When Manchester City were growing frustrated by their profligacy and Swansea City sensed a chance to equalise, Samir Nasri ensured his side maintained their 100 percent record on their own turf, writes Richard Jolly.
Manchester City have no trouble dispatching Swansea City
Manchester City 3 Swansea City 0
Manchester City: Negredo 8’, Nasri 58’, 77’
Man of the match: Samir Nasri (Manchester City)
Manchester // It has come to something when Manchester City score three times and it almost feels underwhelming.
Manuel Pellegrini’s team have gorged on goals at their own ground to such an extent that, while finding the net three times in crisp, classy fashion, their scoring average for the season dropped.
Compared to the surreal scorelines of their games against Norwich, which finished 7-0, and Tottenham, a mere 6-0, produced, this was altogether more mundane. Nevertheless, there was much to savour, particularly the contribution of the rejuvenated Samir Nasri, who struck twice.
Perhaps more than anyone else Pellegrini inherited, he has benefited from the regime change this year at the Etihad Stadium.
Nasri’s relationship with Roberto Mancini broke down and, while the Frenchman accepted responsibility for his poor performances last season, Pellegrini merits some of the credit for his fine form in the current campaign.
“He is playing free and playing happy,” Pellegrini said. “He feels he is an important player.”
Tellingly, too, Nasri is not playing in anyone else’s slipstream. One sign of a high-class player is an ability to contribute at key moments. When Manchester City were growing frustrated by their profligacy and Swansea City sensed a chance to equalise, Nasri ensured his side maintained their 100 percent record on their own turf by making it seven straight home league wins.
His first goal, and City’s second, was delightful. Nasri accepted Yaya Toure’s pass, accelerated into the box and delayed his shot until he had forced commitments from diving Gerhard Tremmel and his sliding defenders. Only then did he slot the ball in.
The Swansea manager Michael Laudrup, among the finest footballers of his generation, pointed to the touch of a “top, top player” when the Frenchman took the ball. “That is the difference,” he said.
Nasri’s second goal was as assured, a stroked finish after the overlapping Pablo Zabaleta had cut the ball back into his path.
He was inches from a first City treble, but by then the game was won. Indeed, City had made a typically swift start.
A reason Etihad Stadium is such an intimidating place for visitors is that Pellegrini’s side are so positive from the first whistle.
Early goals have become a habit and Alvaro Negredo delivered the latest. Fouled by fellow Spaniard Jose Canas, Negredo exacted his revenge by curling a low free kick around Swansea’s defensive wall.
While he has been overshadowed by prolific partner Sergio Aguero, Negredo now has a dozen goals this season, including nine in his last seven games at the Etihad Stadium.
Aguero, in contrast, endured a rare afternoon of frustration. When he took the ball around Tremmel, he left himself at too acute an angle to shoot into the unguarded net.
His attempts to score also extended to the rare sight of Aguero trying to punch the ball in. If nothing else, it was a reminder that he used to be Diego Maradona’s son-in-law.
It earned him a caution and a place in the referee’s notebook to accompany a spot in the headlines. Pellegrini professed himself unworried by stories suggesting Real Madrid want to make him their next galactico.
“I don’t think Sergio wants to leave,” he said.
Rather than Aguero, the Argentine who came closest to scoring was another with Madrid connections. Like him, Martin Demichelis was signed from Atletico Madrid and the centre-back headed Nasri’s corner against the bar. The defender was also involved at the other end.
Ignominiously, he was left sat on his backside when Jonathan de Guzman went through to nutmeg him and shoot over. The shot-happy Jonjo Shelvey, who was the provider then, twice came close from distance.
“We did many things right,” said Laudrup, who made City and Chelsea his two favourites to win the league.
They sit third on the table, six points behind Arsenal.
“I would like to arrive at the New Year in first place, but if that is not possible, no more than three points from the No 1 position,” Pellegrini said.
Follow us on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE