Manchester City are surprisingly struggling for form, after dominating in pre-season. What's the difference?
Apart from the intensity of games, quality of opposition, one thing is worth noting. The formation Manchester City are using.
Roberto Mancini decided to deviate from his tried and tested four at the back which won the club the Premier League to experiment during pre-season, and it worked well by and large, with a highlight the clinical 2-0 win over Arsenal.
City lined up in the Community Shield with three at the back against Chelsea, but struggled at first, with Fernando Torres scoring an early goal and the now departed Stefan Savic having a bad time of it. They rallied to win 3-2 and win the trophy, but then Roberto Mancini lost his nerve.
Worried by the two goals conceded, he reverted to a simple four at the back when Southampton visited in the Premier League for their opening game. Perhaps he didn't lose his nerve, perhaps he never really intended to stick with it anyway, and it really was just a pre-season experiment.
So what would have happened had he stuck with it?
Imagine this nightmare scenario; conceding two against Southampton, three in their opening Champions League game, failing to keep a clean sheet in their opening eight games in all competitions, and letting in four at home to Aston Villa.
No bad dream, this is reality, and it has all happened with four at the back.
Could it possibly have been worse playing a 3-5-2?
Is Mancini paying the price for playing one system in pre-season and another when it comes to the season proper? Perhaps, it seems more as though City are simply out of form, and can't shake it, but the League Cup result really was one which was most unexpected, just ask Villa fans.
There are clearly problems in the midfield area, and the over-rotation of defensive partners for Vincent Kompany, and Mancini is not a happy man, as seen with his constant sniping at the club's summer transfer policy.
It's doubtful he will go back to 3-5-2 and confuse the situation even further, but the longer the club go without keeping a clean sheet, he may just be tempted.
Should Mancini have persisted with 3-5-2? What do you think?
image: © Alfonso Jimenez