Manchester City: What is Mancini's strongest starting XI?
Manchester City start their defence of the Premier League title this afternoon with a home fixture against newly promoted Southampton. Roberto Mancini has been quiet in the transfer window so far but the Italian has a wealth of talent to choose from. However, what is Mancini's strongest starting XI?
This is how my team would line up.
Mancini has employed a change in the back from a four man defensive to a trio in pre-season and most recently in the Community Shield and it has been reported that he is keen to employ it come Premier League opening day and beyond.
Joe Hart (GK)
The two-time Golden Glove winner is an absolute shoe-in. He is the first name on the team sheet. The England goal is by leagues the shot stopper of choice, both for club and country, and he looks to hold this position for a long time yet.
Micah Richards (RB)
He will be used this season interchangeably with Pablo Zabaleta, as he has been in years prior, but Mancini is showing greater confidence in Richards in the bigger games with his barnstorming runs down the wing and his brute strength. Zabaleta will still be preferred when facing teams with fast wingers, such as Tottenham’s Gareth Bale, but Richards will be the main stay at right back.
BREAKING NEWS: Micah Richards out for 10 weeks – expect Zabaleta to take his place.
Vincent Kompany (CB)
The captain. The terrace favourite. One of the best pieces of transfer window dealings the Premier League has ever seen. The man bought for a measly £6 million from Hamburg has been a Godsend and one of the reasons City are where they are today. Expect him to keep this position for years to come too. Joleon Lescott's role now becomes tricky as the talented centre back who paired so well with Kompany may not see as many chances under the new formation, considering that Kompany is a 90-minute man.
Gael Clichy (LB)
The Frenchman has really grown in recent times, ousting Alexander Kolarov from the left back job despite his iron boot and quick pace. This season however sees a formation that suits them both as Kolarov advances to a wing-back style position on the left of midfield.
Yaya Toure (CDM)
The big Ivorian has scored so many of City’s crucial goals and is another main stay in the line up. Mancini will look to him, as he always has, to advance forward into a CAM position when City need a goal and then retreat when they are safe. Expect a bit of competition for his place between Barry and Rodwell later in the season.
Alexander Kolarov (LM/LWB)
While Kolarov needs to improve on his defending, he now has a greater chance of a regular team spot as he looks to be the ideal wing back in a high position (ala Gareth Bale) under the new formation with James Milner complementing him on the other flank.
David Silva (CAM)
The Spaniard they call “Merlin” topped the Premier League's assists table last season (17) and is crucial once again to their attacking plays. His game won’t need to change much to accommodate the new formation but it will be a breath of fresh air for him to have greater width to play with.
Samir Nasri (CAM)
For me it seems more appealing to leave David Silva at CAM to make the plays and to bring in Gareth Barry alongside Yaya Toure to protect the back three. Mancini, however, is a big fan of the Frenchman and will deploy him in a lethal pairing with Silva.
James Milner (RM/RWB)
Milner is a strong defensive workhorse with a good cross and he will be the ideal wing-side player to operate in this new formation, as he showed in the Community Shield. While I’m a long time admirer of Adam “Magic” Johnson (okay, so I gave him that nickname), Milner is the safer option that Mancini will go to.
Sergio Aguero (ST)
The man that won the Premiership, forever ingrained into City history, is back better than ever and with no Robin Van Persie to steal his place he will be a shoe-in beside his Argentine team mate Carlos Tevez in one of the Premier League's most dangerous attacking pairings.
Carlos Tevez (ST)
While the risk of Tevez choosing flight over fight has always been strong, the man with the “bulldog like approach” (as Fifa 11 likes to remind us every game) seems to have calmed down and will one of his best seasons yet.
BENCH: Adam Johnson, Joleon Lescott, Jack Rodwell, Edin Dzeko, Mario Ballotelli, Stefan Savic and Costel Pantimillion.
Calling all Manchester City fans: Do you agree with Venz's assessment? Would you have Barry in your starting XI? What about Adam Johnson or Super Mario Balotelli? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.
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