Yesterday, it was the result, as opposed to the performance, which was key. After the bitter disappointment during the week of losing so abjectly to Ajax, the Blues needed to respond with a win and thanks to one moment of individual brilliance from Carlos Tévez, the three points were secured despite a sluggish display.
Except for a fifteen minute spell at the start of the second half, there was a lack of fluency or incisiveness, but following the exertions of two demanding games earlier in the week, this encounter was never likely to see City at their best. Instead, it was a gritty display, one characterised by attrition rather than the free-flowing, enthralling football of which we are capable, but when you have the quality of the likes of Tévez on the pitch, matches can be settled in a moment.
After the chaos and utter confusion which was manifest in Wednesday’s defeat, Roberto Mancini opted to revert back to the 4-2-2-2 formation which served the Blues so well in the final few games of last season. Aleks Kolarov was deployed in a more advanced role on the left but was then switched to the opposite side midway through the half in a confusing move. With Scott Sinclair, a pacy, hard-working winger sat on the bench, it seemed baffling to play the Serbian, whose right foot rivals that of Wayne Bridge, in that position, but Mancini ought to take credit for the tactical chance he made at the break.
The Italian introduced Mario Balotelli at half-time in place of Kolarov and the change immediately gave the Blues a boost. Whilst it may have been expected that Balotelli would play on the wing, he was actually given the responsibility of leading the line. His pace and ability to make runs in behind forced Swansea’s defence to retreat and that, crucially, enabled Samir Nasri and Tévez to drop deeper towards City’s midfield, find more space and time on the ball, and influence the game.
Having been criticised, correctly, for his decisions during the Ajax game, it is only right that the manager receives some praise for his tactics on Saturday. That switch, combined with an added verve and purpose about our play, overwhelmed the visitors for fifteen minutes and we managed to score. The pace of the game then dropped and we saw out the win with relative comfort. It wasn’t particularly pretty but it is this sort of grit which is so vital when a side isn’t playing too well.
Opposition View: Swansea struggled with their normally effective passing games in the early stages, but they recovered strongly and started to play some decent football. Wayne Routledge worked tirelessly down their left, displaying some tricky footwork if not always having an end product. Michu offered a physical threat up front and should have done better with his two opportunities, but Swansea were made to pay for their lack of clinical touch. They didn’t control midfield as they did last season against City, but they seem a touch more purposeful in possession this time around.
As for the Blues, there is a much needed rest now with no game in midweek, before a visit to London to face West Ham at the weekend. We’re the only unbeaten side in the Premier League and lie third in the table despite not having reached anywhere near our scintillating best. Performances will improve shortly. For now, it’s about grinding out results and we’re doing just that.