Tevez, Balotelli and Dzeko: Which Tandem Makes Most Sense for Manchester City?

Phil KeidelContributor IIOctober 11, 2012

City is awfully tough when Aguero is doing this.
City is awfully tough when Aguero is doing this.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Did you ever sit down at your favorite restaurant and not know what you wanted to eat, not because you were not hungry but because it all looked so good it was too tough to choose?

That is sort of how Roberto Mancini must feel every time he tries to pick his eleven.

Football pundits rave at the job David Moyes does with Everton each year. He is a terrific manager. But what he gets credit for beyond all else is doing more with less.

For Moyes, and many managers like him in the Premiership, the problem is finding eleven players worthy to start the game. When a side lacks depth, knowing who the best eleven are just is not that tough.

Not so for Mancini, whose reserve eleven if given the 21st berth in the Premiership for a season would stand almost no chance of being relegated. No, Mancini's first problem is finding enough playing time for everyone.

His secondary issue, though, is finding out where the goals will come from. Simply rostering four elite strikers (Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko) does not mean throwing two of them on the pitch at random, or selecting a third by lot if City is behind in the second half.

Let's not spend too long deciding whether Aguero should play. He should.

Aguero was City's Player of the Year last season, and but for a fluky, minor injury sustained in the season opener against Southampton, he might well be leading City in goals this season. Beyond that, he is, so far at least, the sanest and most reliable of City's big-name strikers.

To be fair, Dzeko does not say too much, either.  Even Dzeko's complaints are rational and even-handed.

The international break will pass, and City will return to action for a fairly rough stretch.

League play sees them travel to West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea, while also hosting Tottenham Hotspur.

Interspersed are a home/home series with Ajax, and a rematch with Real Madrid in their Champions League knockout round.

Mancini is fortunate to have such choices at striker, particularly given the daunting schedule City has this season. In a perverse way, he is also fortunate that (as with Aguero's early-season injury) playing time for all of his mega-strikers will become available based solely on the need to give his players adequate rest.

So City must decide how to maximize goal output among Tevez, Balotelli and Dzeko.

Balotelli is a guilty pleasure, as fun to watch for the brilliance he might exhibit as for the idiocy he might reveal. He is a deadly penalty taker, and he can score from essentially anywhere inside thirty yards. What a joy he can be.

But as far as this evaluation is concerned, he's out. If Balotelli were given a first grade report card, under "plays well with others" it would say "unsatisfactory" or "incomplete."

City is best served putting Balotelli on the pitch either alone or with Dzeko, who can clean up some of Balotelli's mess. The Italian is a out-and-out front man—not a bass player.

And it is pretty hard to argue with the role Dzeko has carved out for himself as a super sub. He scores big goals. He just does not score too many when he plays 90 minutes.

So in the short run, it should be Aguero with Tevez, with Dzeko or Balotelli coming on late if City is behind or, as with the Fulham match, Mancini decides that a draw will not do.

Which, in the Premier League, should be the attitude every time City lines up.