You’re a rich Arab with all the money in the world. You have decided that you enjoy football so much you quite fancy owning a club and so you buy Manchester City. You invest £300 million plus to purchase players, pay their wages and other fee’s and then sit down to watch said team play like Bolton Wanderers under Sam Allardyce. You cannot be happy? Surely?
Whilst I have no personal problems with Roberto Mancini and rate him for standing up to some of his squad and their prima-Donna ways, I don’t share his vision of football. To my understanding, he likes the majority of his team to be defensively strong, hence the insistence on a midfield comprised of Toure, Barry and De Jong, which allows a fluid front three to interchange, create space and score goals. This all sounds wonderful and put into practise, it has produced the kind of football you expect from a team hoping to avoid relegation not one hoping to win the title.
City’s problems stem from their midfield; whilst any team will find it difficult to compete with their midfielders for power and stamina, they can be easily blunted by a stoic defence which exposes the woeful lack of creativity in there. The emphasis is placed too much on the front three to create everything. When three players that high up the pitch are expected to be the playmakers of the team, it is easy to produce staggered football as they are easier to mark than a withdrawn playmaker situated a little deeper or in midfield.
One of the reasons Barcelona play such good football is the presence of Xavi in their midfield area. His quick distribution of the ball sets the tempo for the team and you can see the difference now that he is injured and unable to play two matches row. Barcelona, without him, seem to move the ball slower and get more frustrated in matches. City need a player of this ability in their midfield area in order to unlock the clear potential of their front three. With City’s endless cash reserves, getting a player like this is no problem but will Roberto Mancini break up his powerful midfield and allow a playmaker to add guile to their muscle?
City are very close to being a top team. All the pieces are in place and their ability to dominate teams reminds me a lot of Chelsea. All City lack is Chelsea’s ability to unlock a defence and grab that goal which forces the opposition to come onto them. Whilst Chelsea’s midfield is powerful like City’s, it also has the underrated passing abilities of Mikel, Lampard (when fit) and Malouda when deployed there.
If the Manchester derby has shown me one thing, it’s that City are very close to becoming one of the superpowers of the English game. Perhaps against United, if Paul Scholes was in a light blue shirt and not a red one, City would have won that game and, I dare say, would be favourites for the league.