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Published on December 29th, 2013 | by Ian Cheeseman

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A much needed “ugly win” by the Blues

Phew, I have to admit I was a bit nervous towards the end of that 1-0 win against Crystal Palace, not an emotion many would have expected to feel towards the end of such a routine looking home fixture. I expected several changes to the City team, and this was one of those rare occasions when I can understand that fatigue would force the manager’s hand, although ironically Palace were unchanged from their team on Boxing Day.

What this performance showed, to me, was that the Blues squad still lacks a little depth in key areas, which is probably why there are rumours of more transfer activity at the Etihad during the January window.

I share the reservations that some fans have over Edin Dzeko and Javi Garcia. Both players have quality, but maybe they don’t fit into City’s style of play. I’ve seen fans tweeting and heard fans on the BBC Radio Manchester phone in, claiming that Garcia is terrible or that Dzeko doesn’t care. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and mine is no more valid that any other, but for what it’s worth, I believe that wherever those two move to from City, they’ll do well, and then you’ll hear those classic comments, “why couldn’t they do that when they were playing for us”.

Dzeko is a top quality finisher, but his general play, and non-physical approach to the game, doesn’t fit into the City system, built around Silva, Nasri, Yaya Toure, Aguero & Negredo. It’s not his natural way to get involved in slick one-touch passing; the awesome football that is so effective at unlocking opposition defences. Garcia doesn’t play at the same tempo as those key team mates, though his style might be perfect for a different team structure.

I believe that Manuel Pellegrini is a highly intelligent manager, and I believe he can see this. On that basis I expect Dzeko and Garcia to be on their way out of City in January, or next summer. I don’t like the accusation that the pair don’t try or that they’re (especially in Garcia’s case) “one of the worst players I’ve seen playing for City”. Those comments are wrong and unfair (how can anyone think that of any of the current players after the bleak years we’ve seen in recent years?)

Dzeko is the ultimate enigma. His goalscoring record is excellent, but in general play he contributes very little. There are those that will always argue that it’s just those goals that matter. Yes, goals win games, but his scoring generally rely’s on the creative play of others, which might work against the lesser teams or once the game is won, but at the very top level, strikers have to score goals AND add another dimension.

Ironically it was Dzeko’s goal that settled that game against Palace, thanks to a great run a cross by Jesus Navas. Thank you Edin, that goal, just as your equaliser against QPR 18 months ago, could prove to be vital in a title winning season, but most weeks, I’d prefer our strongest eleven, which doesn’t include Dzeko or Garcia, to start games.

It’s be great to see Joe Hart getting the plaudits he deserves after two man-of-the-match performances in a row. Just like my comments after the win at Fulham, if Hart had slipped up late on against Palace, he’d have had a potential excuse, in his case impaired vision from that kick to his eye, which left him bloodied and bruised. Hart is not a man to deal in excuses, and served up something special, to help the Blues pick up a much valued, if not wonderfully entertaining, win. Hart had more reason to look in the mirror after that victory, and reflect on an ugly win!

Next stop Swansea, a 6am departure for me on New Years Day, a test for my stamina, with many hours behind the wheel either side of another full match commentary. There’s no-where I’d rather be though, can’t wait!

– Ian Cheeseman

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