Why Roberto Mancini is right to experiment
It may not have worked against Ajax in the Champions League last Wednesday, but I have been surprised by the amount of criticism leveled at Roberto Mancini for his recent formation tinkering.
The Italian has come under fire for his habit of switching to a 3-5-2 formation on occasions this season, with many questioning why he seems eager to change the defence that proved to be the best in the country last season.
Last season saw Manchester City play a solid 4-2-3-1 formation, with two holding midfielders in the shape of either Gareth Barry, Nigel De Jong or Yaya Toure protecting the back four marshalled by the excellent Vincent Kompany.
Meanwhile the likes of David Silva, Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero were allowed to cause havoc behind a front man of either Edin Dzeko or Mario Balotelli. Carlos Tevez decided to turn up and get involved later on in the season.
It was a formation that worked perfectly on many occasions up until Christmas, when things began to come slightly unstuck. City went on a wretched run, throwing away their lead at the top to end up trailing Manchester United by eight points at the start of April.
We all know what happened next, but the criticism leveled at Mancini during this period was the fact his side lacked any sort of plan B. This has been a situation Mancini has looked to rectify this season, with the introduction of the 3-5-2 formation.
Whilst it hasn’t proved necessarily effective thus far, it is important City experiment with such things and add more strings to their bow. Their Champions League hopes look lost currently, but they only trail the league leaders by one point, despite what many have perceived as a lackluster start to the season.
Mancini has evolved City season upon season since his arrival in England, providing steady improvement each year alongside Champions league qualification, as well as winning the FA Cup and Premier League title.
The man deserves more respect for the job he has done, regardless of the amount of money spent. He has not let City down yet, and his tinkering with formations should be trusted and given time. His managerial record thus far speaks for itself.
The criticism leveled at Mancini from press, pundits, and even fans who booed the team off at half time at the weekend has been surprising. Mancini should look use the criticism to fire his players up more, and develop a ‘them against us’ attitude, the type reserved for only the biggest and most successful clubs.
I am still of the opinion that Mancini’s tinkering will prove positive for City in the long term. All the top teams and top managers are able to change formations accordingly for different matches.
Sir Alex Ferguson has been the master of this during the Premier League era. His sides have been able to play either 4-4-2, or 4-3-3 comfortably throughout the years. Jose Mourinho is another who has never shied away from tactical changes.
Interestingly at the weekend, Brendan Rodgers gave Liverpool fans an example of his tactical nous, making two substitutions during half time of the Merseyside derby and changing from 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2.
Rodgers explained after the game how he had hoped to thwart the threat from Everton’s wide men, and how adding another centre back in Sebastian Coates allowed his team to cope better with Everton’s ariel threat.
The decision to move Raheem Sterling to a central striker role meant his side looked far more threatening on the break, and had it not been for an awful decision from the officials, would have been rewarded with a dramatic derby victory.
This was especially interesting to witness, as before Rodgers had been known for playing 4-3-3, tika taka and nothing else. Hence the criticism leveled at him for allowing Andy Carroll, a different type of option, to leave on loan.
Whilst Rodgers was able to demonstrate changing to 3-5-2 in a positive manner, Mancini has the defeat to Ajax to overcome in order to get people onside with his ideas.
He has evolved City season upon season, and clearly thinks his side need more strings to their bow if they are to evolve further. I am of the opinion Mancini will get it right, and City will go on to have a successful season regardless of the formation they play. Mancini has been proved right during his time at Eastlands so far, and the fans should trust his judgement.
What have you made of Mancini’s tinkering this season? Follow me on Twitter @LukeGreenwood89 and let me know your thoughts.