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2009/10 squad review - defence

All told, there were eleven different players used in defence over the course of the season, which unsusprisingly gave the back line a rather unsettled look to it at times.

Whilst the area is by no means light in terms of options across the back four, there is a feeling that it does perhaps lack a touch of quality, a real stand out presence and no doubt this is an area that Roberto Mancini will be particularly targetting over the course of the summer.

Despite the form of Nedum Onouha in the centre of defence over the latter half of 2008/09, Mark Hughes chose to spend big ahead of the season. Kolo Toure arrived from Arsenal and the protracted transfer of Joleon Lescott was finally completed a couple of games into the campaign, rendering club captain and stalwart Richard Dunne expendable and able to move on to Aston Villa.

Big money spent, big expectations. Inevitably there were teething problems as Toure and Lescott struggled to gel as a pairing. There were a number of games towards the end of 2009 (Burnley, Bolton, Hull stand out in particular) where a porous defence cost what would prove to be crucial points. Mancini's arrival tightened things at the back (if it did mean sacrificing some of the more attacking intent) and the total of forty-five goals conceded was amongst the top third in terms of defensive performance.

Injuries of course didn't help and the central pairing saw plenty of rotation. Toure and Lescott in particular all suffered spells on the sidelines through injury and international commitments, and the most consistent defender during 2009/10 was surely Vincent Kompany - ignored by Mark Hughes but he surely would have been a genuine player of the candidate had he been on the field for the whole season. Statistically, the partnership of Kompany and Toure was the best over the course of the season, yet - and despite a returning Lescott - it is an area that Mancini would likely strengthen if he could land a truly world class player. However, they are not easy to get hold of and it may be that Mancini stands pat. Young Dedryck Boyata stepped in during the season for some crucial games and didn't look out of his depth. One definitely for the future.

Whilst the central area is good enough to not necessaarily warrant strengthening, the full back areas are a concern. On the left hand side, Sylvinho and Javi Garrido are both little more than back-up's and likely on their way, whilst (although hampered by injury) of more concern, Wayne Bridge hasn't overly shone for the most part. It must be a concern for him that this constantly appears to be a target area of Mancini's.

On the right hand side, Micah Richards development stalled once again and he is now third in line behind Nedum Onouha - again showing touches of real class but failing to consistently earn selection - and Pablo Zabaleta, who split his time between defence and midfield and has the characteristics and attributes that Mancini adores.

It is difficult to know exactly where Mancini will go in this area. Defenders - particularly full backs - are not the 'sexy' recruits that press and fans love to be associated with but it is clear that there is room for improvement and far too often lapses in concentration at the back have been the reason for goals being conceded.

There is though, you feel, enough to suggest that it is a unit that has enough quality for Mancini to work with and can improve tactically which is an important and often overlooked facet so don't expect to many changes in personnel this summer.