Manchester City’s Aleksandar Kolarov admits that the side’s mastery of zonal marking has some way to go, after his own failings contributed to Tottenham Hotspur’s opener on Sunday.
"We mark from zone to zone and nobody knows who needs to mark the player. We need to improve on this, but we reacted very well to being a goal down, which is always important," said Kolarov, who may start Saturday's game against Aston Villa as Gael Clichy undergoes a course of injections for a back complaint which renders him doubtful for that game. "We need to improve on set-pieces because we conceded two goals against Ajax in the Champions League and then another on Sunday," Kolarov continued. He allowed Steven Caulker to peel off him and score on Sunday.
Clichy's injury has forced him out of the France squad this week but City could also be without Matija Nastasic as they seek greater defensive solidity against Villa, who put four past them in the League Cup.
Clichy played the entirety of City's win over Tottenham but felt a reaction afterwards. He has now pulled out of France’s match against Italy, while Nastasic was is preparing to withdraw from the Serbia squad with a knee injury, ahead of their friendly against Chile in Switzerland. Joleon Lescott, however, is expected to be fit to face Villa as he continues to recover from a back problem which has forced him to miss the last three matches.
Though Mancini is indignant about the criticism City have faced whilst third in the table, Kolarov said he understood its provenance. “It can happen that during the season you have bad moments," he said, in an honest assessment of Sunday. "We need to improve on our performance [from that] against Tottenham, and in training.
"I understand why we get so much criticism - everybody wants to beat us because we are the champions and haven’t lost any games this season. The smallest teams, and the biggest teams, all want to beat us and give 200 per cent to do that. We have lost games in the Champions League but we are still the best team in the Premier League, I think."
Mancini has been relieved to learn that Spain have agreed to leave David Silva out of their squad for their long-haul friendly against Panama tomorrow to allow him more recovery time from his hamstring problem, having returned to the side on Sunday only 72 hours after his return to training.