Manchester City's tactical failing exposed in Europe
Published: 07.12.11 / Written by: David Gold
Manchester City's by now probable exit from the Champions League has been largely excused by the press for their lack of experience in the competition.
Roberto Mancini, who coached Inter Milan to years of failure in the competition having played in it whilst a player, is apparently managing a team to whom the competition is new.
Mario Balotelli (formerly of Inter Milan), ex-Valencia man David Silva and Wolfsburg’s Edin Dzeko, all apparently lost their experience, considerable it is, of playing in the competition when moving to Manchester. The same went for Yaya Toure, who apparently has never played in a Champions League final for Barcelona against Manchester United. Or Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri and Kolo Toure, whose former team Arsenal have not competed in the Champions League for all but the first of the Arsene Wenger years.
Even if this considerable Champions League experience did not exist, this does not explain another disparity. Napoli, who beat City 2-1 at home and drew 1-1 away, and now appear set to qualify ahead of them for the knockout round, actually do have practically zero experience of the Champions League. Edinson Cavani seemed able enough to score against City, twice, despite his failure to appear in the competition previously. Christian Maggio, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik all appeared capable, as well as Salvatore Aronica in defence.
This is a team who really have no experience of this level. But one who do, Villarreal, having competed in the semi-finals in 2006, are bottom of the group and without a point. This all points to the one obvious unescapable conclusion.
Champions League experience has nothing to do with City’s disappearance from this year’s competition. It has been used as an excuse by a fawning media, in love with the richest team on the planet (no coincidence there, surely?)
So why have City gone out? Simply, they are ill matched to the teams they played. Football is not as simple as many mistakenly believe. Football is essentially a tactical game. Against Napoli, City made the mistake of taking on a team who rely largely on two excellent wing backs playing in front of their defence and providing width going forward as well as the ability to counter attack swiftly given their advanced starting position.
City did not account for this. What they did was try to pass through them, but this was doomed to fail against a team who were suited and built to play such a game, soaking up pressure and counter attacking. They didn’t win against Inter Milan and AC Milan for nothing at the start of the season.
So the conclusion is simple and obvious. This is a team who were ill matched for their main rivals. Bayern Munich are the best team in this group, and that they have won it is no shock. They should have, it would have been a surprise if they did not. Villarreal’s decimated squad also made it similarly unsurprising that they have gone out. But Napoli Manchester City was a clash between two relatively evenly matched teams on paper, but the Italians were far better suited tactically to the clash between the two. City’s exit was down to their inability to work this out and counter it by using wingers who occupied Napoli’s crucial full backs, without whom the front three would have been isolated. City’s exit is a consequence, quite simply, of poor tactics.