Five things we learnt during Ajax defeat about Manchester City's shortcomings on European stage

 

1. Samir Nasri's technique

There are things you can question about Samir Nasri, but you cannot question his technique. In his Manchester City career, Nasri has produced some good displays and quite a few anonymous ones, But he has barely ever miscontrolled the ball, misplaced a pass or mishit a shot. So it was last night. Nasri played 21 quiet minutes on the right wing before receiving James Milner's pass on the left hand of the box and clipping it perfectly into the far corner. If he could just match his technique with Milner's work ethic, City would have quite a midfielder.

2. It's a team game

If the match just came down to individuals and budgets, City would have won well. But football is a combination game and Ajax's interplay, trust and movement were beyond anything City could muster. Abjuring a conventional No 9, Frank de Boer chose Christian Eriksen, a delightful little inside-forward, to lead the line. Eriksen was supported by Siem de Jong and Lasse Schöne, who exchanged passes and positions with him throughout. With Christian Poulsen passing the ball crisply, Ajax had the system to move the ball quicker than City, despite their deficit on paper, and cut through them at will.

3. Is Joleon Lescott the problem or the solution?

Roberto Mancini has never been keen to play Joleon Lescott in Europe, preferring Matija Nastasic so far this season. Last night Mancini reverted to Lescott, hoping to recreate some of that regular domestic solidity. It did not work. Lescott was part of the back four dragged too deep as City sat on their early lead, allowing Siem de Jong to equalise. When Eriksen swung his second-half corner in, Lescott did not attack it and Niklas Moisander darted in front of him to score. It was an individual error. Lescott was withdrawn.

4. What about the back three?

While there is something to be said for zonal marking, there may not be for 3-5-2. Roberto Mancini's desire this season to use a system which seems to work only in Italy might not have the support of his players. Mancini used it for around 11 minutes last night, deploying Aleksander Kolarov as a left wing-back. Gaël Clichy, though, had to join the back three and did not like it. Eriksen soon shuffled past City's back line and shot, deflecting off Clichy and in for 3-1. Mancini returned to 4-4-2, with Clichy at right-back. Despite being left-footed, Clichy preferred it.

5. Mancini's desperation

For the final 13 minutes City had Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez on the pitch. Even when they were chasing the Premier League title against Queen's Park Rangers in May, they only ever had three of them on the pitch at once. But that was how desperate Roberto Mancini was in the final minutes. Defeat meant City need to win their last three games to have a chance.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants