AJ: City can't throw it away now

AJ: City can't throw it away now

Published Jan. 19, 2012 6:16 p.m. ET

City have been on top ever since they romped to that amazing 6-1 win over Manchester United in October.

They retained the edge during a minor wobble over Christmas and have now opened up a three-point advantage over Manchester United and currently sit five ahead of Tottenham, who visit the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

And, while manager Roberto Mancini keeps stressing he will not know exactly how his team are placed until Yaya Toure returns from Africa Cup of Nations duty in the middle of next month, Johnson concedes from this position, failure does not bear thinking about.

"I would be devastated if we didn't win it," said the former Middlesbrough winger.


"Most of lads are not thinking about it but we are three points clear, so from this position, it would be devastating not to do it."

Johnson was speaking on a visit to Moston Fields Primary School with City team-mate Gareth Barry to promote the club's healthy eating project 'Strike a Balance', sponsored by leading north-west law firm Hill Dickinson.

In addressing a group of Year Five children before a small coaching session in the school playground, Johnson revealed the sweets, which used to be a major part of players' half-time nutrition, are now off-limits, the sugar boost ditched in favour of healthy food bars.

City's players will be fully fuelled on Sunday too, as Johnson conceded victory would put them in a very strong position to repel a Tottenham side who seem to have become many neutrals' favourites to become champions, even though it is 1968 since the Blues last won it.

"Maybe because we have spent so much money, people think we are trying to buy the title," he said.

"Tottenham are the team who have nothing to lose and all the pressure is on United and City.

"But the pressure is on whoever is up there to sustain it.

"If Tottenham do that, there will be massive pressure on them.

"In the last four or five games, when things are still tight, that is when we can see who will hold their nerve."

Confirmation City have accepted a bid from QPR for defender Nedum Onouha and that Carlos Tevez's advisor Kia Joorabchian has opened preliminary discussions with Paris Saint-Germain indicate a re-shaped Blues squad will be heading out of the transfer window.

Indeed, a double departure may offer manager Roberto Mancini the funds he wants to bolster his midfield, even if the chances of landing number one target Daniele de Rossi from Roma appear to be receding.

Even so, if City were to head for the finishing line with their current squad, few would regard it as inferior to any domestic rival.

"If I was a neutral and I was looking at the quality in our squad before the season began, I would be backing us to be right up there," said Johnson.

"It is what people expect from us.

"If we win the title, we will have deserved it. We have top-class players but we have to play 38 games. We have to try and win every one. Hopefully in May I will be saying that we did it."

Johnson has not always agreed with Mancini's team selections, which have frequently reduced him to the status of bit-part player.

However, as one of Mancini's first signings two years ago, the 24-year-old is uniquely place to assess the impact Mancini has had on the Blues.

And, while his behaviour on the touchline is under scrutiny, not least by the Football Association, who will be monitoring for imaginary card waving this weekend, Johnson claims when Mancini does let fly, it is only through an intense desire to succeed.

"Roberto is eager for team to do well," said Johnson.

"He is very emotional as you can see by his actions.

"But he is the same with players, good or bad.

"He has a temper and whilst he doesn't have a United-style hairdryer, the fact is people have arguments. It is part of football."

The 'Strike a Balance' programme is a partnership between the club's community scheme City in the Community (CITC), Manchester Healthy Schools and Manchester City Council that will see CITC offer the free five-week programme to 120 primary schools, equating to 3,600 children, throughout Manchester. The project was named the Best Community Project at the North West Football Awards last year.