After three seasons of frustration under Robert Mancini, and frequent comments from supporters that he needed to leave the club to find his “level,” Manchester City defender Aleksandar Kolarov is now contributing mightily to the Manchester City cause under Manuel Pellegrini.
Despite purchasing Kolarov for an inflated price from Lazio of £19 million in the summer of 2010, the Serbian left-sided defender was often blamed for faulty defending and lack of pace on the wing. Fans were frustrated especially when compared with David Silva and Yaya Toure bought in the same transfer window for only a few million pounds more than Kolarov had been.
The frequent dissatisfaction by fans with Kolarov was also shared by Roberto Mancini who often moved Pablo Zabaleta to the left-side of defense during the 2010-11 season and then bought Gaël Clichy from Arsenal for a cut-price £7m in the summer of 2011, inserting him as the automatic starter at left-back without any real competition.
Clichy had a great 2011-12 season playing a key role in the Blues first top-flight title in 44 years, and Kolarov was reduced to playing cup matches. Early last season, as Mancini experimented with a 3-5-2 using Kolarov and James Milner as wing-backs, the Serb got more playing time in important matches but once the formation was dispensed, Clichy regained his place. The Serb’s defending was often seen as criminally poor as he’d would be caught up the pitch or simply beaten one on one.
Frustrated, Kolarov reportedly wanted a move this summer. But in time he has become the first choice left-back for City in Manuel Pellegrini’s more free-flowing system. He has credited the manager with his revitalization, giving this interview to the Manchester Evening News two weeks ago:
“I am focused on working hard to improve every day.
“I am the same player I was last season and two or three seasons ago. I just didn’t play every game.
“I would play one game and then not play for two or three games. That made it difficult for me to find good form.
“Now I’m playing more often and I’m showing what I can do.
“But it’s not important me personally. All the team played good and if we continue like this, it could be great in May.”
In Sunday’s match against Newcastle, Kolarov was the difference. He set up Edin Dzeko’s opening goal and very rarely got beat on the left-side even when the Magpies were bossing the game. Late on he made a crucial block to preserve the Blues tenuous 1-0 lead at the time.
Newcastle United can rightly feel aggrieved about the dubious offside call that chalked off Cheick Tioté ‘s wonder-strike, but the game’s most influential player arguably was Kolarov. This was yet another display where the Serb showed he is in fact a player who has found his “level” at the top reaches of the Barclays Premier League.
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