Ped's Pre-season Musings (4) Wolfsburg 0-2 City
The football machine is emerging once again from its summertime garage at the Etihad. Last night the pre-season show headed for Wolfsburg where quite a stern test awaited City from a team that has struggled since it lost its favourite son, Edin Dzeko, to last night`s opponents.
Sadly for them Dzeko didn`t make Mancini`s starting line- up as he went with the mobility of his ground attack in the shape of Tevez and Aguero.
Commencing with the new 3-5-2 formation with Savic, Kolo and Zabalet guarding the way to Joe Hart returning between the sticks, Mancini paraded a midfield containing Johnson, Kolarov, Yaya, de Jong and the up and coming Razak. Many commentators think this is a new concept for Mancini but if you turn the clock back to the FA Cup Final, 2011, Mancini set the team up in almost in a 2-1-4-1-2 formation which was essentially the forerunner to where he looks to be heading now. At Wembley it kept Stoke`s major attacking threat down the lines at bay in their own half and for at least the first half last night, the same could be said.
This is a truly magnificent stadium with an outstanding playing surface, so it was no surprise that it suited City, who got into their stride early and played their neat football all around the field. Tevez and Aguero went close, but the Wolfsburg defence stood up to the test and Benaglio was clearly the busier of the net minders.
It looked as though the first half was heading for 0-0 and the possible introduction of Dzeko, when Aguero fastened on to Kolarov`s through ball. The Mighty Atom was surrounded by gigantic home defenders but somehow muscled three of them out of the way, ahead of slotting the ball beyond Benaglio.
This was no more than Aguero deserved. He looks to be getting well into his stride as the new season looms.
Tevez returning hunger was in evidence again last night and his efforts sadly went unrewarded. A chance to make it 2-0 was turned away but in more or less the next move, he opened the door for crucial-goalscorer-in-chief, Yaya Toure to double City`s lead.
Wolfsburg did try to take the game to City in the second half but the tackling of Yaya, de Jong and Razak brought much of their effort to an abrupt halt. Hart did have a couple of saves to make to remind us he was still there, but the makeshift back line which still hasn`t featured Kompany and Lescott together yet looked solid enough. Last year`s pre-season taught us that is some class about Savic, although he could not replicate this when he got his chances at first team level in the regular season. He has done well again so far in the pre-season.
In the early 80s I for my sins lived in Kingston-upon-Hull and at that time the shackles came off Rigby League teams enabling them to purchase overseas players. At that time for City and United in football, read HKR and Hull FC in Rugby League.
Hull FC bought themselves almost a new threequarter line in the shape of Kemble, O`Hara and the first Leuluai. Hull KR got themselves a player called Gary Prohm. I`m sure that I saw Prohm play every position in the team except open or blind-side prop. It was as if he turned up on a Sunday afternoon and whatever shirt was left on the peg would be the position he would play. Is Pablo Zabaleta not like that? Last night he featured on the left of the back three. Over the course of the pre-season he has played in all three positions and I think has featured in midfield too. What a magnificent professional football he is. I don`t think the Premier League boasts another quite like him.
Razak is coming along in leaps and bounds and may be the key in midfield if he get enough game time under his belt in things like the Capital One Cup and possibly the FA Cup, too. We know only too well what we get from Yaya and de Jong, but we also know we are not getting enough from Johnson and last night was probably not too different for him.
Yes he was asked to play more or less as a wing back, which to an extent keeps him on a leash, but he did not open too many doors either for the team or himself as this match progresses. Conversely Yaya looks to be back to his injury-free best destroying and creating in equal proportions.
With 75 minutes on the clock de Jong took a back seat and Dzeko entered to great applause from the home fans. Sadly for him he hardly saw the ball and could not find himself a goal in the stadium where he once scored more or less every time he got the ball in the penalty area.
And did Mancini really bring on Santa Cruz? What`s that all about? Maybe to put him in the German shop window. I believe he once played there and actually did things like score goals and look pretty.
We still haven`t seen Silva and Balotelli and next week the show goes to Villa Park for the Community Shield opener against Chelsea. After that it`s back to the business of the Premier League. It didn`t stay away long did it?