Along with the recent dip in form at Manchester City has come an unrest amongst the fans who have began to question as to why virtually the same team as the one that began the season so brightly currently appears to lack energy, creativity and flare. It seems as though one way or the other, the reasoning’s all revolve around the central midfield, the common consensus being that Mancini has brought with him the Italian obsession of defensive midfielders, breaking the link between the midfield and attack.
Take into account though that City have a positive goal difference of fifteen, scoring a total of forty eight goals and at the present time lying in fourth place in the Premier League and the argument seems to take a significant dent as a whole, but perhaps the problem is in the individuals. Gareth Barry, City’s summer signing from Aston Villa has not yet proved to be the box-to-box midfielder that his C.V may have suggested, although he has displayed a superb range of passing and the ability to dictate a game’s tempo. Lacking in pace, he perhaps is most destructive as a deep lying play-maker, similar to the role he adopts for his national side.
Patrick Vieira, recently signing from Serie A, still has to prove he has the ‘legs’ for the Premier League and is able to cope with the pace that demands such high fitness levels. Judging by his performances so far and the unnecessary lash out at Glen Whelan on Tuesday night, he still has a lot to prove to the City faithful. At six foot four he offers height and strength that potentially could bolster the midfield and if he is ninety percent of the player he was at Arsenal, then there is no reason as to why City’s midfield should lack an attacking side in the future. Complementing Barry and Vieira has been the Dutchman Nigel de Jong, a small but menacing holding midfield player, who’s job it is to break up opposition attacks and supply the flair players – the likes of Bellamy, Wright-Phillips and Tevez. Many state that he has been one of Manchester City’s most influential players this season, but often goes unnoticed patrolling in front of the back four.
This leaves Stephen Ireland, who undoubtedly was City’s star player last season, netting thirteen goals and picking up the Greater Manchester player of the year award. Unfortunately for the young Irishman, his performances this season have been short of average, not being helped with niggling injuries forcing him to miss sections of the season. Clearly, City miss his hunger to attack and his astonishing but still under-rated work ethic and creative instincts that formed him into one of the league’s best players last season.
Ireland appears to be the missing piece to the puzzle, someone who can play between the defensive midfielder/s and the strikers and with the likes of Barry and de Jong assisting him, it can only be a matter of time before the man from Cork finds his form once again.