Has Mancini’s three at the back ever been a good idea?

Manchester City Etihad

Roberto Mancini’s decision to use three at the back for Manchester City this season has not always been the best idea.

For some reason Roberto Mancini has switched to using just three players at the back of the Manchester City side this season, which has not always been his best tactical idea.

The theory is great; completely crowd out the opposition in the middle, dominate the ball and pile on the pressure to create chances and score the goals which will win the vital games.

However, there is a real question over whether City are a sophisticated enough side for this tactic to work because it places a hell of a lot of pressure on the wide players in the team who effectively become wing backs at a moment’s notice.

It also creates a lot of space down the sides of the City team which experienced sides will wait for and exploit. It’s a tactic which leaves the defence exposed to the counter attack, which is the exact way many sides play in any game against the club.

The Champions League has been the perfect example of why three at the back has not worked for the club. Ajax and Borussia Dortmund in particular exploited this system perfectly.

Dortmund showed the exact way to play against such a system in the match at the Etihad Stadium when Mancini went to three at the back as he chased the game. Dortmund simply picked off the attack of the side, waited for the space and utilised it when they had the ball.

Some of City’s best performances this season have come when the side has had a solid back four, which gives the side a basic strength that goes through the midfield and up to the strikers.

The club are very fortunate to have aggressive and attacking full backs in Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov who are suited to playing as makeshift wing backs but this is not their best use or position.

They are at their best as cast iron modern full backs who just get up and down the wing well doing the basics of defence and attack and not having to worry about a duel-midfield role.

Three at the back does have a good use but only in certain situations such as when City are playing against a side that have just had a player sent off, or when they are playing a side that have obviously just come to park the bus, with no real intention of attacking and getting forward.

City fans, are you happy with three at the back?

image: © geetarchurchy

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