Mancini seeking Ajax balance
Roberto Mancini is facing up to one of the biggest headaches of his Manchester City career ahead of the club's do-or-die Champions League clash with Ajax.
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Mancini has already admitted City need "a miracle" to salvage their Group D campaign after taking just one point from their opening three games.
But if God really does help those who help themselves then not even divine intervention will be enough for Mancini's men judging by Saturday night's uninspiring goalless Barclays Premier League draw at West Ham.
And Lady Luck was not exactly smiling on City going into Tuesday's revenge mission against Ajax at the Etihad, with Joleon Lescott and James Milner set to miss out with respective injuries picked up in training and during Saturday's warm-up.
The champions then blew the chance to join Manchester United at the top of the table after failing to score in a game for the first time in seven months.
However, it was no freak result, with City having struck just four times in their previous three games.
Prior to that, their problems were at the other end of the pitch, their defence failing to keep a clean sheet in their opening 10 matches.
After watching his side produce back-to-back shutouts for the first time this season, the City boss admitted the pendulum had swung too far the other way.
"Maybe we conceded a lot of goals when we started the season," he said.
"Now, we've improved our defensive phase but we need to start scoring like last year and I think we need to improve this offensive phase. We need to work for this."
Midfielder Samir Nasri added on the club's official website, www.mcfc.co.uk: "We should have done something better.
"We missed so many chances and when you miss these kinds of chances, you cannot expect to win the game.
"So we have to improve."
City's performances are a far cry from 12 months ago, when they were scoring goals for fun against even their fiercest rivals.
Their cause has not been helped by Mancini's tinkering, which went awry again on Saturday 10 days after his three-at-the-back experiment at the Amsterdam ArenA.
The decision to start with Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli in the same XI for the first time failed just as spectacularly, the latter extending his miserable run in front of goal.
It could have been even worse for the visitors had Kevin Nolan not seen a well-taken early goal controversially ruled out for offside.
"Just a great shame that that technique has got ruled out by an offside that really wasn't an offside," said West Ham boss Sam Allardyce, who was nevertheless content with his side's hard-fought clean sheet.
"Whatever you say about Manchester City, the front four, which all played at some stage - Balotelli, Dzeko, Tevez and Aguero - it's about £150million, isn't it?
"So you're going to have to do some defending at some stage with that amount of quality they've got on the pitch.
"But, in the end, we've done great and I think we've limited Man City to few chances.
"I think we got what we deserved, and that was a point."
Mancini reportedly held talks with eight clubs in the summer.
Asked if he had proven the Italian's equal tactically, Allardyce - who on Friday admitted he had given up on managing one of the top four - said: "Wow! That's a question and a half, isn't it, that one?
"No clubs talked to me in the summer, so what does that mean?
"I'm just glad that I'm back where I've been for a long, long time and I like pitting my wits against every manager in this league.
"It's been a fantastic thrill for me over the last 12 years or so, at Bolton, Blackburn and Newcastle, and here now, to go out in the best league in the world and most entertaining league in the world."
Yet, he could not resist adding that the Hammers' "tactical plan" had "mastered the champions of the Barclays Premier League".