Friday, 7 January 2011

Maybe we should learn from Mancini. City match report and thoughts.

Arsenal 0 Man City 0

First things first, although the score was the same, this was clearly a very different match from when we played City at home last year - we created chances, and it was only through luck that City didn't concede in the first half.

And of course turning up and playing like that is boring, and one can make any number of heavy-handed jokes about what an expensive bus it was to park, but the bottom line is, they came away with a draw. Again.

Sure, Mancini hasn't had that much success with these defensive tactics - as F365 explained:
"Seven different Mancini teams have played seven matches against those sides currently sharing a top-four placement in the Premier League table with City and each has failed to score a single goal.

0-0, 0-3, 0-0 against Arsenal. 0-1 and 0-0 against United. 0-1 and 0-0 against Tottenham. 630 minutes of football. Not one goal."

But doesn't that miss the point somewhat? When City played like they did on Wednesday against United, it was too negative for a home team; but for an away team?

It's easy to criticise them, it's easy to say they should come along and attack more; but the fact is they came for a point and they left with that point.

It's admirable to go out and play football, it wins plaudits but how good is it for the team. It's very nice to go to Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge and take up a gung-ho approach - but when you lose 2-0 or 2-1 every year, it doesn't gain anything. If we looked at what Mancini did - and at least played a bit more defensively in the big away games - it would do us no harm at all.

The reality is, there's a happy medium to be reached between the ultra-negativity of Mancini and the way Wenger plays. I'm not advocating returning to the days of 'boring, boring Arsenal', but going to Old Trafford and playing 4-3-3 when we've repeatedly lost to a United side playing a lone striker seems something of a folly.

Nonetheless, it wasn't just the tactics which were at fault. As we were walking along the Holloway Road back from the match yesterday, my friends said I was being deliberately argumentative because I said Alex Song didn't do that well over the 90 minutes. As the song goes, ‘he plays the holding role’. My complaint is he doesn’t. City defended so deep it didn’t matter on this occasion because it was impossible for them to counter quickly with ten men back the whole time. But I actually think he’s something of a hindrance in attack.

Certainly, there’s a school of thought that the more practice he gets higher up the pitch, the more he’ll improve – over time he’s definitely become a better holding midfield player. But if it comes at a cost to the team, then that’s no use at all.
I know Wilshere plays further forward than Song in general, but I often feel he tries to cover for him a little bit. I’d much rather have Wilshere with the ball on the edge of the box, because he has more of an idea of what to do with it. I’m not sure against City that Song did. And when it actually means we pose less of a danger going forward it has to stop.

That Sagna was sent off doesn’t really bother me one way or the other. I understand why the ref flashed the red card and he was stupid to do what he did – but him having a rest is no bad thing, and he’s hardly going to miss big games. Season-defining if we lost them, yes, but it’s hard to say that missing our right-back will make us lose to Ipswich or Leeds.

It was, to be honest, just one of those evenings. It wasn’t quite CSKA Moscow in 2006, but it genuinely could – without any exaggeration – have been three or four nil at half time. We’re unbeaten since Old Trafford, but the big question is whether we can string a few wins together and build up some momentum before the run-in and Barcelona. If ever there was a time when we were going to string a few results together it’s now – the fixture list is kind to us, and there’s no reason we can’t win quite a few now.

Here’s hoping.

Keep the faith.

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