Belfast Telegraph

Alan Green: Top of the tree at Christmas, Manchester City have heart to stay there

Any who continue to harbour doubts about the sustainability of Manchester City’s title challenge should push them aside after the team’s performances over the last week, both of which I commentated on.

Travesty of justice is too strong a term to describe their loss at Stamford Bridge but, surely, the least Mancini’s side deserved was a draw?

Considering the importance of that night to Chelsea, Villas-Boas’ players must have been faintly embarrassed by the way they were outplayed in the opening half an hour.

Had the referee given the penalty that he should have, City would have coasted to victory. And Clichy was plain stupid

So the Arsenal game was a ‘must win’ even if a draw would have been sufficient to see City return to the top of the table.

Think, too, of how important it was to the Gunners: Wenger says they can’t win the title now but he was rightly delighted with the way Arsenal contributed to such an absorbing spectacle.

To me, it emphasised the importance of the victory to City.

I’ve seen them play better, much better: I’ve seen them create many more chances than they did on Sunday but it was the sheer doggedness of their display that you couldn’t ignore.

Bluntly, it was as if you were watching Manchester United in their pomp, squeezing the pips out of the opposition on their way to the title.

The theory goes that you can ‘get at’ the City defence.

I’m beginning to wonder. For such a young lad, Joe Hart continually shows why he will be the England goalkeeper for a very long time.

He was largely redundant for long periods in the game but still had the concentration to deny Vermaelen with a magnificent last-minute save.

Vincent Kompany was outstanding, contributing most to keeping Robin van Persie as quiet as it’s possible to do.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to recognise how good Kompany is. Is there currently a better central defender in the country?

As for Micah Richards, I want to know where Fabio Capello buys his glasses because I wish to avoid the place even if they were giving pairs away free.

It is increasingly outrageous that Richards isn’t England’s right-back.

Gareth Barry was everywhere in midfield. Perhaps, it’s a response to knowing there are players available to the manager, like Nigel De Jong and James Milner, who’d walk into the starting eleven of any other club regularly.

It wasn’t just Barry’s ‘spoiling’ on Sunday: it was his constant intelligent distribution of the ball; quietly, my man of the match.

Ahead of him, there was City’s customary array of attacking talent: which club wouldn’t wish to swap their resources for a situation in which you’re choosing between Aguero, Balotelli, Dzeko, Nasri and Silva? Who exactly is Tevez?

I know that Stoke are on a good run but I expect them to lose at the Etihad tomorrow night. City will be top at Christmas for the first time since 1929.

Belfast Telegraph


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