Just what is Manchester City’s best strike partnership?

While Manchester City’s defensive problems and particularly Roberto Mancini’s inability to settle on a consistent partner for skipper Vincent Kompany have grabbed the headlines, City’s striking problems have been ignored somewhat. To be frank, to suggest that there are any “problems” is a bit far-fetched. City do often look capable of scoring at will and possess four top-level strikers in Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko.

The problem is, just who does Mancini call upon as his regular strike partnership? Yes of course, the chosen two cannot play every game and rotation, particularly in the forward positions where fatigue can often hit is key, but when the pressure games come around just who will Mancini turn to? It’s safe to say that Aguero will be one of the two. The Argentina international is a favourite of Mancini and scored 30 goals in his debut season in England, the last of which dramatically giving the Citizens the Premier League title at the expense of local rivals Manchester United. Aguero’s pace, vision, low centre of gravity and ice-cool finishing at pressure moments makes him a certainty to start if fit.

But who partners him? Based on early-season form one would have to say Carlos Tevez would deserve a run in the team. A newly-streamlined Tevez seemed to be playing the best football of his career before the first international break, as he scored four goals in City’s opening four matches in all competitions and generally looked to be back to his hustling, committed best for the club. However, Tevez’ spell away with Argentina seems to have not only sapped his confidence but also some of his sharpness and since then, Mancini has rotated and left him on the bench more often than not.

Mario Balotelli may have starred in the summer for his country, scoring three goals as Italy reached the final of Euro 2012, but it must be remembered that the moody Italian hardly enjoyed the best end of seasons under Mancini. Having endured a barren run in front of goal, Balotelli’s red card at Arsenal in April left him sitting out of the majority of the Citizen’s final league games, although he did return to provide an assist for Aguero’s title-winning moment. Indeed, Balotelli has barely featured in the City team this year and in his few appearances has been peripheral to say the least.

At this moment in time, it ironically appears as though arguably Mancini’s least favourite option could be the best to partner Aguero. Edin Dzeko has not always enjoyed the easiest of times in Manchester. His performances range from the superb, as shown by his four goal destruction of Tottenham at White Hart Lane early last season to his long run without a goal in the winter months that saw him relegated to very much City’s fourth choice striker at the beginning of this season. However, Dzeko has emerged as a big-game player and has notched crucial goals against QPR on last season’s final day, against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu and on Saturday, the late winner at Craven Cottage to give City their first away win of the season. Dzeko may have his faults, such as his often erratic finishing and inconsistent first touch but appears to very much be a man in form.

It seems simple then? Surely at this moment in time, until either Tevez or Balotelli re-find their top form, then it must be Aguero and Dzeko to start? The problem is however that those two seem to struggle to form a coherent partnership between themselves when played together and indeed Mancini has only started both the Argentine and the Bosnian a handful of times this calendar year. Aguero wants quick interplay with his forward partner, the type that Balotelli and particularly Tevez are so adept at. Dzeko however lacks the technical ability to deliver to Aguero’s needs while the Bosnian, at his best when finishing instinctively, can often find his preferred positions, particularly in the penalty box, taken up by the predatory Aguero. Indeed, the last time the two were partnered, in City’s underwhelming 1-1 draw with Arsenal, both struggled to make an impact.

Of course, there are those who would simply argue that for Aguero and Dzeko to be able to form a partnership then they must simply be given greater playing time together on the pitch in order to forge a connection. However, Mancini will know as well as anyone that with the difficult of balancing City’s Premier League title defence as well as their challenge for the Champions League, he does not have the luxury of allowing his two most in-form strikers several disappointing games in order to form a connection.

Fundamentally, perhaps Mancini would be wise to accommodate to his star man Aguero. The ex-Atletico Madrid man seems to perform at his best alongside Argentine compatriot Carlos Tevez and judging by the latter’s impressive early-season form, perhaps his manager should just have a little bit more faith in his abilities.

Adam Mazrani