Boring bumpkins not City slickers

Published 19/01/2011 | 09:43

■ Carlos Tevez must be frustrated by the lack of ambition shown by Manchester City against their title rivals this season.

'INSIDE RIGHT' enjoyed an evening of reminiscence over a few pints during the week with a long-time friend who had returned to our shores for a short sojourn.

As the beer began to flow apace and lubricated tongues loosened, conversation, as it so often does, switched to the goings-on in the world of sport.

The subject matter quickly turned to Manchester City as our football-mad friend has been a fan of the Blues for as long as this writer cares to remember.

Yours truly, being a stubborn old goat at the best of times and particularly after a few beverages, argued vehemently that the lack of ambition shown by Roberto Mancini's merry men in the big games is nothing short of a disgrace, given the king's ransom that the proud old Manchester club has splashed about willy-nilly over the past couple of seasons.

It may seem strange to criticise a side who are level on points with Man United at the top of the table for being too negative, but it's the games against the other big guns that supporters look forward to most and it is blatantly obvious that Mancini's aim is to give nothing away against the title challengers, beat the lesser lights and keep his fingers crossed that will be enough.

That calculated approach obviously prevents the main challengers from putting daylight between themselves and you, but conversely it also stops you from stealing a march on them and damaging their title ambitions.

My childhood comrade asserted that he didn't care one whit if they didn't play pretty football as long as they went on to claim the title, or any piece of silverware for that matter, given that they haven't won anything since Adam was a boy.

'InsideRight's mind is rarely for turning and even in the fuzzy-headed cold light of day Man City's approach still rankles and churns the stomach, although yours truly would have to begrudgingly admit to understanding the polar viewpoint of a win at all costs mentality.

When, like Man City, you haven't won as much as a field day raffle in aeons, even garnering a bottle of TK lemonade from the bottle stall would seem like a worthy triumph, so entertaining the neutrals would hardly be high on your list of priorities.

However, it still doesn't excuse the kind of snooze-inducing performance like the one they put in at the Emirates a few weeks back or their ultra-negative 00 draw against Spurs at White Hart Lane on the opening day of the season.

Or worse again, the display against local rivals Manchester United at the City of Manchester Stadium.

At least against the Gunners and Spurs it was in away matches, so there's some mitigating circumstances, but to settle for a scoreless stalemate against their biggest rivals in front of their own fans has to leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Contrast that with the game between Spurs and Man United on Sunday. It may have also ended in a 0-0 draw but that's where the similarities end - the approach couldn't have been any more different.

Both sides clearly wanted to win the game and the contest ebbed and flowed like two punch-drunk heavyweights going toe to toe in the ring. The match may have lacked that little bit of quality in front of goal, but it definitely wasn't for the want of trying.

It had everything that was good about the English game - plenty of pace, fullbacks pushing forward, old style wingers, strength and passion and a bit of controversy thrown in for good measure. England's top flight might lack the skill and technique of La Liga but there's still plenty to get the heart racing, particularly with the title race as wide open as it is this year.

It must be soul-destroying for Carlos Tevez to be running back and forth on the halfway line when he should be wreaking havoc in the opposition's penalty area, although it is difficult to feel any sympathy for the money-grabbing mercenary, talented and all as he is.

On the other hand, the way Man City defended against lowly Wolves on Saturday, maybe it's wise to shut up shop against the big boys like Man United and Arsenal, as on that evidence they'd be torn to shreds by their title rivals if they tried to give as good as they got.

Of course City are not the first to take a cautious approach, Chelsea didn't exactly play the most attractive football under Jose Mourinho, but their negativity was never quite as pronounced as Man City under Mancini, where they park the team bus, cars, tea ladies and anything else they can get their hands on in front of their goal.

The Chelsea faithful, given their desire to get their hands on the coveted Premier League crown, were never too bothered as long as the trophy cabinet was brimful of lucre, but in the end the lack of champagne football led to Mourinho getting his marching orders, although it was billionaire owner Roman Abramovich who felt he wasn't getting enough value out of his expensive toy rather than the fans calling for his head.

There are plenty of clubs out there where negative tactics wouldn't get the nod of approval from the fans; at the likes of Real Madrid or Barcelona you'd be quickly shown the door for such insolence.

At Real Madrid in particular, managers have succeeded in delivering trophies only to get their marching orders pretty much as soon as the glittering prize was lifted aloft, Fabio Capello and Vincente del Bosque being cases in point.

And it's not exclusively a Spanish trait; fans of Man United, Arsenal or Spurs like to see their teams play an attacking, attractive brand of football, so a manager that oversees snore-fest soccer wouldn't last much more than a wet weekend.

'Inside Right' will have to own up to having double standards though, as when Wexford won a pretty uninspiring All-Ireland hurling final in 1996 yours truly will confess to not caring one jot as complete strangers were held shoulder-high, as the sacred sod of Croke Park was used as a giant, grassy dancefloor for overjoyed purple and gold bedecked children and adults alike.

Similarly, during the Jack Charlton era Ireland played some of the worst sort of football imaginable but as a nation on the crest of a wave we didn't give a damn, although in hindsight when you look at the players at Big Jack's disposal, the style of play could have been far more palatable.

Giovanni Trappatoni is guilty of similar tactics, where midfield is pretty much bypassed, but at least he has the excuse of having a limited pool of talent at his disposal - Irish players of the calibre of Paul McGrath and Roy Keane are thin on the ground these days.

Back to the happenings at Eastlands, where there's no doubting that they do have talented players in their ranks. City need look no further than across the divide to their local rivals Manchester United to see that you can have style and substance - they're still unbeaten in the league with a positive approach.

Football supporters would love to see a new name on top of the pile in England, but City's attitude in the marquee games won't win over many neutrals to their cause.

Success-starved fans mightn't demand panache until they feel their side has really earned the right to truly mix it with the big boys by delivering silverware.

However, having seen wads of cash dished out on players, Man City fans could be forgiven for feeling a little shortchanged.

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