Ahead of Sunday's highly anticipated Manchester derby, we've reached out to the Manchester City community here on the SB Nation network, Bitter and Blue, for a Q&A exchange. One of the writers for their site, Nayir, was kind enough to answer some questions for us. The majority of the topics for the questions were supplied by readers of this site. Without further ado, here is the Q&A:
TBB: On transfers, how have your summer signings settled in? Matija Nastasic, in particular, is interesting as he seemingly has moved ahead of Joleon Lescott as Vincent Kompany's first-choice partner. Any concerns about missing out on world-class players, or those who are potentially world-class, such as Robin van Persie or Eden Hazard? What do you anticipate City will do in the upcoming January transfer window?
BaB: Personally I had no problem on missing out on RVP and Hazard. We had just won the title, and I didn't think those were areas where we needed strengthening. Having RVP join our cross-town rivals was not ideal, of course, but with 4 quality strikers already on the books and young John Guidetti coming up, there would have been no room for him.
Our actual signings have been quite up and down so far. Nastasic has definitely performed better than most would have expected, however. He has adapted to the Premier League quickly and shown great maturity and composure thus far as well. Lescott had been bugging me for a few months now dating back to his gaffe against QPR on the final day of the season. His positioning and aerial defending are lacking, so Nastasic has been a breath of fresh air.
The same can't really be said of the rest of our signings so far. Jack Rodwell put in a few solid performances, but nearly each one had a few mistakes, some of which cost a few points. He's also had a hamstring injury for a while now which has not helped. Javi Garcia has been incredibly frustrating with his performances. Aside from a great debut against Stoke, he has played below average since returning from his own hamstring injury. Scott Sinclair has not played very much so it's tough to make an opinion on him so far, but he definitely has the potential to be a good winger and bring some speed on the wings to City, which has been a missing feature from City's play.
TBB: City fans still seem quite fond of Roberto Mancini because of the recent trophies he's delivered. The mainstream media, though, continually speculate that he may get sacked. Do you think, if he wins the Premier League again, that that's enough to save him, even when considering his European failures? If he is sacked, which manager would be a better fit at City in your opinion -- Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho? Would the latter be a PR concern with his contentious ways?
BaB: Winning the Premier League should keep him in place. We certainly did not play well in Europe this year but I am a firm believer that a project like this needs patience and continuity to deliver, as our Premier League progress has shown. Each year thus far we have improved on the year before, and I think Mancini can deliver similar results in the Champions League as well if Sheikh Mansour sticks with it. Having a group as difficult as the ones we have had in the past two seasons doesn't help, but we didn't help ourselves on the field either. There are definitely lessons to be learned.
Between Guardiola and Mourinho, I think Mou would be the better fit. He knows the Premier League, likes to have a large budget, and has the trophies to prove himself. I also like the style of play that he prefers his teams to have and I think he would have the personnel at City to fit most of his needs. Pep was impressive in his time at Barca as well, but I am a bit skeptical if his tiki-taka preference would work in England, where big, strong players generally battle on the pitch. Mourinho would certainly bring a media circus with him, but I think anyone in the hot seat at City would find themselves under the microscope of the media no matter what. Personally, I like his mental games and press conferences as well.
TBB: Can you comment on what is perceived as some of City's shortcomings this season?: Kompany's form seems to have dipped a bit, Joe Hart has had some blunders, the back three has been vulnerable, and City's lack of goals relative to where City were a year ago. What have been the biggest positives to your season thus far?
BaB: The defense was fragile early on in the year, but things are coming together as of late, and part of that goes down to the emergence of Nastasic. I think one of the big differences in comparison to last year is a lack of cover from the midfield. Last year, and in years past, the terrier that is Nigel De Jong patrolled the space between the defense and the midfield, and stymied many attacks along with Gareth Barry. This year, the midfield has been a bit leaky and teams with an abundance of pace and crisp passers (hello, Dortmund) have exploited this and ran free through our defensive half. Over the past month or so, the defense and midfield have tightened up, though I am still a bit wary of how well City transition between attack and defense, leaving the counter-attack as a vulnerable area.
In the attack, David Silva has finally been able to put together an injury-free stretch and has helped the side once again play the attractive football we got used to last season. His absence through injury definitely hampered the side early on, as well as Mario Balotelli's failure to find the net. He seems to be back on track now, however, and hopefully the goals begin to flow again.
Though he has been a hub of controversy in just about his entire career as a Citizen, I'd say that Carlos Tevez has been our best player to this point and his performances have been truly magnificent. Since his return from self-exile in Argentina, he has seemed a different player; always feeding the ball off for other players and never trying to do it all himself. I think in his first few seasons at City he was out to prove doubters wrong, but now he seems more focused on doing things for the team and he has been a true role model on the pitch.
TBB: Is there anything, in particular, that worries you about this United side? Do you feel that that's a specific concern that will factor into Mancini's tactics or personnel selection? Or does City feel that they can establish enough control and do things their way?
BaB: United's wingers always worry me. Nani, Ashley Young, and Antonio Valencia all have a whole lot of pace and good technical skills. City don't often come up against teams who utilize wingers of such quality and speed, and so it will be interesting to see how the wing backs deal with them. Other than that, the team should be familiar enough for City, except for Robin Van Persie, who is, well, Robin Van Persie. Any time he is in the lineup the defense will have to pay extra attention to him, and hopefully Vincent Kompany and Nastasic are up for the task. I think Mancini will want to make sure the defense keys in on these areas as well as our weakness when defending in the air. In the attack, I think the approach will be the same as most other games. I would except Yaya to control the midfield alongside Barry with Silva and possibly Samir Nasri trying to create opportunities ahead for some combination of Tevez + Aguero/Balotelli/Dzeko.
TBB: What are your fitness concerns ahead of the derby? Can you provide a projected starting XI and formation? Do you care to offer a prediction for Sunday?
BaB: Other than the longer-term injuries, David Silva should be a late fitness test ahead of the match, but is expected to play. Tough to say a projected starting XI, but for what it's worth, I'm predicting a lineup of: Hart, Maicon, Kompany, Nastasic, Zabaleta, Toure, Barry, Silva, Nasri, Tevez, and Aguero lining up in a 4-4-2, but with Barry dropping a bit further back in the midfield and Tevez dropping deeper to almost be part of the midfield; he will roam around a bit. I think both teams might play it a bit cautious, but with our home advantage I'll tip City to win 1-0, but a draw could be in the cards as well. If either team switches off for a bit and loses focus, I would expect the other team to make them pay, which could decide it all.