Date: 25th October 2012 at 4:56pm
Written by:

Roberto Mancini certainly fuelled the TalkRubbish fires after City’s less than impressive performance in the Amsterdam Arena last night. His side showed no vim and vigour as a young Ajax side simply took them to the cleaners and dumped City unceremoniously at the foot of the group.

This was a must win game if City were to harbour any hopes of progressing to the knockout stages of Europe’s prestige competition, but even the comfort backwater of the Europa League looks a long way off as we stand.

There was no real excuse for this abject performance against a club that hadn’t beaten English opposition for what whas it, 33 years? But last night we returned to “typical City.”

Mancini’s line-up should have been enough to get this game won, but his tactics looked like the aftermath of an hallucinatory substance which left the players baffled and the supporters dumbfounded and probably heading for solace in the shop windows.

It all started so well with no immediate threat from the hosts. They had demonstrated means of keeping the ball so reminiscent of the Etihad last season, but City looked to be gaining the upper hand when in a swiftish move, a searching pass from Richards then Aguero once again drawing the defensive cover to one side of the goal allowed Milner to find an unmarked Nasri who coolly slotted home.

It was time to sharpen the knife and get on top of this fixture, but nobody could find the grindstone. Was it tactics to sit on and try to defend a 1-0 lead away in the Champions League? I wonder.

If City seriously do want to sit on a 1-0 lead then one of the means of achieving that was sold recently and it was perhaps fitting that following a break down the right which caught City too narrow and all over the place, the final ball found a man named de Jong unattended on the edge of the box and he too found the net with too much ease. There were enough City shirts around to have prevented this goal but without another de Jong the gate was left open and Ajax took their chance on the stroke of half time.

The first ten minutes of the second has now long-since ceased to be “City time,” indeed the Blues show an alarming voracity for conceding in this important time, dating back to the infamous title decided at the Etihad in May. And so it proved last night. Eriksen’s corner on the right easily found the head of Moisander, despite there being 4 City defenders in attendance and the ball rocketed into the net.

Within a few minutes Lescott paid the price for his ineffectiveness, being replaced by Kolarov as Mancini’s musical formations started to take place.

The idea of 3-4-3 used to be a line-up, with City it is the alterations to the defence within the course of the match. Richards, Clichy and Kompany were to contend at the back with Kolarov and Milner now providing width. But Ajax had their tails up and exploited the shortages at the corners and put City under pressure.

There were no real outlets for the Blues and there was a further disaster ahead when Barry for once gave the ball away and the brilliant Eriksen pressed on to hit a scorching shot that bagatelled its was in via at least 2 deflections, notably Richards and Clichy, leaving Hart wrong-footed.

Mancini contrived to send on Balotelli for Milner and Tevez for the uncomfortable Barry as he launched yet another mysterious line-up formation. Was it really 3-2-5?

With all that goalscoring talent on the field, but without David Silva, chances still refused to come City’s way, although it might be said that Dzeko was thwarted twice by good saves from Vermeer.

Mancini said that he hadn’t prepared his team properly for this match. He admitted similar after losing to Everton last year and the radio stations took delight in panning him for that statement this morning and if that was the case, rightly so.

The dregs on TalkRubbish were rubbing their hands at the prospect of him getting the Garry Jack and speculating to that effect. But it does take more than one-and-a-half campaigns against Europe’s finest to get Champions League savvy and City are finding this a hard nut to crack.

For me this is because Mancini changes his tactics to try to nullify the opposition. This is an expensively built team containing some of the finest footballers in the world and it should be other teams who should have to try to beat City. They should not be handed points on a plate which it looks like they are getting right now.

We are in the middle of October and almost “concentrating on the league.” That is not good enough for the tools Mancini has in his kit bag. If you are going to win this competition you have to beat the best teams and to do that you must make yourselves hard to beat and keep them away from your goals. City’s goalmouth this season looks like open house with everyone getting a chance to cash in. The back line is never settled. What has Zabaleta done wrong? If we don’t have de Jong, Zaba will shut the door.

Far too much of this match looked like City playing at a total contradiction to their efforts at the weekend, where ten men rescued a 0-1 deficit away at West Brom. This simply looked like they had all been delivered from all points of the compass, given a City shirt and told to “Get on with it”.

The sooner we rediscover that 4-2-3-1 works for this team the better.

As for Roberto, he really will have to watch his step. Saying he hasn’t prepared his team is unforgiveable and his CL record is not great. Just how players paid what they are at City and are professionals cannot prepare themselves escapes me, but having said that I saw enough of it during Mark Hughes’ reign to tell me it happens.

On Saturday, the team comes home to try to beat Swansea. Do we recall a “Saturday after,” a defeat to Sporting Club last year when the same was needed? He must not underestimate Swansea as he did last season. He needs to get 3 points banked and quickly.

all times East Manchester

Sa 27 Oct 17h30 Swansea City, The Etihad, PL
Sa 03Nov 17h30 West Ham, Upton Park, PL
Tu 06 Nov 19h45 Ajax, The Etihad, CL
Su 11 Nov 13h30 Spurs, The Etihad, PL
Sa 17 Nov 15h00 Aston Villa, The Etihad, PL
We 21 Nov 19h45 Real Madrid, The Etihad, CL
Su 25 Nov 16h00 Chelsea, Stamford Bridge, PL
We 28 Nov 20h00 Wigan, DW Stadium, PL


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