Man City 1-0 Wigan: City start strongly, but half-time change in mentality nearly costs them
David Silva scored the only goal of the game in a slow contest.
Roberto Mancini left Edin Dzeko on the bench. Nigel de Jong was also a substitute, so Patrick Vieira played in midfield, whilst Pablo Zabaleta started rather than Aleksandar Kolarov at left-back.
Roberto Martinez left out Charles N’Zogbia, playing Tom Cleverley on the left, and Victor Moses on the right. Adrian Lopez replaced Steve Gohouri at right-back.
The first half was strange – City dominated and should have been more than one goal up by half-time – and yet they relied on a terrible error from Ali Al-Habsi for their goal. Wigan were content to sit back and play on the break, which they did reasonably well, but were often let down by one of their front four making the wrong decision with the ball.
City were an attack-minded 4-2-3-1, with Yaya Toure the closest support to Carlos Tevez for most of the game. In theory, the two wide players dropped back into midfield to form two banks of four when Wigan attacked, but because the away side only did so on the counter, it was rare that City actually had to take up that defensive shape.
Instead, the two City wide players were free to take up attacking positions for most of the game – although neither stayed on the flanks. They both drifted inside and frequently swapped positions – both seemed to prefer playing on the left, up against Lopez, who also made a mistake for the goal. Mario Balotelli caused early problems with a shot very similar to his recent goal against Fulham, whilst David Silva started from a narrow position and looked to work one-twos with the other City players, frequently finding himself in goalscoring positions, but only occasionally shooting.
Lack of fluency
On twelve minutes (12:44, to be precise) – five seconds of football summed up why City aren’t cohesive in their system yet. Tevez dropped deeper than the attacking band of three to pick up the ball, but then when he looked for one of them to make a forward run, all three moved towards the ball in unison. That epitomises why City often dominate games but score fewer goals than that dominance would indicate – they need more drive from midfield runners, especially if they have a false nine able to create space in the opposition defence.
Mancini may have regretted playing Zabaleta at left-back in the first half, because City needed their full-backs stretching the play and expanding the active playing zone when they had long spells of possession. Zabaleta is a good player but his speciality is not getting down the touchline, especially when used on the left. Still, despite that problem, City managed to create chances.
Wigan also created chances on the break in the first half. With Silva and Balotelli slow to get behind the ball, often City defended with only six players, which left them vulnerable to cut backs from wide positions, and players arriving late in the box. City also committed a high number of fouls when Wigan looked to get the ball forward quickly, which resulted in bookings for Micah Richards and Gareth Barry. Other than that, the midfield battle was fairly tame.
The game changed completely at the start of the second half. Mancini instructed Yaya Toure to move from an attacking midfield position to a holding role alongside Patrick Vieira – similar to the change in position Toure made at half-time in the 0-0 draw away at Arsenal. City were much more cautious in the second half, and as a result had to endure long spells of Wigan pressure – unthinkable in the first period.
Wigan were more attacking. There was more emphasis upon ball retention rather than playing merely on the counter-attack, although obviously this was also a reaction to City’s strategy. As a result, they got more men forward – particularly the full-backs, and had a couple of good efforts on goal.
Mancini again changed his system when City looked rocky, reverting to the system with Toure just off Tevez in a 4-2-3-1. City couldn’t completely snap out of the more defensive mindset, however. In general this season, they’ve been able to switch to a deeper approach midway through the game, but have struggled when asked to move up the pitch in order to be more offensive.
N’Zogbia was introduced down the right for Wigan and was an immediate threat, so Mancini brought on Kolarov for Balotelli, to sit ahead of Zabaleta.
The final twenty minutes of the game lacked any urgency or creativity, with so many substitutions (and changes in strategy) killing momentum. City seemed to have brought the game to a close when they brought on de Jong for Silva and packed the midfield – but Wigan did have late chances, and will feel they should have picked up a point.
In basic terms, job done for Manchester City – but they laboured to victory having started positively. Mancini was too cautious after half time and invited pressure unnecessarily. They won a very high percentage of their duels throughout the match, though:
If this game was at the beginning of the season, Martinez would have been pleased with the performance – but the time has come where Wigan need to be picking up points. They may have been outplayed for much of the game, but they should have scored at least once, and they goal they conceded was a horrendous goalscoring mistake.Man City 1-0 Wigan: City start strongly, but half-time change in mentality nearly costs them