As the final whistle blew at Cardiff on Sunday afternoon, the predictable anger, scorn and pessimism rained down on twitter and messageboards, while pundits and journalists whooped excitedly.
The first shock of the season! The first test of Pellegrini’s City career! The end of Joe Hart!
Well, now that we’ve all had a chance to calm down a touch and take a minute to draw breath, maybe, just maybe it wasn’t the end of the world.
First off, in terms of the result, there was nothing clever about a 3-2 loss to Cardiff, albeit in a situation which was always going to provide a stern test for any team. The defending for the three goals was literally woeful and credit must go to Cardiff for taking full advantage and not letting City play as they had on Monday.
But I’m not going to start writing off the team or the manager just yet. It may seem strange to say but I didn’t consider the performance itself to be that bad. We dominated the ball, showed some clever movement and created some good chances. At 1-0 we looked very comfortable and should have closed the game out easily. It is this that will concern Pellegrini – the losses of concentration which let Cardiff back into the match and then into the lead.
The manager has been searching for a new centre-back for a while now and on Sunday’s showing a new defensive recruit looks crucial. City undoubtedly greatly missed Kompany’s organisation and leadership at the back, while we were also unfortunate to still be missing Nastasic. The absence of our two first choice centre backs from last season proved a bridge too far and there wouldn’t have been many City fans looking confidently at Javi Garcia before the game. The Spaniard remains a worry – we’ve not really seen anything from him to justify his price tag.
Less of a concern for me were the substitutions of Fernandinho and Navas. Both clearly struggled on Sunday but have enough about them to bounce back stronger. Whether they were taken aback by the passion and fight of Cardiff or just had an off-day, let’s hope that it provides a good lesson of Premier League football. There are no easy away games here – especially for a scalp as prized as Manchester City.
The result and performance will also have been very telling for Manual Pellegrini. Two games into the new season and he won’t have been able to fully implement his ideas and mentality on the team just yet, but he will now have a better understanding of what he needs to improve. 4-0 home wins against ten men are all well and good, but it’s ultimately the away games that will win or cost us the title.
The power of the internet now allows for knee-jerk reactions to become public and gather pace. Well, in the space of a week City have gone from walking the league to not even contending. I’ve seen City fans on Twitter proclaiming that Mancini would have known how to play away from home. How quickly we forget Southampton, Sunderland etc. Pellegrini is still learning and the team is still gelling. Patience is the key – while we can’t have many more results like that, we need to learn from past mistakes.
You can’t help but feel it’s going to be a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions if we don’t get a little perspective. An early defeat is not the end of the world. It’s not ideal, obviously, but it didn’t do United much harm when they lost on the opening day of last season to Everton. There are 38 games in a season and defeats will happen. It’s how the team and manager react that will set the course for the rest of the season.