Published on October 1st, 2014 | by Daniel Cheeseman0
Manchester City 1-1 AS Roma | The City Nitty Gritty
“The Ill-Fated Luxury Line-Up”
There’s no excuses for last night’s performance; we fielded a very strong team, were playing at the Etihad, and were against what should be one of the more beatable sides in the UEFA Champions League (if we are as good as everyone says we are). So why does it always seem to be the same old story for City in Europe?
We’ve played some very good European teams at the Etihad over the last few seasons, such as Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli, and while I know we were still fairly new to the competition at the time – I can’t help but look back at our home record against those teams and be disappointed.
Our first year in the Champions League saw us win 2 out of our 3 home games, which were against Villareal and a very weakened Bayern Munich side, and we scraped a 1-1 draw with Napoli in which we had to be saved by a moment of brilliance by Alexander Kolarov. The following year we achieved a mere 3 points in our group which featured Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax. We didn’t manage to get a single win to our name that season and all of our home games were draws. Last year was the first year that we managed to get out of the group stage, and while we did manage to win 5 out of our 6 games, we were still (in my opinion) not quite good enough.
I’m sure you’ll all agree that there are no obvious reasons as to why we shouldn’t be succeeding in the Champions League by now, we have a fantastic squad full of world class players, a great youth system and lots of money at our disposal. We’ve gone well past the stage now where we can use the excuse of being inexperienced in Europe, as all the players that played for us last night have played a lot of games in the Champions League, and by now they should know what to expect.
I always thought that the ultimate goal for any footballer, other than the World Cup, is winning the UEFA Champions League. So it’s not unreasonable to assume that when they play a game in the competition that they go out to try and impress the rest of the on-looking world, but there seems to be certain players who have lost their fire when it comes to playing in Europe.
I hate to say it, but it looks to me like Yaya Toure is starting to go through the motions. He has lost that spark which he had last season, and it’s a shame to see a player with so much footballing talent start to lose his passion for the game. However, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I really, really hope I am wrong. I hope that it’s just Yaya going through a bad phase, and that all it takes to kick-start his season is that one moment of magic to return his confidence, but from what we’ve seen of him so far this season, it might take more than just one special moment.
Despite Yaya’s disappointing display last night, you have to take into consideration that we were outnumbered in midfield. Roma were playing with 3 accross the middle, Pjanic, Keita and Nainggolan, against our two of Fernandinho and an out-of-form Yaya Toure. From the moment I laid eyes on the teamsheet I thought we looked weak in midfield, as I always think that we look our best when we have two holding midfielders, with Yaya just in front of them so that he can press forward. We had the option of Frank Lampard on the bench, and while I know that Milner is more effective on the wings, I might have even considered playing him in the middle as well, because the way that Roma had set up left us with virtually no choice.
I was also surprised not to see Alexander Kolarov playing, as he usually relishes in Champions League games and didn’t feature in our last match away at Hull. While Clichy is the better player in terms of defending, Kolarov adds a lot more dimension to our attack when going forward. I think that Dzeko probably felt the effects of not having Kolarov in the team the most, as he usually likes to get on the end of the Serbian’s wicked crosses.
The main problem which I believe we were having last night was that we didn’t have enough players feeding the ball to our strikers. I thought that Dzeko and Aguero both had decent games, but it seemed at times like the only person who was providing them with chances was David Silva. Jesus Navas wasn’t as effective as he has been this season as he was being very tightly pressed, and the usually-reliable Yaya Toure was giving the ball away far too often, so all our attacking creativity was relying on one player.
We’d probably have been better off playing with 1 less striker and another playmaker, with the option of bringing on a second striker later in the game if we weren’t troubling the opposition’s goalkeeper enough – but that’s just my opinion.
We currently lie third in Group E now with 1 point, and while it may seem a bit doom and gloom at the moment we are still only one win behind Roma. If we can manage to get 6 points from CSKA Moskow (like we did last season) then we might just be able to turn this group around.
We play Aston Villa on Saturday, who have just come off the back of a 3-0 loss to Chelsea, so we need to try and capitalize on their drop in confidence and come away with the all-important 3 points.