Risk free football

One aspect of the performances so far this season that I touched upon in the wake of the victory at Wigan was how impressive the teams defensive performances have been this season; something that Kolo Toure has been talking about:

"The defenders are doing well but we are also defending well as a team. We don't concede many goals because we are really tight as a unit and work really hard for each other. We hope we can keep going like this. 

"He (Mancini) wants us to work really hard on it every day because when you defend well, it gives you the chance to win games."

The key to this has been the ability to successfully play 'risk free' football; essentially denying your opponents space to create which takes the pressure of the defence. 

This is where the midfield three becomes so important. The primary focus is on retention of possession. Of course Nigel de Jong is a holding midfielder in the truest sense of the word and acts as a screen or shield to Kolo Toure and Vincent Kompany, but he is able to hold the ball well and his distribution is excellent.

With Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry alongside him are two players who do not panic in possession, retain the ball well and consistently make the right choices. With passing completion statistics regularly over 95% (and right across midfield), this benefits the side twofold - firstly to deny the opposition opportunities to create, but also to allow the creative aspects in the side the ability to themselves create.

The win over Wigan produced a performance that was almost textbook in its execution. Gung-ho and swashbuckling it may not have been, but effective it certainly was, and it is also the mandate that Mancini has laid down to the squad; an approach that appears to  be being bought into by the squad as a whole - something Mark Hughes never fully achieved.

As professional as the performance against Wigan was, Chelsea this coming weekend will be an entirely different proposition. I have no doubt that Mancini will set up again with the intention to not get beat first and foremost, trusting the likes of Tevez, Silva, Johnson et al to deliver. 

It is easy to dismiss Chelsea's start as a soft one, but they do possess an imposing attacking presence that often starts with their midfield. It should be a fascinating battle in the midfield area and it will interesting to see how successful Mancini's 'risk free' approach will be.

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