Will Tidey - True fans couldn't care less about tactics
Published: 30 Sep 2010 - 07:37:54
There was a big debate in the Football.co.uk office this week sparked by Manchester City's tactics against Chelsea last Saturday.
City, despite being at home, played three holding midfielders in Gareth Barry, Yaya Toure and Nigel de Jong, and asked Carlos Tevez to represent their entire attacking threat on his own.
Some will argue James Milner and David Silva are attack-minded wide players, but in truth both spent far more of their time nullifying the threats of Ashley Cole and Branislav Ivanovic on their respective flanks than marauding forward.
The result? Roberto Mancini achieved his third straight win against the champions and - in the eyes of most onlookers - City emerged as genuine title contenders again.
But the backlash was hard to avoid. City's 'barricade' approach was widely criticised and the general theme was 'how can you spend £300 million and produce football as boring as that?'.
The answer is simple. Football like that wins trophies, and City have been without a big one for 34 years. That's all the justification Mancini needs. Those who expect City to throw caution in the name of entertainment are missing the point.
True blue City fans did not roll into pubs and bars on Saturday afternoon bemoaning Mancini's approach. They went away in the knowledge, for the first time in most of their lifetimes, that City are being taken seriously - and being shot at for the right reasons.
"There's only so much winning 4-3 one week and losing 4-3 the next you can take," a City fan said to me. "We're not here to entertain the rest of you. We're here to win the league and get this monkey off our backs."
The comparison with Jose Mourinho's Chelsea (and his Inter Milan and Real Madrid for that matter) is obvious. Ultimately Mourinho's tactics may have cost him his job at Stamford Bridge, but they also opened the floodgates for a new era of success.
That's the point with City. It's the very fact they've spent £300m and await the return that explains their defensive approach. Money doesn't free a team, winning trophies does. And the time to judge City on their box office appeal is the season after they end the wait. Right now they're an unproven challenger jabbing at the heavyweights.
As Mourinho has proved down the years, stopping the other team landing a blow is as good a starting place as many.
But the manner of City's victory on Saturday does raise two big questions - how will City approach home games against lesser opponents (Newcastle for starters)? And how will their fellow title contenders combat the 4-5-1 'barricade' when their turn comes?
Whatever unfolds most fans feel the same way. It's not about tactics, it's about winning. Until winning becomes the norm that is.
- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Will Tidey
- Will Tidey writes on sport for CNN, Eurosport-Yahoo! and Bleacher Report, amongst others. His first book, 'Life with Sir Alex', an account of Sir Alex Ferguson's 25-year reign at Manchester United, is set for release in October this year. Pre-order it now at http://tinyurl.com/6xzl62b. And follow Will on Twitter here - www.twitter.com/willtidey
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