Zabaleta feels pressure for places
Published 03/11/2013 | 14:11
Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta believes the axing of team-mate Joe Hart is a reminder of the high standards expected at the Etihad Stadium.
The England goalkeeper paid the price for his costly last-minute mix-up with Matija Nastasic at Chelsea a week ago, the latest in a long line of errors, by losing his place on Saturday.
Hart was left on the bench as City roared back to form in the Barclays Premier League by crushing Norwich 7-0 at home.
His replacement Costel Pantilimon had a quiet afternoon as City benefited from a Bradley Johnson own goal before David Silva, Nastasic, Alvaro Negredo, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko all got on the scoresheet.
Few doubt Hart's quality but Zabaleta feels there is a warning in his deselection to all the team that optimum performance needs to be maintained.
The Argentinian said: "Well, you know, that is football. The manager makes decisions.
"We know in this team now the performance of everyone should be good week in, week out because we have two players in each position who can play.
"Sometimes mistakes might cost the place but we are a big squad and we need to try to do well to keep the place in the team."
Pantilimon, 26, had waited 27 months to make his Premier League debut after joining the club in the summer of 2011 as replacement for Shay Given.
He could not have asked for a quieter introduction as he was hardly called into action.
He did make one good save from a long-range Anthony Pilkington strike late in the first half but City were already 4-0 ahead by then.
Zabaleta said: "I think it was great for Costel. He is a man who works really hard in the week. He well deserved the place."
In the game's wider context, Zabaleta felt the result and performance were the perfect response to the late slip at Chelsea.
The 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge, City's third of the season in the Premier League, had raised questions over their title credentials and of manager Manuel Pellegrini.
There was no doubting City's determination to put that right as, back in the comfort of their own stadium after four successive away games, they swept the Canaries aside.
John Ruddy, a potential rival to Hart for a spot in the England team, had an afternoon to forget but still made three good saves in the second half.
Zabaleta said: "I think it was a great performance by the team.
"We needed to respond well after the Chelsea defeat, that was hard for us.
"I think the performance was great. Defending - it was important to keep the clean sheet, and we were on fire in attack. I think it was a great game.
"It is another three points, that is good, and we look forward now to the Champions League game.
"We feel very comfortable at home and our performances have been great since the start of the season.
"Playing away we have dropped too many points but when we play at home we are a very strong side."
Samir Nasri had already hit the post when Aguero's 16th-minute shot was blocked by Michael Turner and rebounded in off Johnson for the opener.
Aguero teed up the second for Silva, Nastasic headed the third via a deflection from a corner and Negredo rounded off a fine team move before the break.
Toure's free-kick for the fifth was another fine effort, coming before Aguero volleyed in a poor clearance and Dzeko came off the bench to complete the scoring.
Zabaleta felt it was good to see the goals spread around.
The 28-year-old said: "Yes, especially for the strikers - Kun, Negredo, Dzeko. Yaya, another fantastic free-kick.
"It was a great result - 7-0 at home is fantastic."