After deploying a three man attacking formation of Tevez, Dzeko and Balotelli against Aris Salonika in the Europa League the question was asked if City would be successful in using such a formation in the Premier League. On the basis of the match against Fulham the answer is a resounding no.
Now in fairness City were missing the increasingly crucial David Silva, but even with the talented Spaniard such a formation would not have worked.
Except... the biggest issue I have with Tevez is that he is not a natural striker. A natural goal scorer, obviously, but the Argentinian's instinct is to drop back into midfield. Against Chelsea last year City took advantage of this playing a 4-2-3-1 with Johnson and Bellamy on the wings and Adebayor as the lone striker up front. Tevez actually played the Elano role in that game to great effect.
Mancini was also hampered by the continued absence of Nigel de Jong. And yet...
City have rarely played a true Inter diamond this year because it requires two central attackers working the channels, something Tevez demonstrably does not. Against Fulham, City were playing a 4-3-3 with Small Berries, Barry and Zabaleta playing a defensive midfield three. What was lacking was the link up play between the midfield and front three. This lack of link up play is why the general reaction from the fans and the media is that this was City's worst performance of the season.
I suspect Mancini missed an opportunity here. With City's most important two players unavailable an experiment was in order. Yaya Toure is a defensive midfielder at heart even if his overall ability allows City to use him in various capacities. With Silva out and Dzeko and Balotelli fit City could have actually played an Inter diamond. Place Yaya in the de Jong role with Barry and Milner flanked either side as the width of the diamond. Then play Tevez as the Attacking Midfielder (AMC) - the Silva role - with Dzeko and Balotelli playing in the channels.
I understand that Milner was not able to play a full game because of a lingering hamstring issue and therefore I would have planned to bring on Zabaleta at the half. Instead City played into Fulham's hands by allowing the Cottagers to run the midfield.
This morning I see that Mancini has criticized his strikers which is a bit rich. If tactically you place Balotelli out on the wing with no service then as a manager you really don't have much recourse to complain.
This in essence is the frustration I believe many fans have with Mancini. Third and challenging for a Champions League spot is a year ahead of schedule and Mancini should receive serious consideration for Manager of the Year. And yet there appear to be so many points that have been dropped because of tactical decisions. Parking the bus against United and Arsenal I accept because the tactics worked and a point is a good result in the circumstances.
May 14th is the date that fans should look to. It's the last home game of the year against Stoke and it is reasonable to presume that City will be in a fight with Spurs for the last Champions League qualifying position. If Mancini learns from these kinds of results then City will win. If not City will draw once again with a team they should beat.
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