Manchester City: Mick McCarthy's Wolves Take Bite That Others Will Take Note Of

illya mclellanSenior Analyst INovember 3, 2010

Not Happy
Not HappyLaurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Manchester City stumbled to the earth at Molineux at the weekend gone and found themselves at the mercy of a Wolverhampton side that gleefully tore chunks from the idea that City are emerging as genuine title contenders.

Mick McCarthy's team was initially chasing shadows but gradually found that they had been adequately prepared for the match by their boss, who seemed to have given them instructions that they should exploit the narrow base of Mancini's side.

Although both sides set up in a similar fashion, with a 4-3-3 formation preferred, City seemed to grow narrower as the game progressed, while Wolves and their width led to both of their goals.

This could be because of Mancini's decision to play Mario Balotelli in the forward right side position, and James Milner behind him? The player who lit up the league last season with Villa was left to carry too much of the defensive duties, which ended up detracting from his ability to open the game up with his pace and vision. Balotelli is also naturally a striker, which leads him to move inside, narrowing the width that the team can operate with. 

City, though, did seem ready to attack when they started and did so well enough initially, which caused all manner of problems for the home side. City even went ahead to a rather carelessly conceded penalty that was ably converted by Emmanuel Adebayor. Strangely, after this, it all turned to a yellowish pudding-like substance that is quite delicious with apple pie. 

City was quite simply unable to deal with the width that Wolves endeavored to play with, constantly being caught out with balls played wide and then back and forth, up and down the sidelines.

It was actually that simple in the end. Wolves played the ball wide and then exploited the space that was created when holes opened up as players tried to cover the wingers who hung on the touch-lines. 

Textbook stuff really, and McCarthy would have made sure he told his players to do this, because the man has been in management and football long enough to know how to beat a side that play such a narrow game.

City have set up like this most of the season, besides one or two instances where they have started two wingers, and the "cautious" approach on show here by Mancini's men again underlined the threat that the Italian perceived. 

This perceived threat has dogged City's start as they have consistently been set up with up to three holding midfielder's in a conservative system that has completely undermined the wealth of attacking talent that the team has on its books.

With both James Milner and David Silva starting on the weekend, both superb exponents of wing play, you would think that the side would be able to attack enough to nullify the threat of opposition width. But after the opening twenty or so minutes, this was clearly not the case. 

Manchester City seemed to run out of idea's after opening the scoring, with players having no passing option as they held the ball, which led to them being closed down ruthlessly by the pack they tried to play against.

Wolves were due to play well at home, and this is something that perhaps Mancini had taken into account, though he will be flabbergasted at why his expensive assortment of talent could not deal with a side that are often described as journeymen.

The telling thing is that now City have lost two in a row in the league and are looking a lot less than the world class side they were being described as after they squeezed Chelsea out of the match at Eastland's.

Notable in his absence is Tevez, who has been Mancini's talisman this season, though the two are rumored to not get on very well at all. Adebayor converted his penalty well enough, but also spurned chance after chance. Like a hard to please maiden, desirous of the perfect suitor, he simply could not make up his mind how he would go about putting the ball in the net.

Mario Balotelli was excellent in the first half and then in the second disappeared, though of course, he was not the only City player to do this. Wolves had actually restored parity shortly after Adebayor stroked the ball in from the spot, and this moment seemed to start the erosion that would lead to City's walls tumbling down as early as the 56th minute.

Wolverhampton's first goal was created on the flank, much like a decisive maneuver in a pitched battle; a flanking move is historically a proven method of opening up an adversaries defenses.

It was a nicely crafted little passing move between three of the Wolves side on the left hand side, which drew the City defense out of position. This left Nenad Milijas free on the edge of the area to display his fine technique in threading the ball into the far corner, beyond the flailing arms of England number one Joe Hart, who was left marooned by his shipmates on an island of impossibility in trying to make the save. 

The second was also from a wide position, again showing City's penchant for failure in this area. Caleb Foley picked up a good ball from Stephen Hunt and hooked it over his head into the danger zone. And danger zone it proved to be for City, as the ball bobbled out from a partial clearance to Kevin Doyle, who smashed a shot from the edge only for Kolo Toure to do a sterling job in blocking it, though no one was on hand to stop Dave Edwards from slotting the ball into the net from close range.

The disturbing thing for Mancini in the aftermath is that this was the 56th minute. Nothing he did following this had any effect, and his lavishly paid stars and their incompetent alchemy could conjure up no gold to ease the pain of their watching boss, for the next 34 minutes.

There were chances, but they were not converted. Adebayor was guilty of choking terribly after being played in by sub Adam Johnson, as the goal stood at his mercy later in the match.

The really mind bending thing for Mancini is that his side are supremely capable, but he just could not get them to make the breakthrough they needed. Realistically, in such a situation, a team that fancy themselves as contenders would find the extra drive and creative spark to at least scramble an equalizer from somewhere.

City have gone from being the side that beat Chelsea, who everyone thought were going to foxtrot off with the league title, to being a side that lost to struggling Wolverhampton Wanderers, who had not managed a win since the opening day of the season and who sat second to bottom on the table.

This is football though, thrilling us with its ridiculous turns of fate, where money does not matter on the day of a match, and where stars are made to look like lumps of dull asteroid debris. Players go from beating the world, in the case of David Silva, to losing in the English midlands to Mick McCarthy and his team, most of whom will never even play at a World Cup.

Roberto Mancini had a huge amount of pressure to deal with before the season kicked off, and with the last two league matches and their respective results, the pressure increased.

One has to wonder when the boiler will burst?

Will the Sheik shake things up again at Eastlands and fire a manager who is just getting his team into some sort of cohesion, as he did with Mark Hughes?

The type of game that was played by Wolves is really coming back into fashion again in world football. That of wide men who are actually wingers who can beat players and cross, as demonstrated this morning by Tottenham Hotspur and Gareth Bale in their demolition of the current European champions, Inter Milan.

Mancini and Manchester City were meant to sweep aside teams like Wolves with an imperialistic arrogance that would signal the beginning of a new dynasty. It has, however, now been recorded for posterity that Wolves took the points and that Manchester City looked like mid table fodder.

It is to be wondered what other teams can dine out on these overpaid sportsmen as the Wolves did at Molineux on the weekend gone.