The professional return of Argentinian striker Carlos Tevez to Manchester City this week could certainly mean good news for the club, as their squad strengthens with just 11 games to go in the Premier League. Tevez bagged an early second-half goal from close range for City Reserves, known as the Elite Development Squad (EDS) against Bolton Reserves on Tuesday night in a 3-1 victory that sees the EDS through to the final of the Manchester Senior Cup. But just how practical is the re-emergence of the once prolific striker? And what does it mean for City’s bid for a first ever Premier League title?
Finding the perfect arrangement
The strike force at Eastlands has been subject to much previous scrutiny, what with the somewhat bizarre antics of Mario Balotelli both on and off the field, and debates as to whether Roberto Mancini has really found his perfect line up. Sergio Aguero has been prominent, with 50% more starts that Edin Dzeko in the league, but a similar amount of goals (16 to 13 respectively). Balotelli’s presence has been hampered by petty injury and of course suspension after stamping on England captain Scott Parker. The potential re-introduction of Carlos Tevez adds another dynamic: that of dogged determination, to the silky skills, brute force and inconsistent brilliance already provided by the main three City strikers. But Mancini has to find a way of employing Tevez constructively. No member of City’s strike force can replace another; they all add vital cogs to the machine, and clicking the engine together will be a tricky job. It is worth noting that City’s three main strikers have 40 league goals between them in a combined 47 starts.
From a tactical viewpoint it is perhaps unlikely that Tevez could realistically operate in the same starting lineup as Sergio Aguero, another smaller, nimble centre-forward, both players would likely look to take up similar positions which could make the duo incompatible. In which case we could see it being one of Aguero and Tevez plus either Balotelli or Dzeko. Dzeko probably has the most to lose from Tevez return due to the fact he has found first team starts difficult to come by of late, starting only 2 of City’s last 6 games despite scoring 13 league goals. In this regard the return of Tevez could possibly unbalance a squad that has so far been playing well and finding the back of the net relatively freely.
The next couple of weeks could be the first time that Manchester City can run at full capacity since October, with the Toure brothers, David Pizarro and of course Tevez all seemingly available. Mancini’s tactical rotation system has proved fruitful in the past, especially in mid-field where resources run deep, but its has also been criticised as a front for indecision and a need to please both City’s players and the senior management at Eastlands. Now the same problem may come to light in the strike force, and the relationship between front men and the midfielders is more important than ever. Much as Tevez did with David Silva in the 2010/11 season, Aguero has built a strong tactical bond with the attacking midfield, but the temptation to fit Tevez back into this slot may be too much for Mancini to resist. Where does that leave Aguero? Can the two Argentinians play off each other? There is still the question of Dzeko’s role as more of a traditional striker, and of course how Balotelli’s inconsistent form can fit around the structure. These are all issues that will arise in the coming weeks, as the pressure piles on.
Tevez in context
In a way, Tevez has ‘chosen’ to return at almost the worst possible time in the season for Manchester City. United have shown little intention of slipping up, and when they have, City have been unable to take advantage. A two-point gap continues to be the difference; just one mistake by either club and the title race could be thrown completely on its head. Thus, this is no time for neither Mancini nor Ferguson be to experimenting, especially in City’s case, seeing as they have achieved such a good record with only three appearances from Tevez all season. Some would argue that Tevez should only be included as a last resort, if United take a lead in the Premiership, in order to maintain the balance that has proved successful so far.
If Mancini is to slot Tevez in, he has to be sure of instant success. City’s fixtures include Chelsea at home and Arsenal at the Emirates, as well as of course the Manchester derby at Eastlands on April 30th followed by a trip to St. James Park to face Newcastle. In contrast, the derby is United’s only remaining match against a current top six side, perhaps setting it up to be the most important fixture of this Premier League season. Both Manchester sides are still in the Europa league, but Tevez is not registered to play for City and so there is no chance that Mancini can experiment there. Either way, the Argentinian’s return adds more spice to what will be an increasingly tense finish to the Premier League season. City fans can only hope that their manager confirms his tactical ability and finds a formula that will grant them their first top tier title since 1968.
On the face of it having an extra option in a player like Tevez, City’s top scorer last season, can surely only be a positive thing, especially if they suffer from injuries or any more of Balotelli’s indiscretions. However Mancini will need to find a way to not only balance his four strikers but phase Tevez in to City’s season at a time where he can have the most impact.
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