. It was another intelligent performance from the youngster, but his replacement was fantastic. Yaya has been overused this term and perhaps needed a rest to get back to the form we know he can hit. On Saturday, he presented a 30 minute exhibition of technical brilliance and was instrumental in our third when switched the ball out to De Bruyne who assisted Agüero for a tap in. With Delph and Fernando now fit, there’s no need to play Yaya as much as we have been doing and on Saturday, he showed us what he can do after a little down time.
David Silva netted our fourth after Agüero sprinted past Ward and squared into the Spaniard’s path. Pardew said the result “flattered” us, but his side offered absolutely nothing going forward after the second minute and sat back begging for a defeat. This wasn’t vintage City, but only one team deserved to win the game and I was mightily impressed with how clinical we were in front of goal after passing up on 22 opportunities against Everton on Wednesday. This result showed that we can take our chances, and that when we do, even without kicking into second gear, we can demolish good teams like Crystal Palace.
Oh, and that’s our third clean sheet in as many games. Who needs Vincent Kompany? (Joking).