After a string of largely sluggish and insipid performances, this was exactly the type of display needed to boost confidence. Controlling of possession, thwarting at the back and consistently threatening going forward, City produced arguably their best showing of the season to secure a thoroughly deserved victory away to the potentially dangerous Fulham.
The celebrations that greeted Edin Dzeko’s late winner, a clinical turn and strike, told the whole story. This wasn’t a routine victory but a hard-fought three points that were needed following a period of criticism aimed at the manager. The emotion and relief in the players’ faces were evident and this win must be used as a catalyst for further impressive displays.
The Blues would also have recorded a first clean sheet of the season had it not been for Mark Halsey’s inexplicable decision to award the home side a penalty but City showed character, spirit and quality in abundance to overturn the deficit. With Borussia Dortmund visiting the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday for a crucial Champions League tie, momentum was required to take into that fixture and thanks to Dzeko, we have just that.
The star of the show, as he was so often in the early stages of last season, was David Silva. Having struggled since around Christmas time last year with fatigue and injury, the Spaniard is being eased in gradually at the beginning of this campaign and after sitting out the Capital One Cup defeat to Aston Villa, he looked refreshed and back to somewhere near his best.
For all the praise rightly heaped on the likes of Vincent Kompany, Yaya Touré and Sergio Aguero, if any one individual makes City tick, it is the majestic Silva. If he’s on form, then we look in complete control. And yesterday, he was superb. Pacy and direct when running with the ball, his passing and decision making were excellent, his workrate and positional play would no doubt have pleased Mancini and he provided that spark which we’ve lacked so far this season.
Overall, the tempo was excellent, in direct contrast to the lethargic and laboured football we have sometimes played so far. Gareth Barry’s return helped, as he did what he does best, keeping play ticking over while retaining possession. Alongside Javi Garcia, he established the solid foundation upon which we could build and all our attacking players seemed to play with that extra freedom and thus caused havoc with their movement.
It was a performance that suggested our recent malaise was nothing more than a minor blip and that the City juggernaut is ready to rumble once more. Hopefully, Mancini now limits the defensive rotation and settles upon a backline that can provide a solid base. We have more than enough quality going forward, it’s just a matter of being patient whilst everything clicks into place once more.
Opposition View: Fulham been very impressive at the start of this campaign, scoring goals and looking a threat in attack, but whether it was their defensive tactics or just our ability to control the tempo of the game, they seemed limited. They have pace on the counter-attack but only forced Joe Hart into a couple of simple stops and whilst the victory was only secured with a couple of minutes to go, the winner had been coming. Clearly, they suffered from a number of injuries, especially in midfield, but I think most Blues expected a tougher contest.