There are times when Iâ€™d like to switch off my tactical brain. To actually watch a game of football as a game rather than looking at it and seeing how the formations are working. I canâ€™t and therefore sometimes get frustrated in what could be rather than what is. I say this because if you step back and look at this season dispassionately what Mancini has accomplished so far is very impressive. The Final of the FA Cup and the inside track on a Champions League place is a phenomenal performance for a team that usually starts four players who werenâ€™t with the club this time last year.
And yet I am regularly frustrated with Manciniâ€™s formations and tactics, especially against teams that the club should win against.
Take for example the 4-2-3-1 formation. It is a counter-attacking formation that when employed with players of pace, and crucially against aggressive attacking teams, can be incredibly effective. The victory over Chelsea last year is a classic example of this when Bellamy and Johnson completely tore apart the Blues. Such a formation is generally not good against stodgy unadventurous teams.
Speaking of Blackburn, City turned up at the Ewood Park and rolled out inâ€¦ a 4-2-3-1 formation. Adam Johnson is a very good talent, but heâ€™s lost in these types of games and playing David Silva out on the wing is a waste, I believe, of the most creative talent in British football. Yaya Toure played the Attacking Midfielder (AMC) role with Balotelli as the striker.
Iâ€™m also a fan of Gareth Barry and have been disappointed with his performance this year. A 4-2-3-1 formation is too restrictive for the England international, he just doesnâ€™t play well when his primary duties are to always stay back. Barry can, and does, put in decent shifts in some games but his more natural game is to roam forward in support of the attackers.
So while City dominated some of the early game, when Blackburn gave Silva acres of space, it was a team that never gave the impression that it was about to rout Blackburn.
What City needed was a more naturally attacking formation. A 4-4-2 wouldnâ€™t work because of the defensive frailties of Kompany and Lescott when not protected by Nigel de Jong and a 4-3-3 just isn't the style of Mancini.
Step forward a â€śtrueâ€ť Inter diamond. When City have played the Inter diamond this year they have been hampered by Carlos Tevez. Brilliant talent, but he constantly comes back for the ball rather than playing in the channels up front. What you need are two strong and powerful forwards with a creative maestro pulling the strings and two midfielders prepared to join the attack.
And therefore at 72 minutes of the game Edin Dzeko came on for Adam Johnson and City were instantly transformed. With de Jong at the base of the diamond, Barry was finally free to roam forward with Yaya Toure and with both Balotelli and Dzeko up front the central defensive partnership of Blackburn couldnâ€™t double up on Cityâ€™s one forward. Immediately City swept forward and there were five City attackers, Barry, Silva, Yaya Toure, Balotelli and Dzeko in the Blackburn box facing five Blackburn defenders as Rovers had not reacted tactically to the City change. In fact as Barry stepped into the box, City had six attackers nearer the Blackburn goal, Kolarov was the other, than Blackburnâ€™s six nearest defenders.
Barry passed to Silva, the Spaniard shot, ball ends up with Dzekoâ€¦ 1-0. All this because City, finally, played the correct formation and the correct players to make that formation work. Mancini reverted to type nine minutes later by pulling off Balotelli for Vieira in an understandable defensive move, but for those twelve minutes City showed the future.
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