Cardiff City 3 – Manchester City 2
Two games in to the premier league season and it’s easy to tell something about this Manchester City team is…different. Long gone are the late night firework celebrations turned house fires. So too are the pings from mid-season, three month long Argentinean golf tours. And if you’re scanning the City touchline, waiting for a botched set-piece outburst, or combing the newspapers for an off-the-cuff comment, you won’t find it. It’s a different coach, different players, different feel. Heck I don’t even know if Mr. Pellegrini owns a scarf.
With wardrobe changes in mind and a disappointing scoreline set aside, the City team you witnessed on Sunday couldn’t have been further from the one we watched flunk out of the Champions league over the past two years. Sure, corners still make our defenders look as thoughtful as a Joey Barton tweet, and Yaya attacks every referee decision with the same amount of goblin spit oozing from his mouth corners, but the entire aura surrounding the game – before, during and after – had a very unfamiliar tone.
It started with this summer’s moves. They were calculated, well timed, and aimed at creating exactly what Mancini couldn’t in his pressure-cooker of a locker room – team harmony. All are “yes men”, Navas for width, Negredo for a fourth striker, Jovetic for flexibility in the midfield or upfront, and Fernandinho to partner with Toure. Some have argued that City have overspent on Fernandinho with his 30 million dollar move. Maybe, but that’s not the point. The blues brass have gone out and gotten exactly the type of player they wanted and needed, regardless of price tag.
It may not have looked like a great crop of players this past weekend, but there were a number of factors going against the club. Take your pick of excuses: from a shaky defense that didn’t include the team captain, to a home crowd that wouldn’t have accepted anything less than three points. You could even go with the fact that it was the first time this season that this new group has faced a defense like Cardiff’s. The boys in blue may have taken a train to get to Cardiff City Stadium, but a bus was parked in the home team’s 18-yard box waiting on them.
The boys in blue may have taken a train to get to Cardiff City Stadium, but a bus was parked in the home team’s 18-yard box waiting on them.
You’re right and I agree. Those excuses sound as weak to me as the moment I typed them, but that’s the great thing about this club. There’s a reserved confidence surrounding this year’s team that makes you think at any second the quiet hero is going to pull a gun out of nowhere, make pig feed of the bad guys, and mutter a sticky catchphrase as the dust settles. It’s this cool approach that’ll make you believe any excuse your mind can think up. Of course Bellamy was bound to turn out his old club. That’s just how karma works and I’m not one to argue with universal forces. Besides, they battled back and were one off-sides call away from earning a point. Right?
Just look at Pellegrini’s grizzled pokerface throughout the match. Even the Cardiff City owner doing his best impression of an Asian, Weekend at Bernie’s Bernie showed more excitement than the Man City boss. All that is missing from Pellegrini is a cowboy hat and a toothpick. He’s already got the gruffy vocals. The changing of the guard has definitely had its benefits. Normally after a result like this, the press would be having a field day. Big Spending City Can’t Buy Win. Or Ballotelli Walks Strait Down the Tunnel to Murder Basket of Kittens. Not this time. Not this year.
The only drama the journalists could squeeze out of the game regarded Hart’s place as the number one keeper for England given his recent performances. Hardly a problem Hart will face at City. With Pellegrini behind the reigns, steadying the carriage, I truly believe that City will offer some of the most hyperbole inducing play the galaxy has ever seen. We’ve already seen glimpses, and once the back-line shapes up, we won’t need to think up any excuses at all.
So why was this change in tone a necessity? We’ve grown up. On the field and off it. We’ve traded in the girlfriend who has as many daddy issues as tattoos for something more stable. Someone we can actually take home to our parents and not worry she’ll mention her latest career choice. It makes sense given our place in life. The noisy neighbors have experienced their growing pains as a club in search of recognition, and can now focus their efforts on earning respect and a place at the adult table – silverware included.
At the time, buying renegade strikers with bad reputations and bringing in a manager who could fill a suit was what the Manchester City brand called for. It needed flash, sizzle, and pop to make headlines, put the team’s name on every soccer journalist’s lips, and grab the world’s attention. We were sold a Michael Bay directed version of a club (helicopter at dusk hero scene in the form of a league winning shot) and for the most part it worked. It was exactly what an up-and-coming brand requires. But for now the flamboyant hibachi chef has moved on to another table, the onion volcano has flamed out, and we can finally sit down and enjoy the sustenance we City fans have been waiting for.