This afternoon sees Manchester City travel to Villa Park to take on an Aston Villa side littered with familiar faces, none more so than Richard Dunne. Weighing in at a whopping 15 stone Dunne resembles a rugby prop more than one of the top defenders in the Premier League. However through his whole hearted displays combining tough tackling with admirable passion and a surprisingly decent turn of pace the 'Dunney Monster' was both a colossus at the back and a hero amongst the City fans throughout his nine years at the club. His acrimonious departure in the summer of 2009 certainly left a bitter taste in my mouth and the expensive failures who replaced him namely Kolo Toure and Stefan Savic begs the question whether the decision to dispose of the big Irishman was in fact a wise one.
Let me elaborate on this point; take for example Micah Richards, now arguably the best right back in the league. He was on the verge of throwing away his immense potential before Roberto Mancini took him under his wing and taught him the fundamentals of defensive play, molding him into the marauding powerhouse he is today. Another illustration of Mancini's prowess at improving a defenders game comes in the form of Vincent Kompany who was strangely being deployed as a defensive midfield upon the Italian's arrival, quickly spotting where his quality lay Mancini didn't hesitate in moving VK into the centre back role, a position in which he has excelled and made his own. The argument I’m attempting to put forward is simple, imagine if Bobby had time to work with Dunney, given the opportunity to educate him and attempt to eradicate the unnecessary errors from his game, I’m sure he would have improved him no end allowing Zinedine Zidunne to stay at the club he loved.
Shay Given will play the game of his life no doubt; heroically saving anything Aguero and Dzeko throw at him.
During the first three games of the 2009/2010 season, just before his departure, we played Dunne and Kolo together and did not concede a goal. Then Lescott came in as a replacement and the defensive shambles that commenced in the following months ultimately lost Mark Hughes his job. Whereas the big man went on to be Villa's player of the year and was named in the PFA team of the year, no mean feat for somebody deemed not good enough by a club that finished 10th in the Premier League the previous season. In my opinion the club got rid of Dunney a season early, but it’s hard to argue that his departure were wrong as over the last two years City have still developed and grown at a faster rate than anything previously seen in English football, every so often whether correct or not, one, two or maybe even three individuals will fall by the wayside for the greater good. I deliberately mentioned three individuals as that’s exactly how many old-faces are likely to be lining up against the Blues on Sunday with every intention of knocking our title bid off-kilter. Shay Given will play the game of his life no doubt; heroically saving anything Aguero and Dzeko throw at him. The aforementioned Dunne always excelled in games when under the cosh for long periods. That's his forte and this game should be tailor made for him. Finally Stevie Ireland, 'Superman' as he was affectionately known, once dubbed City's Xavi and renowned for his piercing through balls, Ireland upstaged Brazilian World Cup winner Robinho in his player of the year winning campaign in 2009. However since then his fall from grace has been both swift and painful and it's only now, three years later that he seems to be getting things back together, bad timing for us really as he’ll be eager to prove a point against the likes of Nasri and co.
City should also be wary that a wounded animal is sometimes at its most dangerous and the sweeping wave of negativity surrounding Villa Park coming into the weekend certainly makes Villa fit that description. Protests are planned against former Birmingham boss Alex McLeish who has managed to alienate half his first team in recent weeks, with Charles N'Zogbia declaring it his worst spell in his footballing career and the mercurial Ireland also throwing a bit of a wobbler. A small ray of light in what has been a bleak Christmas period comes in the shape of Robbie Keane meaning Average Villa finally have another option. Before his arrival they were dire and Big Eck was setting them up in a terribly negative way whereas now the line-up looks full of threat, pace and intent. With this in mind I really hope Bobby Manc learns from the defeat at Villa Park last season and opts for Clichy and Richards in the full back positions as the pairs pace will combat any lightening quick counters sprung by N'Zogbia, Bent and Gabby Agbonlahor, who is likely to start after injury.
The frightening yet beautiful fact of the matter is we are very much in the driving seat in terms of the title and over the next five games we have a very real chance of increasing the gap between ourselves and United but to do so it is imperative that 'typical City' doesn't rear it's ugly head because another 1-0 defeat such as last years will be unacceptable if we seriously want to become champions come May.
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