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 Lescott was withdrawn.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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition