Heavy lies the head that wears the crown.
That's my ultimate takeaway after twice watching a vastly improved West Ham United defeat Manchester City 2-1 yesterday. When I first saw the match live, I could have written off four players and one manager. But the second viewing? Rather than see a team in disarray, I just saw a side desperately unlucky. Sergio Aguero hit the crossbar on a shot that ninety times out of a hundred goes in (that ratio might be low). Yaya Toure--showing serious signs of last season's form--hit the post. City had other close calls in front of West Ham's net. If just one more ball hits the back of West Ham's net and we add that to David Silva's goal of the year nominee, we get a point at least. So in assessing City's performance in the loss and assessing the team as a whole to this point, I'm still a glass half-full kind of guy.
That doesn't mean we don't have problems. To wit:
Part the First: Fernando
He's second string after that performance. Solid for the first twenty minutes and all but disappeared afterward. Look, Alex Song is a fine player but he's not as good as he showed yesterday. He was helped in part by Martin Atkinson allowing Song the leeway one normally gives a light-rail train and he was helped by his opposite number playing so passively, it was as if he wasn't there. Until he got subbed out, I forgot he was on the pitch. His almost literal absence put enormous strain on the back line and it showed. Frankly, if Fernando played with Song's aggression--and I honestly expected he would at some point--City would've been much better off. The Yaya/Fernandinho midfield was the best in the Prem last season; time for a reunion.
Part the Second: Dzeko
City's second most criticized player in pubs and online (an honor he held until Yaya Toure too it over this season) did not play horribly, though he did show his patented iron touch on two occasions. It's just he suffered so much in comparison to the wonderfully active Stevan Jovetic. Additionally, Jovetic is much more capable playing behind a striker, almost as a center forward. Unlike Fernando, one couldn't help but notice Jovetic the moment he came into the game; he makes things happen whereas Dzeko tends to have things happen to him--like too many touches leading to steals (lord, but that's infuriating). For the derby next weekend, we either need to go to one-striker formation or pair up Aguero with Jovetic; it's time.
Part the Third: On the subject of formations
I wrote above City was more unlucky than bad against West Ham. That said, it's hardly coincidence we played our best football in a one-striker system after Dzeko got subbed off. It was essentially a 4-2-3-1; attacking mids were Jovetic, Silva and Jesus Navas with Toure and James Milner in the center. City's next must-win league match will always be their next one from now to the end of the season. Manuel Pellegrini can no longer afford to use a two striker system if it's not working. It didn't work against Roma, it didn't hold the lead against CSKA and it didn't get the desired result against West Ham. The last time he used a one striker formation was the 4-1 victory over Spurs. It's time to try it more often.
Part the Fourth: So what do we do now?
We trust the manager and the players to work it out. What else is there to do? It's possible we don't win the league this season. It's quite possible we crap out in Champions League group play. There is a distinct possibility we win zero trophies (the FA Cup and especially the Cap One can be crapshoots). But thus far, no player is moaning about playing time or being disrespected--recall we heard a lot of grumblings about the last guy, so much so he was fired before a championship match. I don't see that happening with Pellegrini now and honestly, I'll be shocked if it happens this season at all. I honestly think we'll win at least one trophy and perhaps two. I'm not sure if there is a quick fix but I am sure--for now--that we have the right man to figure it out.
Part the Fifth: Poll!
You know what to do.