Leading the line at Manchester City?

Roberto Mancini is building a Manchester City squad capable of challenging for honours next season. The arrival of Sergio Aguero from Atletico Madrid only increases the competition for places in City’s attack but what is their ideal strike partnership?

City currently have seven Premier League standard strikers within their squad but for the sake of convenience and probability I am going to consider how first choice strikers (and those most likely to stay for now) Mario Balotelli, Aguero and Edin Dzeko could work together. The likes of Craig Bellamy, Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz are out of favour and look to be close to an exit whilst Carlos Tevez’s transfer saga continues to role on.

Who starts City’s first game of the season may depend a lot on Mancini’s choice of formation. He has been criticised in the past for being too defensive with the Italian often liking to employ just one lone striker. The more defensive option would be a 4-2-3-1 with the more attacking choice a 4-3-3.

Whatever formation Mancini employs, new boy Aguero must be at the heart of City’s tactics. Despite the comparisons to Tevez with his eye for goal, skill and reasonable strength, I am not sure whether Aguero could lead the line on his own for City. It may leave the Argentine isolated and constricted to one position. Mancini will get the best out of Aguero when he allows him the freedom to drop deep and run at defenders. One of Tevez’s best qualities was also his work rate and Aguero doesn’t have the same industrious style of play that is needed to lead the line. Another possibility would then be to play Aguero off a target man, most likely Balotelli or Dzeko. This would give Aguero the freedom to pick off loose balls and terrorise defenders from deep.

The more natural choice for a lone striker would be Dzeko. He is a more natural target man and possesses the height and presence to cause defenders problems when the ball is whipped into the box. But the Bosnian’s dreadful run of form since his arrival in Manchester would mean Mancini was taking a huge risk is putting his faith in a striker lacking confidence. However if Mancini can get the best out of Dzeko and help him recreate his Bundesliga form then he could be the perfect foil for Aguero.

Apart from convincing him about the advantages of living in Manchester, Mancini will also have to work out how to get the best out of unpredictable Italian Balotelli on the pitch. The young striker’s talent is undoubted and at times he is unplayable. But Balotelli doesn’t possess the awareness or team ethic to lead the line and Mancini would be best suited to keep Balotelli out wide (like he often has before) where he can cut inside and run at defenders. On paper Aguero and Balotelli sound like the best strike partnership in the Premier League but in reality Mancini may have trouble playing the two together.

As he is still at the club it is also worth quickly noting Carlos Tevez’s role at City if he were to stay. Despite looking like he was signed as a replacement, Aguero and Tevez could play together. Despite possessing similar styles of play, their familiarity with each other’s game at international level could be a great advantage and Tevez’s work rate combined with Aguero’s skill would make a deadly partnership.

Although having a strong and large squad is a fantastic advantage during a long Premier League season, Mancini faces a headache in choosing his strike partnership. I don’t think the often cautious Italian would completely change his style and play all three so one will unfortunately miss out but whatever tactics Mancini employs, new boy Aguero should be at the heart of City’s style next season.

Who do you think Mancini should start in attack? If you want to read more of my bite size, 140 character views and thoughts follow me on Twitter @jennyk5