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MARTIN SAMUEL: Sorry Manchester City, but one big win does not make you contenders
Published : 27 Sep 2010 06:42:01
Manchester City beat Chelsea last season, too. Home and away and scored six goals. It did not make a blind bit of difference. City won the home fixture 2-1 on December 5, 2009 then drew at Bolton Wanderers and lost at Tottenham Hotspur. On February 27, 2010 they won 4-2 at Stamford Bridge, but the next three games included a draw with Sunderland and defeat by Everton. By contrast, Chelsea's reaction to the first City defeat was to stay unbeaten in all competitions until February 10, and their reaction to the second was to drop two points in the Premier League between then and the game at Eastlands on Saturday. That is how titles are won. Best foot forward: but Carlos Tevez's winner against Chelsea must be followed up by a consistent run of Manchester City victories The place will be buzzing now, but Manchester City have announced their potential as a force in English football before. As well as three wins over Chelsea, there was the double over Manchester United (August 19, 2007 and February 10, 2008) during Sven Goran Eriksson's time, the 3-0 defeat of Arsenal (November 22, 2008) and another 4-2 win against them (September 12, 2009) with Mark Hughes in charge and three comfortable goals put past Liverpool (August 23, 2010). And, in those earlier instances, we all know what happened next. Defeat or points dropped to inferior opposition and another season of nearly. More from Martin Samuel... MARTIN SAMUEL: Stop currying favour and pull us out of Delhi24/09/10 Roberto Mancini interview: I came to Manchester to win, not for the weather!23/09/10 Martin Samuel: Pakistan's crime is to place a question against cricket21/09/10 Martin Samuel: Don't be fooled by new dross idea for cosy Match of the Day20/09/10 Martin Samuel: The £457m cost of Roman finding 1,639 new Chelsea fans19/09/10 MARTIN SAMUEL: Fat cats must pay up for our noble Nobby16/09/10 Martin Samuel: Stifling European night at Old Trafford with such a sorry twist14/09/10 Martin Samuel: Abramovich's real goal is to make Chelsea Masters of Europe14/09/10 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE In this campaign already, City have contrived to lose in injury time to Sunderland, drop two points at home to Blackburn Rovers and go out of the Carling Cup at West Bromwich Albion before impressively stopping Chelsea's procession in its tracks. It is the reason Roberto Mancini, the Barclays Premier League manager, is obsessed with what he calls the mentality of his team and why he has harsh words for those who do not share his singular vision. His players were being spoken of as title contenders once again after Saturday's win, but one look at results to here suggest that what Mancini has in essence is a good cup team. City get themselves up for the showpiece matches, and then return to going through the motions. This is behind Mancini's criticisms of players whose focus is their recreational time or his refusal to be unstinting in his praise of Adam Johnson. Talking to him last week, he made it clear that he regarded his first-team group as still being two or three players short. He would make those changes in the January transfer window, if he could. Mancini certainly did not concede the title to Chelsea in our conversation, merely stating that the season after the World Cup can run a peculiar path when combined with the pressures of the Champions League, and his players must be in a position to take advantage if Chelsea hit a wall in February. This suggests that he also knows that champions are defined by how they handle the slog, not the marquee matches. City play Juventus on Thursday, another name to get the adrenaline flowing, but then come Newcastle United and Blackpool. If the players do not approach those games with the same determination they used to repel Chelsea, they may as well have had Saturday off. Manchester United's last title victory contained three defeats and a single win against a top four club; they won it by displaying the professionalism to relentlessly punish inferior opponents. So, as strange as it may seem, the team that Manchester City overcame on Saturday must also be their benchmark. If the win is to mean anything at all, Mancini's players must become more like Chelsea. Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, wonders why he does not get more credit for his frugal approach, leading to a £13.6million profit on transfers in the last financial year. It is because when supporters see those figures and recall that Mark Schwarzer could have been bought from Fulham had Wenger been willing to pay just £1m more, then watch goalkeeper Manuel Almunia at fault for two goals against West Bromwich Albion - a performance and result that once again suggests there will be no major trophies at Arsenal this season - they do not think 'great business', but 'false economy'. And they are not alone. Clanger: Almunia (bottom) brings down West Brom's Odemwingie to concede a penalty at the Emirates on Saturday Those athletes with concerns about E. coli, dengue fever, excrement and structural collapse in Delhi are receiving short shrift from former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Steve Backley. 'There is a lot of hysteria, a lot of fuss going on,' he said. 'My attitude is: for goodness sake, get on with it. Roll up your sleeves, there is a job to be done.' This would be the javelin world record holder who won three Commonwealth gold medals and four European titles, but came second or third every time he competed in the Olympic Games or World Championships. Backley is in no position to lecture on resolve under pressure. Germany 's Bundesliga is the best-value football in Europe. We know this because every anti-Premier League bore trots it out each time season ticket prices go up. Last week, 300 supporters' groups from Borussia Dortmund boycotted a match against Schalke 04 in protest at paying £18.75 for a ticket. The corresponding game last season cost £11.50. A hike, obviously, but compared to prices in England, happy days. Not for some. Derby County are proposing a curry night for supporters at Tuesday'smatch against Middlesbrough, at the bargain price of £105.55 per head. The club are also now offering funeral arrangements, including acustomised coffin draped in the club flag, and a brief pause at Pride Park on the way to the cemetery. Having experienced some of the food on offer at English football grounds, one might look to combine these services and claim a discount. 'The 20 euro mark has been crossed,' thundered Stephen Versfeld of Dortmund fanzine Schwatzgelb. 'We are no longer willing to sit back. It is time to raise our voices, we are part of the game, part of the business.' Admirable stuff. Yet consider this: Germany is a powerhouse of world football, with a strong, well-attended, value-for-money league. Number of European titles won by German clubs this century? One. Bayern Munich took the Champions League against Valencia in 2001. The last German club to win the Europa League was Schalke, on penalties against Inter Milan in 1997, in the days when the tournament was still called the UEFA Cup and the final was played over two legs. There have been 13 winners since then, including two Russian clubs and one Ukrainian, but no Germans. Ticket prices are a trade-off between clubs and fans. In the time since Schalke won the UEFA Cup, six English clubs - including some unusual suspects such as Middlesbrough and Fulham - have taken their supporters to European finals on nine occasions, compared to Germany's four clubs making six visits. You don't get cheap football and Wayne Rooney. There is always a price to pay. AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT... South Korea's progress to the semi-final of the World Cup in 2002 contained the most consistently perplexing refereeing decisions I have seen. Disallowed goals, cruel red cards, a ball in play mysteriously decreed out and errors of time-keeping all fell in favour of the hosts, not least in their elimination of Italy in the second round. The referee in charge of that game was Byron Moreno of Ecuador, who was later suspended for 20 matches for playing 13 minutes of injury time in a domestic league game during which Deportiva Universita da Quito turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 win. Last week, Moreno, now retired, was arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York with six kilos of heroin contained in his underwear. Draw your own conclusions. At least, in their plight, Liverpool supporters know that in Rafael Benitez they do not have a former manager who is taking any pleasure in the club's decline, and who will certainly not be mentioning it to talk up his own achievements at every opportunity (commencing exaggerated eye-rolling sequence now). I would have had more admiration for David Beckham if he had slept with the hookers and snubbed Jack Warner, the odious president of the CONCACAF nations and a vice-president of FIFA. Beckham was waggling his tush in Warner's fiefdom of Trinidad and Tobago this weekend in the hope of securing votes for England's bid for the 2018 World Cup. Meanwhile, his lawyers began proceedings against the fantasist call girl who claims he spent a night with her, and a friend, in New York. He has this the wrong way round, surely? In time, the public forgets tawdry and false allegations, but a man's reputation never recovers from cosying up to Warner. HERR WE GO AGAINLewis Holtby was born in Germany, has lived all his life in Germany, plays his club football in Germany having been brought through the German system, captains Germany's Under 21 team and wants to play for Germany. Quite why there should even be discussion about spiriting him away to play for England is a mystery. After all that fuss about Mikel Arteta, here we go again. Are we this desperate for success that we are willing to abandon all sense of principle at the sniff of a decent footballer? Holtby (right) may have an English father (who was stationed at a military complex near Munich, hence his son's birthplace and career path) and very English-sounding name, but there the connections end. In every other sense, Holtby is German and it would be outrageous to attempt to poach him now. In many ways, pursuit of Holtby by the Football Association would be more of an insult than the ultimately fruitless dance around Arteta. At least the Spaniard had enough love for English football to spend five seasons in the Premier League; Holtby supports Arteta's club, Everton, but from a distance and with sufficient inclination to keep it that way. If he was angling for a career in the English game, this would be different, but he is not, so leave him be. Gordon Strachan, manager of beleaguered Middlesbrough, claims to have been drawing inspiration from the lyrics of John Lydon. He quotes the Public Image Limited song Rise, with its insistence: 'Anger is an energy.' A pity Strachan didn't listen to some more PiL stuff before taking the job. 'Don't like the look of this old town,' Lydon sings at the start of Seattle. 'What goes up must come down.' Another Premier League engagement brings evidence that referee Stuart Attwell, 27, has been hopelessly overpromoted. After the sending-off of Bolton Wanderers' Gary Cahill at Arsenal, and Liverpool's ludicrous first-half goal against Sunderland on Saturday, it is plain that too many matches are being ruined as a result of fast-tracking this novice official. Attwell needs to be withdrawn from the Premier League and reintroduced when he is ready. Why is it so hard for his bosses to admit that, with the best intentions, they got it wrong? Portsmouth continue to moan about Genoa's refusal to pay part of Kevin-Prince Boateng's (below) transfer fee. Now they know what it is like to be knocked. The South Central Ambulance Service, Cowplain Community School, the Hampshire Flag Company, House of Weddings, the Scout Association, builder Terry Clark and all the other small businesses expected to take reduced or late payment for bad debts from Portsmouth, are no doubt appalled by this turn of events. Roy Greenslade is a professor of journalism at City University and an employee of The Guardian and, as such, one would think he reads newspapers, particularly his own. Yet Greenslade has been rubbishing what he termed the entrapment of snooker player John Higgins by the News of the World. 'What emerges - as I suspected from the outset - is that he was an innocent lured into an indiscretion by a conniving partner, Pat Mooney,' Greenslade wrote. 'Higgins was kept in the dark until he entered a room in Kiev, where he was covertly filmed agreeing to throw the frames.' What a pity the professor did not pay more attention to an interview with Higgins published in his newspaper, in which it was made clear the suggestion came before entering the room. You might not be a media expert but spot the key clause in the sentence. 'I was bewildered,' Higgins admitted. 'I couldn't believe he had said this so flippantly. Once we were inside a few more things were said that didn't add up.' What doesn't add up is why Higgins continued into the meeting having been told outside that he would have to go bent. He says he was intimidated and felt he was in the presence of the Russian mafia. I have always found the best way to avoid being intimidated by the Russian mafia is not to enter meetings with them.