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6 points off the top of the league. Out of the Carling Cup to Aston Villa and out of the Champions League at the first time of asking, things don’t look good for Roberto Mancini.
You have to ask yourself though, is it really Mancini’s fault for Manchester City’s failures so far this season? At the start of the summer, Roberto Mancini drew up a list of players he wanted to build on Manchester City’s successful title challenge and to compete – at least past the group stage – in the Champions League. His list included then AC Milan defender Thiago Silva, Lille midfielder Eden Hazard, Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi, Athletic Bilbao midfielder Javi Martinez and Arsenal Striker Robin Van Persie.
He also drew up a list of players he wanted sold which rumoured to include Kolo Toure, Nigel De Jong, Adam Johnson, Roque Santa Cruz, Emmanuel Adebayor, Vladimir Weiss and Edin Dzeko. However, as we now know, Mancini did not get one of the players he wanted as he couldn’t sell the players he didn’t want. If Emmanuel Adebayor had joined Tottenham earlier in the summer (and therein his £150,000/week wages off the wage bill) it is more than likely Robin Van Persie would have been a Manchester City player by the start of the 2012-13 season. But Adebayor was actually sold after Van Persie signed for Manchester United and Mancini missed out on one of the signings of the summer.
Brian Marwood is the man largely to blame for Manchester City’s unsuccessful summer. To be in line with the new Financial Fair Play rules set out by UEFA, Marwood decided that players would not be bought, until players were sold. However, players were not sold until very late in the transfer window where Adebayor, Weiss, Santa Cruz, De Jong and Johnson all left with 2 weeks or less of the summer transfer window to go.
Mancini then had a problem, all of the targets he wanted had joined other clubs and so he panic bought to replace. Scott Sinclair was signed to replace Adam Johnson and Javi Garcia signed to replace Nigel De Jong. So far neither transfers have been successful to say the least.
Other signings such as Maicon were bought to turn Micah Richards into a central defender and allow Kolo Toure to leave, for which Kolo (while being heavily linked with many Turkish sides) didn’t actually leave. Matija Nastasic, while a great player isn’t really an improvement on Joleon Lescott, not regarding being 11 years younger.
Jack Rodwell, signed from Everton, has barely played due to injury and Richard Wright was just a like for like replacement for the departed Stuart Taylor who left for Reading. Manchester City didn’t improve over the summer, it could actually be said that they weakened, but not due to Mancini, due to Marwood.
Since then Brian Marwood has been moved sideways to the Academy and Txiki Begiristain has replaced him. Strong rumours saying that the likes of Isco of Malaga, Benat of Betis and Klaas Jan Huntelaar of Schalke 04 are probable additions in January.
Regardless of transfer activity in the summer, you can point the finger at Mancini (who still has an incredibly talented squad at his disposal) for some of Manchester City’s failures this season. Some decisions have been actually quite bizarre. The persistence with Mario Balotelli (who actually didn’t play that badly v Manchester United on Sunday – all City’s attacks were through him in the first half) who often seems uninterested and lazy most of the time is given far too many chances in the starting XI, especially in big games where he rarely performs to the heights of his Italy v Germany performance.
Picking Edin Dzeko in the starting XI when it is clear he is much better when he comes on and the fact that Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero – Manchester City’s best partnership – is barely ever played are also other crazy decisions. The change to 3-5-2 was initially welcomed but once criticised Mancini changed his mind and changed his team’s formation back to 4-4-2.
This confused the players and meant a lot of goals were conceded in the opening few weeks of the season as the players had spent the whole pre season using 3-5-2, only to change back to 4-4-2 when the actual season started. 3-5-2 actually wasn’t all that bad. City beat Chelsea in the Community Shield and beat Tottenham Hotspur at home using the tactic.
The togetherness of the team compared to teams like Manchester United has also been questioned it recent weeks and to be fair it can actually come down to the squad in question. If you look at Manchester United’s squad their team has a core of players in their prime (Rooney, Van Persie, Kagawa, Carrick etc), a bunch of players who are getting on a bit but can still do a job (Scholes, Giggs) and a bunch of young players who are being bled into the team (Cleverley, Welbeck, Rafael).
The core group of players expect to play regularly and do so, whilst the other two groups, not expecting to play every week, do get games and get to be on the bench as viable back ups. This creates less tension in the squad as the players who expect to play every week in their prime do and the players on the fringe don’t actually expect to play every week and therein aren’t unhappy.
Compare this to City. City have a massive core of players in their prime and a backup in nearly every position. However all these players expect to play every week but this is not possible. The group of older players who don’t expect to play every week is actually just comprised of Maicon and the group of younger players is still quite small compared to United (Nastasic and Rodwell – Balotelli would be included but he does expect to play every week).
Therefore, these players all in their prime but on the fringes (Kolarov, Lescott, Garcia etc) start to get unhappy with playing time at the time of their career where they should actually be playing every week and playing the best football of their career. Tensions rise and the togetherness of the team starts to decrease.
Mancini needs to bring in more youth, but with the whole City academy in a bit of a mess at the moment and only one player, John Guidetti, actually ready for first team action, Mancini can’t do this and so City’s young part of the team is still quite small. This should rise though with players such as Denis Suarez, Jose Angel Pozo, Karim Rekik and Abdul Razak coming through in the next few years.
The older part of the team should also rise too with players like Gareth Barry getting older and therefore less game time. What Mancini should actually do is sell players such as Joleon Lescott, Aleksandr Kolarov, Javi Garcia and Edin Dzeko and replace them with young up and coming talent who can be bled into the team whilst deputizing for the core players.
With time, Mancini should be able to turn Manchester City’s fortunes around. The transfer policy should change with Txiki Begiristain in charge and as time goes on City will have a much more balanced squad. Mancini, I still believe will eventually change City’s system to 3-5-2 but that will only happen once City have the players equipped to his system (Lescott can not play in 3-5-2).
This is not a time to panic, even if City don’t win a trophy this season, Mancini should be given another season with the players he wants and try to win it then.
Written by Henry Francis
Follow him on Twitter @TheHenryFrancis
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