Manchester City v Aston Villa: Believe The Hype, Not The BBC

Manchester City soared to the Premier League summit and did so in some style, not that the BBC cared to notice, concentrating their coverage on an entirely fictionalised account of the 'mad, bad' Balotelli.
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Manchester City soared to the Premier League summit and did so in some style, not that the BBC cared to notice, concentrating their coverage on an entirely fictionalised account of the 'mad, bad' Balotelli.

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Manchester City's Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko currently lie second and third respectively in the Premier League goalscoring chart while Samir Nasri and David Silva top the Premier League assists table. None of the above started against a Villa side who arrived at the Etihad Stadium unbeaten this season.

Or, to put it in tabloid terms, City had £114m worth of talent missing.

Despite this City duly dismantled the Midlanders, at first in a workmanlike manner, then with stylish aplomb. Towards the end a seemingly endless sequence of passing took the notion of showboating beyond exhibition stuff and into the realms of the cruel - think Leeds v Southampton in the seventies only without the impish flicks and spotty tykes twirling flags over advertising hoardings promoting the virtues of Duckhams oil.

Not content with inflicting a merciless K/O City’s fringe contingent proceeded to sit on their defeated foe and open up a newspaper, casually flicking through the Leisure section and conserving their energy for a taxing week ahead. All to take us top in October.

From the off it was evident that Mario Balotelli was bang up for this one. Since Tevez’s ‘communication breakdown’ in Munich the enigmatic rock and roll star with boots – the most entertaining, interesting figure in football – has risen to the challenge of usurping the former monarch of Manchester. The crown fits and the throne royally suits him.

He was purposefully lethal against Blackburn on his previous outing, openly embraced Mancini, the man he calls ‘Papa’ after nonchalantly dispensing with Everton, and has been jocular and full of la dolce vita in training.

Fifteen minutes in against the Villa an intended one-two broke down between himself and Yaya Toure and the guy who the media routinely lambast for appearing disinterested tore a strip off his slovenly colleague. It was a rare display of passion and commitment; the insouciant mask briefly slipping to reveal a player who cares. Glorious stuff.

A while later came another slip, this time off the pitch and in front of the mocking Villa faithful. Two months ago – and let’s be honest maybe in two months down the line – such taunts could be considered a wise move. Poke the wild animal with a stick then sit back smugly as the ref disposes a tranquilising red dart in his arse. But not today. Balotelli immediately made it a personal mission to shove the jeers back down the throats from which they came and he did so in spectacular fashion. On the half-hour mark a corner bobbled up onto his chest and he casually executed an over-head kick the rest of us achieve once in our lifetime. Usually in a park and usually when the girl we’re trying to impress happens to be texting at the time. It was a sublime finish.

It’s a goal to light up one of those compilation DVDs given to dads for Christmas for years to come.

An uncharacteristic sloppy start thankfully hadn’t proved costly and City began to take full control. After the break they killed the game with two goals in five minutes.

Villa full-back Warnock then reduced the deficit meaning the blues relinquished a proud home league record for clean sheets that stretched back to May 1st but any fleeting doubts were almost immediately erased when Milner – having one of his best games in recent seasons – sprayed a majestic fifty-yard pass to set Johnson scampering, following up the move and curling in an absolute beauty. It’s a goal to light up one of those compilation DVDs given to dads for Christmas for years to come. It also meant that Manchester City have now scored 27 in 8 games – a Premier League record opening spree.

Thus followed the five minute bouts of possession that prompted a bedazzled crowd to ‘ole’ every touch, celebrating not only the sumptuous fare on view but also the coming of age of a great team.

The day was concluded with the cherry-on-top arrival of Owen Hargreaves – experiencing his first proper fully-fit action for three long years.

With all this in mind – City going top; routing an unbeaten side 4-1 using the full scope of their squad and doing so by displaying dominant, resplendent football; the emergence of a mature, unselfish and explosive Balotelli; a brilliant overall performance and contender for goal of the season from an England international; another England player – once a key figure – returning to Premier League action after three years’ absence; breaking a record for the most goals scored in the first quarter of the season – it’s fair to say that I was quite looking forward to last night’s Match of the Day. There would be plenty to talk about.

Not a bit of it. When it comes to paranoia over perceived media ‘agendas’ against game-ruining moneybags City I’d rate myself as a 6/10 conspiracy theorist. I think it goes on but regard it as an inevitable occurrence towards a club challenging the established elite. Chelsea had it too until everyone got used to the idea of them.

‘Ho ho ho…Balotelli is a red card waiting to happen’ said Shearer. What, like Rooney did last week you tufty-haired c**t, letting his country down yet again?

Last night’s edition of the BBC’s flagship football show however was a step too far. The jug-eared pillock Lineker and his golf club chums devoted their entire analysis to concocting a bizarre anti-Balotelli session of such surrealism that I genuinely suspected it was a Comic Relief sketch where they parodied their renowned ****wittery. The Italian’s frustration at his team-mate for a momentary lack of effort – something that would be praised from any other player – was purposely misconveyed as a ‘rift’, an act of petulance. When this proposition was put to Mancini in his post-match interview the bemused smile said it all. ‘You crazy Engleesh with your jokes and pranks’. This was concluded with an utterly incongruous comparison to Manchester United. Balo wouldn’t get in their team. Their team puts the effort in when the going gets tough. Is that the same side I’d just witnessed getting completely mullered by Liverpool? A team desperately hanging on by their fingernails to maintaining their impressive late-Summer form but looking on the verge of disarray? A team being praised to high heaven in a segment of the programme that was supposed to be about a side who’s just gone top after playing fantasy football of such magisterial elegance our centre-backs were waltzing through a previously undefeated Villa defense on whims of fancy? If Rooney had scored with an impudent over-head kick to silence his critics there would have been creamy clumps of used Kleenex on the studio floor. Instead they chuckled as if they’d been mildly amused by Coco the ****ing Clown. ‘Ho ho ho…Balotelli is a red card waiting to happen’ said Shearer. What, like Rooney did last week you tufty-haired ****, letting his country down yet again? If archangel Wazza had sprayed a pinpoint fifty-yard ball then ended the move with a finish of pure genius a la Milner they would have been playing 70s German porn music over the analysis.

I would have preferred to have written a balanced detached review where due kudos is given to a Villa side showing encouraging signs under McLeish. But whilst publicly-funded programmes put out such skewed, mischief-making misinformation it might be necessary to over-sell a sensational side playing sensational football to those who only see Manchester City in highlights packages. Believe the hype. Don’t believe the b*llocks.

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