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Five Aside: Di Maria a skillful crosser

Five Aside 16 hours ago
Read
Aug 26, 2011

Mancini like a kid in a toy shop

ESPN analyst Kevin Keegan is one of English football's most respected figures and he will be writing for ESPNsoccernet throughout the season. As a player, Kevin represented Liverpool with distinction, winning numerous titles in domestic and European football, and was twice named European Footballer of the Year during his time at Hamburg. Kevin has managed England, Newcastle United, Manchester City and Fulham and is one of the most respected voices in the English game.

It's been a great start to the season for Manchester City and Roberto Mancini. They may have lost the Community Shield but they've had a flying start in the Premier League and have been playing really good football. City look a different proposition to last year, when at times they were accused of being a little bit predictable and slow. Now they're moving the ball quicker and playing at a pace that a lot of teams can't live with. City and United aren't at the top just because of their results but because they've played the best football too. City are now playing football that fans like to watch.

• Preview: Tottenham v Man City

Mancini already had talented players like David Silva and Carlos Tevez, but by bringing in the likes of Sergio Aguero and now Samir Nasri he is really committing to playing attacking football. Before he inherited players who were strong but not technically great and inventive; the likes of Nigel De Jong and Gareth Barry are very good in their own right, but they haven't got that magical invention those other four have got.

The minute you get attacking players like that you think 'wow, we can afford to go at teams'. We had that a bit with my Newcastle side. We had enough good ball players that we might not have been the best when we didn't have possession, but we had the ball most of the time and were confident of keeping it. It's like that at City now and I think that's very exciting for their fans; I know, having managed the club, how much they will welcome it. Man City and Newcastle United supporters don't just want to win 1-0, they want to be entertained. I think it's a great switch in approach for City - whether it's by Mancini's design or because of circumstances - and with the players they've got, they can confidently go and out-football most teams now.

The signing of Nasri epitomises the new commitment to attacking football and I think he will fit in well at City. He's young and hungry, as is the majority of their squad; it's only really Kolo Toure and Gareth Barry around the first-team who are over 30. I'm not sure how Mancini's going to play them all - Nasri, Silva, Tevez, Dzeko, Aguero, Balotelli - and he'll have to be careful to get the balance right. They won't go and play every game away from home with those ball players and will need a more physical line-up against the more physical sides in the division.

Mancini is definitely like a kid in a toy shop, he's got all the toys in the world to play with, but he's got to find time to play with them all and needs to pick the right team on the right day for the right opponents. That's always going to be tough because you're going to be leaving out not just top class players but world class players, who have cost you an awful lot. He's going to have to leave three or four big names out every time he picks a team. They've got such a vast array of talent to choose from that I was able to pick two full teams the other night, one that cost £220 million and the other at about £160 million - that wasn't even including the likes of Roque Santa Cruz and Craig Bellamy. There's no way you can have a training ground of top players who aren't even getting on the coach to a game on a Saturday.

One player who is guaranteed to be on that coach every week, though, is Aguero. He's a very clever player, technically very gifted and obviously very bright on the football pitch. That's why he's settled so quickly, he could go to any team in the world and establish himself. People have said his arrival spells the end for Tevez but I can see him staying to play with Aguero. They've played together for Argentina and Tevez might just think 'he's not my competition, I can actually play with this guy'.

Mancini's embarrassment of riches meant that he was able to loan out Emmanuel Adebayor this week to Sunday's opponents, Tottenham, without there being any eyebrows raised around Eastlands. He won't get to play against his parent club this weekend, but I think he could prove another shrewd signing by Harry Redknapp, who has a great record in the transfer market. Adebayor's got a lot to prove and I think the shooting incident on the bus with Togo understandably affected him badly; since then he hasn't played anything like he can. He's in danger of becoming a journeyman at the age of 27 but maybe, back in London where he played for Arsenal, he will find his form again and I think that he will be a good signing for Spurs if they get the Adebayor that Arsenal had. That Adebayor was a handful and my teams played against him - he's big, strong, powerful; a good reader of the game and a good scorer of goals. It might take him a few months to get back to Premier League pace, though, which is a little faster than he will have been used to on loan at Real Madrid.

Adebayor's new team-mates will have a difficult task keeping the league leaders at bay this Sunday and I'll be amazed if City come away with nothing from White Hart Lane. Now Spurs have stopped buying, they seem to have lost a bit of that momentum they built up in qualifying for the Champions League two season ago. I think if they can stay in the top six, they should be happy - I can't see them getting into the top four. Other teams around them, especially Liverpool, have been spending heavily and as City are proving better than anyone, money talks in football.

• Catch action from every Barclays Premier League match on your mobile for FREE on the enhanced ESPN Goals app (UK only).

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