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Mancini gives Johnson chance to flourish

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 00:10 UK time, Monday, 4 April 2011

So that's what Manchester City look like when they play with one less central midfielder in the side as they did in the 5-0 drubbing of Sunderland on Sunday?

Following a defeat by Chelsea two weeks ago where Roberto Mancini's side rarely threatened the goal with a familiar midfield of Nigel de Jong, Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure, this time City ditched Barry and started with a two-man frontline of Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli.

At this point it should be mentioned that Sunderland are not Chelsea, City were without Tevez for the loss at Stamford Bridge and they preferred Edin Dzeko as a lone front man.

But even so, there was a marked difference to City's play at Eastlands where they were 2-0 up within 15 minutes and had five different scorers.

Manchester City have a far better record when Adam Johnson starts

Much could be made of the team's shape against the Black Cats which was a departure from Mancini's usual 4-5-1 formation.

In this instance, Tevez and Balotelli led the line with David Silva starting on the left while Adam Johnson patrolled the right flank.

That might sound like a more orthodox 4-4-2 but with the likes of Tevez dropping deep into midfield and Silva cutting inside to allow Aleksandar Kolarov to rampage down the left, it was anything but rigid.

This is the key point though. With such intelligent players who instinctively interchange positions, is it any wonder that with another attacking force in the team they can so easily find space to work in?

The other major influence on the side was Johnson. Amongst all the talk of England's future promise on the flanks last week, he was a notable omission.

Arguably a more talented dribbler than either of Aston Villa pair Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, Johnson's biggest problem seems to have been the approval of his club manager.

In the Chelsea game James Milner was preferred on the right flank in order to negate the attacking threat of Ashley Cole.

But would Johnson have curbed the Chelsea left-back's attacking instincts by making him concentrate on defending more often?

Average player positions from the game against Sunderland show that Johnson (11) was their most advanced attacker, whereas Milner (7) against Chelsea was more tucked in and deeper.

Average positions from the game against Sunderland show that Adam Johnson was Manchester City's most advanced attacker

On Sunday, Johnson's ninth minute goal was a work of craft as he drove at the Sunderland defence before playing in Yaya Toure, and then receiving his cutback to fire home his seventh goal of the season.

He also went close to doubling his tally in the second half when he played a wonderful one-two with Silva before his shot was saved by Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet, even though the return pass was wrongly flagged for offside.

Mancini took Johnson off on 66 minutes with his job done and the game won at 3-0 but putting a run of games together is now the target for the former Middlesbrough player.

Injury has played its part with Johnson this season, with the game against Sunderland his first start in 10 weeks after coming back from an ankle problem. But of his 24 Premier League appearances he has only managed nine starts.

That is a puzzling figure when you consider that City's Premier League record is markedly superior when Johnson begins games since making his full debut in February 2010.

City's average goals per game rate jumps from 1.29 to 2.09 when Johnson starts games compared to when he does not, their win percentage also rises from 42% to 57% and points per game increases from 1.54 to 1.96.

Mancini is obviously a fan of the 23-year-old, who has six England caps, but he still considers the left-footed winger as a game changer from the bench.

"When we lost Adam [to injury] we started our problems because Adam is the one player that we have who can change the game," Mancini told BBC Sport after the Sunderland game.

"When he starts from the bench he can come on and change things because we only had one winger very briefly with Shaun Wright-Phillips. Adam was very important for us [on Sunday]."

In the Chelsea defeat Johnson replaced Milner in the 78th minute and by that time, following waves of Chelsea pressure, the game was as good as over.

So if Mancini truly believes that one of his most creative players can leave his mark on the game it would surely be better to give him more time and freedom to flourish.

You can also discuss more tactical issues and suggest future ideas on Twitter


  • Comment number 1.

    It's a shame Mancini won't give this guy more time. He stands out from the rest every time he plays and yet he hardly ever starts games. Mancini obviously thinks that he won't have any impact from the start but how does he know? He hasn't tried it enough. Johnson's my favorite Mancity player and can be massive for England - Mancini, stop hindering his progress!

  • Comment number 2.

    Man City should really play like they did yesterday much more often with the players they have available. That was the best i've seen from them since the days of Craig Bellamy and Mark Hughes which seems so long ago.

  • Comment number 3.

    I really cant understand why he isn't preferred more often. Very direct, can assist and score and against Liverpool early in the season he looked fantastic, I thought it would start a great run off for him, but it wasn't to be.

    The problem, Mancini is so defensive. He likes to play the Barry, De Jong and Toure!! Ridiculous when he has all that attacking ability at his disposle!

  • Comment number 4.

    Some fair points here and there but i need to point out

    1, Johnson has played or been involved when fit, with not much expception, so the manager IS showing faith, despite what the article hints to.

    2, as a city fan watching nearly every game (live or tv), Johnson has failed to fully impress and has the problem lennon, swp, downing and others has; his final cross is generally poor and he keeps wanting to beat one more man. In some games, like the sunderland one, he gets it right and looks a great player but the games he doesnt, he runs down blind alleys, overhits crosses (or hits the first man) or doesnt pass. He's got the potential, mancini knows this, but until he gets in constantly good performances with some of the basics consistently right, he will always be considered to be dropped.

    3, Mancini knew sunderland were 'weaker' opponents and could cut loose, Barry is a far too slow tempo and dont expect to see this attacking flair and tempo much against top 6 opposition.

  • Comment number 5.

    According to the 'player position' diagrams, Man City played without a goalkeeper against Sunderland.

    Not that I disbelieve statistics of course ;-)

  • Comment number 6.

    Can't really compare player’s positions away to Chelsea then to Sunderland at home; Two different team with different mentality's and City's mentality was different as well.

  • Comment number 7.

    Using statistics to argue the case for a marginal player's inclusion in the team misses the point somewhat. If a player isn't favoured and therefore only tends to get the nod against weaker opponents, of course the statistics are going to show the team does better when he's playing... but to suggest that this means the player is important to the team is get the cause-and-effect totally the wrong way round.

    It's like another fan and media favourite, Peter Crouch playing for England, where his goals-per-start stat is trotted out again and again not as evidence that Crouch only plays England's B games but supposedly as evidence that Crouch is a monumentally better performer (and therefore criminally overlooked) in the Three Lions than he ever has been in club football.

    This is a good example of a conclusion being decided before the article's even started being written, forcing the data to fit the hypothesis rather than reporting the truth as accurately and eloquently as possible. I like my journalism deductive, not inductive, please.

  • Comment number 8.

    Johnno has been injured for 3 months, hence why he has been ushered back in.

    Totally unfair to compare Chelsea away and Sunderland at home, lazy journalism.

    Finally, can we please dispel the media myth that Yaya Toure is a defensive midfield player, he is not and has not been played as one all season.

    Boring, boring Mancini yet Redknapp should be England manager - compare the records and stop peddling this nonsense

  • Comment number 9.

    Adam Johnson is a very good player with potential to become a great in English football. Still though when I see him play for City my mind goes to Mancini wanting to impress looking tough by telling him off for whatever reason.

    Taking into account his character, his modesty, his discipline, his talent and putting them next to what it cost City to buy him from Middlesbrough, I can only wonder how much talent is down there in the lower divisions, left in the shadows, with the Premiership sides seeking acquisitions in the foreign market.

    On another note, City looked impressive yesterday. Spurs had an indifferent performance against Wigan, while Arsenal and Chelsea lost ground. Having such an emphatic victory, it will do a world of good to their spirit on the final games of the season, in their attemp to secure Champions League football - something that will unlock the key to players wanting to play in the great European tournament.

  • Comment number 10.

    English ... Check
    Young .. Check
    Pretty Decent .. Check
    Potential to be a good / grate player .. Check

    HYPE HYPE HYPE HYPE HYPE, Stop the Press "THE NEW WHITE PELE" headlines needed.

  • Comment number 11.

    Interesting to see some data Alistair, though as you admit yourself, there's no 'who the opposition are' co-efficient.

    I'm not sure there's much arguing he's a better dribbler than Young or Downing. He can dribble past a man from a standing start. There aren't too many of them around.

    As already pointed out, when fit, AJ usually has a say, and there have been games where he's started where he's been ineffective, while on the contrary, there've been games he's won coming off the bench. What you have overlooked is that Nigel De Jong absence almost dovetailed Adam's. City were missing these 2 players through the grind of January and February. I wonder what the stats are for Nigel.

    I actually wonder if, through default, Roberto has stumbled across a winning formula. Or is it just like the horseracing, with winter horses and summer horses?

    One final word, I thought Aleksandar Kolarov looked more like the player we thought we'd bought yesterday.

  • Comment number 12.

    #5 ittkwr ahem, good point it appears that different graphics have been used, I will amend pronto!

    #6, #7, #8 you all make good points and you are right to point out that Johnson is favoured against so-called smaller teams, therefore explaining City's better record with him in the team and I realise he is coming back from injury.

    However, using James Milner in the Chelsea game was a clear choice and as I have pointed out would Johnson have kept Ashley Cole further back rather than using Milner's better defensive qualities? Also, if Johnson can do it and help City in games against smaller teams, how will he improve if he is not favoured for the bigger encounters? He may not be as effective in these games so far, but that does not mean he cannot learn to be.

    My point is that Johnson provides a quality so rare in an English player - the ability to run at defenders and take them on. He is not the finished article by any means and perhaps his crossing could be improved, but from watching him this season he provides City with a thrust that they simply do not have when he is on the bench. I seem to remember him coming on in the defeat by Aston Villa in January and he totally changed the game but it was too little, too late.

    If Johnson starts, he can spur City on at a tempo whereby they can set the tone of the game like they did against Sunderland, rather than taking a passive approach which seems to be the case against bigger teams.

  • Comment number 13.

    You can't really compare the matches at Stamford Bridge and yesterday's.
    At Stamford Bridge, City had no intention to attack - it was an exact copy from their Emirates performance, while yesterday faced a weakened Sunderland side, after the sale of their main striker to Villa.

  • Comment number 14.

    Adam Johnston made a big mistake career wise moving to citeh. Along with Chelski it is the kiss of death for English players without a high profile. Their owners want to bask in the glory of established superstars and don't care about bringing English players on.

    I wish he had moved (to Blackpool of course!) but Liverpool,Arsenal,Villa ManU.... anyone but those two.

  • Comment number 15.

    #14, within a few months of moving to City, he was playing Premier League, European and senior international football. City gave him a chance. Liverpool, Arsenal, Villa, Man Utd didn't, and might never have done. It's not as if he'd just arrived on the scene. He'd been around for seasons. And he's doing so badly at City that everyone's talking about him. City believed in him. No-one else did. If you don't put up, shut up.

  • Comment number 16.

    I have to agree with #15.

  • Comment number 17.

    How cheap was Johnson..£6m from M'boro, what a steal. I would rather LFC went and offered city £25m for him than Ashley Young or Downing!!

  • Comment number 18.

    Thinking about how much Carroll cost Liverpool, they could have bought 6 Adam Johnsons with what they spent... !

  • Comment number 19.

    I have to agree that City have definitely given Adam Johnson his chances and in general he has done well although being eased back in after injury is not unusual. Like him Andy Carroll also has potential but he was awful on Saturday and £35M still looks like panic money

  • Comment number 20.

    Johnson is a class act. And this can only benefit Man City & England.

  • Comment number 21.

    Shout to De Jong and Kompany too who are immense in there respective positions. When City look back at Mark Hughes reign, the bringing in of these two should not be overlooked.

    Johnson is a talented player but he must work on producing a high standard in each of his appearances. It's not as if Mancini has it in for him, he just sees a player with real quality who needs to bring it to the table every time he plays.

  • Comment number 22.

    Johnson is absolutely magnificent player however the 1 thing i personally believe is that he is lacking stamina,hence the coming of the bench role and not really ever finishing any matches. Of course 1 can always argue that no player starts and finishes the game on the same level of fitness and manner, but in regards to Johnson he seems fade out after a while, I still for 1 highly rate and would gladly take him on to our team anyday!!oh yeh im a UNITED fan!!

  • Comment number 23.

    A.j. is a magnificent player who creates and scores goal. He does have his off days but that's to be expected of a young player. He should be played in virtually every game as he gives us the width and must be a nightmare for a fullback to play against.
    I think Mancini will now play him regularly till the end of the season, now he's over his injuries. We need his creativity.

  • Comment number 24.

    Bill40, are you for real mate? City have been more than accommodating to the kid. He was given his chance last season and he took it with both hands. At the start of this season, Mancini was trying to bed in new signings, trying different formations - not ignoring AJ. Then just as he was putting a run together over Christmas and into the New Year, he picked up a bad injury. So get real.

    I think everyone is missing the point regarding Adam Johnson and the author nearly touches on it when he says that AJ should have started against Chelsea. Of course he should have. AJ automatically negates the attacking threat of any full back because HE now becomes the threat to the full back who won't be going anywhere in a hurry when he knows that Johnson can make mince meat of any team on the counter.

    Teams need to double-up on AJ because he offers such a threat. When they do this, it opens things up for our midfield to supply better balls to our forwards who now have one less defender to deal with than they would ordinarily have to.

    It's not that he's banging in more goals when he plays, it's the effect he has on the opposition team that's vital.

    Onwards and Upwards City! GET IN.

  • Comment number 25.

    @ 24,

    Cool it a bit :)
    I like Adam Johnson too but I started laughing with your enthusiasm :)

    I just wish your manager had a little portion of it, at least, to let your players play football in important away matches too. You have a good team but your away line up stinks :)

  • Comment number 26.

    This was a good blog.

    The author mentioned it but I felt the main point here was that City changed their formation and dropped Barry... You only need two holding midfield players and it seems to me that it's unimportant who the front 6 are as they have many talented attacking players of which Johnson is just one.

    Yesterday's performance should be a warning I think!

  • Comment number 27.

    "it seems to me that it's unimportant who the front 6 are as they have many talented attacking players of which Johnson is just one. "

    I'd modify that a bit in " it's unimportant who the front 6 are, as long as Tevez is one of them".

  • Comment number 28.

    Oh good game and no doubt the campaign to elevate him to "great" status begins here.
    If he was that good a player,Arsenal,Chelsea,Man Utd or any top foreign club would have been in the queue...he's not and they were'nt.

  • Comment number 29.

    Is it just me or does jhonson have a very weird running style, when he runs he doesn't look like a footballer, he looks awkward. But he is able to go past defenders and delivers a great ball. He is an old-fashioned winger, although he is played on the right for city, he stays very wide and makes the pitch big so that gaps appear. I think that he should start more as i think that both him and silva along with tevez and balotelli will cause defenses major problems.

  • Comment number 30.

    Bellion-Wonderland- I agree with your comments.

    DeJong and Kompany played excellent yesterday and to be honest City looked a lot sharper all over the field than they did previously befor the International break. I was also impressed with Boyota yesterday he looked really comfortable and used the ball well. What about the much maligned Lescott? He also played well yesterday. (and dare I say, his performances for CITY in March and April have been good)

    I look forward to the Liverpool game, CITY should be pretty fresh and thus I'm expecting we have a real go, get a result and thus build confidence for the big Manchester derby.

  • Comment number 31.

    @ 28,

    to be honest, Arsenal don't buy more expensive players than £5m, Chelsea prefer establish players that will fit in the first team at once, while United lost out on the opportunity. Johnson is a gem of a player and I love watching him play. Add to him an excellent character and you have a raw model for young kids.

  • Comment number 32.

    27 fair point.

  • Comment number 33.

    Johnson does give City something extra in attack and when playing against teams like (with all due respect) Sunderland are at the moment, he would always be on from the start; however Manchini knows (as most City fans do) that Johnson's inclusion can be something of a luxury, when City are up against teams who can hit you from anywhere on the pitch. Johnson is at the moment an out and out winger and thats is his strength, in the longer term he will need to have a 'second game' which includes chasing back and marking up when City are under pressure; delivering effective balls into the centre much more often and also getting his decision-making right when taking on players, again much more often! At the moment I would say Manchini is using him properly in the PL, whether he will take a risk in the FA Cup Semi final is another thing, because at Wembley City will be getting pressure from everywhere on that massive pitch, by a resurgent United!

  • Comment number 34.

    I like Johnson and I think he is a good player. He seems to be technically sound as well but I wonder if Mancini has seem something that we haven't?

    He looks a touch lightweight, though that isn't the be all and end all of course, and maybe his decision making could be better. That may come with age but he is 23 already.

    I think his use is simply tied up in Mancini's tactic's, rightly or wrongly, and has been said, to compare Man City away to Chelsea with Man City home to Sunderland is like comparing apples and pears.

    Overall with Man City, reading through the comments I am reminded of Chelsea under Mourinho. In those days, it was largely a case of a flat back 4 with Makelele in front of them and every one else attacked. (Nowadays Chelsea play with wing backs as well with as a difference.)

    The point I make with that is what is all this two or three 'holding' midfielders? What are they holding? Why are there two let alone three? Also, the ones they have just aren't very mobile and arguably don't do much with the ball when they have it.

    If you have that many players being unadventurous (I'm being a bit broad brush here, but only to illustrate a point) then once you put in some attackers as well, there isn't enough spaces in 11 for Johnson to fit. This is the conclusion I come to when I assume that Mancini wants players behind the ball more than in front of it.

    Johnson is on the luxurious side of a regular footballer and I just can't see him playing that many 90 minutes all the while Mancini is there, if Mancini sticks to what he has done so far.

    I'd like him at Chelsea though if he's available! :-)

  • Comment number 35.

    Even as an impact player, Adam Johnson is a great player for City, in my opinion. Hernandez has been used as an impact player since he arrived at Old Trafford and he flourished. Johnson has too. In due time he will be knocking the door to starting selection as Hernandez does at United.

  • Comment number 36.

    Johnson was only just back from injury for the Chelsea game.

    He was the first player to be substituted yesterday also.

    He wasn't in the england squad because we said he wasn't ready.

  • Comment number 37.

    Yeah Football UK/BBC iDeal, that's why we had 5 different goalscorers yesterday. Stop believing everything you read and try watching a City game for yourself one of these days.
    Yaya Toure is NOT and never has been, a defensive or holding midfielder. I think you've been mixing up "defensive" with lazy :)
    deJong and Barry are our holding players.

    Yes we have been poor against the bigger clubs away from home, I don't understand Mancini's tactics against these teams and I'm not going to try and justify it but we're third so he must know what he's doing, right? Yes, that's correct. Good boys.

  • Comment number 38.

    @ 37, Ronan,

    I wasn't trying to downplay your team.
    You do have some great players in your team but the formations Mancini is choosing when facing United / Chelsea / Arsenal are from the '60's in Italy. With such a great selection of stars, it's a pity to play so defensively. Do you like it?
    And what was the profit out of this, translated in points? You've lost at Old Trafford, you lost at Stamford Bridge and you got a point at The Emirates. Had you played with a mind in attack too, in all probability, you'd have won more points.

    I've been watching Yaya Toure since his early years when he was playing in a Greek team (Olympiakos). He was a star then and he was a kid. But wasn't he a defensive midfielder at Barcelona? Don't take me wrong: he's one of the three best players in your team.

  • Comment number 39.

    1.AJ lacks stamina, hes just like Walcott. Do you ever see Walcott starting? NO
    Walcott is a substitute, coz later in the game the opposing team will be more tired, and that will give him more advantage.

    2.Well and why didnt he start against Chelsea? Chelsea is a different team than Sunderland, AJ wont pass Cole that easily, even with his speed, Cole and Ivanovic are very tight wingers. Mancini gave the role to Milner because he keeps his good performance constantly

    3. Yaya Toure only played defensively in Barcelona, where Xavi and Iniesta did the offensive play. Here if you watch the games, when the ball is up front u dont see Toure in the back. Yes you may have mixed it up with Kolo but Yaya is up front supporting the attack =D

  • Comment number 40.

    So im confused, is Yaya Toure a defensive player seen as he has played as a defensive midfielder for most of his career or is he an attacking player because of this season!?

  • Comment number 41.

    @ 39,

    "Yes you may have mixed it up with Kolo but Yaya is up front supporting the attack =D"

    Nah, we were referring to certain matches where you used the whole team in defensive mode, having the lot of us laughing with Mancini's tactics ;-)

  • Comment number 42.

    Yes that's correct, Yaya is a traditional defensive midfield but Bobby plays him in a more attacking role.
    We do have great flair and attack minded players. I'm at odds as to why Bobby decides to park the bus against the big teams. Do I like it? Not one annoys me so bad. If we were in a mini league against the Top 5 teams, we're rock bottom. Funny, innit?
    Do I like Bobby? 100%, he is the right man for our club. He's honest and he cares a lot. Not an easy job buying the very best and keeping the show going the way he has...
    I really wish people would make their own mind up about our club though. The hacks really have it in for us and it's not fair. "Boring" City have scored 9 more goals than "the Most Entertaining team" Spuds... Spuds have three points from their last three games against the bottom three clubs? Meh...

  • Comment number 43.

    Mancini does like to buy a good striker or 5 then play defensive football. Arsenal v Man City at the Emerites was ruined by Mancini.

  • Comment number 44.

    To finish this about Yaya Toure, he may have played as a holding midfielder in Barcelona where, as Ace pointed in #39, there are Xavi and Iniesta so there was no room neither requirement really, but he's such a quality player that he can play in a lot of positions. He had great awareness and great pass (and shot) since his first introduction to Europe, back in Athens. He reminds me a lot of Patrick Vieira, when he was captaining Arsenal: solid in midfield, difficult to get passed him and creative in attacking - plus he's a much better scorer.

  • Comment number 45.

    I thought Yaya Tour was a defensive midfielder as well. The formation without Gareth Barry certainly made City look better against Sunderland. Whether it would be effective against United or Arsenal is another matter

    Opening track will be More Than A Dream segueing into Heart.

    Always On My Mind will be about 5th or 6th on the condensed set list which will likely be

    More Than A Dream
    Love etc
    Go West
    Always On My Mind
    What Have I Done To Deserve This
    All Over The World
    Viva La Vida
    It's A Sin
    Being Boring
    West End Girls

    A great set list and their version of Always on my mind is far better than Willie Nelson's anyway.

    Add to that the fact that Take That are admitting to being PSB fans and it is a great day.

    Ngog - They may claim it but I have it on good authority that quite afew Sunderland Council people watched them at the Metro Radio arena in July.

    Alright I made that up but you never know do you??

    For respite though please read

  • Comment number 46.

    I wonder what he will do with all of the strikers nxt season: SC, bellamy, adebayor :D

    but i think that man city lacks a quality dribbler that is attacking minded + soloist, i think ronaldo or nani would be great for city, or i think they should have kept robinho :|, he is now very good at MIlan i think he was just not cooperative enough with the players here

  • Comment number 47.

    Damn I was posting that last bit on something else and now the post won't make sense and will likely get modded.

    What I meant to say was

    I thought Yaya Tour was a defensive midfielder as well. The formation without Gareth Barry certainly made City look better against Sunderland. Whether it would be effective against United or Arsenal is another matter

    For impact on the title race of the weekend please read

  • Comment number 48.

    Ace - Surely David Silva fits the bill as a quality dribbler from midfield?

  • Comment number 49.

    Couldn't find anywhere else to post this, so seeing as city have something to do with this I thought this would do.
    Coincidence that Rooney is now going to miss the FA cup tie?
    Coincidence that rio Ferdinand was banned for 18 months for missing a drugs test, yet it was proved he was innocent. Kolo Toure will be back soon.

    Coincidence that SAF gets a 5 match ban, Grant has got 2 matches?

    What is wrong with applying like for like punishment?
    There is no way I can get back at the FA or FIFA for that matter but I am losing my passion football fast. No consistency and constant bias.
    Rooney apologised. Everyone can see that the elbow was far more controversial. Who is running this idiotic dictatorship?

    What if Rooney quit playing for his country - would the FA be happy then. It's the medias and FAs fault he screamed in the camera in the first place. All the articles and horrendous stuff written about him, he comes up with a hatrick and it seems like a huge weight off his shoulders. As he said, emotions took their toll.
    I assume then that the FA board are perfect living by exceptional standards.

    Now he is a villain again and the fa lack common sense.
    I would expand on rooneys vocabulary to describe my true feelings for the FA, but fear the post might be censored.

    Boycott the FA?

  • Comment number 50.

    I dont think Silva is really the type, if you see how he plays for spain and played for valencia, i think hes more of a passing type rather than soloist like ronaldo
    for spain and valencia, all he does is go up and pass it to villa and let him do the job, u dont see often see him dribble into the penalty box and does some magic

    I think against Utd its not the midfield thats really the problem, its the wings.....valencia and nani are just too fast and have good combination with other players thats all

  • Comment number 51.

    Dribblers are good to watch but you can't have a midfield of dribblers. Even in Barcelona, the dribbler is Messi, at least in my opinion. David Silva though is what Modric is for Spurs - both excellent players.

    I think, assuming City will qualify for Champions League, they will enter the final stage of their project, being able to buy exactly the players they want. I'm curious what acquisitions you'll make then because I haven't really been impressed by Balotelli and Dzeko. Balotelli has a terrible personality and issues within himself that stop him from giving his best to the club he plays for. On the other hand, being a United supporter, I remember Dzeko being unable to cause serious damage to United even though the team had Carrick and Fletcher in defence, if I recollect correctly.

    Next season, you might find yourselves attracting the best out there.

  • Comment number 52.

    @ 49, I met Solksjaer and Giggs at Old Trafford,

    to be honest, that thought of Rooney quitting playing for England crossed my mind too, but in a different way: to score for England and use the same silly language in front of the cameras :)
    Well, I can't help laughing.

    My serious question on the issue, though, is this hypocrisy surrounding everyone concerned with what kids are viewing. I am more than certain that SKY have a control room manager when there is whatever on live show. Why didn't that manager (and others involved) turn the viewing to any other of the available cameras?

    If you think about it, the couldn't care less about children, themselves. Priorities are priorities. The rest is cheap talk.

    Not that I sympathise with Rooney. What he did was unacceptable. Then again, a fine might suffice.

  • Comment number 53.

    48. At 17:44pm on 4th Apr 2011, arronooi wrote:
    Ace - Surely David Silva fits the bill as a quality dribbler from midfield?

    Spot on.

    David silva has been a revelation for CITY this year, he dictates play picking up the ball in deep and spreading it about. A class puchase.

    Ya Ya Toure baffles me. Great player, looks really languid when he does not have the ball yet skips past people with pace.

    Now Rooney will not be available for United in the semi-final will Ferguson go with a 5 midfield or will he play the "Pea" & Berbatov up front?

  • Comment number 54.

    im a chelsea fan and also a torres fan but i have to say dzeko is right now like torres, they cant be great this season anymore, we just need to wait until next season and see :(
    i wouldnt count on balotelli, he gets good amo. of money and all the good players around him, also he gets chances reguraly but he just cant get it right
    silva isnt like modric that much, modric plays mainly in the centre, however silva is more of a winger no?

    I am not really fancy of city buying new players again :| they bought tuns of players last 2 seasons and what??? they loaned them all out this year -.-

  • Comment number 55.

    I think Rooney is paying for his confrontation with Mcarthy, he got away with it and the FA were left with egg on its face.

    Rooney will get a 2-3 game ban.

    Comparing Ferguson and Grant's disciplinary record is ludicrous. Ferguson had a 2 game hanging over him from last year, consequently he basically calls a referee a "cheat" and thus gets a 3 game ban, plus the 2 from last year.

  • Comment number 56.

    wait didnt he say that during the england game too? when lampard or bent scored he actually said it too no?! then why is he banned now?

  • Comment number 57.

    Expectantly, Rooney will get a two matches ban, missing the home game with Fulham and the semi final against City. It might be a blessing in disguise. Being a United supporter, I think we have enough ammunition for the Fulham game, while I prefer Rooney fresh and fit against Chelsea in the Champions League ties.

    I have to say thought that, besides not agreeing with what he said, my questions are to those guys responsible for turning viewing from one camera to another. It's their job. I am sure they were loving the opportunity and didn't give a damn about "children watching". It would be more than a miracle seeing any of them losing their jobs or being punished for not doing what they're paid to do.

    # 55: the following week we had seen Wenger demanding an apology by UEFA over the referee in the Camp Nou game, as the icing on a cake, after he said what he said, despite setting his team up to kick as much as they could Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and whoever creative player Barcelona had in their disposal.

    I wouldn't expect anything less than a punishment for Rooney. I am sure Trevor Brooking couldn't stomach that 4-2 coming after a 2-0 at half time. :)

  • Comment number 58.

    57. At 18:23pm on 4th Apr 2011, Football_UK wrote:

    I agree with your comments.

    I think Rooney plays with passion and you basically know what you get every week. The only problem I have had with him this year was the elbowing incident and I actually think this is comming back to haunt him.

  • Comment number 59.

    To be fair Johnson has rarely produced for a full game but is a great impact player either early or late on in the game. However he is the type of player who doesn't really suit Mancini's tactics.
    Mancini has said in the past the only way to win games is to stop the other side scoring so when up against a side that can actually score goals he plays a frightened defensive game. He continually fails to realise that if someone makes a mistake he has left himself no way back into the game. He may well get City into the CL this season but I think he has shown that he is a manager who concentrates on not losing rather than winning and as such I believe he will not make City a CL winning side.

  • Comment number 60.

    Thank you so much Alistair for this analysis and blog entry - at last somebody at the BBC is getting the idea about Adam Johnson!

    I was campaigning on this issue for a long time, about the need for Mancini to show more faith in Johnson, stop all the pointless and negative criticism and support him properly.

    All this nonsense about him being an "impact sub" as well is just that.

    He's obviously an extremely influential player, as well as increasingly so a goal scorer and goal maker, and I think part of the problem has been firstly Mancini's too defensive mentality, and secondly the fact that Johnson came so cheap, whereas if he'd had a big price tag like Balotelli or Tevez, he's have felt obliged to have started him regularly.

    But quite likely you haven't watched Johnson as long and as carefully as I have, because I actually consider him potentially as the greatest entertainer we've had since George Best.

    He's done a few things in Europe for example of which George Best himself would have been proud, I'm sure, and also a fabulous goal for the u21s against Ecuador, where he flicked the ball over 2 player's heads in succession and volleyed it with his right foot, though he is much stronger on his left , into the back of the net.

    His two-footedness alone makes him almost unique amongst the top Premier League players, because you see even top strikers like Rooney, Tevez, Berbatov and Defoe missing shors every other week because they are so one-footed.

    But despite the sudden acclaim he's getting, he has not played half as well this season as last (when he was being started most games), even though he's scored a lot more goals, and of course broken into the England full international team.

    Mancini's handling of him to date has been abysmal, whereas he is a sensitive lad, who needs proper support, and his confidence building up.

    In particular, Mancini has demanded he must be more of a team player (which in my view he already was quite adequately), which means running back to defend, but I think if Johnson has a failing, it's probably lack of stamina, and so he needs to save his energy for his penetrating runs up front and let others worry about defending so much.

    My own guess is that's how he got injured, trying to do stuff in training that Mancini wants, which he probably doesn't want to do, and caused him to overexert himself.

    I think he needs to try to win the ball more when he's up front, but if he is running back too much to defend, he'll not only wear himself out, and then may not have the energy left to outpace defenders, but runs the risk of injuring himself in a tackle, and being out again.

    It was pretty obvious he wasn't one hundred percent fit yesterday, and thus Mancini took him off midway through the 2nd half, but it seems to be that Mancini has had to have been robbed of him for a few months, before hopefully he's now realised just how important he is.

    But if Mancini backs him, and in my view it's still an if, and gives him the kind of freedom he needs, I think the best is yet to come, and we may be looking at a future English European footballer of the year.

    But it's not certain he will ever achive his potential, because for that he needs the freedom, the proper backing of his manager that he hasn't been getting.

    For example, Johnson wants to go for goal all the time (there was at least one occasion he could have done so yesterday, but instead did a reverse pass to Tevez), but feels he's being forced to be more of a "team player", passing more than he'd like to to the other more established stars like Tevez and Balotelli, when it would probably be better if he went for goal himself sometimes.

    So quite often you see him in "two minds" and he hits something that's neither a cross or a shot, because he's suppressing what he wants to do, and thus confusing himself, thanks to Mancini's wrong pressure on him.

    Because I watched him carefully last season, and he hardly used to do one wasteful thing in any game, whereas this season his percentage ratio of sucessful passes and so on has gone down a lot, which I believe is due to Mancini's undue criticism and mishandling and lack of support of him.

    That's actually the first open praise of Johnson I've heard from Mancini, and even then, there seemed to be some vague hint that he might put him back on the bench which you've obviously picked up on also.

    If he does, and Adam Johnson does not become the outstanding player, that I think those who understand football adequately believe he can, I think Mancini has got to realise that his profile is now high enough, that he's not going to be able to hold him at Man City, certainly as his contract start to run out in 2 or 3 years time.

    Unfortunately, in his naivety, he signed a 4 1/2 year contract earlier this season, but if Mancini doesn't give this most promising of rising English stars the proper support he deserves, I think it will be a crime against football, and the same applies to Cappello.

  • Comment number 61.

    Mancini has said repeatedly that they were severely missing Adam Johnson when he went out with his injury so I really do think he will start most games from now on if he's available. Mancini is proving himself to be a good manager and he's clever enough to realise AJ's affect on the team when he plays.

    As brilliant as David Silva has been throughout this season, he's best used in midfield and not on the wing, that is where AJ should play. Tevez Dzeko AJ really should be City's frontline.

  • Comment number 62.

    City have two very good full backs going forward in Richards and Colarov.
    Do you feel you should acquire at least one winger, to enhance your game going forward, using the width of the field better, while attacking at speed? It's a question I've had for some time regarding your team.

  • Comment number 63.

    62. At 18:44pm on 4th Apr 2011, Football_UK wrote:
    City have two very good full backs going forward in Richards and Colarov.
    Do you feel you should acquire at least one winger, to enhance your game going forward, using the width of the field better, while attacking at speed? It's a question I've had for some time regarding your team.
    I liked the shape yesterday. Silva likes to cut in and it creates space for Kolarov to go into. (Kolarov had a better day yesterday) You may laugh at this! But we could always put Wright Philips on the right, AJ on the left. (Wright Philips looked sharp yesterday and also made an impact against Evra during the last OT derby).

    The key to making it work is De Jong, he and Ya Ya played great together yesterday.

    If Rooney does not play in the Semi-Final, what formation will Ferguson go with?

  • Comment number 64.

    @ 63, The Stepford Sheep,

    I agree, but United have Nani and Valencia, Spurs have Bale and Lennon and it makes their counter attack really fast and hurtful to the opposition. Assuming that things go normal coming to the end of the season, next season, in the Champions League fast wingers could be a great help.

    With regard to the semi final, I can "see" a steady 4-5-1, although after Saturday, I can say with certainty that it is impossible to guess SAF - I could never guess Giggs dropping left back and Evra substituted.

  • Comment number 65.

    @61. At 18:37pm on 4th Apr 2011, toolpwn wrote:
    Mancini has said repeatedly that they were severely missing Adam Johnson when he went out with his injury so I really do think he will start most games from now on if he's available.

    I take your point, but I don't think unfortunately Mancini's mind works in that straightforward and rational a way.

    I think basically he is using Johnson's absence as the excuse for the bit of a slump Man City have been in since, going out of Europe too easily and so on.

    I'm really not convinced that means he's 100% backing Johnson again, because I think he is obsessed with carrying out this player rotation policy.

    e.g. in the FA semi final against Man U will he play Johnson?

    I really couldn't say, but I think it might only take one game in which Johnson fails to deliver, and he could be back on the bench again.

    Last year against Man U, he didn't play very well, because Man U played very physical and muscled him off the ball a lot, though he is quite tenacious for somebody who is fairly light in weight.

    Mike Summerbee said he felt Johnson needed a bit more upper body strength, so he wouldn't get pushed off the ball as easily.

    But even as he is, all the qualities he's got added up far outweigh his weaknesses, and quite a few times, his runs where he gets pushed over or fouled result in dangerous free kicks or penalties.

    Johnson is creative, he makes things happen, so even if his dribbles don't always succeed, his overall contribution can be so important, creating danger, it's almost suicidal for a manager to leave him on the bench, as Mancini has been doing so regularly this season.

    So let's wait and see if he starts him against Man U. I've got no more idea than anybody else if he will, but I really hope Mancini has learned his lesson now.

    If anything, it appears he's better off starting Johnson, and taking him off later if he's tired out, or appears to be ineffective, than the other way around, as he's been doing.

    But I fear Mancini is a very stubborn man, very slow to change his methods, attitudes or ideas, so we'll just have to wait and see.

    I think actually it's going to take Johnson doing the magic and doing something decisive in a big game, before Mancini has full faith in him, which Johnson's already done for England and for City in Europe several times.

    To Alistair's enlightening stats, should in my view also be added the fact that City have gone out of Europe in the very first Europa League home and away games Johnson has played no part in.

    And Mancini for example, needs to notice how well Johnson and Silva play together - they are always trying to link up and do something clever, and pulled off at least one spectacular goal together.

    Sadly, in my view Milner, though himself a good player, is the weak link, and should be the person on the bench at City with Silva on one wing (left), and Johnson on the other, because both Johnson and Silva are a cut above Milner.

    But Mancini seems to have a lot of faith in Milner, so that is really a big problem, that he's failed to see Johnson and Silva are a very good partnership, and so should be played together as much as possible.

    But if I was Sir Alex Ferguson, considering the upcomign FA semi-final, I'd be pretty worried about that display against Sunderland yesterday, when Johnson isn't yet even fully fit.

  • Comment number 66.

    With regard to the semi final, I can "see" a steady 4-5-1, although after Saturday, I can say with certainty that it is impossible to guess SAF - I could never guess Giggs dropping left back and Evra substituted

    Its funny you brought the Evra substitution up. I have been discussing Evra form with numerous UTD fans and he seems to be struggling. I think its world-cup burn out. How do you thing Giggs will do defensively??

  • Comment number 67.

    Evra will come back in his normal position, make no mistake on that. Just, United need as many forward as possible, being 2-0 down and, although it was sort of unthinkable, Giggs did brilliantly, especially considering his age. What we miss is Ferdinand back because they've put too much weight on the young shoulders of Smalling. I don't think we are going to see Giggs frequently a full back - at least I hope so because otherwise it smells more special circumstances :)

    With the tie against Chelsea coming a few days later, I don't even know if Giggs will play at all, as SAF tends to keep fresh either Scholes or Giggs for big matches and that one is a Champions League quarter final.

    It's true that Evra hasn't had much rest this season but, myself, I'm putting much more weight to the title charge and the Champions League progress. This season, United are weak as a squad to go for everything, in my opinion.

  • Comment number 68.

    Great to watch, technically brilliant and just like Joe Cole used to be back in 2000. Why isnt he playing more, he cost City enough money and doesnt seem to put a foot wrong when he starts. Shame Mancini doesnt have enough faith in him :-(

  • Comment number 69.

    68. At 21:00pm on 4th Apr 2011, Crip_Cooke wrote:
    Great to watch, technically brilliant and just like Joe Cole used to be back in 2000. Why isnt he playing more, he cost City enough money and doesnt seem to put a foot wrong when he starts. Shame Mancini doesnt have enough faith in him :-(

    He did not cost CITY that much compared to todays transfer market, 6 Million I think. Johnosn has been injured, he missed nearly 3 months. There are a number of CITY fans who have commented on why Johnson did not start too many games earlier in the year and I would agree with their observation.

    They include:

    1. Mancini's tactical plan
    2. Johnsons defensive failings.
    3. Johnsons stamina.

    I think having him back now is great, he brings something different. CITY seem to attack down the middle and thus Johnson creates space and provides an outlet. I believe Mancini rates Johnson but in some ways as protected him.

    Lets see how Johnson does in the FA cup semi-final, big game, big stage, tough UTD defence.

  • Comment number 70.

    @ posts 60 & 65:

  • Comment number 71.

    @49 - I met Solksjaer and Giggs at Old Trafford


    Always good to listen to a Utd fan whinging

  • Comment number 72.

    @69. At 21:13pm on 4th Apr 2011, The Stepford Sheep wrote:

    Lets see how Johnson does in the FA cup semi-final, big game, big stage, tough UTD defence.


    First problem with that is we don't even know if Mancini will start him.

    But supposing he does, you have to bear in mind that no player can win a football match on their own, it's a team game.

    After the Man U great team of the 60s with Best, Law and Charlton disintegrated, leaving Best with new lesser team mates, he never won anything again with United, or as far as I'm aware with anybody else.

    Likewise he was unable to get Northern Ireland into the World Cup, and that was even with a fabulous goal keeper in nets, Tottenham's then keeper, Pat Jennings.

    I think the real danger in the semi is that Mancini will freeze and start playing defensive, and so he might leave say Johnson and Tevez up front, but mostly unsupported.

    But Adam Johnson has already proved he's got the temperament for the big stage by some fantastic performances both for England and in Europe.

    It's Mancini's temperament that we've got to worry about in my view.

    But I think you're right about the stamina.

    I just don't accept that Mancini should be forcing him to chase around the field trying to defend like he's been doing. I have many memories of George Best just hanging around the half way line waiting for a pass, saving his energy for the fabulous runs he used to do, which often ended in goals.

    This idea that now every player is an attacker and defender doesn't make sense to me for that reason.

    I saw Johnson interviewed after one of the European games, and he was so exhausted he could hardly get his words out.

    That's just not the way to make best use of a player of his calibre and creative talent.

    Mancini needs to revise his his formula (expressed by somebody else here) from trying to stop the opposition scoring goals, to scoring more goals than the opposition.

    If City don't at least put up a good performance against Man U, it will prove to me that Mancini is not the right man to mange them, because even if he makes it to the top 4 (which looks likely, but only on account of Tottenham's recent failures), I don't think he is going to win any trophies with that attitude.

    So I think actually, how City perform in the semi-final is going to reflect more and adjudicate more on Mancini than Johnson or any other City player, because he is the general directing the troops, and it looks to me he's got enough firepower to beat Man U or at least run them very close if he uses his forces to attack, instead of trying to hold out in some kind of negative defensive siege, as appears to have been his strategy in big games to date.

    Because it's almost certain, that if he goes out of the FA Cup against Man U, City have got no chance whatsoever of winning any silverware this season.

    PS looks like Man U could be without Rooney for that game too, so it looks like a very good chance for City.

  • Comment number 73.

    Johnson is a brilliant player, he creates something out of nothing with great crosses (and goals), and is in my opinion City's best wide player. I guess the problem is that Mancini only seems to play defensive minded midfielders, with the odd exception of Silva or Yaya going forward. Also because he plays with usually two strikers, this means that if they also played with wingers the midfield would be overpowered, and therefore Johnson sits on the bench. I would play with one striker and make Johnson and Silva play wider.

  • Comment number 74.

    i'm really sorry but i have nothing to say about this very dull subject.
    I feel i must react, or give reaction, or argue, or abuse, or attack!
    But I cannot! i hope you are all not too disappointed as I know you were all waiting for my considered knee-jerk reaction, as I was waiting for all your thoughts and comments.Once again, i must apologise for my lack of interest in this profoundly dull and pointless series of one dimensional ego-notes.

  • Comment number 75.

    if bored read this more insightful one and vote for your choice for PFA player of the year

  • Comment number 76.

    I think if you look into those 'stats' a bit further you'll probably see that city have done better with johnson than without because mancini mainly uses him at home against weaker sides. Of course we average more goals when hes playing against Wolves at home rather than when he doesnt start against Chelsea away. Johnsons problem is his workrate and the fact the he only gives you an hour at best. Also, if you look at Sundays game City only played 442 for an hour then reverted back to 4231'ish' and went on to score 3 of the 5 goals playing that formation. The article basically just manipulates the facts. The truth is johnson needs to improve and mancini is being cute by making sure he uses him in the games where he will be effective and not a luxury.

  • Comment number 77.

    Why is everyone getting carried away with one performance?

    Sunderland aren't very good and Man City beat them...big deal.

    I think the reason for Man Citys improved attacking perfprmance is less to do with playing Johnson and more to do with not playing Barry. barry is overweight, slow and can't pass, tackle or score.....of course they looked better without him.
    If they carry on not playing Barry they will have a good crack at a champions league spot.

  • Comment number 78.

    As I'm not expecting to see a BBC blog article focussing on Adam Johnson again for some time, I'd just like to thank you once again Alistair for your excellent article, with its very impressive and well researched stats, and comment on the question one final time from a different angle.

    A factor that is undervalued and not enough discussed when analysing football, especially at to the performance of individual players as with this article, is not just relating to their actual ability, but regarding their acceptance in the team.

    A player is never going to achieve his potential, if he doesn't feel properly accepted by his team mates, and in the role he wants to play in the team.

    This was true even for example in the case of George Best, who never became the "George Best" of legend everyone now is familiar with, until he spent quite some time in the Man U first team, amongst other then really much bigger stars like Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law.

    It wasn't really until the 5-1 Benfica game in 1965, though Best debuted in 1963, that Best really came into his own, and became the George Best we all (the Man U fans at least) came to know and love.

    So that it's taking Johnson some time also (after being kept down at Middlseborough for quite a while) to turn from being the caterpillar into the butterfly, both for Man City and England, should be no surprise.

    What I think is terribly important therefore to observe, is how we see when we watch the game how any player is treated, especially after scoring a goal, or on the other hand, how their attempts to celebrate with, hug or congratulate another player who has scored the goal are responded to.

    Earlier in the season, Johnson, who was very forward and keen to get involved in post-goal scoring celebrations, was often rejected, or even when he scored, not many players would come and hug him or congratulate him.

    This of course, could partly be because City have such a big squad of top or international players, all competing for a start, that if anybody plays "too good", though grateful the team has scored, they are not too keen it wasn't themselves who was getting the glory, e.g. in the case of Tevez, who has been rather cool towards Johnson at times, after Johnson scoring some spectacular goals.

    But that appears to have changed, and possibly because like Mancini, the City players have noticed without him they've gone into a slump, and gone out of Europe, suddenly now, they are all keen to "buddy up" with him, and thronged around him when he scored the first goal against Sunderland.

    But you note, the first to congratulate him is usually (if they are both on the field at the same time) David Silva, as there's obviously a lot of mutual respect there for one another's skill.

    The same has been true with England. Initiatally, Rooney was very supportive of Johnson (gave him passes which led to at least one of Johnson's goals) and also likes and admires him, whereas initially, Steven Gerrard even once pushed Johnson away, when he was trying to give him a celebratory hug, after Gerrard has scored a goal.

    But in subsequent games Gerrard was also happy to do the hugging stuff with Johnson, when he realised that Johnson was an important player who was probably going to be key to Gerrard's own future hopes for England.

    So for City in particular, this is a big change for Johnson, that his status has gone up a lot with his own team mates, he is much more accepted, and Mancini ignores this also at his peril, if he fails to start Johnson.

    Most of City's attacking success last season, was built around Johnson's industry and creativity, and Mancini needs to build his attack around Johnson as the target man, with Silva as an almost as good "plan B" on the others side, and that should give Man City the best chance of being a proper attacking force, that can possibly knock the other top 2 or 3 teams like Man U off their perch.

    But Mancini has got to give Johnson more freedom and respect, and make more allowances for him in his personal life even, just as Matt Busby did with George Best, Alex Ferguson did with Eric Cantona, and Brian Clough did with his star goalkeeper Peter Shilton (who he used to let go off to to the horse races sometimes, while others had to train), and of course Alex Ferguson still does with Rooney ("we've done every thing for Wayne", though in my view, it wasn't quite enough, and hence Rooney's continuing problems despite the recent hat trick).

    That's the price for a manager of having a real star on their hands - they have to be given special treatment, handled carefully, because they've got an ability to do something that nobody else has, and often what comes with that is a more sensitive kind of "artistic temperament" which has to be accommodated.

    Mancini's been making every excuse for Balotelli after all, so why not with Adam Johnson also?

    Anyway, let's hope the Man U v Man City semi-final lives up to our hopes, which I think it might, because I've got a feeling that Adam Johnson loves playing at Wembley, and will rise to this big occasion if given the chance, which must mean being on from the very start.

  • Comment number 79.

    World Cup Wally wrote:
    That's the price for a manager of having a real star on their hands - they have to be given special treatment, handled carefully, because they've got an ability to do something that nobody else has, and often what comes with that is a more sensitive kind of "artistic temperament" which has to be accommodated.

    Mancini's been making every excuse for Balotelli after all, so why not with Adam Johnson also?
    I agree with some of your comments relating to Johnson's ability but I honestly feel that Mancini has managed him well. Some players need a arm around them. Some need constructive critisim. Both Balotelli and Johnson have talent and how they progress going forward will be a measure of Mancini's man-management skills.

    I have watched 99% of the City games this year and to be honest I feel the media's Mancini defensive mentality "fetish" is ridiculas. CITY score 4 goals at Fulham with 5 in midfield. In essence it may look like 5 in midfield but David Silva and Ya Ya are given license to get forward all over the pitch.

    United will play 5 in midfield against CITY in the semi-final, Mancini may play 5 to counter this. I believe Johnson will play, he gives us natural width but I think he does not have the pace to beat Evra. In fact I thought Wright Philips give Evra some difficulties when he cam on at OT in the last game.

    It will be difficult if Rooney does not play. Who will play up front as the lone striker? Berbatov struggles with the lone striker role, the pea also.

  • Comment number 80.

    Does the author of this blog realise thats Johnsons just coming back from injury so cant do the full game, so started on the bench against chelsea. Ill informed journos are a pain in the arris

  • Comment number 81.

    @ 79. At 14:26pm on 5th Apr 2011, The Stepford Sheep

    I think Johnson has got more ways of beating a player than pace, whether or not he can outpace Evra.

    But he needs his confidence building up. He's been too half-hearted, he hasn't got proper permission from Mancini to run at defences.

    Mancini doesn't understand this, and I think a lot of it is his failure to be able to communicate well in English, so there is no proper dialogue going.

    You see, the proof of the pudding here is that Tevez has got "carte blanche", he can do what he likes, and Mancini never criticizes him because he knows he doesn't dare offend him, or he'll leave, or maybe even have a go at him, whereas Johnson's too nicey nicey to tell him where to go.

    I think ultimately Johnson is going to have to realise that he can't keep doing exactly what the manager tells him, and he's going to have to play his own game more, and justify it by putting the ball in the net more often.

    I mean, George Best wore the number 11 shirt as well, left winger most of the time, but it didn't stop him scoring 137 goals in 361 appearances for Man U, which is about 1 per 2.5 games

    So far , Johnson has only scored about 7 or 8 in about 39 performances which is about 1 per 5 games, so he's got to get that ratio up in my view.

    I think you're wrong though about Mancini's defensive attitude though.

    What I'm saying (and I think this is what others mean) is that he plays attacking against softer teams, but when it comes to big games like against Chelsea of Man U he suddenly goes all defensive, scared to lose, and focuses on hoping for a break away goal and then as they like to say nowadays "parking the bus."

    I think on reflection, though I'm hoping for the City-Utd game to be exciting, that Mancini may well revert back to this attitude, and we'll end up with a dull frustrating game that Man U will probably win, maybe 1-0 or 2-1, or maybe even on penalties.

    I think Mancini is just far too autocratic, and others here have commented Johnson's just not a Mancini-type player, but then, I don't see he's ever going to let Johnson go now till his contract is up in about 3 or 4 years, so my concern is that Johnson may just get trapped at City, and not really ever be allowed to play his own game.

    There's also a strong possibility that because Mancini is asking him to defend more, he'll get injured again, because despite his silky skills in possession, Johnson can it appears be clumsy in tackles.

    That's why I think Mancini prefers Milner a lot of the time, because Milner, though less skilled than Johnson, always gets "stuck in" as a defender, so Mancini is trying to force Johnson to become more like Milner, as effective in defence as attack, but I think all that will do is make Johnson less effective as an attacker, and sooner or later get him seriously injured again.

    A lot of footballers (which of course Mancini himself has been) who are a bit hard men types, or cocky like Mancini, are very intolerant of other footballer's style of playing, especially the ball player types who do all the stepovers and so on, like past players like Glen Hoddle and Duncan Mackenzie.

    If they don't have the right manager supporting them who approves of their style of play, it's always going to be a problem, and so may prove to be a permanent problem in Johnson's case.

    Yes, I know what you mean, some players need criticism, some an arm around them, but I think Johnson, like Best, is very much a case of the latter kind, just as Matt Busby largely played "part-time dad" to the precocious and sensitive George Best.

    All bullying tactics are going to do to Johnson is put him off his game, make him take his eye off the ball. He's not a tough guy like some of the others like Tevez, or Toure.

    He's not going to cry, but he's probably going to sulk if he gets what he thinks is unfair treatment, and that will badly affect his game, and I believe already has.

    I believe Ferguson has mishandled Rooney in the same way, failed to support him properly against the media, which is why his performance is up and down, and he's throwing tantrums like the one that got him banned for two games, probably including the semi-final.

  • Comment number 82.

    World Cup Wally wrote:
    I think Mancini is just far too autocratic, and others here have commented Johnson's just not a Mancini-type player, but then, I don't see he's ever going to let Johnson go now till his contract is up in about 3 or 4 years, so my concern is that Johnson may just get trapped at City, and not really ever be allowed to play his own game.
    I agree with a number of your comments.

    Parking the bus is not an expression I would use. If you look at UTD when they came to The City Of Manchester stadium, Sir Alex played with 5 in midfield, thus Mancini countered with 5 in midfield. How a team sets up is also based on how the opposition sets up. CITY defended for the lives at the Emirates, arsenal tore into us and thus all we could do was defend. In this game both DeJong, Balotelli and Johnson were missing, thus I would agree we "parked" the bus.

    In the recent Chelsea game Mancini was once again struggling for players and had just come off a Thursday night game against Kiev. We looked tired and did not move the ball with any fluency. Did you think Johnson was the best player on the pitch against Sunderland? (I would argue that Kompany, De Jong and Silva had better games)

    I have seen CITY play some superb football this season and probrably some of the best stuff we have played since the Mercer years. I was brought up with attacking wingers, Finney, Mathews, Sumerbee, Peter Barnes, Dennis Tueart and I love Adam Johnson running at players. (is goal in the Ueffa cup was sublime) I believe the game has changed, players are asked to do a lot more based on tatics, its the way of the world. Mancini talks about "mentality" "concentration" and thus the game becomes much more of a team ethic than the individual ethos.

    Look back in the 70's every team had a ball player, Best, Marsh, Stan Bowles, Frank Worthington, Duncan Mckenzie, Tony Currie. The 1980's so a switch to the team concept although a number of individuals stood out, Daglish, Hoodle, Ardiles. Then the 90's, Gascoigne (he has never been replaced).

    I'm excited for Johnson. I believe Mancini values him because it left a void when he was not playing. Johnson will play a key role over the next 2 months and hopefuly this will be the platform to take him to "super star" status.

    (in 1976 I saw Peter Barnes, beat 7 men before rounding the Bristol City goalkeeper, he was a unique talent but I also feel he was impacted by the changing face of the game)

  • Comment number 83.

    @ 82. At 18:00pm on 5th Apr 2011, The Stepford Sheep

    yes, obviously you have a knowledge of football going back some like myself. I too remember Peter Barnes, who was similar to Johnson, and though he did play for England too, I don't think he ever achieved his full potential either.

    I agree the game has changed, but i think not for the better. I think Italian football, which has always been more defence based, has had too much of an impact on English football, and that's why we've got so many Italian managers here, including our national one.

    I'm not sure what the Italians have done to deserve making so much impact on our game, because I've never liked the Italian style of play, and there were other better role model national teams we might have emulated like Brazil and Argentina.

    But to my delight, I think some teams are now playing more attacking and adventurous, e.g. Spurs, and I think Adam Johnson has been a big part of this mini-revolution, just as Best was a role model of a whole group of players around at the time and who followed him.

    And when you consider that Man U are far and away the most sucessful team in Premier League history, and all that time they've had Ryan Giggs doing exactly this "old fashioned winger" style of play, running at defenders, then that needs thinking about.

    (my guess why that worked for Giggs, is unlike Peter Barnes, he had a lot better quality team around him)

    Intricate passing moves that go on square or nearly so for about 10 or 15 passes (and then usually astray) aren't exciting for the fans, and often fail to breakdown defences.

    Running at defences sooner or later does, as both Johnson and Tevez have shown as well as Bale for Tottenham.

    Sadly, as Mancini is still in my view "old school Italian" I still remain unconvinced he's ever going to be comfortable with this more attacking "he who dares wins" or "best form of defence is attack" style of play which I favour, and it was proven against Sunderland is a hell of a lot more entertaining for the fans.

    City nearly looked like one of the classic Brazilian teams on Sunday at times, and I think if Mancini is to last and succeed, he's going to have to back off a bit, and let the players do more thinking for themselves, than trying to "micromanage" all their play with those complicated charts they keep showing around at substitution time.

    I think the general passing based play, rather than running at and splitting defences is basically a cowardly negative form of football, which we've imported from Italy over the decades, but is not necessarily superior.

    I confess however to be somewhat bemused by all these modern formation styles, 5-4-1, 4-3-3 and so on, and probably still think of the game in the old fashion 2-3-5 terms, with wingers, centre halves, and the front five all being called "forwards", rather than strikers and midfielders.

    I'm not convinced that these new formations are any superior to the old one, or ultimately actually mean as much as is made out.

    The basic difference seems to be the unwillingness to commit players forward, which as I've suggested, I think is mainly Italian influenced, with the sort of ultimate defence formation being 10-0 (no attackers) or 9-1 (one lone attacker, 9 defenders).

    I mean, if you actually looks at when teams (no I don't really like it either, but it works for now) "park the bus", that's about how it pans out: 9-1, with nearly everybody or in fact everybody back packing the defence.

    This pattern rarely works, because all that happens is the ball keeps getting kicked out of the defence but keeps going right in again until eventually the team that's doing the attacking scores.

    I still think therefore, if you've got the players, far more should be committed forward, and that would cause the other team to pull its attackers back.

    So I think the main way to play football is still primarily attacking, with the motto "who dares wins."

    You win football by scoring more goals than the opposition just like Man U conceded 2 but won 2-4 on Saturday. Keeping a clean sheet is not that important, when especially nowadays, a 0-0 draw is near useless giving you only 1 pt instead of 3.

    I think we'll find in the semi-final that the bravest, most daring team will win, and I fear because of Mancini's influence, it's not going to be Man City, though I hope he proves me wrong.

  • Comment number 84.

    World Cup Wally wrote:

    I think we'll find in the semi-final that the bravest, most daring team will win, and I fear because of Mancini's influence, it's not going to be Man City, though I hope he proves me wrong.

    World Cup Wally wrote: I actually share a similar philosophy.

    Keeping possession means nowt if you don't get an end product.

    A good example of this was Englands defeat last year at the hands of Germany at the World Cup. In prior years the Germans loved keeping the ball but most of the possession was in their own half, it was bloody boring. At the World cup Germany's game plan revolved around hitting teams on the break at pace and it was very effective.

    The Dutch teams of the 70's played with flair and possession but the possession was built at pace not lethargy.

    So yes, give me Mancini's recent ethos and I will enjoy. You must also remember that CITY are striving to end 35 years of misery and thus we will take any positive result from the United game in any format.

    Now, there have been several CITY performances this year that have made me purr. Notably Fulham away, WBA away, Bolton at home and more recently Sunderland at home. In all of these games we also depicted a strong defensive character, not a defensive mindset but played well defensively.

    I hope Mancini proves you wrong also. I honestly believe CITY have a better team than UTD and thus it is frustrating when we dont go at them.

  • Comment number 85.

    yes he is very talented

    however he doesnt always influence a game that much and infact has had many average games for city hwoeverits all mancini's fault as ever

  • Comment number 86.

    84. At 18:58pm on 5th Apr 2011, The Stepford Sheep wrote:

    I hope Mancini proves you wrong also. I honestly believe CITY have a better team than UTD and thus it is frustrating when we dont go at them.


    My point and doubt about Mancini is whether he is really a big time manager. He's never won anything in Europe, except domestically in Italy, and mainly only with Inter Milan.

    Compare that to Sven, Mourinho, and Ferguson, and it means that a bit like Andy Murray in tennis, Mancini may still have "performance anxiety" when he gets on the very big stage.

    Sven said a while back that to even be in an English FA Cup final would be a dream for him. I guess Mancini must feel the same way, but does he really believe it's a dream he can fulfil?

    This isn't Italy, this is a strange and foreign land to him, just like Italy would be for us.

    What somebody has never achieved before is hard enough, and to do it in a foreign country I'd guess must be a lot harder.

    The English Premier League is obviously now the most prestigious one in Europe, with a chance we'll end up with at least 2 or 3 teams in the Champions League semi-finals.

    So though our national team hasn't done great for a long time, our league is the biggest and best, we are the big time.

    So if Mancini doesn't believe right down to his core that he can really make it here, like he did back home, or is too anxious about it, the players will pick up on that, and that could cause them to underperform, and lose their nerve also at the vital moments.

    What distresses me most about modern football is the poor standard of finishing. Even Johnson made one really feeble shot on Sunday (as I've said, I think he is still far from his best right now, even in comparison to last season), though I put that down to maybe his lack of fitness.

    I wonder incidentally if he is going to be a whole lot fitter in 11 days time, but it can change that quickly, as long as Mancini doesn't overwork him.

    When managers don't exude confidence, and inspire their players to go out with that same confident attitude, the players often fail at the final ball, which is what I think largely happened with England in the World Cup (apart from foolishly leaving Johnson out of the squad).

    As you're a City fan clearly, I'd like to reassure you that it will be City's day, but quite honestly I really wouldn't put my money of it, not because of the players, but because of my doubts about the man in charge.

    Anyway, whoever wins, let's hope to see a good game.

    Thanks for the thought-proving exchange. If you've more you'd like to say, I'll leave the final comment to you.

  • Comment number 87.

    World Cup Wally wrote: Thanks for the thought-proving exchange. If you've more you'd like to say, I'll leave the final comment to you.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------No problem, some good points covered. I honestly believe that most CITY fans are behind Mancini, perhaps because he has got us so close.

  • Comment number 88.

    @ 87. At 19:47pm on 5th Apr 2011, The Stepford Sheep

    Just a short reply - "close" is not the top, I accept Mancini is good enough to get City close, but is that really going to satisfy City fans he if never wins a single trophy?

    (e.g. I'm watching Tottenham right now, and ex-Man City Adebayor (who I liked and think should have stayed, but Mancini got rid) has put Real Madrid ahead in the Champion League Quarter Final. I wonder if Man City lose the FA Cup semi final, and Real make the CL semi-final or final, Adam Johnson will wish he had gone with him. It appears Mourinho can make good use of Adebayor, he's just scored his second for Real, but Mancini couldn't).

  • Comment number 89.

    Adam Johnson is a very talented player; showing skill in passing & shooting, but also pace on the break & in tight marking situations. Unfortunately Mancini has said many contradictory things about him (amongst others), most notably that "...we are missing Adam Johnson when he went out injured..." having previously said "...he must improve..."when he was available but not used. But thats just Mancini; tactically naive and not very good with the people skills. Because Johnson made scored and some great goals off the bench, Mancini has come to regard him as an impact sub, which really is a terrible waste of his talent.

    Edin Dzeko is another player with talent who has been under-utilized by Mancini, who has said many contradictory things about him also, most notably that "...we are disappointed with his lack of goals in BPL..." having previously said "...he must improve..."when he was available but not used. But again thats just Mancini; tactically naive and not very good with the people skills.

    Now consider these 2 talented players together, Johnson as scorer and provider, and Dzeko as the big target man and potential goal scorer (check his record at Wolfsburg, thats why City signed him). This season represents the best chance City have had in years to be contenders and to win prizes and finish in the top 3. Yet this disappointing manager obsessed with Serie A tactics and crowded midfields, wastes all this talent and money on over-paid under-achievers too numerous to list here (frequently played out of their position) who get on the teamsheet every week, but talented players like Jonson & Dzeko don't fit in with the managers defensive master-plan. Don't get me wrong here; when Mancini replaced Hughes after all those disappointing draws last season, the defence needed attention. At the time I thought Mancini would be OK as a caretaker manager thru to the end of last season, but he is not the man for a big club with big ambitions. If City don't qualify for the Champions League, Roberto Mancini will be on the first plane back to Italy, and I hope Baloteli is there to carry his bags.

  • Comment number 90.

    My Dad first took me to Maine Road over 50 years ago, and I have supported City ever since, through the ups and downs (more downs than ups), through all the poor owners (with no money) and all the poor managers (with little or no talent), through the best years with Mercer & Allison. I was there on the terraces at Newcastle in 1968 when City won the old Football League Championship, what an amazing day to end an amazing season. I always hoped to see them win the EPL again in my life-time, always hoped we might give it our best shot in Europe.

    Over the years I have learned by experience to beware of false dawns, but I now have to say that this season that started with so much promise and so much money has just been frittered away by yet another poor manager. Mancini has not built a team here (don't believe what he tries to tell you). Mancini is assembling a squad which may gel and may eventually be good enough to win Serie A. I said from the beginning he was OK as a caretaker manager for half a season, but he is not the man for the job for all the owners’ ambitions & expectations.

    Recent performances leave many City fans completely baffled; they are so inconsistent, occasionally brilliant, often slow, lethargic, tired, square, no sense of urgency, like they belong at the lower half of Serie A. The ultra-defensive ultra-cautious coaching tactics are there for all to see; crowded midfield, one-man attack formation. Mancini is incapable of saying to his players "...go out and play your natural to your strengths....enjoy yourselves..." He just can't say those words, and he prefers to have them play with fear. So understand my frustration now that we have wealthy owners with ambition, and we can afford big-name players. I believe a new manager needs at least a year to build some improvements, especially if inheriting a problem situation, and we have had lots of those. But what about a poor new manager who struggles early on, maybe he needs to be shown the door early on, to limit the damage. I see it regularly in business, where a new employee shows signs of being a bad choice after a couple of months and the best thing is to cut them loose early. Mancini's success record on signing new players is no better than Hughes record.

  • Comment number 91.

    Mancini I believe is the one at fault. He's tactics are too defensive. At the start of the season i was hoping I could see


    Adam Johnson Silva

    De jONG
    Kolarov Richards
    Kompany Jerome

    Hart/Given (both world class)

    Milner might sound like a shock but look at the position and how he was playing in at Aston Villa. Since moving to City he has not been the same playing i feel its down to the positions he has been playing. Yaya Toure is not as good as people make out, when defending he does not seem to do much, he does not stick with the opposition, which makes it difficult for the rest of the defence. Micah is big powerful and can assist Silva or AJ depending on which flanks they are playing, however i think he can make a hash of things when it comes to defending at times (positive is that he is still a young player). I think AJ is a huge player for City, looking at his talent and the different dimensions he offers to City they paid peanuts for him. City fans must be so frustrated when it comes to playing big teams like Man Utd, Arsenal or Chelsea, it just does not seem the team is threatening when Roberto is playing his beloved 4-5-

  • Comment number 92.

    As a Man City season ticket holder as good as AJ is at taking on fulls backs such as Phil Bardsley or Paul Konchesky whenever he comes up against a full back with more pace such as Ashley Cole or Patrice Evra his lack of pace of is exposed, this is why he is used on the right rather than the left because cutting in on his stronger foot covers up the yard of pace needed to take quicker fulls backs down the outside.

    This one of the main reasons he starts against lesser teams rather the likes of Chelsea and Man U, but i do hope i'm proved wrong and he tears Evra to shreads at Wembley.

  • Comment number 93.

    To be fair to Mancini if you had actually watched Johnson early on in the season then you would have noticed that he was not as effective when starting as when he came off the bench, he would be sublime off the bench but then when given a chance to start he would look average.

    However he then started looking better from the start and Mancini started him more, but then he got injured, the first game he is back he comes off the bench, then the 2nd game he starts.

    Mancini has managed AJ perfectly well, noticing he was not a 90 minute player early on, spotting his talent in the first place and getting him for 7 million, then curbing his social life so he stays on the straight and narrow, and now in the space of a season and a half he has taken AJ from the championship to one of the most hotly rated young english talents in England along with Wilshere. So what exactly has Mancini done wrong?

  • Comment number 94.

    Man City Shaun wrote:

    Mancini has managed AJ perfectly well, noticing he was not a 90 minute player early on, spotting his talent in the first place and getting him for 7 million, then curbing his social life so he stays on the straight and narrow, and now in the space of a season and a half he has taken AJ from the championship to one of the most hotly rated young english talents in England along with Wilshere. So what exactly has Mancini done wrong?

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------Nowt, spot on with your analysis.

  • Comment number 95.

    What a half assed analysis... Compareing Johnson and Milner is chalk and cheese.

    With Johnson in the team City would have been battered down their right flank by Chelsea.

    You also failed to consider Chelsea's strength and through the midfield... can you really compared games against Chelsea and Sunderland? Again Chalk and cheese.

    I wish the beeb would leave this kind of article to the fans who watch these players.

    You watch the amount of time Johnson goes head down and doesn't pass when he does, you look how many time he gives the ball away needlessly. Mancini has a point.. You can forgive a 20 year old silly mistakes but a 23 year old should now but cutting them out. I'm not talking about behaviour I'm talking about decisions on a football pitch when the ball is in play.

    Another failed attempt at intelligent writing hidden behind the mask of proper grammar and spelling... Give me spelling mistacks and things backwardly wrote any day if it's actually worth reading. ;)

    Sorry Mr Magowan, didn't realise it was your article again... It's still poor.

  • Comment number 96.

    Whilst Johnson is a massive talent living in Manchester area he apprently gets punnished for 'liking a drink' & meant to think a lot of himself and Macini punsnishes him for it, not sure if lot of true in it but there is a reason they dont play him

  • Comment number 97.

    AJ is good player, but when he is near to the post, he is selfish.

    thats the reason why he cannot paly 90 min as simple as that.

    But no he is more matured. Hopefully, Lets see in the rest of the season.


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