Why Clichy has been nudged aside in City left-back pecking order

The Serb has looked much-improved this term and appears the more assured of the two defensively, with his offensive contribution also helping his cause.

Aleksandar Kolarov once portrayed something of a scapegoat in a star-studded Manchester City lineup and his marriage with the club looked to be one heading for a low-key break-up.

Gaël Clichy has hardly been the undisputed No.1 in the troublesome position, but Kolarov's defensive inadequacies ensured the Frenchman's nose was just out in front in the former managerial regime under Roberto Mancini.

So, when Manuel Pellegrini stepped through the Etihad Stadium doors, Kolarov sensed a chance. He has duly taken it.

The Serb looks to have benefitted from the new lease of life permeating its way through Manchester City and his performance against Blackburn Rovers in the 5-0 FA Cup win on Wednesday night only served to highlight his amelioration in recent months.

Clichy had looked uncertain at best in the opening passages and was not showing the sort of forward gusto required to get around James Milner and open up an initially resolute Rovers rearguard. 

Renowned for losing his concentration and making doltish mistakes during his time with Arsenal, Clichy has largely excelled at Eastlands and was key in his current employers' 2011/2012 league success.

But last season, along with his side, he stagnated. Kolarov hardly shined, it must be said, but the door was already creaking open for the former Lazio man, who has endured enough struggles in England to last a lifetime.

He has come to embody his new-look team though. Pace, attacking incision and creativity in abundance, Kolarov is Pellegrini's type, if ever there was one.

He emerged from the bench at half-time against Rovers and produced immediately with a ball through the heart of the visitors' backline to find Negredo to give City some breathing space.

He also played a key part in Sergio Agüero's neatly-taken strike, offering City some much-needed width and, although allowed to get forward by playing in front of Clichy, he hardly let up and went for the jugular time and time again.

His free-kick ability - evidenced in the 3-1 win at Leicester City last month - is another string to Kolarov's bow and he has now netted on three occasions this season to surely add to his ever-burgeoning reputation.

The attacking triptych of Negredo, Agüero and Edin Dzeko have undoubtedly and deservedly stolen the plaudits for City's continued push on all four fronts, but recognition must be given to those with less prominent roles.

Kolarov has slowly emerged from the shadows to fit that bracket and push Clichy aside in the process.

image: © wonkerq

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