Sunday, 30 October 2011

The 'new' City mentality.

Since joining City from Shrewsbury, Joe Hart has worked his way up to be both club and country's 1st choice goalkeeper. This was no mean feat either, and I'd say it was even more of an achievement to do it at City as he had one of the best keepers to grace the Premier League fighting him for it.

Although other players generally stand out for their performances or attitude towards the club I do think Charles gets a little overlooked (more so this season than last and a little like his 1st name) but epitomises the desire within the squad.

He was interviewed by after the derby, where City romped away as 6-1 winners, did I ment1-6n they won 6-1? 6-1 at the swamp, don't think I ment1-6ned it. Anyway... In the interview Joe describes how annoyed they won 6-1. Why? Because it was 6-ONE.

"I was annoyed. You can get carried away with the result and the three points, but we let in a goal. It kills me to let one in, it kills all of us.

"I'm so angry because we've hammered teams and then we've let a stupid goal in. It's frustrating, and we're trying for perfection at the moment."

That sums up the mentality Mancini is instilling within the squad. He's a perfectionist and we've all heard him talk about the players never resting on their laurels, always striving to do better and even after a good win there is always something to improve on. It's important you see. Bobby has also mentioned (on a number of occasions) after City have let in the odd goal that this is one thing that bugs him. It seems to bug all the players too.

Now I certainly can't speak for every team's attitude but I should imagine there are a few that don't mind conceding the odd goal if they score more than the opposition. For some teams and managers that may be fine, not City.

When Sheikh Mansour took over and installed Khaldoon Al Mubarak as Chairman they wanted to create a football dynasty. They wanted to take a club and make it the best in the world. Then they installed a manager who was absolutely driven and as demanding and focused as they were. Roberto Mancini.

That focus and drive has gradually permeated the squad and now looks weaved into the fabric of the players. Joe Hart is no exception there. Just look at his reaction to conceding a goal (or the next time he concedes), even at 3-0 up at the time, he absolutely hates it. 

"So he should, he's a goalkeeper" I hear you say, well yes, but I've not seen too many keepers look like that when they're already 3-0 up and just had a goal put past them. And the sheer look of disappointment can also be seen on many other players in the squad too. Although it will only be for a fleeting moment.

Hart also gives us a little insight into the dressing room in an interview after opening a new club house for AFC Urmston in mid-week after being asked about the derby.

"There was a lot of talk about the Charity Shield, when we were 2-0 up at the break... We were telling each other not to back off, to go for it. And we did."

We've read it a few times before that it's not just the Manager that gets a word in at half time, it seems the lads are encouraged to make their views known to each other and to encourage each other during the break. There are a number of very strong characters in the squad now and that seems to be paying dividends.

If there's one thing that City aren't short of, it's leaders. Joe Hart is a commanding and confident presence at the back. Vincent Kompany is a born leader and club captain. Nigel De Jong is another strong and influential character in the team. Gareth Barry has captained England at times, has a steady head and is a fantastic professional. Micah Richards, despite his age he is a big character and as determined as anyone at the club when he steps on that pitch. Kolo Toure can be added to that as he was club captain at one point. I should Imagine Kolo's brother Yaya, will also be one of those to get their say as he is one of the most experienced players in the squad.

Some teams struggle to find 1 good leader, City have at least 6 or 7 to choose from, and it shows. No longer are we seeing the team put their heads down after a goal, we're seeing them push from the first to the last whistle, we're also seeing them push even harder to finish the game in a strong manner.

A wonderful example of this new resolve and mental strength they seem to find themselves with is the  3-1 Premier League win against Wolves. From the moment the first whistle went City were playing against 14 men; The 11 Wolves players, the ref and the two linesmen. If you watched the game you will no doubt be of a similar opinion that it was undoubtedly one of the worst and most one sided performances from any set of officials I've ever witnessed.

Wolves, a team well known for their 'physical' approach to the game only had 5 fouls called against them all game. City on the other hand had 17. An example of one of these 'fouls' was a Wolves player leaping over and into the back of Mario Balotelli to head the ball, which caused Mario to double over (a little theatrically, but still...). What was the refs decision? Foul... to Wolves, because Stuart Attwell decided Mario had backed into the player. Ok then Stuart.

Another example would be the blatant penalty call that both the ref and linesman conveniently missed/flat-out ignored when Nasri lifted the ball into the box. Dzeko at this point was almost in a choke hold but nothing was called.

I could go on and on about the ref but the point of this piece isn't to describe how the ref was a grossly incompetent prick (just look at his record and you'll see) that couldn't referee an U10's game let alone a Premier League match.

Anyway, what affect did this have on the team? Very little in the grand scheme of things. The lads plugged away, toughed it out, gave Wolves very few chances to score and even when down to 10 men they managed an injury time goal to stretch their lead.

Mick McCarthy told the BBC the they "let [City] off the hook" in that game, but I'm not entirely sure which game he was watching. City were not at their best by any stretch of the imagination but as Alan Hansen correctly put it (yes you did read that right) at the moment even when City aren't at their best "they're still impressive".

Yes City were and are still impressive despite not being at their best, despite playing against a ref that simply refused to acknowledge any foul against a City player even if that left them on the floor clutching their ankle in pain, despite going down to 10 men (for what is increasingly looking like a 50/50 after watching it on several replays, but we'll not argue) City were still impressive. They locked out Wolves and still got themselves a goal. Maybe Fergie could learn something there.

The 'old' City would have crumbled after going down to 10 men and conceded 2 or 3 goals late on. But the team now has such a balance and mental strength that even though they hadn't been playing to their full potential it barely affected them in the end. Being able to win games when playing 'poor' is what Champions do, isn't that what Hansen said last week? I noticed there was no mention of it this week though. But City proved they can do it, and do it well under very difficult circumstance

Oh and just one more thing seeing as I've seen it in a few places this morning. The fans were NOT booing the players. Any moron with half a brain should be able to figure out that the booing was for the ref. That is all... 


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