Manchester City are without doubt English football’s most rapidly rising force, but Roberto Mancini’s team of supremely gifted guns for hire are struggling to find a collective identity.
In many ways this situation is not surprising, most of the players have only known one another for a matter of days, but it was a problem that also seemed to afflict the Eastlands outfit last season and has come, unfortunately, to be a defining feature of the Mancini era.
City clearly have the talent and resources required to challenge for the title on a regular basis, but first their Italian coach must overcome what seems to be some tactical confusion surrounding his approach. It’s all too easy to criticise coaches with the benefit of hindsight, something I try to avoid most of the time, but Mancini’s game plan this afternoon was inefficient and patently failed to place the Tottenham defence under anything approaching sustained pressure.
Attempting to play a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1, Mancini started with Carlos Tevez as the lone striker, the Argentinian supported from wide by David Silva and Shaun Wright-Phillips. Tevez obviously has many great qualities, but playing in the target man role is not one of them.
At times, such is Tevez’s natural inclination to drop deep to look for the ball and Yaya Touré’s lack of willing to consistently burst forward as his role required, City looked striker-less, as if they were playing with a flat and deep 4-6-0 formation. Indeed, Emmanuel Adebayor (who began today’s game amongst the substitutes) is arguably the only true aerial threat the team possesses going forward.
Perhaps inevitably, Mancini’s team resemble a collection of individuals unsure of the strengths of their fellow players, something which resulted in a degree of midfield congestion and a lack of penetrating runs into the Spurs box. Defensive communication was also hard to come by, Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale being allowed to run riot as a result of some patchy pressing. Had it not been for the excellent Joe Hart, The Blues could have been on the end of a fairly comprehensive defeat.
City will undoubtedly improve as the season goes on, but this was not an encouraging start to the campaign for the country’s wealthiest club. Money can buy talent, but it doesn’t automatically generate spirit. Mancini will need to utilise every last drop of his managerial experience to fine-tune this team (which has all the potential in the world) into a cohesive unit capable of dining at the top table.