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Monday, December 26

Manchester City: A Mansion without Furniture

A look at Manchester City's need, a need all the more apparent after their goalless draw at West Bromwich Albion.

City's Starting XI @ West Bromwich Albion
Already noted last week was Manchester City's lack of a true creative presence in midfield.  But, given City's status atop the Premier League, why should that matter?  From Zonal Marking's breakdown of Napoli 2 - 1 Manchester City:
Here, City’s main problem was that they lacked a deep-lying central playmaker, a talented midfielder who could play key passes from the centre of midfield. That is the missing part of their jigsawand with De Jong and Toure getting plenty of time on the ball, they were the key players in helping to break down Napoli. The benefit of a creative player in that position is two-fold – as well as the obvious benefit of him helping to create chances, he might also force an opponent towards him to close down, therefore leaving space higher up the pitch for [a teammate] to exploit. Napoli didn’t need to close down De Jong or Toure, and so could remain compact.
David Silva is a tremendous talent, a player capable of slicing through a defense before delivering a killer ball or roof-of-the-net strike all while versatile enough to play in the centre of attack or on either wing.  City thought the same -- or well-enough -- of Samir Nasri to pay Arsenal a sum in the region of £25 million for the French international, envisioning a dynamicism and fluidity in the final third spearheaded by two tormentors with the ball.  Even though Silva has vastly outproduced Nasri to date -- and who hasn't? [Editor's note: Bojan Krkić] -- the exploits of the Spanish international have been enough to key City's ascension in England.

City doesn't have the most possession-dominant of attacks, but they aren't altogether dissimilar to Spain, the reigning World and European champions.  Spain plays a 4-2-3-1, City plays a hybrid 4-4-2/4-2-3-1: where Spain fields a central midfielder to aid possession behind their centre-forward, City fields a support-striker to facilitate a quicker, more-hurried attack.  Both employ wingers who cut inside with the ball, a seeming favouring of slaloming runs and intricate one-twos over traditional width from the parties of their forward line.  But as shown by Spain in their recent defeat to England, this can be too much of a good thing, even if the two wingers are Silva and Andrés Iniesta.
Del Bosque’s selection for the England game was concerning. He started with David Villa upfront, Andrés Iniesta on the left and David Silva on the right. Using two wide players who like to come into the centre of the pitch has often looked bad for Spain under Del Bosque – they come inside, flood the centre of the pitch and make Spain too predictable, too narrow, and ultimately too easy to defend against.
It's how Spain lost in their 2010 World Cup opener to Switzerland, a result that saw Spain Manager Vincente del Bosque sit Silva the remainder of the tournament to ensure more width in the Spanish attack.  While it perhaps wasn't fair to Silva, as good as he is, he isn't Andrés Iniesta, and the wide role Pedro Rodríguez succeeded in for Spain more than made up for Silva's superior technical prowess.  And while del Bosque has made an attempt of late to incorporate two wingers of Silva's style into Spain's lineup, their results haven't mirrored the post-Silva games of the World Cup, a probable indication their Euro 2012 approach will not feature two inverted-wingers.

City's Starting XI average positions (via ESPN)
Which brings the focus back to Samir Nasri.  To the right: the average positions of City's starting eleven versus West Bromwich Albion.

There's no width from City's nominal attacking players, all of whom are within in the width of the six.

It's not a shame to struggle without width: even Barcelona is occasionally guilty of such self-imposed adversity.  But in the event of flagellating themselves, Barca have themselves a stable of deep-lying playmakers to draw defenders out and, if not outright unlock an opposing defense, create space for their teammates to work in.  City doesn't have even one player from that mold, making their signing of Nasri instead of reaching deeper into their bottomless pocketbook for Inter's Wesley Sneijder all the more perplexing.  While City wasn't quit of chances against West Brom, it is telling they were most dangerous when their attacking play had width.

Manchester City is an amalgamation of talent with only spare thoughts put towards the conditional circumstances each individual's actions espouse on the whole of the team.  They are a mansion without furniture, and until their need is addressed, their Champions League trophy cabinet will remain as empty as their den.


  1. Love the actual chalkboards! Looking forward to more.

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