I point to this game because it appears to give a clear indication of the Italian's thinking for the coming season and the formation and tactics that will be employed.
You've seen me comment, continually it seems, about Mancini's use of the diamond formation while at Inter. Three strong ball winning defensive midfielders with a creative spark at the top of the diamond and two attackers. In such a formation the full backs have the responsibility to support aggressively in attack turning the formation into almost a 2-5-1-2 with a couple of the midfielders moving into forward positions as the play dictates. This is how City started against Valencia.
City kicked off with Boateng and Kompany in the middle of the defense with Micah Richards at right back and new signing Kolarov on the left. Nigel de Jong anchored the midfield three with Barry and Small Berries while Silva took the creative AMC role. Adebayor and Tevez then filled in the two frontmen positions.
And it looked pretty good. Boateng and Richards were switched and I expect the German to make right back his own. Richards still has some work to do in his positioning. Small Berries and Barry supported well and David Silva look high quality. Only the front two disappointed. Tevez was most effective last year in a pseudo AMC role in the 4-2-3-1 and so he kept coming back for the ball and ending up in the same area as Silva. They'll figure that out over time. Adebayor once again ran at defenders and lost the ball in tackles, that really isn't his forte but again give the team time to understand Adebayor's runs and that should be fine.
So there you have what I believe is the base formation this year and with the exception of Richards, the starting 11.
Once the substitutions started things got rather interesting in an educational sort of way. Adam Johnson and SWP came on for Silva and Tevez and the team moved to more of a 4-1-4-1 with de Jong in front of the back four and Adebayor alone up front.
SWP performed well and showed enough, I believe, as to why he should stay at the club. At half time there were three more changes, Kolo Toure coming on for Boateng which saw Richards again move out to right back, Vieira for de Jong and Given for Hart in straight like for like swops. Finally with 20 minutes or so to go Weiss replaced Barry, Lescott replaced Small Berries and with Kompany moving into midfield the team switched to a 4-2-3-1 with SWP in the AMC role.
There was a goal scoring cameo for Jo who has looked a lot better this pre season and also some nice situational awareness, from Vieira in particular when Lescott was pulled over to the left flank and Viera naturally slotted back into the centre of the defense.
One game, three specific formations and all of which can and I suspect will be used this season.
What was missing of course was Bellamy and Ireland and it is here the comparison with Capello comes into play. Two years ago Stephen Ireland was not only City's best player but could be considered one of the top five players in the Premier League so good was his form. Last year for the first couple of months of the season Bellamy was, by quite a comfortable margin, the best player in the Premier League - a statement that I'm well aware would generate hysterical laughter if we hadn't all seen it with our own eyes.
I would argue that both Bellamy and Ireland not only should be part of the City squad, but given the success last year of the 4-2-3-1 and the lack of fitness of players such as Silva and Tevez at the start of this season, that Bellamy and Ireland should be starting the game against Spurs with Adam Johnson playing the AMC role and Adebayor up front. (yes a 66 word sentence! beat my old record).
Communication appears to be the problem between the players and manager. Just as it was for Capello at Real Madrid. Infamously of course Capello decided that Beckham would not play after the former England captain announced that he was leaving for the MLS and within a month Capello had to completely change his tune. Beckham went on to play a crucial part in the success of Real that year.
It seems that a similar situation has taken place at City. Ireland was not playing well and Bellamy had issues playing multiple games in a row and various training limitations because of a chronic knee issue. Rather than find a way to work these players into the fold, it looks increasingly like they will leave City.
This is a waste and it reflects poorly on Mancini that he is unable to adjust his system and/or thinking to make it work. Again, exactly like Capello. Inflexible. Beckham is old, therefore his time is done. Rather than looking at the situation and saying Beckham has a skill that no other player in the entire England squad excels at the decision is to lose that skill rather than be creative.
Is such inflexibility a deal breaker? In a word, no. But it is easy for the media and fans to second guess a manager if such a decision is made and seems so obviously flawed.
If it is Champions League or bust for Mancini then neither Ireland or Bellamy should be sold as the next manager will hopefully be able to harness their talents. If, as is rumoured, Ireland and 18 million go to Aston Villa for James Milner it will rank as the biggest transfer heist possibly in Premier League history.
City it appears are about to make the same mistake as last summer when they sold a top player rather than send him out on loan. It cost Mark Hughes his job. I sincerely hope we are not about to see a repeat performance.