Tactics, Not Joe Hart, Are To Blame For Manchester City’s Woes

A simple narrative blaming Joe Hart for Manchester City’s problems has emerged. This one-dimensional analysis ignores the realities of the Blues new style and tactics under Manuel Pellegrini, a system that leaves City open to quick counter attacks by the opposition.  While Hart has had more than his fair share of howlers early this season, the failure of the central midfield, which is often outnumbered in matches (with City playing a 4-2-2-2 versus the opposition’s 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1), has led more directly to the problems Manchester City currently experience than any other factor.

I have previously repeatedly mentioned the naivety and foolishness of allowing Gareth Barry to leave the club on loan and not replacing him with a ball winning midfielder. But it seems even with a Barry type in the side, the Blues would get overrun playing in this current formation.

Roberto Mancini was often criticized for negative tactics that did not have enough width but what has become obvious in City’s away matches in the Premier League, as well as the humbling administered by the European Champions Bayern on Wednesday, is that by playing so open, City is not able to dictate the tempo of play.

Defensive errors by midfielders have become more and more common with City this season. It is not simply Barry’s absence but the inability of Yaya Toure to pick up surging runners into the area or Jesus Navas to close down space when attacking wingers cut inside.

No question exists that Joe Hart has been poor this season. But at times he has saved City, salvaging a point at Stoke in a match the Blues had no business getting a result in. Hart has also had to deal with a largely makeshift center back pairing although the Aston Villa and Bayern defeats exposed City’s regular duo of Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasić.

Pellegrini needs a tactical rethink in the worst way. City has demonstrated a naivety and arrogance in the club’s play away from home during the league campaign.  The Blues brass wants City to play like Barcelona but the realities of English football, where opposition pitches are narrower, weather is not often ideal and competition tends to be stronger, make it an impossible dream. I have been criticized by many City supporters on message boards and Twitter for advocating pragmatism and supporting Roberto Mancini. The club ethos at Manchester City does demand good football, which is why Stuart Pearce was so loathed by many fans during his tenure, but Mancini’s football — while tactical and probing — wasn’t entirely negative.

While the new setup at the club is certainly more progressive in its attacking elements than Mancini’s was, it is not practical in many matches the Blues will face. Thus, Pellegrini needs to seriously contemplate deploying James Milner as central midfielder, working end to end, playing deeper than David Silva or Samir Nasri would. Milner’s tactical discipline and defensive assets would allow Fernandinho and Yaya Toure more freedom to go forward without exposing the back four, as well as giving Jesus Navas a needed reprieve from defending deep as he has failed to do successfully when the opposition attacks down the left-hand side. Milner should replace a striker in the setup, not another midfielder. When playing at home, it can be Edin Dzeko or Alvaro Negredo. When playing away in the Premier League, I would drop Sergio Aguero and play either Dzeko or Negredo up top alone.

Joe Hart has not played well. But Manchester City’s problems run far deeper than the England number one. With a gauntlet of difficult fixtures beginning Saturday versus Everton, Pellegrini will need to figure it out quickly.

16 thoughts on “Tactics, Not Joe Hart, Are To Blame For Manchester City’s Woes”

  1. His article Kartik. I have to say…..I don’t think Hart has been THAT bad. I mean, he’s had a few poor plays, but I visited one site that showed all the Bayern goals as an example of how lousy Hart has been. I guess he COULD have saved one of those, but it isn’t like those goals were his fault.

    When the defense falls apart and top level strikers get shots at you from close, the striker is supposed to score. When the keeper makes the save, that is the remarkable play. I guess the expectation is that a top-notch keeper makes a few of those saves over the year.

    Still….there is NOT much good goalkeeping analysis on the internet. It’s just lazy crap about how “Hart is terrible” or “De Gea needs to come out on crosses” or other pack-mentality mumbo-jumbo….

  2. If only they had Gareth Barry! Ha ha ha, good one! Sorry but I have no sympathy for the mercenaries. Maybe they should buy some tactics to go with their expensively assembled squad.

    Bottom line is is takes several seasons to master the champions league. City have no pedigree in this competition. To expect them to win it this season is foolish. It will take a few more seasons with a settled side for them to a force in Europe. Unfortunately, I expect they’ll change the manager a few more times before they realize this.

    1. Every club in the Prem is full of mercenaries mate and if you can’t see that then you’re following the wrong league.

  3. When a keeper lets in a shot he is supposed to (and usually does) save, then he takes blame for the goal, regardless of how the ball got to him. Let’s not over-analyze it. Even Joe Hart would probably admit he let in two shots he should’ve saved!

  4. Yes not even Gareth Barry could save these tactics.

    But WHY does Pellegrini continue to beat a dead horse with 2 strikers? And if so, why did they let Tevez go (who hardly plays as a striker unless no other striker starts)?

    Its baffling and frustrating, and the fact that Pellegrini obviously doesnt trust Javi Garcia means we are missing Barry badly.

  5. So much for the tactical genius…lol

    442 4222

    The wrong selection & tactics, the funniest thing was pelligrini saying that wasn’t the performance they give in the BPL..lol yes it is! it’s why you lost to Cardiff and Aston villa and scrapped pts at stoke.

    City result v MUFC, looking at how poor MUFC were at home v west brom means nothing, clearly utd are worse that thought, Asa re city.

    Sure Bayern were good, but pelligrini messed up, look how Jose did v them in the super cup final, no they didn’t win, but they weren’t thrashed 1-0 with 10 men isn’t convincing.

    City are poorer and pelligrini arrogance towards the BPL is at fault IMO.

    1 Manchester club in the top four only, perhaps city will shade it.

    Both Manchester clubs thus far look shadows of their former selves

  6. Glad to see someone else has recognised that Hart is receiving far too much proportion of the blame for City’s poor performances this season. Has he been at fault at times? Yes. As many times as his critics have claimed? Not even slightly. Good keeper, getting to grips with a shifting back four (which should stabilise if Kompany and Nastasic stay fit) and a new tactical system.

    Both City and United will need time to adjust to their new managers, squads and styles of play. The freak results which have happened so far this season will be ironed out more and more as time goes on and after January I suspect they will both be at full force again. It’s not as if either of them have a divine right to win the title anyway, their aims will most likely be top four. Whoever misses out – whether it’s a Manchester club or someone else of the top five – will be less than thrilled with their financial situation.

  7. Yes the tactics were terrible, non-existent even but it’s not the tactics that keep getting beat on the near post though is it

  8. Mancini’s defense first tactics kept Hart safe and protected. I find Pellegrini to be a bit too cavalier in attack and we’ve paid the price for it several times now.

  9. “When playing at home, it can be Edin Dzeko or Alvaro Negredo. When playing away in the Premier League, I would drop Sergio Aguero and play either Dzeko or Negredo up top alone.”
    Er… what? is that drop Aguero for home PL matches and… away PL matches. Meaning never play Aguero in the PL.
    Or does it mean only playing Aguero in away CL matches?
    Either way, it’s moronic.

  10. I think Nasri was something of a problem against Bayern. The amount of long diagonals sent to Rafinha bombing down the right was bothersome, and Clichy was constantly covering at least two men. I like Nasri in games when City control possession, which Pellegrini may have hoped for, but against a five man midfield like Bayern have, I agree City could have benefited from the Mancini style 3 deep midfielders. Not sure if Milner can do the job, since he isn’t really comfortable enough in possession to patrol the middle of the pitch. Hopefully Rodwell will come good…or maybe Razak?

    Looks like Dzeko’s time is running out as Negredo scores every game.

  11. Good try, but no.

    Those two flops on nearpost, unforgiveable for a supposedly-top class GK.

    Why are we afraid to assign blame where it lies? Ferguson wasn’t afraid to run Fabian Barthez out of town for similar mental lapses.

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