Why The Absence Of De Rossi, Not Van Persie, Was Key To Man City's Failure This Season

It was always going to be an anti-climax after that moment on the 13th May last year, but even the most pessimistic of City followers would've been hard-pressed to imagine the vapidity with which Manchester City attempted to defend the title.
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It was always going to be an anti-climax after that moment on the 13th May last year, but even the most pessimistic of City followers would've been hard-pressed to imagine the vapidity with which Manchester City attempted to defend the title.

The question is why? Complacency, poor transfer policy, poor form, key injuries, disjointed pre-season?

I don't believe we've had a bad season by any stretch. A bit one dimensional at times, wasteful in front of goal for most of it, and complacent throughout. Other teams seemed to get the measure of us towards the end of last season but we got there, just, in the end.

Mancini's dabbling in a 3-man defence was met with bewilderment by many, but the reasoning behind it was sound enough.  It was the same reason that Pep Guardiola toyed with a similar system while in charge of Barça. Teams, probably more in fear of getting hammered by Barcelona rather than any hope of getting a result, would get 11 behind the ball and make things as tough as possible.   Sides came to our place and sat back, invited us on and got players behind the ball. Sometimes it looked like we could play all day and never score, and the tactical switched seemed to be an evolutionary step in the right direction.

Players were bought for the system - Anyone with half a brain's Young Player of the Year (ok, but at least the shortlist) Matija Nastasić had excelled on the left hand side of a back three for Fiorentina before his move, Maicon has been the best lateral-direito in World football for years and it was clear that Roma midfielder Daniele de Rossi was right up there on the list of Mancini's targets.  Robin Van Persie was clearly another target - Mancini has spoken of it often - but arguably not the season-defining transfer failure.  The players targeted by Mancini (and more often than not denounced as too expensive by then-Director of Football, Brian Marwood) would have allowed City a real fluidity and a seamless switching between formations and shapes rather than squeezing players into unnatural positions on the pitch.

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A multitude of reasons and theories have been put forward as to why City were unable to retain the Premier League title this year; City fans realised fairly quickly that we bought poorly.  The failure to secure one player has been mooted as the reason for the Premier League title making its way across the city, that man being 25-goal Robin van Persie. Hard to argue that isn't the case, with the season unfolding as it has.

However, with the squad City have and with the signing of one player, it could've been very different. That one player isn't van Persie but Daniele de Rossi. The Roma man would've given us that fluency and flexibility of formation to change things mid-game without having to make a substitution. After those early issues with the bedding in of a back three, it was shelved, only brought out intermittently out of desperation. When you're in charge of Manchester City these days, you don't have the luxury of time - especially when you've just won the first league title in 44 years - and Mancini, ever the pragmatist, reverted to the tried and tested 4231. Most were happy to see the back of a shape and system that felt clunky, left us defensively exposed and didn't seem to offer a huge amount going forward.  Instead of Daniele de Rossi, City purchased Javi Garcia from Benfica, a tidy player who started poorly but has made steady progression.  Jack Rodwell came in but can't seem to stay fit - when he has played he's looked fantastic.  Not really sure where to start with Scott Sinclair; it clearly hasn't worked for whatever reason, and he'll be on his way this summer.

The issue with transfers has, seemingly, been resolved. Marwood has been replaced by Txiki Begiristain as Director of Football and the rumour mill has already started to churn ahead of the summer.

While the league was over long before United sealed the points to win it and our European participation was over before it ever really started, we've still got the FA Cup final to look forward to.  If we're able to overcome Wigan at Wembley on Saturday afternoon coupled with a second-place finish in the Premier League, that will have to go down as a good season for us. We've got a fantastic record Wigan them in recent seasons - they've not scored against us in our last seven encounters, all wins for City - but they showed in our last league match that they're exactly the kind of team we struggle against. Largely thanks to the way Roberto Martinez sets up his side with three at the back…