Manchester City

Villa 0 – City 2

George Caveney‘s in a different league.

Transfer shenanigans are starting to gather pace, and based on what’s already happened, including some of the managerial shake-ups, I think it’s fair to say the rest of the season should be equally as entertaining and interesting.

Eyes will be on Sunderland’s response to Bent’s departure, and Villa’s to his arrival. On whether Dalglish can turn things round at Anfield, or if – as many suspect – the problem isn’t that straightforward.

How will Pienaar’s preference for Spurs pan out, and Grant’s stay of execution at West Ham? Meanwhile, will United do the usual and hold on to the top spot growling like a terrier with a tea towel, or will Chelsea tear up their photos of Ray and start a new life? Will Arsenal take a sneaky title for the first time in seven years? Will City manage to convince themselves they can do it, and actually do it? Is the very concept still too much to entertain?

Questions, questions. Too many to tackle here, so let’s look at the two biggest signings so far – Edin Dzeko and Darren Bent, and what tomorrow may bring.

Tomorrow, City can expect a very different Aston Villa to the side that barely bothered turning up at Eastlands before Xmas. A Villa bent on revenge, perhaps. Whoops, sorry. That was unintended. Bent will be bursting to impress, and he’s hardly a complicated striker, so he should fit in fairly quickly if Monsieur Houllier more or less leaves him to it.

One thing Mr H will insist on is not throwing goals away, especially not in such embarrassing fashion. And considering City have shipped seven goals in the last three games, with Hart seemingly on a bit of a wobble, it could be a pretty cagey encounter. The other possibility is a goal-fest, if as expected, Roberto Mancini also plays his top trumps, and tells them to go all out and let Hart deal with the overspill.

Unlikely, though, after two emotional rollercoaster victories. It’ll be a strong side in one sense or another, and one that will undoubtedly feature the intriguing Edin Dzeko. On paper, he is more or less the messiah. He may have to adjust to the pace and argy-bargy of life in the Premier League, of course, but at least he’s already admitted that. What little we can take from his performance against Wolves is that he has an eye for the perfect pass and will not squander his own opportunities – or anyone else’s if they are more likely to end up in the back of the net.

If he can develop an understanding with Tevez, Johnson and Silva, I really think a top four finish should be the least we can expect. Not that we should ever look to others for help, but the most open Premiership season in years might even bring the league championship to Eastlands. Furious, impertinent comments on this are more than welcome.

Whoa! Back to reality, then. Here and now and all that. Not to underestimate the rest of the Villa squad, but the problem we (and many more to come) will have with Bent is that he is a lone striker, and is quite adept at losing his markers and appearing at the end of what might have looked like a ball to no one. He’s a poacher, too, and will often score the kind of goals that leave commentators saying “I think the ball’s in the net, Colin. Yes, it is. Who did that? Was it Darren Bent again?”

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Having said that, in my estimation he is not the panacea for Villa’s problems, unless they are solely attributable to the squad’s lack of unity and belief of late – which he may help to bring back. Villa may have overstated his importance, but his goal tally speaks for itself. And they could hardly throw £18 million at him and say, ‘yeah, he’s all right, I suppose’. The bottom line for the season, though, is that Sunderland will miss him far more than Villa need him. No wonder Bruce is a bit tetchy.

Anyway, the most important thing is the result. Really tough call, this one. I think Mancini will also be keen for a clean sheet, and will have been working hard to get Dzeko with the programme, whatever that may be. Tevez at times recently has seemed determined to win the league on his own, which is no bad thing. I think we will thwart Bent’s debut at Villa and sneak the only two goals in a very tight game – one in each half. Dzeko and Johnson.

In that order.

Villa 0 – 2 City.

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