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A tale of two seasons for City

21 Oct 2009 18:39:43

WE would have lost that game last year. It has become the mantra for a brave new era as City - buoyed by new talent and instilled with a steely new mentality - have racked up their best start to a season since 1977. Never was it more appropriate than on Sunday, in deepest Lancashire, when Mark Hughes' side were reduced to 10 men and left exposed to a Wigan side ravenous for millionaire flesh and scenting another chance to rub Blue noses in the muck. It says something about the heightened expectations of City fans that there were a fair few afterwards disappointed that their side didn't WIN the game, even though they had to battle for the last 25 minutes without Pablo Zabaleta. And if referee Alan Wiley had been Usain Bolt, as Sir Alex Ferguson expects, he might have spotted that Shaun Wright-Phillips had been up-ended in the box, and the Blues just might have sneaked their first-ever win at the DW Stadium. But a point was a triumph, just as it was at Aston Villa in the previous league outing. As Hughes pointed out, Chelsea lost their corresponding fixtures at Wigan and Villa Park, so two draws might just be looked back on as good results. Hughes also spoke, after his side sprinted out of the blocks at the start of the season with four straight wins, that there would be times in the season when they have to walk. The last three or four games have represented such a period, and yet points are still being picked up - and the Blues have only played three of their eight league games so far at home. But does the mantra stand up to scrutiny? Are the Blues actually more resilient, more dangerous, than they were last season? M.E.N. Sport has weighed this season's results against last season's fixtures, to see how the new-look side measures up. Blackburn (a) Last season, City nicked the presents from underneath Sam Allardyce's Christmas tree when late goals from Daniel Sturridge and Robinho brought the Blues back from 2-0 down. Blackburn were bottom of the league at the time. This time around, Emmanuel Adebayor smashed in an early debut goal and City defended with purpose until Stevie Ireland sealed it late in the game. Portsmouth (a) A defeat last season was marked by new boy Craig Bellamy's savaging of one or two of his work-shy team-mates, as Pompey racked up their first win for 10 league games. That was indicative of away form in 2008-09, but this time Robinho was left out - to Bellamy's advantage - and a more vigorous, hard-grafting Blues side secured another victory on their travels, Adebayor's goal again proving the difference. Arsenal (h) Home form was no real problem for City last season, and so it proved as the Gunners were turned over 3-0 in one of the more ebullient displays. Three goals in nine stunning second-half minutes in last month's incident-packed 4-2 victory proved that the flair is still there. United (a) Strangely, considering it was a defeat, a contrast from which City can take great comfort. Last season the Blues capitulated 2-0 at Old Trafford with barely a whimper. The goal scorers that day were Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, one departed for sunnier climes and the other - having swapped red for blue - was a thorn in United's side as City refused to go down without a snarling scrap in a classic 4-3 defeat this season. West Ham (h) Last season's 3-0 win was more emphatic than the 3-1 result last month, the goals coming from now-departed Elano (2) and Sturridge. But the Hammers played with 10 men for most of last season's game, against a team whose home form was of top-four quality. Aston Villa (a) The Blues slumped 4-2 at Villa Park on the opening day of last season, exposed by the pace and attacking finesse of a Villa side capable of giving most teams a fright on their own patch. They looked capable of a similar result a fortnight ago after Richard Dunne headed them ahead, but City showed great resolve to earn a point, goalscorer Craig Bellamy epitomising the spirit which deserted them last year. Wigan (a) Same again. Wigan are a real bogey side for the Blues on their own turf, and fancied an upset, especially after Charles N'Zogbia's goal sent City in deflated at half-time. But they again fought their way back into it, and defended with purpose after Zabaleta's red card. Last season, Latics had racked up a 2-1 win, City struggling to cope with their better organisation and fiercer intent. And next up . . . Fulham (h) Roy Hodgson's side gave the Blues a rare home upset last season, winning 3-1, so another yardstick is in hand for Hughes' team. Having laboured to beat a Fulham second string in extra-time in the Carling Cup, a more convincing display is called for this time. Birmingham (a) The Brummies were promoted last season, but City need to be winning games like this. Last season they had a poor record on their travels against the newly-promoted teams, losing at Stoke and West Brom and drawing at Hull. Burnley (h) No such problems against the new boys at home in the last campaign, with Hull thrashed 5-1, Stoke 3-0 and West Brom 4-2. More of the same is called for as Owen Coyle's side, fragile away from Turf Moor, come to town. Liverpool (a) A game that is starting to loom large on the fixture list. Rafa Benitez's side has begun the season badly, and are seen as perhaps the most vulnerable of the Big Four. A good display, and result, at Anfield, would underline the possibility of City breaking up the hegemony. They managed it last season, one of their better away displays almost earning a win until Dirk Kuyt's late leveller.


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