For the first time since Mancini joined the club the team started with the diamond formation that the former Inter boss used at the San Siro.
Barry, de Jong and Vieira formed the midfield ball winning roles with new signing Adam Johnson at the top of the diamond with Tevez and Adebayor in attack. At the back Vincent Kompany made a welcome return where he was partnered with club captain Kolo Toure. Rounding out the team were Zabaleta and Bridge as the full backs.
So that's the formation but in practical terms Johnson was all over the place marauding down both wings. Tevez and Adebayor were switching constantly and you could find Tevez over on the touchline or down the middle. Zabaleta and Bridge were both bombing forward creating defensive mis matches when Bolton tracked back slowly and both Barry and Vieira were encouraged to make occasional forays into attack, reminiscent of Michael Johnson when paired so effectively with Dietmar Hamann.
I loved it. Bolton didn't know where the next City run was coming from.
And then the worst possible thing happened; City scored. No, really. Adam Johnson tormented the former West Brom Left Back Paul Robinson down the right wing and won a penalty. Tevez duly dispatched the kick fortunate though he was to score after Bolton keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen completely won the mind game and Tevez's rocket shot went straight down the middle only for the Finn to be unable to prevent the ball finding the net.
Sometimes Manager's out think themselves and unfortunately this is what Mancini did. Now hindsight is a wonderful thing and at the time it made perfect sense to switch to a 4-3-3 formation allowing Johnson to run at Robinson. But in creating a static formation the effectiveness of the front six was diminished and the runs of Zabaleta and Bridge were no longer into space because Johnson and Tevez were now in the way.
City went from dominating the proceedings from a possession standpoint to giving the ball away more easily because Johnson, Zabaleta and Bridge were no longer easy passes for the midfield. This is the criticism that you see online, but it fails to take into account what went before and the decisions that were made that led to this. Bolton grew in confidence and started to bypass the midfield with over the top balls to take advantage of Kevin Davies.
The second half was much more even with Adebayor's well taken goal the difference. With Lescott on for an injured Toure and SWP on for a tiring Bridge City switched to a 4-4-2 with Johnson on the left. Again static didn't do the team justice.
I've complained loud and long that City don't have a play maker, and they don't. With static formation City will have issues against any club they face. However the diamond formation was a revelation in that it allowed Adam Johnson tremendous freedom and the support play of Zabaleta and Bridge was excellent. At times City had five players going forward in a move with a sixth, usually Vieira or Barry as a further option. Here you don't need a play maker because essentially everyone becomes part of that role. Fascinating, simply fascinating to see.
You'll see complaints online about why would Mancini play Barry, de Jong and Vieira together. I really feel these miss the point. How Bellamy, Petrov, SWP and Ireland fit into this is certainly a question to be asked and in fact one that I asked when Mancini was originally hired. Bellamy has the ability to play the Johnson or forward role, SWP and Petrov are a harder fit. I'd like to see Ireland be given the opportunity to play the Vieira role to see if that would work.
It's easy to find negatives in a 2-0 victory over Bolton. But look below the obvious. For the first 31 minutes City were really interesting.