Five Thoughts: Ajax 3-1 Manchester City

We've had better times. - Mike Hewitt

"For grief is proud, and makes his owner stoop."

(Update below)

The line above is from the Bard and quoted from memory. Unfortunately, I can't remember the play (King John?) and I'm just too depressed to look it up on Google. But a more fitting quote does not come to mind; grief is painfully, tragically proud and it has made our beloved Citizens stoop. Let's deal with it in the five stages, shall we?

Part the First: Denial You'll find no greater defender of Roberto Mancini than I but he flat out panicked in the 60th minute. After the second Ajax goal, Mancini took off Lescott and brought on Kolarov. In and of itself, not a controversial move but the change in formation to a 3-5-2 was disastrous. Mancini appears to be the only man in the known world who doesn't yet recognize that the 3-5-2 is for the birds. Poor Gael Glichy looked like a guy trying to plug a leaky dam with his thumbs. The five midfielders made things crowded for Milner (who played well) and Nasri (who played really well). As a special bonus, it opened things up for a team that loves nothing more than the gift of space (that would be Ajax). The 3-5-2 is our version of the Maginot line and it's long since past time to make it a historical footnote.

Part the Second: Anger Yes, my man YaYa had one of his off games that makes us wonder why he should be called greatest anything but the anger here is reserved for that darling of media and country, Gareth Barry. It's not that he didn't do anything well or was beaten eight ways to Sunday in the midfield--he didn't and he was--it's that his lack of movement and dare I say effort contributed to all three Ajax goals (and damn near a fourth). To wit:

  • 44th minute--Barry is slow tracking back to the box, almost literally watches a cross go by him, gets a great view of Siem DeJong putting it past a helpless Joe Hart.
  • 56 minute--Both Barry and Lescott get beat by the smaller, weaker Moisander on a corner kick. To be fair to both, the bane of all defensive schemes--zonal marking--was being employed but, again, the lack of movement by Barry was alarming.He looked like a guy walking in a swamp.
  • 67th minute--The ball in City's defensive third. The ball on Barry's foot. The ball dispossessed from Barry's foot from behind. Ten seconds later, the ball is in the back of the net.

He had one more howler in minute 70 where he didn't go to ground to stop Sana but it did give him a good view of Joe Hart's miracle save du jour. When he was removed moments later, I just shook my head; I wanted Barry gone at halftime.

Part the Third: Bargaining Stage three of our tour down Grief Street is when one tries to stave off the inevitable by playing word games, usually involving some kind of deal. And sometimes it works. Remember the Arsenal debacle last season? Of course you do; Balotelli's antics, we got outplayed, eight points down with five games left. And after that horror movie of a match, their lowest point of the campaign, Manchester City emerged mentally stronger. I don't think Mancini gets nearly enough credit for pulling a team back from what many thought was the edge of the abyss. They had every reason to dive but they thrived, making the greatest comeback in EPL history. Which is a long way of asking this--what on earth can the man say or do to change our CL fortunes? It's depressing to even think about it. Speaking of which...

Part the Fourth: Depression I'm currently watching the replay of Borussia Dortmund v. Real Madrid. There is no reason for me to believe that we're as good as either side though we appear to be a match talent-wise. We are in danger of getting labeled--rightly so--as a team that can succeed in league but not on the larger stage. Combine that with the fact that we looked like a side in disarray tonight and that we haven't improved on last season's form is seriously depressing.

Part the Fifth: Acceptance There's always Europa League.

UPDATE: In an earlier version of this post, I wrote that the 3-5-2 was "awful" and what I meant to add was "for this team." Comments below rightly state that the 3-5-2 can work; my point is it's not working now for Man City--and hasn't worked previously.

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