1. Again, tactically, Mike Phelan put on a masterclass at Swansea. With only 13 fit senior players, the emphasis had to be on team work rather than individual skills. Phelan set City up for a near catenaccio approach of ‘deny them space with bodies behind the ball and hit them sharply on the break’, and it worked perfectly.
2. Perhaps you’d expect an elderly Italian manager to admire the job we did on his side, but Francesco Guidolin bemoaned us having “11 players behind the ball with an attitude of not to move.” That’s a tacit admission that his own side didn’t do enough. Swansea provided a sterner test than Leicester did last week, they played with more energy, more attacking intent and moved the ball about well, but they never stepped up the pace as the game wore on to break us down. It was like watching a game of Space Invaders that doesn’t get faster and faster, allowing City to keep laser-cannoning away Swansea attacks, and twice hitting the mystery ship on the counter.
3. Key to denying Swansea goalscoring opportunities was City looking after the ball well when in possession, and the Tigers showed a Zen-like focus on accurate passing and continuous movement that cannot be praised enough. Perhaps Mike Phelan has his charges playing a lot of five-a-side in training, because such understanding doesn’t happen by accident. It wasn’t just evident in our own half either, witness the quick passing movement to create Adama Diomande’s missed shot in the first half, or the six passes that cut the Swans open for the Hernandez goal that sealed the win. Hardly indicative of a plan “not to move” Mister Guidolin.
4. Cast-iron. Nailed-on. Stonewall*. Whatever adjective you use to describe it, Jordi Amat’s challenge that took down Robert Snodgrass was a foul, and it was in the box, we should have had a penalty.
*Just how did the name of a gay bar in Manhattan that was the site of riots and the formation of the LGBT rights movement come to be used to describe the absoluteness of a penalty appeal?
5. Mike Phelan has given the prospective new owners some food for thought regarding the managerial position. If they already have a new man in mind, they may need to reconsider as a groundswell of opinion forms for the retention and permanent appointment of Phelan, who has done an extraordinary job in extraordinary circumstances.
6. Thoughts turn to player recruitment – still an imperative, yet it’s clear that it must be handled with care and subtlety. Whether by design or by accident, a fearsome spirit is pulsing through the side at present, and that needs nurturing, not hampering. Too many new additions, or not the right ones, and we risk losing what’s currently our greatest strength. Nonetheless, it has to be done. The last two weeks have been thrilling, but eventually someone’s going to turn an ankle, or rack up five cautions, or suddenly lose form. The kids on the bench would undoubtedly do their best, but the Premier League is an unforgiving environment to pitch players with virtually no first-team experience at any level. Buy, City. Buy well, buy carefully, but don’t let the current XI do it all alone.
7. We’re very pleased indeed with the new contract for Sam Clucas, as indeed is he. We have a question, however, which is, very simply – who sanctioned the deal? If it was Phelan, then it bodes well for the trust being placed in him as a manager-in-waiting, rather than just a stopgap boss or first team coach. But if it was anyone else at all, we can assume our likeable caretaker manager is not going to be any kind of manager for much longer.
8. The kids who have warmed the bench lately, plus others, are certain to get a run out at Exeter on Tuesday for City’s second massive trip inside half a week. Usually, 91st versus 3rd would be a hopelessly one-sided affair, but the Grecians are sure to field their strongest side, whereas we simply cannot afford to. Those young lads will need to show a lot of character if they’re to overcome a side full of men. Good luck, boys. But if you could avoid extra-time, that’d be nice for those of us at work the next morning.
9. Could this be the week City have new owners? The champagne is on ice and we have an increasingly good feeling about it all.
10. That’d make their first fixture Manchester United at home – 3rd v 2nd. Imagine the run-up to this game with the present wretched incumbents finally gone. The biggest club in England coming to the side creating the best story in this nascent season. The ground would be full, voices lubricated by an extra couple of hours in the pub and positive sporting vibes engulfing the city once again. It could just be beautiful.