Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Five things we learnt about Manchester City on European stage

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Joleon Lescott of Manchester City looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between AFC Ajax v Manchester City at the Amsterdam Arena on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Goalkeeper Joe Hart of Manchester City is down and out following a goal from Siem de Jong of Ajax during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between AFC Ajax v Manchester City at the Amsterdam Arena on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Manchester City Manager, Roberto Mancini looks on during the Group D UEFA Champions League match between AFC Ajax and Manchester City FC at Amsterdam ArenA on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Manchester City player Samir Nasri and a team mate, rear, claim foul during the Champions League Group D soccer match against Ajax at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday Oct. 24, 2012. Ajax won the match with a 3-1 score. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Ajax players celebrate scoring their second goal against Manchester City player during the Champions League Group D soccer match at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday Oct. 24, 2012. Ajax won the match with a 3-1 score. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Joe Hart of Manchester City looks on during the Group D UEFA Champions League match between AFC Ajax and Manchester City FC at Amsterdam ArenA on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Goal keeper, Joe Hart of Manchester City catches the cross during the Group D UEFA Champions League match between AFC Ajax and Manchester City FC at Amsterdam ArenA on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Ricardo Van Rhijn (#24) of Ajax attempts to block the shot from Samir Nasri of Manchester City during the Group D UEFA Champions League match between AFC Ajax and Manchester City FC at Amsterdam ArenA on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Manchester City player Mario Balotelli falls when tackled by Ajax player Eyong Enoh, right, during the Champions League Group D soccer match at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday Oct. 24, 2012. Ajax won the match with a 3-1 score. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Christian Eriksen (#8) of Ajax celebrates with team mates Tobias Sana and Daley Blind after he shoots and scores his teams third goal of the game during the Group D UEFA Champions League match between AFC Ajax and Manchester City FC at Amsterdam ArenA on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: A detailed view of the 'Unite against Racism' captains armband worn by Siem De Jong of Ajax during the Group D UEFA Champions League match between AFC Ajax and Manchester City FC at Amsterdam ArenA on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Ajax players celebrate after victory in the Group D UEFA Champions League match between AFC Ajax and Manchester City FC at Amsterdam ArenA on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Referee Svein Oddvar Moen of Norway intervenes as Mario Balotelli of Manchester City argues with Eyong Enoh of Ajax as Yaya Toure looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between AFC Ajax v Manchester City at the Amsterdam Arena on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Manager Roberto Mancini and a despondent Manchester City bench look on towards the end of the UEFA Champions League Group D match between AFC Ajax v Manchester City at the Amsterdam Arena on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini (R) can't bear to watch as his opposite number Frank de Boer of Ajax (centre) looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between AFC Ajax v Manchester City at the Amsterdam Arena on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Edin Dzeko of Manchester City challenges Kenneth Vermeer of Ajax during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between AFC Ajax v Manchester City at the Amsterdam Arena on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Christian Eriksen (#8) of Ajax celebrates with team mates Tobias Sana and Daley Blind after he shoots and scores his teams third goal of the game during the Group D UEFA Champions League match between AFC Ajax and Manchester City FC at Amsterdam ArenA on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Christian Eriksen (#8) of Ajax celebrates after he shoots and scores his teams third goal of the game during the Group D UEFA Champions League match between AFC Ajax and Manchester City FC at Amsterdam ArenA on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Samir Nasri of Manchester City shoots and scores the first goal of the game during the Group D UEFA Champions League match between AFC Ajax and Manchester City FC at Amsterdam ArenA on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Goalkeeper Joe Hart of Manchester City can only watch as Siem de Jong of Ajax drills a shot low into the bottom corner during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between AFC Ajax v Manchester City on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 24: Samir Nasri of Manchester City celebrates scoring the first goal of the game during the Group D UEFA Champions League match between AFC Ajax and Manchester City FC at Amsterdam ArenA on October 24, 2012 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Ajax player Niklas Moisander, left, clears the ball in the penalty box before Sergio Aguero, right, can score during the Champions League Group D soccer match at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday Oct. 24, 2012. Ajax won the match with a 3-1 score, bottom is Manchester City player Edin Dzeko. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

1. Samir Nasri's technique



There are things you can question about Samir Nasri, but you cannot question his technique. In his Manchester City career, Nasri has produced some good displays and quite a few anonymous ones, But he has barely ever miscontrolled the ball, misplaced a pass or mishit a shot. So it was last night. Nasri played 21 quiet minutes on the right wing before receiving James Milner's pass on the left hand of the box and clipping it perfectly into the far corner. If he could just match his technique with Milner's work ethic, City would have quite a midfielder.



2. It's a team game



If the match just came down to individuals and budgets, City would have won well. But football is a combination game and Ajax's interplay, trust and movement were beyond anything City could muster. Abjuring a conventional No 9, Frank de Boer chose Christian Eriksen, a delightful little inside-forward, to lead the line. Eriksen was supported by Siem de Jong and Lasse Schöne, who exchanged passes and positions with him throughout. With Christian Poulsen passing the ball crisply, Ajax had the system to move the ball quicker than City, despite their deficit on paper, and cut through them at will.



3. Is Joleon Lescott the problem or the solution?



Roberto Mancini has never been keen to play Joleon Lescott in Europe, preferring Matija Nastasic so far this season. Last night Mancini reverted to Lescott, hoping to recreate some of that regular domestic solidity. It did not work. Lescott was part of the back four dragged too deep as City sat on their early lead, allowing Siem de Jong to equalise. When Eriksen swung his second-half corner in, Lescott did not attack it and Niklas Moisander darted in front of him to score. It was an individual error. Lescott was withdrawn.



4. What about the back three?



While there is something to be said for zonal marking, there may not be for 3-5-2. Roberto Mancini's desire this season to use a system which seems to work only in Italy might not have the support of his players. Mancini used it for around 11 minutes last night, deploying Aleksander Kolarov as a left wing-back. Gaël Clichy, though, had to join the back three and did not like it. Eriksen soon shuffled past City's back line and shot, deflecting off Clichy and in for 3-1. Mancini returned to 4-4-2, with Clichy at right-back. Despite being left-footed, Clichy preferred it.



5. Mancini's desperation



For the final 13 minutes City had Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez on the pitch. Even when they were chasing the Premier League title against Queen's Park Rangers in May, they only ever had three of them on the pitch at once. But that was how desperate Roberto Mancini was in the final minutes. Defeat meant City need to win their last three games to have a chance.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Nightlife galleries

More

Latest Sport News

Stats Centre