This system, he said, would change shortly. "It's out of necessity. [Emmanual] Adebayor has just recovered from injury, [Mario] Balotelli not so. Without flying full backs like [Jérôme] Boateng and [Aleksandar] Kolarov, who can push forward, I've had to adjust the team to get results and stay in touch with the leaders. But only until everyone is back and fit."
I take his point. Injuries have forced us towards 4-5-1, and the absence of our first choice full-backs has been a particular blow. (No one we've used at full-back this season has been of the level of Kolarov or Boateng, and some of the time we've been playing with centre-backs at full-back instead.) When we have those two back, plus the option of Adebayor alongside Tévez or Balotelli from wide, we'll be better.
That said, one could just as easily argue that those limitations mean we should try to maximise creativity where possible. I would certainly claim that in the absence of attacking full-backs or a partner for Tévez it makes more sense, not less, to play all three attacking midfielders (Adam Johnson, James Milner and David Silva) and two of the cautious options. Aces full of grunts, as it were, makes more sense when there's no Kolarov, Balotelli or Boateng than it does when they're all available. It's when Kolarov and Boateng are galloping up and down the flanks that we'll really need Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry to fill in the gaps.
Anyway, Mancini then went on talk about Adam Johnson:
"Adam is young, but he has got what it takes. He just needs to understand it is not enough to dribble past an opponent six times to feel entitled to think he reached the top. You need to dribble but you also need a cutting shot like the goal against Juve [in the Europa League], or the 2-1 win against Newcastle. If I didn't believe in Adam's potential I would not work him like this."
I do like that last line. The distant fear, for me, is that he'll get so frustrated by the bench that he'll storm off to Villa or Spurs. Obviously I'm being silly and this is miles beyond the horizon. But I'm keen that this is more of a Ferguson/Giggs relationship than, say, a Mourinho/Balotelli one.
And on the merits of the issue Mancini is correct. Johnson does need to add shooting to his dribbling skills. Given he doesn't really cross that well, his running at defenders is only valuable if he can score (or 'win' a penalty, which he is very adept at doing.) Up until last week, he'd scored one goal for City and won three penalties. That ratio is now up to three and three, after his goals against Juventus and Newcastle. Maybe he's learning from the criticism. But he's certainly moving in the direction Mancini wants him to, which is good for the both of them and good for all of us.