It occurred to me that his situation echoes a doctrine I learned in my property class the first year of law school. Edin Dzeko has a highest and best use problem.
In property law, "highest and best use" has been defined as "reasonably proper and legal use...that is physically possible, legally permissible, appropriately supported, financially feasible and that results in the highest value."
The classic example is the public park that is later discovered to be sitting on valuable minerals. There can be no dispute that the public park provides value to its community. But nine times out of 10, the park will get mined; another park can be built somewhere else whereas the minerals are only in that spot. As such, the highest and best use of the land means bringing in the earth-movers.
Dzeko has scored five Premier League goals this season. Four of them have come in games that Dzeko started on City's bench. And so Roberto Mancini might be forgiven for concluding that he will get as much production from Dzeko in limited action—perhaps more—as he does in the fixtures Dzeko starts.
Naturally, Dzeko does not want to hear that. No matter how prolific he has been on a goals-per-minutes-played basis, Dzeko understandably resents the label he finds sticking to him. It's probably not the "super" he objects to; "sub" is the problem.
Dzeko is leading his team in goals scored despite the restraints on his playing time from Mancini. Dzeko thinks he has earned a place in the starting XI. He might even be right.
The thing is, it does not matter.
As countless players past (see Adam Johnson) and present (Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli among others) can attest, on a side with City's personnel, your place on the pitch is never assured. Actually, your role is always going to be dictated by one thing: the team's most pressing need. Which, given City's recent up-and-down form, means using every player on the team sheet to his highest and best use regardless of what the player believes that use to be.
What that means for Edin Dzeko is that all the griping he might want to do will get him absolutely nowhere. If Mancini sees Dzeko as a tonic for City's difficulty in creating and finishing late chances, that is how Mancini must deploy him. For his part, Dzeko has no choice but to try to fill that role as well as he can. His only other option is to fail in a limited role, thus consigning himself to more bench time.
While we are here, there is actually one thing Dzeko can do to change his fate: when he does get a start, as he did at Ajax, he needs to finish the plays that come his way.
Through the early stages of the second half at Ajax, when the game was still very much in the balance, it was Dzeko mistiming runs and sending himself offside. It was Dzeko clumsily clattering into Ajax's keeper going after a high ball. And it was Dzeko misplaying not one but two goal-scoring opportunities at close range. Had he converted either, City may not have fallen into the two-score hole they ended up in.
It somehow seems unjust to level criticism at a player whose efforts are a significant reason for City's place near the top of the Premier League table. Without Dzeko this season, City would be adrift.
But complaining about how Mancini is using him is completely pointless.