Mancini’s inability to do well in Europe must be worrying for City’s owners and the fans.
Last season if City had blew the title, then their fierce and passionate manager, Roberto Mancini would have been asked to clear his desk. Yet now he has been offered a new five year deal at the Etihad, making him the best paid manager in England. The question is, is this really the man who could take City and their wealthy owners to where their heart desires?
In what was one of the most dramatic endings to a Premier League season for a long time, Man City put their names on the Premier League trophy as only the fifth side in Premier League history to do so. Considering that the title was won in the last minute of the season, it seems odd to say that it was City’s to lose throughout the campaign, yet it seemed that as soon as they lifted the FA Cup in May 2011 and then purchased the majestic Sergio Aguero, that the league was indeed theirs to lose.
And yet lost it they almost did it, losses away against Sunderland, Everton, Swansea and Arsenal all but seemingly threw away the league. Eight points behind United and it seemed over and although there was talk of the “project” not factoring in a title win so soon, it would have been seen as a capitulation and a sign of the mental block that City had been associated with. The fact that City are now Champions and have thus got the most difficult one out of the way as such, means that this is not good for those around them, the hardest one is the first and the coming decade may see a genuine force ignite on world football.
Although this past season was a success for Man City in the end, was their season really a great success? Their side was the best in the league and success should been easier. Yet I look at the sides performances in Europe and question whether Mancini is good enough for that level? Is he capable of going and winning the Champions League? I do not think so.
In my opinion, Man City will win the league again next season, at a much more comfortable distance than they did last season. I still do not believe that there is a team close to them; United appear to be unwilling to spend the necessary money required to challenge City, and although Vidic will be back, City will be too strong; physically, technically and now even mentally. The rest are challengers for the top four; possessing naïve managers who themselves lack the experience to challenge for the title. As for Arsenal, their dealings in the transfer market say it all and until they separate from Mr Wenger, then don’t expect a title challenge from the Emirates.
No, the key will the biggest and main prize in world football today and judgement on Mancini’s performance will come from how he performs in the Champions League. This competition has always been the pinnacle yet in recent years it seems to have got even more important. Perhaps it is because of the monopoly that the top sides have on their own domestic leagues, where it is usually only between two or three sides to win their own mini leagues, that the real crown and the real glory has gone to those lifting the Champions League.
Inexperience or poor management?
Man City are an inexperienced side in Europe and although they have many experienced players in their squad, as a side last season they were naïve and played at times immature football in Europe. They believed that they could play how they play against Premier League opposition and expect to win. Their performance against Bayern, where they lost 2-0, was a clear indication that Mancini did not understand the tactics required for European football, especially away games. The Tevez incident enabled Mancini to deflect the poor tactics and performance which was convenient because it was a shambles of a performance from Mancini.
Yet the games against Napoli and even against now relegated Villareal were mediocre, one could put this down to the lack of experience, to the fact it was the first time in the competition for the club and the fans, or one could say that it highlighted the deficiencies of Mancini on the European stage. Although the attitude towards the Europa League in England is ridiculously arrogant, City’s performances in that were again distinctly average.
Mancini's prior experiences of European football; which contain more sides with the calibre, money and prestige of his own clubs, compared to a domestic league consisting of the elite and the rest, has seen him being found short on too many occasions for this to not be a serious question regarding his tactical skills and ability on the biggest stage.
The English Premier League triumph was as much like his Scuddetto titles, seemingly lacking in true merit for his work, they were more so indications of the poorness and lack of competition in the respective leagues at that times. Whether scandals or simply through finances, Mancini has risen to the top on the back of others demise. United should not have gotten close to the title last year, and although it made for thrilling entertainment, City were the only side with genuine world class players in the league last season.
Yet when they encountered another world class side in Bayern, they were stumped (remember that Bayern played their second side for the game at the Etihad) and against Napoli, who at that time were firing on all cylinders, City looked devoid of ideas and tactical discipline in the games against Napoli, especially in Naples.
Much to learn from the past
In 2010 it was Jose Mourinho who was brought in to replace Mancini at Inter, not because of domestic reasons, Mancini had won the Scuedetto three times a row (although two were given to Inter after Juve’s calciopoli scandal and the third in 2007 was won when Juve were relegated and Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio had been deducted points. To say these titles lacked real deservedness is not an understatement.
No, the problem for Mancini came from his performances in the Champions League, of which his best achievement was getting to the quarter final’s in 2005/06. His departure came in May 2008 for this reason and Moratti was vindicated when the “Special one” brought European glory to Inter two years later.
If Mourinho was available this summer then would the owners have been better suited to go and get him, they state their actions are based on business decisions and when your intention is to dominate world football, surely having the world’s best manager enables these intentions to become reality.
With much talk of Jose returning to England this summer, it seemed a likely destination to arrive at the Etihad and replace Mancini again. What what with the money available, a world class playing squad and the potential to over take and frustrate Ferguson once again, yet alone being one of the best managers in the game, it would have been a rather perfect relationship. However, Aguero’s goal allowed Mancini to remain in his job. And he has now signed a new five year deal at the club, indicating that the owners believe in their man, a belief in which I think they are wrong.
The expectation on Mancini and City this season will not be just getting out the group, which as they are seeded second will give them a more favourable draw, in fact it will be to see if they can genuinely win it. The talk of the long term plan allows the fans to see the owners as long term investors to the club, yet the owners know that to be a marketable product requires marketing and exposure, which success, notably European glory can bring. The impact that Barcelona’s success has had on their global brand has been remarkable and the reason has been because it has been continued success; since 2006 they have won the Champions League three times.
Man City’s owners, who have a plan in place to replicate the youth development of Barcelona, will wish to see their senior side achieve the same kind of successes as Barca’s. It will not be easy, Man City have assembled a group of very good players, some world class ones, and built a championship winning side from heavy investment of fees and wages. At times they have simply bullied others into submitting their talent, which is nothing new I may add. Yet with a very limited history, investment was the only way City would be able to compete and that they have. But now the expectations are raised, and a Champions League semi final is the minimum that must be expected of Man City this coming season.
As for Mancini I doubt his ability to perform on the biggest stage, the stage in which City’s owners now expect City to be. When he arrived at the Etihad he did a very impressive job of building the defence before adding and freeing the attack to express their talents. It bore fruit and brought the title which has kept him in the job. Yet he will need to be more savvy tactically in the Champions League next season, of which I am not so sure he is able to do.
Mancini lacks the ability to be world class
My major concern for Mancini is twofold however; firstly his ability to control his emotions will play a major part in his ability to take City forward. His attitude and demeanour when the season started getting tough screamed of a man who feels the sword of Damocles over him at all times, the pressure of the job must be immense as expectation is so high, yet Mancini struggled to contain his emotions.
As a player Mancini’s was a hot headed, control freak who was opinionated and emotional throughout his career. Although his exterior as a manager seems more placid, he showed last season flashes of his former self; moments of anger, frustration and trepidation. His sideline actions influenced the players performances, actions which almost cost City the title, he was simply not able to keep calm under pressure, and it was only after he had submitted the title where he relaxed and the team improved.
Secondly, and most importantly, is the constant stories of disputes and arguments with his players. There is no rule to say you have to be liked by your players, yet it seems Mancini seems intent on causing problems at City with certain players, we have seen issues between many players throughout the season; whether Tevez, Balotelli and even Adam Johnson and James Milner. The best managers seem able to control a group of players, to impart their wishes and enable control of the situation, just look at Ferguson, Mourinho and Guardiola in recent years to see the importance of control, yet also the ability to build relationships, something which Mancini does appear to lack and of which creates a serious issue for the future success of Man City.
There are still issues to sort out at City this summer, the squad is too big and there are too many players and importantly ego’s of which will be needed to move on. If City are serious about their intentions then they should consider how much of an impact players like Tevez and Balotelli can be on the club, its image and its harmony. By seeking to bring together some of the world’s best talent City have stockpiled a group of egotistical players who cannot be moved on due to their wages not being matched by other clubs. City have achieved much in a relatively short time yet with this method of extreme expenditure they have perhaps lacked the ability to assemble a genuine world class side, instead filled the side and their reserve team, with quality talent, lacking a key ingredient to success, cohesion.
And yet with all the riches spent City still need to improve the squad if they wish to be a genuine force in Europe. A world class defensive midfielder of the ilk of Gokhan Inler or Arturo Vidal will be needed to partner Yaya Toure and replace Gareth Barry. And a key acquisition will be a central defender, losing Jerome Boateng was not as costly as it could have been as City were lucky with injuries compared to their rivals. Yet clearly without Kompany, this side looked vulnerable. Javi Martinez is available for a price that only perhaps City could afford, and his ability to play in both defence and midfield may be invaluable for City.
Mancini, capable of what is required?
As with any successful side, expectations are increased and with the money spent by City and the team assembled, those expectations are not unrealistic. I believe City must now seek to win the English league and reach the semi final’s of the Champions League as a minimum, as this is where the expectations have risen to. United will seek to recapture the title, yet City should be too strong for their gradually weaker neighbours. It will be Europe where City and Mancini in particular will be judged.
By giving Mancini a five year deal, Man City are for me admitting they do not wish to be successful in the Champions League. It is no easy feat to win the tournament, yet City should expect to be competitive in the tournament. Mancini’s inability to do well in this competition must be worrying for City’s owners and the fans.
Perhaps domestic success in the coming years will help cement City as a force, as I said I do expect them to win the league this next season, based solely on the fact they possess the best players in nearly all positions, yet this only gets you so far in Europe and it is where I believe Mancini will be found out again, as a tactically inept, hot headed manager who lacks the skills and ability to create a world class team and to be a world class coach. Champions League performance is where Mancini should be judged and is where he will come up short. Until Mancini leaves the Etihad, I believe City will be languishing around the quarter finals stages at best.
What are your thoughts? Will City easily win the Premier League? Do you think Mancini can actually be successful in Europe? Please comment below or let me know your thoughts on Twitter.