Posts Tagged ‘Roberto Mancini’
“LONDON — Manchester City withstood a valiant fightback from Chelsea to win a gripping FA Cup semi-final 2-1 at Wembley Stadium on Sunday and knock the holders out of the competition.”
“Laid next to United’s results, City’s goal-shy tendencies are telling. Both sides have only lost four games this season but whereas United have only drawn twice, City have found themselves just a solitary goal from victory on eight separate occasions. Had only half those draws been turned into wins, the gap between the clubs would now be just four points, rather than the chasm it actually is.”
I wrote a piece for AFP on the factors that have derailed Manchester City’s Premier League title defence, and you can read it here.
“Roberto Mancini’s side, runners-up in 2011, needed only to match United’s result at Sunderland to claim the title but as stoppage time arrived, they trailed 2-1 to Queens Park Rangers and United were 1-0 up. Džeko equalised, and with United’s players anxiously awaiting news on the Sunderland pitch, Agüero drove in a 94th-minute winner — drawing a memorable cry of “Agüerooooo!” from Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler — to deliver City from the huge shadow cast by their cross-town rivals.”
I’ve written a review of the year 2012 in English football for AFP, and you can read it here.
I’ve been fortunate to report on some fantastic games of football since starting my new role at AFP in London four weeks ago. Here are some of the match reports from my first month in the job:
In the endlessly self-mythologising Premier League, it was perhaps inevitable that a visit to Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium would be cast as the sporting equivalent of the descent into Hades. It is a place, we are told, where madness and brutality reign, where identities are called into question, reputations torns to shreds, and from which only heroes emerge unscathed.
The Britannia is clearly a foreboding place for opposition teams to visit, but Tony Pulis’ side have also come to represent a pan-European vision of the most rugged extremes of English football. Andy Gray attracted widespread scorn for wondering aloud how Barcelona would handle Rory Delap’s long throws, while Rennes coach Frédéric Antonetti rebuked critics of his side’s patient approach play last season by fuming: “If you want to see us play like Stoke City, you’ll have to change coach.”
If Stoke have become a modern byword for direct, no-nonsense football, it is certainly borne out by the statistics. In the 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea last Sunday, the hosts saw just 34 percent of possession. They averaged 38 percent of possession across the whole of last season, and their pass completion rate in the opposition half of 56 percent was the lowest in the division. This Stoke side may have given their supporters mid-table stability and a first ever FA Cup final appearance, but they have not done it with the ball at their feet.
To accuse Pulis of wilful brutishness, however, is to overlook the fact that physical robustness is a fundamental prerequisite to success in the Premier League. You only have to look at the way that José Mourinho went about spending Roman Abramovich’s billions at Chelsea, or the way Roberto Mancini is constructing the current Manchester City side, to recognise that there is nothing perverse about Stoke’s approach.
It’s not often that you see a top-level side take to the field having obviously adjusted their usual tactical plan purely to contain their opponents, but that’s exactly what Stoke City attempted to do in their 1-1 draw at Manchester City in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Roberto Mancini has repeatedly deployed his wingers on the opposite flank from their usual side since he arrived at Eastlands, with left-footers Martin Petrov and Adam Johnson typically playing on the right and right-footers such as Craig Bellamy and Craig Tevez starting on the left.
In a shrewd attempt to accommodate for this, Stoke coach Tony Pulis switched right-footed defender Andy Wilkinson from right-back to left-back, theoretically giving Stoke’s defence a much more natural means of coping with a left-footed player cutting infield from the right.
The trouble for Stoke was that Shaun Wright-Phillips, a predominantly right-footed winger, began the game on City’s right flank and unsurprisingly gave Wilkinson a torrid time by running at his left side. Pulis quickly remedied the problem, moving Wilkinson across the pitch to right-back and pulling left-footer Danny Higginbotham across from centre-back to cover Stoke’s left side.
Mancini, somewhat mischievously, reacted by sending Wright-Phillips over to the left, but the cat-and-mouse was brought to an abrupt end in the 55th minute when Wilkinson was forced off by injury.
Roberto Mancini’s first-choice XI is likely to change as players return from injury and he develops a better understanding of the resources at his disposal, but if the team that started in the 2-0 victory at home to Stoke City on Saturday is anything to go by, City are set for a change of shape.
The team named by the Italian in his first game in charge also suggests things may be looking up for Stephen Ireland and Martin Petrov. Ireland was City’s player of the season last year and Petrov was arguably the best signing of Sven-Göran Eriksson’s tenure at the club, but both players have failed to hold down a first-team place this term.
The attacking riches available to Mark Hughes meant that Ireland was often sacrificed in favour of more practical alternatives, with Gareth Barry frequently paired alongside Nigel de Jong in defensive midfield behind four attacking players. Petrov, meanwhile, had started just three league games prior to the match against Stoke.