It is not the first time, and it certainly will not be the last, that Manchester City come under the microscope for their defensive mindset under Roberto Mancini. But do not expect the safety-first approach to change. In the mix for the Premier League title, extending an impressive ratio of 11 clean sheets from 22 games at Arsenal on Wednesday suggests further shut-outs this season could take on vital importance.
The criticism of Mancini, from some quarters, is that he is too negative, his tactics too rigid, and he does not have the flexibility to know when to go for all-out attack. Despite all that money being spent, the likes of struggling Wolves have scored more home goals than Mancini's team. After failing to register a meaningful shot on goal at the home of their title rivals, they were accused of lacking ambition as the Arsenal supporters chanted "Boring, boring City."
But assistant manager Brian Kidd made no apologies for his side getting men behind the ball. "If you speak to anybody in the game, they will tell you keep clean sheets and you have got a great chance," he said. "Make no mistake about it, that was a very good Arsenal side. But we didn't capitulate in the face of their initial onslaught. The lads stuck at it and in the second half we got to grips with it.
"It was a good point earned. After the first 25 minutes if we had got the chance to attack Arsenal we would have done, wouldn't we? But Arsenal had the ascendancy. They played some terrific football, they shifted the ball around and it was lovely to watch. But from our point of view, our resilience was great because we could have gone under. It wasn't dissimilar to a Champions League game where you go away from home and pull a 0-0. It was that type of game. So the solidity we showed and the fight and character was great."
Mancini has lavished millions on strikers but can only find room for one, Carlos Tevez, when it comes to key games. Having learned his trade in Serie A, perhaps it is no surprise that his philosophy is to win games first, and to entertain second.
Yet if City have ambitions of becoming part of the English football elite, as well as earning admiration, then would they have to shake off the shackles? "I don't understand why people keep labelling it 'the Italian way'," said Kidd. "Obviously the boss is Italian. But his philosophy and principles are simple – work hard and look to improve and that's what he has said since he's come to the club.
"The lack of attacking football was not for the want of trying at Arsenal. By no stretch of the imagination, the manager doesn't restrict anybody. He wants people to go forward."Reuse content