Mancini: 'When your rivals play better than you, you defend. This is football'

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The Independent Football

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was as defensive as his team had been after they were booed off the pitch by Arsenal fans who were angry at their negative tactics.

The Emirates supporters jeered City's expensively compiled team that kept 10 men behind the ball for much of the game, shouting, "Boring, boring City."

Mancini made no apologies for his tactics and said the criticism does not bother him one bit. Mancini said: "It is not important. I prefer to think about the point. When you play Arsenal and if Arsenal play better than you, then you must defend. This is football. Not every team can play like Arsenal."

City captain Kolo Touré claimed the team could take pride from their defensive performance. He said: "It is very important to be a good team defensively. Strikers win you games, defenders win you titles. It is a good point for City."

City's negative approach involved a five-man midfield based around three defensive players – Yaya Touré, Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry – anchoring the centre of midfield. Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger said he was not surprised by their spoiling tactics.

"They came for a 0-0 and they got what they wanted," Wenger said. "We played for long periods against 10 men. And also Carlos Tevez, I've never seen him play so deep. I wasn't surprised, they came here last year set up to play for a 0-0. The regret I had was that we didn't take our early chances. An early goal would have changed the game."

Mancini was accosted at the final whistle by Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas and the pair were locked in heated discussion as they left the pitch. The incident had echoes of Fabregas's clash with Mark Hughes in 2007 when he berated the former Blackburn Rovers manager for his negative tactics after an FA Cup tie.

Mancini claimed the two were discussing the red cards handed out by referee Mike Jones to Arsenal's Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta of Manchester City, who were dismissed for head-butting each other. Both players were shown straight red cards and potentially face three-match bans.

City's time-wasting tactics also annoyed Wenger – and the club's tannoy announcer who ridiculed the amount of time it took City's Jo to leave the pitch when he was subbed in the 65th minute, saying: "Jo ... eventually being replaced by Adam Johnson."

Wenger said City's time-wasting was indicative of their lack of ambition. "That was frustrating and it that showed that they were happy with a 0-0," he said.

City goalkeeper Joe Hart admitted: "I was very happy to get to 10 minutes without conceding. We lived a charmed life. After 20 minutes, we restricted them to shots from distance."

The draw means both City and Arsenal lose ground on leaders Manchester United, and Wenger admitted his team were "very disappointed" in the dressing room afterwards. However he said the players, who once again played superbly without finding the cutting edge, should take heart from their display.

"I feel we had the performance but not the result," the Frenchman said. "But I take a lot of encouragement even if mathematically we are all frustrated and the players are disappointed. There is no way we should lose courage or belief in our team. We should come out with more belief in our quality and be more resolute because we have shown we have what it takes to compete in the title race.

"I believe my team gets stronger and stronger. We try to win our games always. Maybe it was their way to try to win, to defend deep and catch us on the break. We have to respect that and sort out the problems we face. Even if a team defends deep we have to find a way to score."

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