Europa League verdict: Red Bull Salzburg 0 Manchester City 2
Goals: Silva 8 min, Jo 63 min.
City put in a thoroughly professional performance to take three points from their opening group fixture. Once David Silva had scored his first goal for the club after 8 minutes, City were in a position of strength and never let it slip. There should have been more before Jo bagged his first for the club in two years.
Roberto Mancini rotated a portion of his squad and played two up front with a midfield diamond. A slightly unusual system but it worked well.
Wayne Bridge came back for his first game of the campaign and provided some width on the left. Zabaleta offered the same on the right.
Hart, Kolo Toure and Kompany all retained their places from the weekend to provide an excellent defensive barrier. After missing out at the weekend, de Jong returned to take command of the area in front of them.
This enabled Barry and Yaya to concentrate on retaining possession and supply our attacking players. David Silva, the player everyone wanted to see was, stationed at the creative tip of the diamond and had free reign to slice open the opposition.
The mobility of Tevez and Jo pulls defenders around and creates space for others. Jo also tries to link up play but his first touch to often lets him down. With all these appearances he should at least be feeling part of the team once more and hopefully the goal will improve his potency.
The main concern was our failure to convert chances and decent positions into more goals. Neither of our strikers looked convincing in front of goal and we need Tevez to rediscover the scoring touch he enjoyed from last Autumn onwards.
Adebayor should be available soon and is another in need of a few goals. Balotelli remains both injured and an unknown quantity. Until one of our strikers hits form, Mancini’s stress levels are unlikely to ease any time soon.
At least he can congratulate himself on the defence. Once again they were solid. Salzburg were never able to break us down in open play but did supply danger from set pieces. Their full-back had a throw Rory Delap would envy and they enjoyed plenty of corners.
The ball bounced loose a couple of times, but by and large Vincent Kompany and co were very impressive. Mancini has recognised that to be successful in England you need to be physically strong and once again there was plenty of height and muscle to protect Joe Hart. We’re in real danger of giving zonal marking a good name.
Aside from the misfiring strikers, the only concern was Wayne Bridge receiving an ice pack on his thigh after being substituted. With Lescott and Kolarov injured we could do with Wayne staying fit.
In his absence Mancini may be forced to turn to Zabaleta at left-back. This is no loss defensively, but the Argentine struggles to augment the attack on his wrong side.
Giving Bridge another game against Wigan and having him fully fit for Chelsea would be preferable. Though if Wayne isn’t fully fit the defensive side of his game can suffer and Zabaleta would easier on the nerves when facing Chelsea.
“He is in a different situation now playing different football.
“After one month he is ready to go 100% for the team.
“Arsenal have two or three players like David and they play very well.”
With Juventus drawing at home, this result sees us topping the group and looking forward to welcoming the Italians to Eastlands in the next fixture. The Europa League provides an opportunity for the manager to rotate his squad and give the likes of Zabaleta and Boyata some valuable game time.
So long as we don’t pick up injuries it remains an enjoyable distraction from the real business of securing a Champions League place.