Five Thoughts: Man City 1-1 Real Madrid

There's always Europa League - Michael Regan

Mancini's in "T", YaYa on "E" and The Best Game Thread in B&B History

Part the First: Shameless Game Thread Promotion Seriously, why are you not participating in this? All that was missing was Shudder's analysis (I'd pay money to see Shudder and this guy have a conversation about our boys in blue. Hell, I'd set up a podcast) and Lowell? Always welcome. I mean, that was fun. It all started when Sonics posted this graphic which of course led to the kind of hand-wringing we City fans are known for. How great would it have been to be in the meeting where Roberto probably said, "You know what? I know people hate the 3-5-2 and my own players hate it but it can work! Imagine the looks on those Real Madrid players faces when they have all that space on the wings. In fact, I'm going to put Kolarov on one wing and Maicon on the other with Nastasic as the LB because how fast can Real Madrid be, really?" I mean, sweet weeping baby raptor Jesus on the cross, what was that? The one Real Madrid goal was such a microcosm of all things wrong with the City defense this season. And I know defense has been good but, dammit, I want great. And we did three things on that play that great teams don't do:

  1. Great teams don't allow uncontested crosses, they close out. The only reason why Kolarov backed off Di Maria (who is diving scum, for the record) is because he was worried Di Maria might go around him. And Aleksi? Di Maria is left-footed so, yeah, you might want to cheat on that side.
  2. Great Teams don't ball watch they are intensely aware of the attacking player in their area. I praise Maicon in the last Five Thoughts and one game later, he's rolling out the red carpet to Karim Benzema because it's not like he's dangerous or anything. And finally...
  3. Great Teams don't keep dangerous players onside and was it only a year ago that Vincent Kompany was a player of the year candidate? Last season, he rarely made mistakes (honestly, I can't think of any he made). This season? Well, perhaps he had better chemistry with Lescott, Richards, et. al. but he was the only reason Benzema was onside. Again, last season, one of the many things Kompany did well was he had this intense awareness of who was onside. He was great--last season. Now? He's just another really good defender instead of a great one.

Part the Second: Let's all Sing the Edin Dzeko Song but sing it like we're wailing. Balotelli? You just moved up the depth chart. And speaking of which, Tevez should have started. I mean, c'mon. If you're going to roll the dice with a 3-5-2 and have YaYa be your only central mid and send Nasri and Silva forward along with the fullbacks, then you're playing for speed and footwork which, respectfully, are two things Edin Dzeko does not have in abundance. He didn't light up the game as a sub but Tevez really should have started and Dzeko could not have looked worse in this game if he tried.

Part the Third: Every Man has his Limits and I wonder what YaYa's are? In Shudder's 10 points, one of the subjects was injuries and I commented that we are rolling the dice with YaYa. Dan the Man had this response:

From what I understand – and this is without being in the inner sanctum at a club – one of the key areas of analytics clubs are looking at is injury prevention, to assist with team selection/rotation so you can pull players out for certain games where it appears the likelihood of injury is increased for whatever reason.

Given the set up at City you can bet they will be at the forefront of it.

All well and good, boss, all well and good. My impression of Man City is of a club that is very much into analytics which is, of course, a good thing. My impression is that the investment in injury analytics is a huge reason for City's success. And my impression is that with YaYa, Mancini takes those analytics and sets fire to them. My impression is YaYa doesn’t like coming out of games and Mancini is loathe to take him out. You see Silva coming out, Aguero after putting in enough mileage to cover a small state, Tevez gets relieved… but not YaYa. The numbers are wince-inducing: according to this, only two Citizens have played over 1000 league minutes this season—Joe Hart and YaYa with 1080 each which is every single minute. Tevez and Kompany have logged 900+ minutes each, Glichy just under 800 and Nasri just a hair over 700. So YaYa Toure has logged four full games more than the next City midfielder. In the EPL, only a few players have logged over a thousand and only one other midfielder has played every minute—Liverpool’s Joe Allen. I write this with all due respect to Joe, but I think YaYa is taking more punishment on the pitch. Further, these numbers do not include UCL minutes, in which YaYa has played--wait for it--every single minute.

It's not how many minutes you play. It's how many minutes you play when tired. That's when injuries occur. Playing YaYa Toure, arguably our most irreplaceable player (again, see here for reasons why), is an awful gamble.

Part the Fourth: Mancini in Trouble according to everyone not associated with City. No one associated with City--fans, players and management--has called for Mancini's head. I have to read of a player crying out for better leadership (hell, you rarely hear of players complaining) and I have yet to read of the dreaded vote of confidence from management. So where is all this talk? Damn near everywhere else. You can find it on the Fox Soccer shows (Warren Barton hates Mancini with the heat of a nova), you can find it on SB Nation, you can find it on other team's chatboards and columns across varied lands but not here and not within the walls of the Etihad.

But.

How unfair is this comment from Mourinho?

"It is incredible when you look at the array of players they have got that they have been eliminated in the group stages two years running... In this group we knew from the beginning a big team [would go] out and it is good it is City because Roberto can work without any problem. If it was Real, the press wouldn't let me return to Madrid."

It should be noted that Mourinho reportedly called on fans to support Mancini (which they did, in full-throated song at full-time) but this all begs a question: at what point should Mancini be in trouble? Which brings us to...

Part the Fifth: Poll!

Y'all know what to do.

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