A quite fascinating 3-0 victory over Liverpool last night. If Mancini did what I think he did then I'm not necessarily in awe, but I'm damn impressed. City looked awful against Spurs at the weekend and part of the problem was Tevez coming back into the Attacking Midfield Centre (hereafter AMC) spot and taking up the same space as Silva. And yet Mancini loves the midfield diamond with the three ball winning midfielders* So how to keep that formation and free up Carlos Tevez?
Now first of all let's not all get carried away. Liverpool were without Poulsen, Cole and Mascherano and played a 4-4-2 which was not the best formation given the players and the opposition. And also if Hart doesn't pull off a fabulous double save at 2-0 there's no telling how the game would have ended. We haven't seen the best of Liverpool, however you can only play the guys they put on the field. City did and won in style.
But it was the formation that City played that was so interesting. I've seen it described already online as a 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1, 4-3-2-1 and even a 4-3-3. And it was, but it wasn't.
In the simplest of terms this was a 4-2-3-1 but with Yaya Toure (hereafter Small Berries) playing the AMC role in a withdrawn fashion. In a similar manner to the Sven days when Hamann and M. Johnson partnered as the 2, we had de Jong and Barry with the former Aston Villa man given a license to roam forward as much as possible, just as Michael Johnson did so successfully under Sven.
Adam Johnson and James Milner provided the width which proved crucial all night and Tevez played up front. The problem with Tevez playing up front is he is always coming back for the ball into the AMC position looking for the ball.
In deploying Adam Johnson and Milner as wingers, Mancini nullified most of this tendency of Tevez but the master stroke was having Small Berries play in what I can only describe as a withdrawn AMC role. It was essentially the gap between Centre Midfield (hereafter CM) and AMC so that even if Tevez did occasionally come back he didn't get in anyone's way. Combine this with the attack down the wings and a willingness of both Small Berries and Barry to move forward in support and City were causing match up problems if Liverpool's midfield didn't track back quickly enough.
City passed the ball intelligently all night and numerous times players played keep ball in triangles moving forward while maintaining possession. Old Purple Nose was in attendance and I'm really looking forward to seeing how United and City match up this season. Last year United matched up better against City. With City's midfield three I'm not sure that is the case anymore.
* I've constantly referred to Mancini and his diamond formation with 3 central Defensive Midfielders (hereafter DMC). This conjures up a negative which is not exactly accurate. While de Jong certainly is playing at the base of the diamond, Barry and Small Berries have the freedom to be playing more of a CM role. However on defense they are dropping back into a tight formation and with the ball in midfield they keep possession well. So ball winning midfielders is maybe a little more accurate.