Four’s a crowd for Man City, Roberto Mancini and Carlos Tevez

Man City fan Tom Wilkins wonders whether his club need the returning Argentinian at all – this season or next…

It might not have quite been what he had in mind, but this week Carlos Tevez got his wish to return to action for Manchester City. However, having turned his nose up at the opportunity to run out at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Tevez instead had to make do this time with a slightly less glamorous appearance for the reserves against Preston at Carrington.

Although his 45-minute display was goalless, more significantly it represents a return to the forefront of Roberto Mancini’s thoughts. Can he really afford to ignore a striker of Tevez’s quality at such a crunch time of the season?

Carlos Tevez has never been a master of timing, whether openly musing in the press about his impending retirement, or singing the praises of Giggs, Scholes and Ferguson before his return to City. It remains to be seen whether his actions are born out of malice, greed or mere stupidity. True to form, Tevez might just have returned to City at just the wrong time.

City’s Blackburn Rovers walkover last weekend was important for a number of reasons. It represented another three points, another clean sheet and another three goals to add to the spiralling goal difference. But crucially, it was brought about with beautiful symmetry by Manchester City’s three-pronged strike force.

A flash of opportunism from Mario Balotelli’s left foot, a strike of pure technique from Sergio Aguero’s right and a textbook thumping header from Edin Dzeko brought about the most perfect of hat-tricks for Roberto Mancini. Just as the going gets tough, his strikers appear to be getting going.

The club can look back from a safe distance at a sorry January. Bookended by league defeats at Sunderland and Everton, the month had witnessed City exit two cups with home losses to north-west rivals.

But what a difference a month makes: since that grim Tuesday evening on Merseyside City have won five straight games, conceding just one goal and scoring 13. A return to those balmy, early-season days when we didn’t have a care in the world and goals flowed like Sheikh Mansour’s cash.

Throughout the season, Sergio Aguero, alongside David Silva, has been an ever-present delight. While Silva took half a season (OK, maybe less) to find his Premiership feet, Aguero hit the pitch running on his debut against Swansea, scoring two and creating one – as a substitute. City hadn’t seen a debut like Aguero’s since Ali Bernabia brought joy to a club hopelessly floundering in the wrong division.

Since that slick start, Aguero has kicked on and justified not only the hype but also his price tag. Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll continue to wear their pricetags around their necks, yet Aguero spirits around the pitch without a care in the world: he's already contributed a staggering 21 goals and six assists.

Edin Dzeko hasn't had such an easy time of it. After a blistering start to the campaign, including a 'perfect' hat-trick (left foot, right foot, header) against Spurs, Dzeko has occasionally seemed to regress. He's the archetypal confidence player: when things are going well for him and the club, the goals will come, but conversely, his will be one of the first heads to drop when his touch starts to let him down.

Recent goals against Wigan, Fulham and Blackburn will hopefully see Dzeko’s form return to the sparkling heights of August when he was able to waltz past all challenges put in front of him. Dzeko seems to be a well-liked part of the club, and his boyish enthusiasm on scoring is infectious – he’s just the sort of person you want to do well.

The final prong of City's striking trident needs no introduction. Surely no other player in the country can have received more column inches – back-page and front – this year than Mario Balotelli. The Italian may well be the most infuriating player I've ever watched. Balotelli is absurdly comfortable on the ball and couldn’t be more confident of his own abilities.

He's one of a select few players in the league who can change a game from absolutely nothing – a lightning burst of pace or an impossible finish made easy, all the while without any celebration, of course. Unfortunately, his ability to change a game isn’t always for the better and cards of both colours keep coming.

Balotelli’s omission from the Italy squad this week hints at the dilemma facing managers with the young striker. While others lose patience and cast the youngster adrift, Mancini continues to put his faith in Balotelli. Sadly that faith is not always repaid. As the season draws to a close and Mario’s suspensions rack up, it’s probably about time that Balotelli settled down (as much as he can) and translated that potential into ability. On his day, he can be the most fearsome striker in the league; he just needs to make it his day more often.

So what then for Carlos Tevez? Historically, league-winning sides have tended to rotate four strikers over the course of the season, although that implies a system with a front two and Mancini has more often selected a 4-2-3-1 using attacking midfielders like Silva, Samir Nasri, Adam Johnson and Yaya Touré.

As the season progresses, there can really be no other place for Carlos Tevez than fourth place in the pecking order. Injuries, suspensions or a horrific loss of form aside, can Tevez’s reintroduction to the first team really generate anything other than disharmony among the players who have got us this far?

Looking ahead even further and the future for Tevez at Manchester City after the summer looks even bleaker. It’s not just our strikers back home who have been scoring. John Guidetti has been the most prolific of the lot, albeit in the Dutch League: during February he scored hat-tricks in three successive games, and is averaging more than a goal a game for Feyenoord.

It will be fascinating to see whether the teenager, who made his full Sweden debut this week, is given the chance to prove himself in England. They could have their next great striker – and a readymade solution to the Carlos Tevez situation, without having to approach the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani who are apparently on the club’s radar.

The future looks bright up top for City – both this season and next. Even without the troublesome Argentine, City already have the most fearsome strikeforce in England, if not the whole of Europe. Having said all that, there will be a lot of soul searching to do if Carlos Tevez scores the goal to win Manchester City the Premier League title. Now then, how’s your timing Carlos?

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