Verdict: Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Manchester City 1
Goals: Adebayor 23 min (pen) for City. Milijas 31 min, Edwards 57 min for Wolves.
So much for the scarf Roberto. A promising start culminated in a penalty for Adebayor before Wolves came roaring back to consign City to a second consecutive league defeat.
Afterwards everyone pointed to the absence of Carlos Tevez. Are we really a one man team? Not quite, as after taking the lead we missed Nigel de Jong just as much as the captain.
For the first Wolves goal, Milijas was left unmarked on the edge of the area after Milner had gone across to try and prevent the cross. De Jong may well have been in the vicinity to prevent Milijas’ shot.
For the second Wolves goal, the absence of our Dutchman was even more apparent. The back four had retreated, correctly, as the ball was crossed first time into our area. Kolo should have headed it out for a corner, but instead attempted to nod it upfield. This is where our defensive midfielder ought to have been, but Yaya was still chugging back.
The gap between the defensive line and the midfield was huge, giving Doyle time to pick his shot. Without this, the ball wouldn’t have broke loose for Edwards to score.
Given the absence of de Jong and Tevez, Mancini’s team selection initially looked understandable. Wayne Bridge wasn’t on the bench, so possibly he was injured. On closer inspection, the selection and formation was flawed.
Boateng is still adjusting to the Premier League, and playing him in his least effective defensive position is unnecessary. From left-back the German is unable to contribute much in an attacking sense.
Lescott is an established Premier League player and more than capable defensively at full-back. The defence was stronger at the start of the season with Joleon and Zabaleta in the full-back positions. They are the strongest tacklers and would have stopped more of the crosses with which Wolves caused us so many problems.
Rather than easing Boateng and Balotelli in, as he did with Silva, the manager is throwing them in at the deep end. Against Wolves they sank.
Balotelli started promisingly, but to no-ones great surprise faded from view in the second half. The 20-year-old wasn’t ready to play 90 minutes and should have been taken off.
In fact, he would have been better off coming on as a substitute for Adam Johnson. The Italian offers no more defensively than Johnson so we would have been no worse off at the back.
Once again midfield was the area of greatest concern. There’s a feeling that de Jong carries Barry and Yaya defensively, and this match did little to challenge that view.
Barry and Yaya don’t cover the ground quickly enough, and therefore can’t work as a pair in the Premier League. Vieira looked fit and sharp against Poznan last week. The veteran Frenchman would hardly inject pace, but his tackling, positional play and drive are all stronger.
Michael Johnson may soon make be ready for his latest return. Mancini needs to shake it up, and hope that Yaya, in particular, responds with an improvement in his form.
The diamond formation, with Yaya at the base and Silva at the tip, did start well. Our passing was sharp and both Ade and Balotelli were making themselves available to link up play.
The main criticism of both strikers during the opening period was that neither were clinical enough. Balotelli is understandably rusty while for Adebayor this is what we’re used to.
Silva’s movement and passing were once again our greatest threat, and the opening period concluded with him winning the penalty for Adebayor to calmly despatch.
Wolves woke up and the failing of diamond formations in offering insufficient cover on the flanks became apparent. None of our midfielders were quick enough to move out wide and assist the full-backs.
As a consequence the crosses started to come in with increasing regularity. For their opening goal, Wolves created the opening by having three players on our right flank. McCarthy had seen where the space was, and we didn’t respond.
Mancini needed to change things at half-time. Johnson on the right could have offered more orthodox cover for Richards. Zabaleta or Lescott would have provided greater defensive strength in the full back positions. Vieira could have provided greater authority in the middle. Balotelli needed to be sacrificed to regain control of midfield.
After going behind, bringing on Johnson for Barry did offer some hope. A driving run from Yaya ended in him playing a forward ball for Johnson to run onto and, looking up, he picked out Adebayor. The Togolese had done well to hold back and lose his marker, but skied the shot.
Prior to the finish, the move showed what we are capable of, but see too rarely. Yaya in particular needs to offer more.
It was hard to make sense of the substitution of Adebayor for Zabaleta, other than to confirm that Mancini has little faith in the Togolese. Why move Boateng into midfield when we had Vieira on the bench?
Hopefully de Jong and Tevez will be back for the West Brom game. It will be interesting to see who else plays in that fixture. After this debacle, the second game against Poznan should offer a genuine platform for other members of the squad to push for Premier League starts.
“Wolves deserved the three points because they ran more than us. We played too much long ball.
“I will watch the game again as soon as I can. We played really badly and I must know why.”
Following the game, some pundits were saying our title challenge is in danger. The fact is that in the modern era title winning sides don’t lose three league games before the end of October.
On a Satruday when Chelsea, Arsenal and United all ground out victories, the only consolidation is that we’re still in the top four. To stay there we need to do better than this in terms of tactics, team selection, substitutions and individual performances.