Blimey, you’d think the game was in Milan for all the handbags that were thrown around during it. I’ve seen happier benches in graveyards. But we’ll get to that.
Munich had only conceded one goal in the league so far this season and it wasn’t hard to see why, they were pretty damn solid. However if there was a current team that could smash a well organised defense it could’ve been City, who have really looked the part up front. Dzeko, Aguero and Silva have been fairly rampant around opposition’s boxes so far this season and, as Mancini promised, the Citizens started with a very attacking lineup full of potential. Mancini’s confidence was so high he gave Kolo Toure a chance to have a kick about with his little bro.
The lineup paid up first, and cost later. City began really well, forcing the ball forwards and creating an excellent chance that Dzeko really should have done better with inside five minutes. The Blues were keeping the ball fairly well and looked good for a goal; Silva denied a solid penalty claim. As time elapsed in the first half I began to see just how ballsy Mancini’s tactic was, and subsequently how it was going to get them owned.
The key area of the pitch was the flanks, with Nasri vs Mueller and Silva vs Ribery. These aren’t complete mismatches as all the players are attack minded, enjoy coming inside and aren’t the greatest defenders (though Silva did remarkably well at times). The dribbling ability of the Man City widemen should have been enough to push their opposing numbers back , so long as City kept possession – which they did for a while, so much so that the overlapping Micah Richards was the most attacking player on the pitch.
Bayern absorbed City’s opening pressure and soon began to enjoy the ball themselves; this is where the tactic doesn’t work at all. Nasri and Silva have nothing to offer in the form of defense to Munich’s top attacking threats: Mueller and Ribery. The european pair played on the counter in the earlier stages as Bayern were still pressuring City for the ball, and they looked dangerous then; dragging the Blues out of shape.
Richards’ threat was impressive early on and, using offence as defense, he managed to contain Ribery further back a la Dani Alves. But it was to be short lived as Yaya Toure was left inadequate to the frenchman’s pace after Richards’ was caught out of position. Hart produced a great double save and had every right to be enraged at his lackluster defense allowing Gomez to tuck in to Mueller’s leftovers. I couldn’t help but think that had Nigel de Jong been on the field he perhaps would not have allowed one of the rebound shots.
Gomez was once again quickest off the mark and Hart was once again unlucky as City were dealt a low punch as halftime settled. Without being too critical, perhaps Hart wouldn’t wonder how many saves he had to make if he didn’t spill the first one into opposing strikers each time. Still City’s defense were too slow and unfortunately for them Bayern’s were just getting stronger as the game progressed, becoming a black hole of possession at times in the second half. Ex-Blue Jerome Boateng was particularly excellent, nullifying the threat of Aguero competently.
55 minutes in Mancini decided to bring de Jong on. Of course, this could appear a ponderous decision to some, a train of thought that soon gathered momentum as Edin Dzeko’s number went up on the board. Commentators were puzzled, fans were confused and the big Bosnian forward was not best pleased. Players, particularly of the Striker breed, rarely want to come off. We saw Luis Suarez looking all sad when he was withdrawn last weekend. But there is a difference – Suarez had been playing well, Dzeko had failed to make an impact.
By now ze Germans were in their comfort zone and passing for fun, whilst also pressuring City into losing possession really well. In that situation as City you have to take chances whenever you can get them and sometimes that means getting ugly. As Bolton fans will tell you, launch enough long balls at a capable-in-the-air (big lad or Kevin Davies) player and you’ll eventually get a chance. I don’t condone this style of play but there are times when it is understandable.
I don’t feel de Jong was the wrong choice at all; they needed the ball back and they needed to keep it well, two things the dutch holder does exceptionally well. I do think Aguero should have come off though, especially considering Dzeko’s experience at the Allianz Arena for Wolfsburg.
I think Mancini’s beginning tactics were a bit audacious, though I applaud him for it. His team is playing well, scoring relatively freely. Why shouldn’t he go to Germany and play a very attacking setup? (he’ll lose) I’m getting a bit tired of watching managers play intentionally conservative teams or reserve players away and I applaud the Italian for his ambition and faith.
The area he has/will come under attack for is the substitution,
- At 2-0 down you can’t bring a holding midfielder on.
- You have to create more attacking options.
- You can’t take a striker off in this situation.
Above is a list of comments you might have heard/said/thought. They directly correlate with a list of comments someone who thinks Roberto Mancini has had a lobotomy might say. With an attacking formation sent out like it was, Mancini was hardly going to pack up shop 2-0 down. City were being played off the park and de Jong was brought on to take possession back and see that they string several passes together.
After this de Jong inspired ‘cooling phase’ Mancini was to bring a striker on for one of the current holding midfield players, most likely Barry, this striker would then capitalise on the new-found possession. All I can see wrong with that sound tactic is his choice of striker to bring on.
Sadly, Argentinian gorilla impressionist Carlos Tevez decided he’d had enough of the world thinking he had some integrity, and was disgusted by the thought of people respecting him. According to Mancini after the game (via a loaded-question) Tevez just flat out refused to come on. I really felt for old Bob in the post-match interview, you could clearly see emotion on his face. Not just immense rage, but disappointment and betrayal too.
Perhaps Tevez had unimaginable reasons, perhaps he had soiled himself. Perhaps this was all a cleverly timed ploy to get his contract terminated away from the £150,000-a-week nightmare.
Roberto had a tough enough game to play without all the gross-unprofessionalism surrounding him on the bench but I do have one hindsight-tinged question: why was Tevez on the bench in the first place? Mancini knows the striker wants out and must be aware that depending on him would cast him as the man who built his house on sand.
If I were Roberto I would barely play Tevez, instead relying on the players that were going to make it past January. Mario Balotelli came off the bench at the weekend to break the deadlock with Everton and, injury permitting, I just can’t see why he wasn’t on the bench. God knows he’d welcome the chance to play.
Might have an issue with him getting the warm-up bib on as well though…