SWANSEA, WALES - MARCH 11: Sergio Aguero of Manchester City is dejected after Luke Moore of Swansea City scores during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Manchester City at the Liberty Stadium on March 11, 2012 in Swansea, United Kingdom. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
What a frustrating match. It was painful at times to sit through the first half, watching Swansea totally outplay City while setting up a penalty kick that Scott Sinclair should have converted to reward his team's efforts to that point. It took City 40 minutes to wake up and start playing the style of football we have become accustomed to seeing the side play, and even that took a jolt from an uncommon first half substitution from Mancini. The first half lacked organization and energy, as City sat three (Barry, de Jong, Toure) deep in the middle of the field, allowing Swansea plenty of space to attack and there always seemed to be someone open in a white shirt. When City did get the ball, poor movement and passing bogged down each attack, often leaving Balotelli with nothing to do but run around aimlessly trying to fashion out a chance.
City's passing accuracy was a mere 82%, a number which, while I don't have all the data in front of me, I'd like to say is the lowest mark of the season. The biggest culprit was surprisingly David Silva. Other than Stefan Savic (72%), Silva posted City's lowest number of all, completing just 73% of his passes before being substituted late for Edin Dzeko. When Silva doesn't play well, City don't play well, plain and simple. If City are to win the title, they will need to get back to having the lethal attack they had at the beginning of the season, which was largely built off of Silva's magical play. Are Premier League defenses starting to find a way to stop Silva? While our rivals such as United might like to say so, many of Silva's passes today were simply poor and had less to do with tight marking and more to do with poor judgment. If he tried to play a lobbed through-ball it would have too much power; if he tried to play one of his trademark slips to Aguero or Balotelli into the box it would not have the necessary zip. I'll check it off as an off-day.
Mancini's tactics left much to be desired as well. The match dragged on with Swansea the stronger side throughout most of the affair and it was only a matter of time until they netted the winner. Mancini didn't do enough to turn the match around. Sure, it is easy to sit here afterwards and say that Mancini could have done this or that but it is true that City have not had many game-changing goals in trailing positions this season. Our neighbors have long built a reputation of coming from behind and fighting til the last whistle, something that will take more than a season to enforce at City but something Mancini can help along with substitutions and better tactics late on. City have been pegged back late at Chelsea, Sunderland, and now Swansea. On the flip side, the only late game-changing goal that City have scored was against Spurs a few weeks back. Mancini needs to instill that Ferguson-esque spirit into City. This goes deeper than the 11 on the pitch, it is a mentality the club has to take on at all levels until it permeates all the way through. It will be a slow process, but it needs to start somewhere, and sooner rather than later.
Stefan Savic, Stefan Savic, Stefan Savic. Where do we begin. Behind the scenes for most of the match, the mistake-prone defender once again left his mark on the match in crucial fashion. A poor, weak pass that was stolen by Swansea was converted into a goal 30 seconds later. I've lost track of how many errors Savic has made that has directly effected the outcome of a game. We as fans often get lost in the mistakes a player makes and forget about the bright moments, but with Savic it seems that lapses in concentration have happened time and time again in important moments, suggesting that he might not be ready for this high level of football just yet. It would be ideal if City could send him out on loan during the summer for next season, but are there even going to be many quality suitors who will take him on after his error-filled short career in a City shirt?
United have now leapt ahead of City by 1 point. October was the last time the club was in second, and now the only option is to take care of business and hope United drop some points here and there, which is perfectly capable of happening. On social media sites like Twitter I noticed a fair amount of panic among some pockets of City fans, and sure, we haven't been in this position before and United have the experience needed to see out a campaign like this, but it is imperative that we remind ourselves that it is only March and there are a dozen games to go. Anything can happen. On paper, City should have won today, just like United should have beaten Blackburn at home earlier. This coming stretch might just be Mancini's toughest test as City boss. Next up is Lisbon in the Europa League. It will be interesting to see if Mancini goes for the jugular or opts for a weaker lineup to save bodies for the EPL run-in. Next in the league is Chelsea at home, a match which not only is a must-win, but can also set a new record of 20 consecutive home league wins, a record which United have held at 19 for quite some time. United have a trip to Bilbao followed by an away match at Wolves.