Mario Balotelli's penalty signalled their 50th strike of the season before Yaya Toure added to their tally late on in a Champions League win over Villarreal at El Madrigal
By David Lynch
Wednesday night’s 3-0 saunter at El Madrigal may not have been Manchester City’s most impressive goal haul this season but it was one of the most significant. Yaya Toure’s second goal, the third of the night, registered as their 51st strike of what has been an incredible campaign so far for Roberto Mancini’s team. It also took them within just one goal of a side which we are often told are without peer, Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.
Roberto Mancini came to the Premier League in 2010 with a reputation as a cautious manager, an unfair judgement perhaps a consequence of his passport rather than his past. During his first season and a half with the Manchester giants however he did little to quell accusations regarding the pragmatic approach adopted by his teams.
Even upon securing Champions League football at Manchester City for the first time in the club’s history, doubters alleged that his attacking players were sacrificing too much in order to aid the defensive shape of the side. ‘The shackles needed to be let off’, they said as Mancini simply waited.
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A 5-1 win at White Hart Lane was a different matter, Harry Redknapp’s Spurs are no mugs, but this was still just ‘one of those results’. Then came the final nail in the coffin for the doubters, the scoreline to hammer home the Blues’ new ethos: Manchester United 1 – 6 Manchester City. Before this season, even until before that scoreline, Mancini’s side often felt like a team in transition.
Now, with a settled David Silva playing the architect and a potent frontline firing, a new, ruthless and exciting goal machine had been released. It has yet to stop for breath.
City now sit just one goal behind Catalan behemoth Barcelona in a goal tally of Europe’s league leaders and a deeper look into the breakdown of those numbers provides even further encouragement for Roberto Mancini.
With Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero he has two strikers already in double figures this season and their support, a forward growing in stature each week in Mario Balotelli, has seven strikes to his name. Midfielders Silva, Milner, Johnson and Barry have also proved willing to get in on the act and goals from defence via Savic, Kolarov and Kompany are parts that sum up to an almost unrelenting attacking threat.
All these strikes have, of course, been netted without a man who scored 20 league goals last season, a man who still picks up his wage from the Etihad - the headline-grabbing Carlos Tevez. That the Argentine forward’s absence is rarely mentioned in actual football terms speaks volumes for the depth that City currently have.
In fact, they just don’t miss him. The former United man has now seen his hand severely weakened not just by Mancini’s refusal to bend to his will but the sparkling form of those whose position he shares.
So, as City chase Barcelona for European goal supremacy, Roberto Mancini may find himself looking over to Catalunya with a little less envy these days. Pep Guardiola’s side spread of goals is rather inevitably weighted toward Lionel Messi and, whilst Mancini would never be cocksure enough to say he wouldn’t want the outrageously talented Barcelona squad, the Italian will be pleased that he is no longer a slave to such over-reliance.
The next team to face the might of the Blues are newly-promoted QPR on Bonfire Night and Neil Warnock’s side are perhaps already preparing themselves for a roasting akin to an unfortunate Guy Fawkes effigy. Given his side’s rotational policy and strength in depth, Roberto Mancini will simply hope the fireworks at Manchester City can continue far beyond the 5th of November.
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