Manchester City continue to deceive
Published: 07.10.12 / Written by: David Gold
Manchester City may be English champions, but they certainly are not playing like it.
They have suffered so far this season, despite still being unbeaten, as they have laboured through their opening games. Unconvincing wins over Southampton and QPR allied to draws with Liverpool and Arsenal, both of whom outplayed them, and Stoke, mean that Roberto Mancini is scratching his head in frustration.
What is particularly curious is how a team whose defence was rock solid last year is now so porous. Particularly as they have strengthened defensively. Clues were in evidence yesterday when Arsenal came to town. They dominated the midfield in the first half and towards the end of the second, basically because City lacked presence aside from Yaya Toure in midfield. David Silva was barely noticed in the opening stages, even worse can be said of Javi Garcia. It meant City lacked an effective defensive shield, something they would have had with Gareth Barry or Nigel de Jong.
Also important was the form of Silva going forward .Last year City were brilliant at the back because they rarely faced pressure. Silva’s ability to dominate proceedings was the catalyst for City’s superior form for the first half of the season, as they bossed matches against almost all of their rivals. City’s possession was the root of their defensive solidity, and tired opponents out.
But Silva has gone off the boil and Mancini is yet to find an adequate solution. Carlos Tevez made the difference at the end of last season, becoming the playmaker in the final weeks as City romped to the title in style. But Tevez did not play against Arsenal yesterday and lacks the ability to dictate possession in the way Silva can. In that, City have lost something.
This is the serious issue Mancini now has to address. How does he coax the best form out of Silva once again and find the majestic playmaking that turned City into such a force last year? Or can he find an effective replacement? Garcia is too deep to influence matters in quite the same way, whilst Samir Nasri lacks the Spaniard’s selflessness.
The only other way to bring back a solid defence is to go back to the old days of dour defending. Mancini deployed this to get City into the Champions League in the first place but it was not attractive and the fans at the Etihad have become accustomed to entertaining football now. But it is tricky to see Mancini’s next move. He still possesses a squad full of top quality players who can cause anyone problems. But against Arsenal and Liverpool there have been signs, as against Real Madrid too, that City are struggling when they come up against the top sides. That will be a major concern if City are to retain their title.