Friday, November 9, 2012

What is wrong with Roberto Mancini?

It is often said that teams are a reflection of their managers. ManYoo down the years have had Keane, Hughes, Cantona, Ince, Neville G, Stam, Schmeichel, all have breathed fire down their opponents necks in the image of their master.

Arsenal in the same way adopt a very studious and methodical approach to any given match yet there's an inherent suspicion that they're really just a bit of a pansy.

Chelsea under Mourinho were efficient, full of purpose, prone to the odd tantrum and devastatingly successful, the list goes on. So how does that leave Manchester City under Roberto Mancini?

City are an utter paradox, a team of spoiled overpaid superstar individuals who refuse to take the pitch in crucial Champions League ties, a team that threw away the title lead in such weak fashion towards the end of last season and have again flunked in the CL this time around.

Yet they are also the team that clawed back that lead that they gave up to win the title, they are the team that were 1-2 down to QPR with only minutes left in the season yet scored twice to win the most dramatic title in the English game since a certain Michael Thomas scored at Anfield twenty three years ago.

They are a team that were 1-0 down at West Brom recently with ten minutes to go and sent on the brooding Edin Dzeko to score twice and are still unbeaten this season. So which is the real Manchester City?

Much of the reason for this conundrum must lie with Roberto Mancini. Mancini was a brilliant (check you tube) yet highly temperamental player (a toned down version of Di Canio or Cantona), prone to mood swings and brilliance.

As a manager he utterly confounds with a combination of charm, wit and humour and a very quick temper and thirst for confrontation. His predilection for act first/think later reactions is there for all to see and it is this Jekyll and Hyde that appears to be muddling his team.

Mancini is clearly getting many things right. Many clubs have spent a lot of money yet have not necessarily bought success. It can be done but it still requires sound management, especially when faced with Sir Alex Ferguson.

Winning the league last season was no mean feat and yet Mancini has flunked his lines so badly in the Champions League yet again. There also appears to be little joy in the man, win or lose and that feeling seems to be transmitting itself to the fans who were leaving the stadium in droves in midweek despite City trying desperately for a win. The CL is the pinnacle of the game yet their fans seem ambivalent towards it, why?

Mancini is a naturally confrontational person, indeed he seems to revel in it (why else re-sign Mario Balotelli?) and there is nothing to suggest that prevents you from being a successful manager, after all Mourinho, Ferguson and Cruyff before them have managed to blend their caustic tendencies with winning trophies.

There are of course managers who's abrasive manners have hindered their managerial careers no matter what their intelligence or footballing knowledge, step forward Graeme Souness and Roy Keane. There is no doubt that Mancini has been successful but he appears to be treading a fine line between the two.

Manchester City need more than anything else right now, stability and continuity and both of those must come from the manager. Despite knowing this - and he must be aware of it - Manicini continues to agitate against his employers constantly complaining at his treatment.

It may come from an inherent insecurity, he was after all sacked from Internazionale after winning Serie A due to his failures in Europe. With City in exactly the same position and with ex Barcelona staff being hired and Pep Guardiola looking for a new challenge, these feelings of uncertainty may well have grounds.

Recent public revelations that he had extensive talks to join Monaco in the Summer as well as talking to several other clubs would seem to serve any positive purpose to anyone connected to Manchester City yet someone either connected to Mancini or City leaked the story. Either he wants out or someone wants him out.

There is much talk of the egos in the City dressing room. Yaya Toure talked openly about it recently. This is nothing new, successful clubs are full of big egos, it goes with the territory yet the truly great sides have these egos in check, either through the Mourinho and Ferguson method of sheer ruthlessness or through the Barcelona method where the joy of what they are achieving seems to render egos within the team meaningless.

Mancini is adopting the former method yet his attempts to clamp down on his players smack of rage rather than authority, the Carlos Tevez saga being a prime example. Whilst there is no doubt that Tevez has generally behaved terribly, there also seems little doubt that there was a huge element of misunderstanding in what happened that night on the bench in Munich.

Unlike Ferguson who managed a diplomatic climbdown over the Rio Ferdinand 'kick it out' furore, Mancini was unable to do the same, sticking to his guns to the extreme with the upshot being they lost a key player for most of the season and was probably the reason they nearly lost the title.

Both Ferguson and Mourinho rarely talking badly about their players in public, only doing it one suspects for strategic reasons when they feel it will have a positive effect on the player in question. Mancini has been quick to criticise several of his players in public including Dzeko, Tevez and Balotelli as well as more recently Micah Richards and Joe Hart. Alex and Jose would have dealt with things 'in house'.

Manicini it seems is at war with both those above and below him at Manchester City and whilst it is possible that he is actually trying to get sacked - as Mourinho did at Chelsea - he would appear to be on increasingly borrowed time. As it was so succinctly put in Braveheart, if you make enemies on all sides, you'll wind up dead, who'd have thought Manicini should be heeding advice from Mel Gibson? - No Nonsense.