City dropped points again on Sunday after drawing 1-1 with Arsenal at The Etihad. It was another poor performance from City and, in truth, our season is yet to get going. Here are the major conclusions and observations from the match.
1 – Mancini’s inability to pick his best sideLast season, Roberto Mancini rotated his squad brilliantly. He had a core of players – Hart, Kompany, Barry, Yaya, Aguero and Silva – who almost always played when fit, with the other positions in the side rotated regularly. At full-back, for example, where energy is expended due to the amount of running that position requires, Mancini would use Richards, Zabaleta, Clichy and Kolarov. It worked. City consistently looked fresh yet had enough players playing regularly to maintain the team’s rhythm. This season has been a completely different story, with Mancini swapping and changing far too much. City are yet to establish their best team this year and performances demonstrate that.
Take David Silva. He started the Stoke game on the bench which, for me, was inexplicable given his importance to the side. The only reasonable explanation was that we were saving him for the big European game in Madrid; but he only played an hour in that match.
Maicon is another odd one. Out of nowhere we sign a right-back who we arguably don’t need, play him for 2 games, and then he’s nowhere to be seen for the Arsenal match. It’s an example of Mancini’s over-rotation which has made us look disjointed.
Today, it was the turn of Tevez and Barry to be rested. I understand the rigours of a dual Champions League and Premier League campaign mean you have to be concious of not exhausting your players, but we’re taking it too far. Tevez has looked our best attacking threat this season and leaving him out today was a mistake, and Barry is vital for the big games because we keep possession so much better when he’s in the side. In the games against the top sides in the league we should surely be picking our best players.
It’s time to get the best 11 and stick to it more than we are doing.
2 – Lack of movement.
We looked too static today, with a lack of ideas and movement blighting out attacking game. Last season we prided ourselves on fluid movement that bamboozled the opposition. We looked rigid today and we must find a way of getting back to our creative best.
There will be some bedding in time needed for players like Garcia who are new, but there wasn’t enough positivity or ingenuity in an attacking sense.
3 – Scott Sinclair looked nervous
Sinclair seemed to be in awe of the other players in the side which was detrimental to his own performance. A number of times he could be seen passing the ball too early when it would have been better to carry the ball up the pitch. If he wants to break into this side, he’s going to have to step up. His showing today saw him taken off at half-time and he will probably start the next big game on the bench.
4 – Defensively shaky
We’ve said it all season but again we looked far from the side that had the best defensive record in the league last year. That steely resistance that was the hallmark of our game has dissipated and we have to get it back.
5 – Both Manchester clubs playing poorly – but United have 3 more points
It’s not just City whose season is yet to get going, United aren’t playing well either. The difference is United have taken more points. City aren’t even winning ugly. A 3 point deficit on United and a 4 point one on Chelsea isn’t the end of the world but if we’re not careful we’re going to leave ourselves a lot to do. Last season’s blistering start ended up being key. We must not slip further behind this time.