Soccer 365’s Howard Johnson gives us five sure-fire ways in which Roberto Mancini can make sure our title challenge doesn’t fizzle out!
It was a bad week for Blues, no two ways about it. First there was the (let’s be honest) useless showing in Portugal against a very average Sporting Lisbon that led to a deserved 1-0 first leg defeat. And then the loss at Swansea on Sunday by the same score, where only the most myopic of City supporters could ever claim ‘we woz robbed’. Brendan Rodgers has built a neat, entertaining, skillful team down in Wales and if you’ll forgive the cliché, they play football the right way. They might have had a lucky escape when Micah Richards thought he’d levelled the scores with a powerful header at the end of normal time, only to be adjudged offside by a hair’s breadth. But Swansea deserved their moment of luck against a City team that was yet again well out of sorts.
There are a number of issues that need addressing – and quickly – by boss Roberto Mancini if City are not to implode and – God forbid – give Man United a clear run all the way to the title. Here are just five of them to be going on with!
1) He’s got to get Edin Dzeko playing. I’ve been a big supporter of the Bosnian who arrived with an even bigger reputation from Wolfsburg last season. He’s clearly got ability. But his confidence looks all but drained, his first touch isn’t good enough, his awareness of what’s going on around him on the field looks second-rate and his body language is pathetic. This is the moment when big players stand up to be counted. Right now Dzeko is hiding. And right now Robin Van Persie can’t head north quick enough.
2) He needs David Silva to find his spark again. The Little Genius has been a joy to watch, of course, and is one of the most skillful players ever to have worn a City shirt. But he’s looked a bit dispirited of late. Opponents have worked out that you have to close Silva down in an instant and that it usually takes two – or even three – players to do so. But they’re having quite a bit of success in that department right now and Mancini needs to find a way of allowing Silva to flourish again. Point three might go some way towards achieving it.
3) Samir Nasri has got to stop being a bit-part player. We all know that it takes time for even the best talent to adapt to new surroundings, new players and new systems. But dammit, Nasri has been at City long enough now to have got over the acclimatisation period. He still looks nothing like the imperious little imp who ran the Arsenal midfield, unable to be decisive in games and often running up blind alleys that a player of his creativity should never go near. All players go through periods when they’re not at the top of their game. Silva’s doing it right now. And this is exactly the time when Nasri should have grabbed the role as leader of the orchestra. Nobody in their right mind could suggest that the Frenchman has done anything of the sort.
4) Adam Johnson needs a regular run of games. Johnson is the player who offers the unexpected. His skill set is different to the rest of City’s attacking talent for the simple reason that he’s a dribbler. While most of City’s attacking intent is born out of sharp, intricate passing moves, Johnson can create space by beating a man. He can eliminate defenders from the game and so create the vital space that’s at such a premium in the Premier League. He’s also a goalscorer, too, someone who can create something out of nothing and who can be decisive. Mancini seems to focus on what it is that Johnson doesn’t do rather than what he does. If he were to apply the same criteria to, say, Dzeko, then the bloke would never get a game. So why pick on Johnson like that? All players find it hard to get into a rhythm when they’re playing 20 minutes here and half an hour there. Johnson can give City a serious boost at a time when we most need it. And no, I’m not saying this just because he’s called Johnson!
5) He needs to clone Vincent Kompany! When Vinnie plays well City play well. And Vinnie pretty much plays well whenever he’s on the field. But when the Belgian maestro is unavailable through injury – as was the case after eight minutes against Sporting and then again on Sunday – City’s central defence looks horribly vulnerable. Neither Lescott or Kolo Touré are slouches, but Stefan Savic isn’t anywhere near Premier League class as yet and it’s Kompany who galvanises all of the players alongside him. When he isn’t there nobody looks as good. I think there’s an argument that City still aren’t the finished article defensively right across the back line. Let’s just say I don’t think Barcelona would have much trouble picking us off. But Kompany is the undisputed Guv’nor of the City defence and if we’d had two of him I suspect the title would be wrapped up already.
Surely none of these quick fixes are beyond the ken of Signor Mancini and his magic scarf. And so I fully expect to be enjoying a Sky Blue open top bus parade come the 13th of May!
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