July 31, 2012 by backofthenetjl
You don’t usually learn too many things from pre-season, everything seems to be a normality. You are just using your game time for fitness and to look at some of the back-up players and see how they fit in. One thing I have noticed from Man City’s pre-season however, is that they have been playing their last 2 games with three defenders at the back. It isn’t known for manager’s to experiment with different formations in friendlies, just looking a potential strategies that can be applied within the season, which City certainly have been doing.So I investigate to see how the system would work with City, what players are essential to the system and if it would work for the Champions.
Playing with three at the back doesn’t really occur much in the Premier League, but in Italy it is very common. Top side’s such as Roma, Juventus and Napoli currently use the system, aswell as the Italian football team, as they shown in the Euro’s. It is a system which enables your defender’s to play out from the back, with a sweeper playing just infront of your two defenders. Wing-backs are also used frequently in the system, enabling them to get forward as much as possible. There are many types of formations which can be played under the system with three in defence, such as 3-5-2: Where you can have 2 players sitting in midfield, 2 wingers or wing-backs, an attacking midfielder and 2 forwards. Another option is to play with 3 in defence, 2 defensive midfielders, 2 playmakers and 3 upfront, with wingers on either side and one striker through the middle a possiblity, or an attacking trio of three frontmen, spearheading your attack, and acting as your goal-getters. Yet with City, they have many different options, they have the option to play with 3 defenders and 2 wing-backs or they could play with 3 defenders, a defensive midfielder and then 3 attacking midfielders.
Realistically if Mancini is serious about playing with three at the back, I would expect them to line-up with 2 central defenders, preferably Joleon Lescott on the left-side of defence, skipper Vincent Kompany playing as right-side of central defence and depending on activity in the transfer window, possibly Danielle De Rossi acting as the sweeper, a man who has been heavily linked with the blues. If your are going to play with three at the back, a defensive midfielder is required. Nigel De Jong in my eyes, is the best player at winning the ball back, although his ball retention and passing isn’t the best. Gareth Barry is a player who just does a job, allows other’s to go forward, but he can sometimes shy out of tackles, unlike De Jong. James Milner is another candidate for that role, he possess a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and reads the game very well, but he isn’t likely to feature regularly every game. So I think that De Jong would be best suited to the role, protecting the 3 man defence, he wouldn’t attack and would just sit and stick to his defensive duties, in the potential system, I feel he is the ideal man to have infront of your defence. You may be reading this and thinking ‘why isn’t Yaya Toure mentioned?’ and it is simply because he would place him in a more advanced midfield role. He has been absolutely fabulous in pre-season, providing and scoring goals. One of the main reason’s City won the league last year was in the crucial away fixture against Newcastle, the score was still 0-0 in about the 70th minute and Nigel De Jong was brought on. It seemed a rather defensive change at first, bringing off a striker for a player who isn’t going to be a potential match winner. Infact, it worked wonders for the team, they played with a different shape, that allowed Yaya the freedom to drive on from Midfield and work his magic. The change was immediate aswell as De Jong had a hand in both goals as Yaya stormed on to grab a brace and have 1 hand on the trophy. So the midfield for City would consist of Yaya, Silva and Nasri. To me that seems incredibly dangerous, all players have exceptional qualities, they can all score goals and create them and I think combined they would be a major force.
City are extremely lucky because they have 4 top-class strikers in their ranks in Dzeko, Tevez, Aguero and of course the headline maker Balotelli. All strikers are different, you have Dzeko they aerial threat and a typical fox in the box, Tevez the very clever player, who can score goals from distance and link up with team-mates, Aguero the hero, who pops up on the big occasions, he has excellent movement and his finishing is second-to-none. Finally you have Super Mario, a hero one minute, a villain the next, very unpredictable. He has talent and he shows large glimpses of it, he holds the ball up superbly and when he’s in the mood he is a world-class player. He has been somewhat hit and miss at City, but after an impressive European Championship’s, I’m predicting he’ll realise what an opportunity he has at City and how he can develop and become the greatest player in the world, if he gets his head right and has the right attitude. If you was choosing the strikers based on this system, I think that Aguero and Tevez would be top of your list. They formed a terrific partnership towards the latter part of the season and have featured constantly together in pre-season. Because they have played at international level, they understand each-other, so I would have Aguero and Tevez up-top, thriving on the service from Yaya, Silva and Toure.
Overall, I think that three at the back would be successful for City, as it suits their playing style and philosophy. It is a very attacking formation and when you look at the attacking talent on offer at the Etihad, it would work. It can be very dangerous and you can become exposed at the back and may suffer from opposition counter attacks and breakaways. I am not predicting City to play with three at the back week in week out, maybe against the lesser teams, because It would be a big risk to opt to play a 3-1-3-2 formation against the big guns, such as Chelsea and United. If City managed to snap up Danielle De Rossi or Javi Martinez, I feel that them players are very important as they are very good passers of the ball and can start attacks. I know it will be a system that Roberto Mancini is well aware of and I think he is thinking about it, he may just be experimenting at the moment, but in the long-term I think three at the back would work well for the Champions.