Manchester City: Selection Errors Cost Citizens a Place in Champions League
Another away day, another away day defeat. For the second time this season, Roberto Mancini took his team out from the luxuries of the Etihad Stadium and returned with nothing.
With Bayern Munich all but qualified before the start of the night's play, yesterday's game against Napoli was a knockout tie.
Whoever won this was in pole position to proceed to the knockout stages of this season's Champions League.
As we all know, it was Napoli who came out on top and are now firm favourites to join Bayern in the last 16.
On the night, City deserved to lose. They were beaten by a side that played as a team, attacked as one and could have easily added to their two goals.
However, this isn't the first time this season that Mancini and City have been made to look very average in this so-called "Group of Death."
The first time around it was in Munich, where some poor team selection was overshadowed by the infamous Carlos Tevez incident.
Last night, however, there was no such saga to cover up Mancini's errors.
First of all, Gareth Barry needed to start in the centre of the midfield for City.
He and Yaya Toure's partnership has worked this season—they complement each other very well and Barry allows Toure to venture forward and become a real threat.
Last night, neither happened. De Jong started in place of Barry, while Toure was for some reason shackled to the halfway line.
Nigel De Jong is not the player he was, but that is up for discussion very soon.
Sergio Aguero should have also been selected last night in place of either the mercurial Balotelli or the hard-working Dzeko.
Personally, I would have gone for an attack of Aguero, Dzeko and Silva, with the big Bosnian as the focal point of a front three.
However, these were minor errors in context.
Simply put, if Mancini had played Micah Richards and Gael Clichy instead of Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksander Kolarov, they would have won the game.
The narrow formation that City adopted last night played right into the hands of a Napoli side that has been built around a very strong spine.
The width and—more importantly—pace that Richards and Clichy would have brought to the game may well have been the game changer.
Mancini, though, stuck to his guns and rotated. He played a more defensive lineup, with Zabaleta and Kolarov probably having their worst games in a Manchester City shirt.
Micah Richards is probably, on current form, the best full-back in world football. His pace, power and ever-improving football brain make him a constant danger down the right-hand side.
When it was all said and done, Napoli were the much better side on the night.
They still have to go to a poor Villareal side and win to go through. However, to give credit where it's due, they are a very good footballing side.
Mancini, on the other hand, has to get a better understanding of the European game. As before, he struggled when it mattered most.
All may be forgotten, though, if he can deliver the Europa League to the City fans.
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