Verdict: Wigan Athletic 0 Mancheseter City 2
Goals: Tevez 42 min, Y Toure 69 min.
City produced their second 2-0 away victory in the space of four days courtesy of goals from Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure. Heavy rain resulted in a saturated pitch which induced mistakes everywhere except in a City defence that once again looked impregnable.
In the starting line-up David Silva kept his place, while Mancini also went for the industry of James Milner ahead of Adam Johnson’s directness. Wayne Bridge wasn’t fit once again, so Pablo Zabaleta was given the job of keeping the potentially dangerous N’Zogbia quiet.
If the selection was understandable, the formation wasn’t, particlarly in an attacking sense during the opening half. De Jong was stationed in front of the back four. In front of Nigel was Yaya and Barry, with Silva and Milner in front of them. Yet neither Silva or Milner were playing as out and out wingers. It looked something like this:
Hart Richards - K Toure - Kompany - Zabaleta de Jong Y Toure - Barry Silva - Milner Tevez
The result was a packed midfield with little outlet on the flanks and a frustrated Carlos left totally isolated. After being forced into one long range shot when he had no support, the Argentine could be seen beckoning his team-mates forward.
The formation did no favours to the attacking of either Richards or Zabaleta. When they went forward there was no winger for them to link with and they quickly ran into the Wigan defence.
At least we weren’t short of protection for the defence and the game quickly settled into a midfield stalemate. This was disappointing as with Wigan looking limited, the game looked there for the taking.
A fluid system is one thing, but one where the players look confused and are constantly looking to the bench for directions is not so great. Fortunately a route one goal saved us as Tevez converted with remarkable skill after 42 minutes of toil.
In the second period we appeared to switch to a more conventional 4-2-3-1. Silva and Milner had clearer roles and offered better support to Tevez. The Spaniard in particular looked a threat, while Zabaleta made more attacking forays on the left.
Yaya continued to disappoint despite playing in the creative role behind Tevez. His lack of mobility and speed in getting forward held us back. Milner would surely have been better suited to the role, especially given the conditions.
Ultimately Yaya did get forward and score to seal the game. Wigan seemed to lose hope and City enjoyed their best spell with Silva and Tevez looking like they might add to the scoresheet. Jo came on for Yaya and added some welcome mobility.
The departure of Tevez saw City go back into their shell as we closed the game out. Wigan had a couple of half-chances but still couldn’t force Hart into a save.
“The pitch was very hard and difficult to play on.
“The first goal was very important for us. The goal changed the match.
“We never took any risks and never gave away any chances at the back, which I was very pleased about.”
At the back, Roberto Mancini appears to have discovered a defensive diamond formation, as opposed to the conventional midfield version. With Joe Hart at the base, Kolo and Kompany ahead and Nigel de Jong at the tip, City are looking rock solid.
With Barry, Vieira and Yaya also contributing in midfield and the assorted full-backs all looking good in their defending it’s an awesome riposte to those who thought City might struggle in defence.
The ultimate test will come next week as City take on free-scoring Chelsea. It pits City’s defence (2 goals conceded in 5 league games) against that of Chelsea, the only side to have conceded less! Mancini will need to show improved attacking tactics than we saw here, but if he does then who knows.
The important thing against Wigan was to get the win after two shaky results. The result, in the conditions, at a bogy ground was more impressive than much of the performance, but it’s job done and we’re back on track.