Monday, 29 August 2011

Who gets the nod when everyone's match fit?

It's the million pound question at the moment after Mancini added Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero to his already formidable attacking options. Just who will be in the 1st choice front 4 when everyone is match fit?

Now of course we have to allow for squad rotation and because of this the front 4 (in a 4-2-3-1 formation) will inevitably change many times throughout the season. But lets just list who Mancini has to call from (or who is most likely to be left) to fill the 3+1;
Adam Johnson
Carlos Tevez
David Silva
Edin Dzeko
Mario Balotelli
Sergio Aguero
Yaya Toure

That's 7 players who Mancini has used as part of the quartet in his favoured and highly flexible 4-2-3-1 formation. Each player brings something different to the table, and therein lies the beauty of Mancini's problem. I don't think there is a manager in the world who has quite as many options at his disposal.

Last season, with Balotelli and Dzeko new to the Prem, and without Aguero and Nasri in the side, pundits and journalists alike would have said Tevez was an automatic starter. And even at the beginning of this season before he returned from his holidays they were still banging on about how City will miss Tevez's goals.

It was as though the media was gearing itself up for City's almighty crash and burn as Tevez was to be sold and if he wasn't they stuck the knife in by using inaccurate quotes of Tevez never wanting to step foot in Manchester again. One media outlet (not naming names, they don't deserve the publicity) even went to far as to say that he would only be available for away games if he wasn't sold. Yes that really is what they published. Stupidity of the highest order which is laughable and contemptible in equal measure.

In all honesty though, and this is in no way me taking away from what he has done for City on the pitch, Tevez's form dipped at the back end of last season but City still managed to win the FA Cup and finish joint 2nd on points in the Prem with Chelsea. So did City really miss his goals at that time? It'll be a what if at best I suppose.

Fast forward a couple of months to this season, no Carlos Tevez in the side in pre-season and no chance of him starting for the first few week in the Premiership due to match fitness and have we really missed Tevez? Errrm, no.

Without Carlos being the focal point of City's attack it has given other players the chance to grow into the team in ways that simply weren't possible last season. We'll look at the main 2, David Silva and Edin Dzeko.

David was fantastic last term and was a deserved candidate for Player of the Season. But for as good as he was (and he was good) he always seemed as though he was being held back by something, always seemed as though he had to find someone to pass to rather than take the shot on. When Tevez played, Silva was always looking to get the ball to him, and to be fair they had a good understanding but no real connection was made with the rest of the squad. Was this simply down to the language barrier and him feeling more comfortable with Tevez? Maybe.

When we got to pre-season David looked as though he'd clicked with the rest of the squad, his movement had got even better, his understanding with the rest of the squad seemed to have grown dramatically even more than it had done towards the end of last season. To top it off, he no longer looks afraid to shoot. Without Tevez, Silva has grown into the team and visa-versa in a way not possible when the Argentinian was there.

Then to Edin Dzeko, the man the media was calling a £27m flop, the man the media managed to convince the majority of fans was a waste of money. Sluggish, heavy first touch, and clumsy were all ways of describing the 6ft4 Bosnian, and they were a fair assessment. However what wasn't fair was that none took into account any of the circumstances as to why he looked that way.

Moving from the Bundesliga to the vastly more physical and quicker paced Premier League after a winter break, with no prior training with the team, being played out of position several times, with Carlos Tevez the only focal point of the majority of attacks... it was all stacked against him right from the start. However there were a few who saw past this, who saw that he could adapt and could prosper with the right service.

And how right we were (yes I don't mind gloating that I was one of them), Edin must feel like the cat that got the cream when he looks behind him and sees the creative influences of Aguero, Silva and Nasri. At Wolfsburg he thrived off a partnership, a partnership that if we're truly honest with ourselves is unlikely ever going to be created with Tevez. Instead he had 3 truly class players behind him against Spurs and look what the end result was.
At this moment in time I can't see past Nasri and Aguero as being the right players to complete the quartet. Nasri has as much creativity as Silva and both can interchange positions, drifting into the centre, out wide, swapping flanks. Having two players like that is a nightmare for defences as they get pulled inside then back out trying to cover the movement of the attackers. Then Aguero, although he isn't quite as involved in games as Tevez is, his movement behind Edin, fading left or right depending on Silva and Nasri provides not only space for himself but for Edin to position himself in the 18yard box.

The combination of those 4 was absolutely devastating against a side that was playing Champions League football last season. The defence didn't have an answer for it as they couldn't predict what kind of play they were up against. Was there going to be a one-two between players and a perfectly weighted first time cross? Was it going to be whipped in close to the ground or high up for a header? Or was there a searching through ball followed by a piece of individual brilliance? How about a lay off for a belter from outside the box?

Yes this game had each one of those, and it's just a taste of things to come as that was the first game they had all played together as an attacking unit. This is why the 4 that started against Spurs simply have to be the first choice. I understand that they will be rotated and wont all play together all the time, but for sheer versatility and attacking ability they would be my first choice.

How that affects the team behind them is for another time, and what about the others in the list; Toure, Tevez, Johnson, and Balotelli? Each will no doubt get a number of games this season, there is no doubt about that, as City try to put a realistic attempt together to compete for 4 trophies. And of course each one of those players has abilities suited to certain types of games which will allow Mancini to cater his team to the opponent.
After, and even during the Spurs game, commentators, pundits and journalists alike were comparing modern day City to City's past 'Holy Trinity' of Colin Bell, Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee. Of course, as has always unfortunately been the case, the media and commentators failed to mention one of the most unsung heroes of the era, the late, and truly great Neil Young. But City fans will now be daring to wonder whether this quartet can be as successfull, or even moreso than those 4 City legends .

We just need a catchy name for them now... Unfortunately, it has already been pointed out to me that if you take the first letter of their surname you get the word NADS. But shouting Go NADS will probably get you a few funny looks, although with the sense of humour City fans have I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if that caught on and was incorparated into a new terrace chant.

And just in case you want to see them in action again while there's a break for the Euro 2012 qualifiers here are the highlihgts of Spurs v City again. Enjoy.

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