It’s been a disastrous Champions League campaign for Roberto Mancini and Manchester City. Last night’s defeat in Amsterdam left the English champions bottom of Group D, with just one point from a possible nine.
Mancini has come in for criticism for his tactical decisions in the competition, last night changing the formation to a 3-5-2 which resulted in Ajax scoring two goals in quick succession. With one being from a corner, and one with the aid of a deflection, it is hard to pinpoint whether the change in formation was critical to the outcome, but fans and pundits have been quick to voice their opinion on the matter, with the majority using the ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ cliche.
Last season Manchester City conceded the fewest number of goals in the country playing with a flat back four. Mancini’s attempt to tinker with the formation has seen the champions struggle, managing just one clean sheet all season and has played a large part in their Champions League predicament.
Micah Richards post match interview with Geoff Shreeves did little to hide the fact the players are not entirely comfortable with the new system being deployed, but I am of the opinion not everyone is looking at the bigger picture.
Let us not forget how far Manchester City have come in a relatively short space of time under Mancini, regardless of the amount of money spent. When the Italian coach first arrived, City were dismissed as being a defensive, dull team to watch.
Mancini has been given time to evolve the team, and sure enough last season developed them into one of the most vibrant attacking teams to watch in the Premier League, with the likes of Silva Aguero and Nasri producing sublime football time and again.
Mancini is now looking to evolve City further, by adding more strings to their bow. Hence the change in formations and personnel. There are sure to be mistakes along the way, but ultimately I can see it being positive for Manchester City in the future.
Before the critics go for City’s throat, we should not forget it often takes time to adapt to European competition at the highest level, and the fact City have been thrown into a group of death should also be taken into account.
They gave Real Madrid a great game at the Bernabeu last month, which is what makes their last two performances in the competition all the more surprising.
Their neighbours Manchester United struggled on their entry to Europe’s elite competition, a fact Mancini will look to take solace from.
There are still nine points to play for, and City know three wins from three could yet see them qualify. An outsiders chance, but City are more than capable of beating anyone with the squad they have.
An early dismissal from the competition would not be the worst thing in the world, as last season showed. It would give them more time than their rivals to focus on the Premier League and leave them fresher in the title run in.
The fact Mancini came out after the game last night and took responsibility for his sides defeat was brave, as he is now sure to take a lot of flack and have his methods heavily questioned. It is important the Italian keeps faith with his ideas as he looks to take City to that next level. His record of improving them season upon season speaks for itself.
An early Champions League exit proved to be a blessing in disguise last season, and it could yet prove to be the case once again. As City look to take the next step, fans must be patient and be reminded of the bigger picture. There are sure to be mistakes along the way, but ultimately Manchester City have too much quality for moments such as last night to occur to often.
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