x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Mancini has all the right ingredients at Manchester City

The Italian coach marvels at his attacking players as Wigan are beaten with panache and a Sergio Aguero hat-trick.

Sergio Aguero fires home the first of his hat-trick of goals against Wigan Athletic.
Sergio Aguero fires home the first of his hat-trick of goals against Wigan Athletic.

Manchester City 3 Wigan Athletic 0

MANCHESTER // This is what Abu Dhabi expects of its investment in Manchester City. Victories - a seventh successive Premier League success, matching the club's high watermark in top-tier matches. Sheer attacking elan - David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri all inspiration in a fluid, elusive frontline. Not cleaning up after an error-prone chief executive.

City were so relentlessly inventive in their forward play that Roberto Martinez described his opponents as possessing "the ingredients to achieve anything in world football". While the Wigan Athletic manager bemoaned his team's mental failings he recognised that these days "when you come to places like this you have to be perfect".

It was one of those afternoons in which Mancini could act the perfectionist manager, intermixing praise for players who find "it easy to play football" with admonishment that they required more than an hour to kill the game.

"I think we had 15 chances in the first half and we scored only one goal," said the Italian. "This is a problem, because in football in any minute the game can change. The next time it is better that we close the game in the first half."

Khaldoon Al Mubarak had planned to attend City's entrance to the Champions League stage this Wednesday. Instead the chairman's visit was brought forward following Friday's resignation as chief executive by Garry Cook, who conceded he made an "error of judgement" in mistakenly sending an offensive email to the mother of Nedum Onuoha, the City defender.

Replacing Cook will not be a hurried process. City are drawing up a list of criteria required for an individual whose duties will include heading up huge capital investment in the novel Etihad Campus project alongside their recently rebranded stadium. It is thought unlikely that the successful candidate will come from the Premier League's current executive cadre.

Recruiting footballers has been more enjoyable for City.

Still just into his second season of English football, Silva has completely bypassed the characteristic adaptation period for overseas players. Exceptional since he arrived, the Spanish creator remains on a stellar trajectory. Here, his manager felt comfortable resting Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko with Napoli in mind, yet still received a performance of delightful movement and combinations.

With Aguero and Carlos Tevez dropping deep and wide to increase the fluidity of City's four most forward figures, chances were abundant. In the 13th minute, Tevez picked out Silva in the area, who surveyed his options before threading the ball across it to Aguero. The younger Argentine took one touch to the right then angled a shot back across Ali Al Habsi's bows for the far corner.

On his first start since being stripped of the captaincy, Tevez sequestered the penalty Silva soon won from Adrian Lopez then shot weakly enough to have it parried.

Selecting only the best of the opportunities that followed, Micah Richards clattered Silva's cleverly weighted throughball off the underside of the bar and Vincent Kompany's header was touched onto an upright.

There were, though, still moments of vulnerability. Franco Di Santo clipped wide when allowed one-on-one with Joe Hart, Richards sprinted back to halt another, and Gael Clichy's clumsy cross-field pass set up Hugo Rodallega. As Wigan toyed with home nerves in the second half, Mancini inserted another multimillion signing and received swift dividend.

Nasri had barely exchanged places with Tevez when Silva found him in space 10 yards from the edge of the penalty box. A quick, smart pass to Aguero offered an angle on goal, and he passed the ball beyond Al Hasbi. A few minutes later, it was Silva directly feeding Aguero for another beautifully considered finish.

Mancini granted the striker his standing ovation and allowed the Ivorian teenager Abdul Razak a run in midfield. City supporters did the Poznan then left early to avoid the rush. Hard to imagine their team exiting this title race the same way.

sports@thenational.ae