Tactical notes from the first weekend of the Premier League season:
When Manchester United won the Champions League in 2008, it did so without a conventional striker, with
Against Tottenham, City lined up in a 4-3-3, with Tevez flanked by
City's problem on Saturday, though, was less the front three than the midfield three. It may be that manager
And that, really, was the oddity of City on Saturday: the internal tension. United and Barcelona both facilitated the movement of their front three with breaks from midfield and fullback, while City essentially was a broken team, with a solid back seven and a fluid front three, which made it relatively easy to contain. Then again, Mancini may argue, his design at Tottenham was containment, and once his side had stopped giving the ball away readily as it did in the first half, when City survived only thanks to the heroics of
As ever, when a midfield three meets a midfield four, the issue is whether the two central midfielders in the four can win enough possession to feed the wide players. In the first half, such was City's sloppiness that
Was it typical
If the use of Gerrard as a holder, though, suggested a more attacking outlook, the way the two wide players,
That they were able to do so until succumbing to Arsenal's first spell of sustained pressure in the final minutes is highly encouraging, but the real worry must be Cole, who was barely involved in the first half. As the
The 4-4-2 formation is becoming like
Sunderland's game against Birmingham, a clash of two 4-4-2s, had the feel of a match from the '90s, all pace and power and newly signed foreign players looking bewildered. But Tottenham showed that 4-4-2 can still be a viable attacking formation at the highest level and that, played well, it can be exhilarating.
The second half, as City settled and held the ball better, hinted at the problems the 4-4-2 may have, particularly in the Champions League, against sides capable of retaining possession. Then again, the pace with which Spurs play may trouble opponents as unaccustomed to such an onslaught in just the same way English teams did in the '80s.