AMBITION is the new buzz-word reverberating around the City of Manchester stadium, and nobody encapsulates it more definitively than the club’s highest profile recruit.
Robinho’s aspirations befit a player of his pedigree and, after notching his first Manchester City hat-trick with ease yesterday, he immediately set his sights on hitting 30 goals in his first season in English football.
At £32.5 million (€40m), the British record signing offers City a touch of class they have not had for a long time. After giving City a first-half lead against Stoke yesterday, he produced another clinical finish to seal the points two minutes after the restart before belting home a Daniel Sturridge pass 17 minutes from time to complete his three-timer.
But Robinho – who has six goals so far – has no intention of resting on his laurels and already knows how many he wants to end up with.
“The main objective is for the team to do well but personally, I want to score more than 30 goals,” he said. “I am very happy but not completely happy because I still have a lot to learn. I will be truly happy at the end when we finish what I hope will be a good season.”
Mark Hughes wants Robinho’s arrival to be the catalyst for a blue revolution in the Premier League. The City manager has given the former Real Madrid striker a freedom he has not had before and feels Robinho is relishing the responsibility.
“Robinho is key to what we are trying to do here and maybe in the past he has not had that feeling,” said Hughes. “The crowd adore what he is producing and rightly so. He has a really close relationship with everyone here, which shows what an impact he has made here in a very short space of time.”
Like the rest of an ecstatic 44,000 crowd, Hughes was delighted with Robinho’s contribution to a first City league win in over a month.
“Robinho was excellent today,” he said. “It was not just his goals. It was his footballing intelligence and his appreciation of where his teammates were, where the opposition were and how best to hurt them in an attacking sense.
“His awareness of players around him and understanding of when to play the ball at the correct angle and time with the right pace is as good as I have seen. That is the quality he has. What is helping now is he is showing real pleasure and enjoyment in the football he is producing and his role in the team.”
Hughes acknowledges there may come a time when he needs to give Robinho a rest. However, he senses an application to training that could see the 24-year-old get through the season unscathed.
“Maybe there will come a point when his form will dip,” said Hughes. “We have to make sure we have enough information at hand to ensure it is not too detrimental and his performances don’t tail off markedly.
“I don’t think that will happen. Given the way he approaches training and the work we put into him, I can see him having a great season from start to finish.” Stoke manager Tony Pulis was disappointed that his charges, having got themselves into half a dozen decent positions during the first half, were unable to take their chances when it mattered.
“Their second goal killed us,” he said. “I felt we were unlucky to be behind at half-time but their keeper made a few great saves and Ricardo Fuller should have done better.
“Once we conceded again, we were chasing the game and they have so much quality they could hit us on the break.”
Meanwhile, City goalkeeper Joe Hart has signed a new five-year contract with the club.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-4-2): Hart 7, Richards 6, Dunne 6 (Fernandes 76, 5), Ben-Haim 7, Garrido 6 (Onuoha 70, 6), Wright-Phillips 7, Ireland 7, Kompany 7, Elano 7, Robinho 9, Evans 5 (Sturridge 42, 6).
Subs Not Used: Schmeichel, Caicedo, Hamann, Berti.
STOKE (4-4-2): Sorensen 6, Griffin 5, Abdoulaye Faye 6, Shawcross 6, Higginbotham 5, Soares 5 (Cresswell 69, 6), Olofinjana 5, Diao 5 (Whelan 76, 5), Delap 5, Fuller 6, Sidibe 5 (Kitson 66, 5).
Subs Not Used: Simonsen, Cort, Amdy Faye, Wilkinson.
REFEREE: Steve Tanner (Somerset) 6: An uncontroversial afternoon for the most part.
MATCH RATING: *** One-sided, but illuminated by Robinho’s sublime skills.
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