Furthermore, their five fixtures against their direct rivals at the top of the table has yielded just one goal and six points. An early season victory over Chelsea notwithstanding, the initiative has been conceded against Arsenal twice, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Just as it looked like the Blues were finally beginning to cast free the shackles and attack teams in a manner befitting of their riches they retreated into their shells against Arsenal- that they emerged with a point was neither here nor there. The wider football public demanded more. Why spend over £350m assembling the most expensive squad in history only for it to cower meekly in its defensive third for 90 minutes?
Finally Roberto Mancini believes he has found the solution. With 66 goals from 111 games in a Wolfsburg shirt, Edin Dzeko arrives with a goalscoring record to justify the princely sum of £27m. A tall, rangy target man with a subtle touch befitting of his Bosnian background, he brings stealth, mobility and a potent threat to City’s attack which has for far too long relied solely on Carlos Tevez for goals.
Mancini has been reluctant to deviate from a standard 4-3-3 this season. In itself this promises goals – after all Arsenal, Chelsea and Barcelona all play variants of the formation. The problem under Mancini is that all too often the wide ‘forwards’ have offered little in terms of support to Tevez. Intentional or not – the innate caution of City’s approach against the more illustrious teams they have faced this season suggests that it is – their set up resembles the 4-5-1 in vogue amongst the Premier League stragglers half way through the previous decade. City were simply unbalanced, inhibited by playing seven, sometimes eight, naturally defensive players.
Dzeko could be the man who finally sheds City’s negativity. Dzeko’s more aesthetic qualities, not to mention his aerial presence, will compliment the mobility of Tevez. Like Tevez and Balotelli, with whom he will compete for first-team football immediately, he is versatile enough to be comfortable receiving the ball with his back to goal, to feet or in the air. He is skilful enough to cause as many problems cutting in from the flanks as he is receiving the ball in front of goal.
More importantly perhaps, his height must also compel City to attack with greater purpose down the flanks. In patches we have seen Aleksandar Kolarov and Micah Richards supplement the attack, but not often enough. His arrival could also coerce Mancini to play with orthodox wingers, rather than inverted inside-forwards as has been his policy for the majority of the season. David Silva, Adam Johnson and James Milner, wonderful crossers all three, must relish their assist tallies going through the roof.
Dzeko is therefore something more than just another big money buy. He offers Mancini the chance to change his and City’s mentality. If the Italian manager grasps the chance to attack – for he now surely has the players to do so (as if he did not before) – he possesses a squad capable of winning the league. His promises are encouraging. Whether he will have the courage of his convictions remains to be seen.