City's all-star attack fails to sparkle on home debut
Manchester City 1 Wolverhampton 0
Monday 24 August 2009
On the evidence of this match, it's a new striker Manchester City need rather than a new central defender. It's hard to imagine they could be so profligate again this season but, if they are, they will almost certainly be punished by teams with a little more attacking wherewithal and self-belief than Wolves could muster on Saturday.
Given that City are all about attack, their opening home game of the season was a bit of an anti-climax, rather like a top designer's fashion show where most of the creations fall flat. Carlos Tevez was there strutting his stuff on the catwalk and, of course, for some just to see him in his No32 Sky Blue shirt instead of that horrible red thing was enough.
The home fans were just gagging to celebrate his opening goal for the club – one off his backside would have done – but in the event the biggest applause they could give him was for working the Wolves back four in his inimitable manic fashion. Presumably, Mark Hughes and his Arab employers will want a little more for their £30m than that. "We're not the finished article by any means, but we'll get better," vowed the City manager.
Of course, one would be mad to suggest there are not enough goals in this side – there was enough even on the bench on Saturday – but it remains to be seen how well they gel because this is a team that is all about movement in the final third of the pitch rather than distinct formation. Neither Emmanuel Adebayor nor Tevez are target men, so headed goals will be out of the question unless they come from defenders at set-pieces.
Not that City threw in too many aimless crosses. Almost everything was gloriously to feet, like the goal for instance which, to be fair, Tevez played a major part in setting up. It started with Robinho, as most things did, wide on the left.
Wolves' preoccupation with the Brazilian gave others time and space and in this instance it gave Wayne Bridge all the time he needed to cross. A first-time touch from Tevez that served both to kill the ball and lay it off with perfect weight in one movement gave Adebayor the opportunity to turn and fire past Wayne Hennessey at his near post. It was an impressive follow-up to his opening goal at Blackburn the previous week.
The fact that the man from Togo should have added two more, crucially one just eight minutes after his 16th minute goal when he shot straight at Hennessey which would have allowed City to relax more, was conveniently overlooked by Hughes, who naturally preferred to dwell on Adebayor's many plusses.
"Technically, he's a very gifted player and he also gives us a physical presence," said Hughes. "When you knock the ball up to him he's very difficult to handle. He can link the play himself or he can turn and sprint away from the centre-backs, which is a quality we didn't have in the side last season."
The longer City went without turning their overwhelming superiority into goals – Stephen Ireland's second-half miss after playing a one-two with Robinho was inexcusable – the bolder and braver Wolves got. The truth is, after City's goal, the two nearest efforts both came from the newly-promoted side, when Matthew Jarvis forced Shay Given into the kind of full-length save Mick McCarthy, the Wolves manager, was happily familiar with during their Republic of Ireland days together, and when Andrew Keogh beat the Irishman only to hit the bar.
Hughes saw that as an inevitable result of City's attacking style and the way they dealt with it as a further example of their new-found spirit and steel. Others saw it as blindingly obvious proof that they still need strengthening in defence.
No wonder when asked, once Joleon Lescott's inevitable transfer from Everton goes through, bringing the Arabs' outlay this summer to £120m, was that it, as far as strengthening the defence was concerned, he replied: "Not necessarily."
Manchester City (4-1-2-3): Given; Richards, Dunne, Touré, Bridge; Barry; Wright-Phillips, Ireland; Tevez (Bellamy, 72), Adebayor, Robinho (De Jong, 82). Substitutes not used: Zabaleta, Onuoha, Petrov, Weiss, Taylor (gk)
Wolverhampton Wanderers: (4-1-4-1): Hennessey; Stearman, Craddock, Mancienne, S Ward (Vokes, 73); Henry; Jarvis, Halford (Elokobi, h-t), Edwards, Milijas (Doyle, h-t); Keogh. Substitutes not used: Surman, Jones, Berra, Hahnemann.
Booked: Wolves Stearman.
Referee: L Mason (Bolton).
Man of the match: Robinho.
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