City are not missing you know who
Manchester City 5 Norwich City 1:THESE ARE the moments when it is tempting to wonder what thoughts are passing through Carlos Tevez’s mind, and is there not just a trace of sadness that he is missing out on all this fun? Was life that bad, did Manchester represent such an intolerable workplace, that he can look at the way Roberto Mancini’s team are bulldozing their way through the Premier League, and not feel the slightest pang of regret?
Except, of course, the paradox is that Tevez is scarcely mentioned any more. Not one question in the pre- or post-match press conferences. Not one picture in the glossy 82-page programme. Manchester City have already moved on. Tevez has become The Man They No Longer Discuss, and it has happened at a rate that barely seems conceivable when you think of those days last season when it sometimes felt as though he was as crucial to their wellbeing as sunlight for a flower.
The new-look City, sans Tevez, have racked up 48 goals from their first 14 league fixtures, compared to the 19 they managed over the same period last season. They have scored three or more in 11 of those matches whereas at this stage a year ago they had managed it twice and failed to score on five separate occasions.
The last home game of that run was a goalless draw against Birmingham City that ended with mutinous, even vicious, chants against Mancini because of the perception he was too defence-orientated. It was their third home game in a row without scoring and they had managed fewer goals than two of the three promoted clubs.
Afterwards, he summed it up thus: “If Carlos Tevez does not score, we don’t have another player who can score. This has been our problem all season.” It was March 2nd before they had reached the number of goals they have accumulated in the current campaign.
What we have now is unprecedented. Everton managed 47 goals in their first 14 games of the 1894-95 season. Tottenham, in 1963-64, made it to 45. City overtook them both at the weekend.
“Frightening,” was the word Paul Lambert, the Norwich manager, used. Over at Manchester United, they have managed only one goal in each of their past seven league fixtures. “We’ll score when we want,” is the song of choice inside the Etihad.
The balloon of optimism may be pricked a little if they fail to negotiate a way into the Champions League knockout stages on Wednesday – they have to beat Bayern Munich at home while relying on Villarreal to avoid defeat against Napoli – but you sense they would quickly get over it. Mancini, approaching his two-year anniversary, was asked where he saw City in another two years. “One of the four top teams in Europe,” he replied.
Norwich were obdurate opponents at the start. “There won’t be many teams who come here and take them on,” Lambert said of his tactics to pack defence and frustrate the home side. But the plan unravelled once Sergio Aguero opened the scoring with a mischievous finish through the legs of two Norwich defenders and, after the break, the visitors capitulated. Samir Nasri’s free-kick, intended as a cross, went straight in for a generous second. Yaya Toure stroked in the third and Steve Morison’s header at the other end merely served to goad the home side.
Adam Johnson, running into a sea of space, completed the rout shortly after Mario Balotelli was presented with an open goal for the fourth and, being Balotelli, decided this was no place for an orthodox header when he could just as well put it in with a shrug of his right shoulder. Next time, Mario, roll it round the back of your neck and moonwalk over the line.