Attack is the best form of defence?


The comeback victory against Watford poses a couple of questions. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog called “Are City as good without the Super Eight?” and the first half struggles against the Hornets, made me ask myself that question again.

I accept that there can be debate about who the Super Eight are, and it will always be changing, but it’s the concept I’m talking about here.

Of the eight I identified in that piece, only Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero started against Watford, with Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta coming on at half time and making a huge difference.

There is another question too, about style. Manuel Pellegrini has been asked questions recently about the difference between the Mancini days, and his. He hasn’t given away much in his answers, but there’s enough in his words (and his actions) to reveal that his philosophy is that “attack is the best form of defence”.

In my opinion, and that’s all it is, “my opinion”,City look more vulnerable defensively, when they’re not attacking constantly, a bit like the great Barcelona team under Pep Guardiola. The experts used to say that Barca were vulnerable defensively, and of course they were. Puyol and Alves, for example, are not out and out defenders, but then again, when Barca poured forwarded, it didn’t matter.

I believe there are strong similarities with City under Pellegrini.

At half time against Watford, people were suggesting to me that Kolarov was terrible, Demichelis too. Those people were making a clumsy, if valid, point. By the end of the game, with City pressing forward, Kolarov and Demichelis played better, and City’s defensive weaknesses no longer mattered. Ironically, it was the introduction of two defenders that made the difference, but not just because they improved the defending. Kompany and Zabaleta pushed City forward and increased the tempo.

If you believe in attacking, entertaining football, then your team will be vulnerable defensively, I believe that’s inevitable, though that doesn’t mean a new top class centre back, to add to the mix, wouldn’t improve things.

City’s next two games, at Tottenham and at home to Chelsea, will be fascinating. I’m sure the Blues boss will use as many of his “super eight” as he can, in both games, but will be play just Aguero up top with Silva in the “hole”, against Spurs, allowing a doubling up of Clichy and Kolarov on the left, and effectively an extra man in midfield? Against Chelsea, who generally play more narrowly, will he take that risk of conceding, because his team can score more, with Negredo expected back to partner Aguero by then?

Was the reason Bayern outplayed City at the Etihad simply that they outnumbered the Blues in midfield, or was it that City tried to defend at the back rather that by attacking?

Some fascinating games away, and maybe the answer to that question.

If adjusting midfield is needed in the big games, maybe Stevan Jovetic could yet prove to be the “Ace in the Hole” for Pellegrini, quite literally! His game seems to be as support striker, though of course we’ve not seen enough of him yet to be sure.

I got the opportunity to interview him after the Watford game, he told me, “I had first a calf injury, then I ate something wrong before the Leicester game, and after that injured my quad in training.”

When I told him some fans had questioned if he really wanted to be at City he replied, “I think this club is one of the best five clubs in the World and I’m so happy to be here, and I want to show everyone which player I am”

Until now, City haven’t really had Jovetic’s talents at their disposal, so I’m going to think of him as City’s first January signing.

You can hear the interview with Stevan Jovetic on Blue Tuesday – 6pm 95.1FM (Tuesday of course!) when Peter Barnes will be my studio guest and we’ll be joined by Ian Bishop from the USA, where he’s coaching.

And of course there’ll be full match commentary of City at Spurs on BBC Radio Manchester with Fred Eyre alongside me, on Wednesday.

– Ian Cheeseman