December 10 2013 Latest news:
Friday, December 21, 2012
You must start to suspect that you have an ego problem when you feel the need to spend your Saturday afternoon trying to teach 26,000 people a lesson.
It’s a shame that the part of the villain has already been filled for this year’s Theatre Royal pantomime, because Lee Probert’s exhibition of preening self importance needed only the addition of a twirly moustache and a evil laugh to make him a shoo-in for the role.
The more the crowd barracked his errors, the more wilfully perverse his decisions became, and he came very close to spoiling a good, open game. Celebrity refereeing at its very worst, I’m afraid.
That shouldn’t, however, be allowed to divert attention away from yet another solid City performance, which should have resulted in a more comprehensive victory margin, with huge credit going to Ali al-Habsi for some great saves. Quite how Roberto Martinez was able to suggest that his side deserved a draw while keeping a straight face is something of a mystery to me.
Presumably that assertion from Martinez was based on the 10-minute period early in the second half when the half-time Wigan substitutions added an energy that had been lacking in the first half and resulted in City being pushed back for the first time in the match.
There has been a lot of comment about substitutions, or the lack of them, this season, and it would have been very easy for Chris Hughton to react to his opposite number’s move by making changes of his own. However, he clearly judged that, having dominated the first half, City had the correct personnel on the pitch to reassert their control and he was proven right. Sometimes lack of action is the best response.
It was also interesting to note how effective City’s regular shape was against a Wigan team playing the same formation used by Aston Villa in midweek. While Villa were able to exploit the numerical advantage that their wingbacks gave them in midfield against a 4-4-2, the return to a 4-2-3-1 set-up completely reversed that situation with Wigan struggling to pick up Wes Hoolahan throughout. As a result, City’s wingers were able to enjoy much more freedom than on Tuesday evening.
The wide positions are absolutely key to City’s success, because not only are they an increasingly productive source of goals, but they are also vital to the defensive set up by providing cover for the full-backs and allowing the two defensive midfielders to concentrate on the central areas.
In fact, when City were under pressure at Swansea two weeks ago there were occasions when the wingers were filling the full-back positions, allowing Steven Whittaker and Javier Garrido to get closer to the centre-backs. The result was that Swansea were presented with an effective bank of six defenders with two midfielders sweeping in front.
In addition to that defensive discipline, the team’s workrate at the moment is quite incredible with opposition players consistently being hounded into making errors, and it’s being done not by simply chasing everything like headless chickens, but being selective.
One of the things that struck me about the top teams last season is how they would allow the opposition time on the ball until they saw an opportunity to win possession and then pressurise the man on the ball in numbers, and that’s something that City are doing increasingly effectively this season.
So the run goes on and hopefully it will be extended to 11 league games at the Hawthorns tomorrow. After wins there last year in both the league and the FA Cup, it’s got good memories for us, and at least we won’t have to put up with another afternoon of Lee Probert.