Options give Mancini greater licence

Options give Mancini greater licence

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As was the case in 2010/11, Manchester City travelled south to White Hart Lane as the first visitors of the season. This is where the similarities ended however as City, in contrast to last year, ran amok and swept the hosts aside to stake their claim as serious title contenders.On that opening day of the season of last years campaign Roberto Mancini came away with a point in hand but criticism ringing in his ears. Despite having assembled an expensive and potent looking attack, the Italian was content with stifling and stymying the opposition (as he would go on to do against their top rivals over the course of the season), riding their luck along the way as Joe Hart turned in a performance for the ages.

That day Tottenham were flying. This time around it was City who arrived full of confidence and swagger whilst Harry Redknapp was contending with injuries and distractions to key players (with it subsequently being reported that Luka Modric had asked to be left out of the side) – and to add to his misery his side was reduced to ten men when Rafael van der Vaart hobbled off with fifteen minutes or so remaining.

Having displayed an attacking flair and verve in their opening two games (hitting seven goals in the process) that was rarely last season seen as City pragmatically played their way into the top four, the hope was that City would not be content with a point, but to play to their attacking strength and buoyed by the arrival of Samir Nasri they did just that as memories of the grinding goalless draw were swept away in an avalanche of goals that underlined the potency of their attacking options.

In looking at the numbers from both today’s game and the goalless draw from last season, there are similarities. In both City dominate possession but this can be misleading to a degree. Last season, the modus operandi was controlling possession and the game in central midfield with Yaya Toure, Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong the integral cogs in the wheel. Denying the opposition time and space was the priority and the side would break with Carlos Tevez and David Silva when the situation allowed.

Today however, whilst the passing numbers are similarly dominant, the focus was on attack and taking the game to opposition. The passing game was not about retention per se, but in recycling and creating chances. The addition of Aguero and Nasri, along with Silva sees City enjoy possession and strength in numbers in the final third far more often, meaning this trio – rather than the the more defensive natured one of a year ago – have an added dimension and were simply too much for Tottenham – operating a ‘conventional’ 4-4-2 – to cope with.

2011/12 stats:

Tottenham

City

Possession

41.5

58.5

Shots on target

5

9

Shots off target

6

10

Passing

321/401

526/595

Passing %

80%

88%

Crosses

9/23

5/18

Chances

17

16

Tackles

18

12

Possession

60

38

Aerial won

21

8

Interceptions

24

13

And from the game in 2010/11:

Tottenham

City

Possession

38.2

61.8

Shots on target

8

2

Shots off target

6

4

Passing

285/374

531/626

Passing %

76%

85%

Crosses

6/34

1/15

Chances

13

10

Tackles

27

28

Possession

60

70

Aerial won

9

23

Interceptions

35

25

Duncan White wrote an excellent article in The Sunday Telegraph this morning stating how City could utilise Nasri and Silva in a similar vein as Barcelona do with Xavi and Andres Iniesta and their movement and inter-play – along with that of Aguero – around Dzekowas a delight and the goals evidence of this: attacks built upon pace and precision with neat, quick passing moves that lead to passing stats such as these:

Nasri

Silva

Aguero

Passing

69/71

61/65

18/24

Passing %

97%

94%

75%

Nasri in particular was superb and fitting into the side seamlessly on debut, returning a stunning passing % and crucially creating some 11 chances and contributing three assists – more than he did for Arsenal curing the course of last season in total. Whilst sides may have previously focussed on attempting to stop David Silva, with Nasri now too in the line-up City have added an extra weapon and with the increased threat at his disposal (not forgetting that Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Adam Johnson were all left kicking their heels on the bench) this has allowed Mancini to be more expansive and rather than adopting a restricted game which limited City against the top sides and those who were happy to ‘park  the bus’ – options that will be needed if City are to go on and mount a serious tilt at the title this season.

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