City v Southampton – a few thoughts

Robert Pollard

City’s 2012/2013 campaign kicked off with 3 points – but that doesn’t tell the whole story of yesterday’s match. Newly promoted Southampton caused City way too many problems and Mancini will not be happy with what he saw.

First thing to note was the return to the 4-2-3-1 formation after some pre-season experimentation with 3-4-1-2. It’s my personal opinion that 4-2-3-1 suits the players we have at our disposal better. If we had stronger depth at centre back then 3-4-1-2 would be fine but centre back is a position I feel we are a little thin on the ground in terms of real quality. Kompany and Lescott are brilliant but after that we have Kolo and Savic, neither of whom are good enough to rely on week in week out. The alternative is then to move one of our usual full backs, Richards, Clichy or Zaba, into one of the three centre back positions but I just feel those players are so useful for us going forward from full back that we would clip their wings by moving them into a three. Until better quality centre backs arrive at the club, the formation that won us the league should remain.

Anyway, to the game on Sunday. In truth, City were poor, particularly at the back where we were exposed way too often, particularly in the closing stages. Southampton are far from the strongest side we’ll face this season, yet they troubled us when they went forward and we looked nervous for the final 10 minutes – not good traits.

We also missed a series of clear cut chances, Silva being particularly culpable. Of course, with only 15 minutes of pre-season action after Spain’s extended run in the Euros, he is far from where he can be in terms of fitness and match sharpness, so it would be silly to condemn him too harshly. What I will say is we need him fully firing as soon as possible. David Silva is vital to City’s chances of success. When he plays well, City can look imperious and even unplayable.

Tevez looked sharp in this game, as did Samir Nasri, who rightly took the Man of the Match award and scored the winner. They were the two real positives in an attacking sense. Tevez looks lean and hungry for success, although, I hate putting too much faith in him after last season’s antics.

Rodwell made his debut and looked assured first half, keeping things simple with his passing, but he was culpable for their second after a loose pass. I won’t dwell on the mistake too much; he’s a young lad at a new club and I’m sure he’ll improve. What was significant about his selection though is the future of Nigel De Jong. De Jong has entered the last year of his contract and Mancini appears to have decided to let him go. Rodwell occupied the same area of the pitch as De Jong and passed the ball in almost exactly the same way as the Dutchman but can anyone honestly say that Rodwell is better equipped than De Jong to help city win things, this season and in the future? I very much doubt it. De Jong, despite his limitations, is one of the world’s best midfield destroyers. He’s a bit of a nasty bastard too, which is always useful to a side. I think we may just be making the wrong decision where he is concerned. If he was playing a bit more regularly, my impression is he would sign a new deal. Rodwell’s arrival looks set to decrease further the amount of time he gets which may convince him that his future lies elsewhere.

In sum, why we looked so nervous against a promoted side I’ll never know. We cannot let that continue because better sides will pick us off. Although, it’s only the first game and I’m sure we’ll improve.

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