By Kevin Koczwara
Manchester United and Manchester City played to a 0-0 draw in what was hyped as one of the biggest games of the year because of the two teams close proximity and since City’s recent – and seemingly endless – spending spree. Not to mention, Sir Alex Ferguson and his club don’t care much for their “noisy neighbors.”
Roberto Mancini sends his City side out with seven defensive-minded players – four defenders and three holding midfielders– behind the ball and only three – more like two-and-a-half because James Milner is not a pure force on the wing – attacking players with the hopes that Carlos Tevez would be able to wreak havoc on the United defense with his skilled link-up play and ability to win the ball at any time on the field. The substitution of Tevez in the injury time for Emmanuel Adebayor was ludicrous. The £25 million striker was once one of the English Premier League’s most feared strikers when he was leading the charge for Arsenal, now he is a late substitution for Mancini to waste time in a derby he does not want to lose.
In other words, Mancini played not to lose. His side was home, on the brink of implosion and his job was on the line if he lost. He needed a result, any result other than a loss. The substitution of Adebayor to waste time displayed to world the Italian’s fear of losing, and the tactic really pushed home the argument for Mancini’s removal as manager. Mancini’s fear of losing could, and probably will, cost City the coveted Champions League spot the owners and fans so dearly dream of. In the Premier League, team’s need wins, draws won’t get a team to the top.
Ferguson’s United side had its chances, and almost put the game away early. Ferguson’s experience in the Premier League, plus Mancini’s devilish plan to sit back, allowed the Scot to send his troops forward and pin City in. By looking at United center back Nemanja Vidic and City center back Kolo Toure’s passing chalkboards you can see how the two managers approached the game. Each player completed and attempted the same number of passes – 41 attempts and 40 completed. Vidic’s passing chart shows his only missed pass as a long ball over the top of the City defense, something Toure would almost never try under Mancini. Vidic’s passes are higher up on the field and almost all go forward, while Toure’s passes move laterally for the most part.
With all that said, derbies with the build up of the City and United one this week, haven’t been living up to their billing. The battle for Manchester was more like a firework show with a wet wick. There wasn’t even a real bad blood moment to speak of, something most were looking forward to. Fans wanted this match to boil over and become a war of attrition, but it couldn’t.
Early in the week, Roma and Lazio battled for the bragging rights of best in Rome. That match played out better, but it didn’t live up to the high expectations either.
I didn’t expect the game to have much of an attacking flow or any real moments of brilliance – this is Serie A I am speaking of. I was surprised at how many chances both teams enjoyed and wasted, but the game played out much like any other Serie A match, except it had a little extra complaining from players than usual.
Roma won, 2-0, and Lazio fans feel begrudged because Roma scored both its goals from penalty kicks, not from the run of play. In fact, Lazio had the better chances from the run of play, but Roma’s defense held tight and made some remarkable stops. Those chances and stops were the most exciting things to happen as the game really never had a good ebb and flow.
Lazio sits in second in Serie A’s table right now, behind AC Milan by one point. A derby win would have kept the Roman club atop the table, but its crosstown rival spoiled everything. Lazio’s start to the 2010-11 campaign has surprised Italy’s top division, and yet no game was suppose to matter as much as the derby. But, the The Derby della Capitale ended up looking more like any other Serie A game this year.
And too often the local derby has failed to live up the build-up, especially early in the season. Derby’s are scrappy games by nature, and neither side wants to lose, so team’s tend to play conservative. Until these games open up and player and managers alike start going for the win, they will be just another game on the schedule.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.