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What’s Going Wrong at Manchester City?

roberto mancini Whats Going Wrong at Manchester City?

On the back of the most enthralling, satisfying and successful season in the club’s history, there should be an air of positivity surrounding Manchester City. ‘That goal’ from Aguero, and the numerous connotations it brought should have been the dawning of a new era, the ‘Blue Moon rising’ at last. The fans, the players and the manager should be in good spirits. They should be, right?

It would be misguided to claim City are in crisis, but I think we can all agree there is something not quite right at the moment. On the face of it, their start to the domestic campaign has been a solid one. Two points from the summit of the Premier League, the Citizen’s have picked up points without really hitting their stride. Could be the ‘sign of Champions’, as we often hear? But this age old cliché has not really been bandied about in regards to City. Coupled with the fact that European success is once again proving elusive, manager Roberto Mancini looks a frustrated manager, under a lot of pressure.

The cool exterior that was so evident in his early days at the club has been tarnished by tantrums and flare ups in recent weeks. He’s fumed at his players, the officials, City executives and even cameramen! These outbursts, that were once sparse, are becoming unwelcome and recurrent. It doesn’t paint an overly pretty picture and it is having a big effect on his judgement when it comes to matters both on and off the pitch.

The tactical awareness that that was so prominent last season seems to have deserted him. Mancini was able to detach himself from the emotional stranglehold of games and make clever, objective substitutions and team selections. Decisions that sometimes proved unpopular with supporters, but often left the Italian vindicated as City performed excellently throughout the campaign.

This season, Mancini has made similarly bold decisions that haven proven to be considerably less successful. I recall him throwing on four strikers in an attempt to salvage a draw in Amsterdam. An untypically reckless substitution that in the end could have lead to the concessions of further goals. Theres the ’3-5-2′ system that he looked set to implement from outset of this season. But this proved to be unpopular with the players and had limited success. It looks to have been subsequently shelved for the time being, with the tried and trusted 4-2-3-1 making a welcome reappearance for the City players.

At the back, City are all over the place, with the magnificent Joe Hart preventing some embarrassing score lines going in against them. Micah Richards had been sorely missed at right-back, whereas Joleon Lescott is very much out of favour for reasons unbeknown to all. Selling Nigel De Jong also looks to be a misguided decision, as his replacements Javi Garcia and Jack Rodwell look to be less far effective in the ‘destroyer’ role, despite the superior fees they commanded. From a striking perspective Mancini seems to have no idea how to get the best out of Dzeko, whereas Aguero has been shifted to a deeper inside left position in an attempt to compensate the absent Silva’s creativity.

This apparent neglect of the age old principle ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it’ looks to have been born entirely out of frustration for the City manager. He missed out on his main transfer targets this summer, whilst De Jong looks to be a bigger miss than he first anticipated. Mancini bemoaned the lack of backing in the transfer market and whilst there will be little sympathy for a manager who has spent hundreds of millions, it couldn’t have been easy seeing your biggest rivals snap up your main targets. Especially for a manager so used to getting the players he wants.

In the wake of this dissapointment, the resultant signings the club did make have been somewhat underwhelming. Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair, their costs totalling around £18m, already look as though they have no part to play, which is hardly surprising to most. Whilst £16m man Javi Garcia has struggled to adapt to the pace of the Premier League. As such it is understandable in some respects that Mancini has tried to freshen things up with some new ideas and approaches (especially in Europe), seeing as he has virtually the same group of first team players that were available last season.

But he needs to remember that the spine of the team that looked so good last season is still there, with a year more experience playing together. For a club that has undergone such massive change over the last few years, some continuity surely wouldn’t go amiss? In keeping with this, it could be time to look towards at the players and the system that has provided the basis for the majority of their recent success. Back to basics if you will. With a big game against Spurs on the horizon, I would not be surprised to see Kompany and Lescott as the centre backs, Toure and Barry in midfield, with Silva (fitness permitting) and Nasri flanking Aguero up front. A very familiar and reliable City line up, packed with quality.

If ever Mancini needed inspiration to revert to a lineup similar to the one from last season, then he should look no further than the two games against Spurs from the last campaign. City won a thriller 3-2 and trounced Spurs 5-1 at White Hart Lane. Change won’t necessarily bring success!

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This entry was posted in Leagues: EPL, Manchester City. Bookmark the permalink.

About Matt Jones

Matt has been writing for World Soccer Talk for more than two years, contributing pieces about myriad topics and regularly lending his voice to the podcast. Matt has covered games live for the website from a host of venues, including Wembley, London and the ANZ Stadium, Sydney. He is a regular at Goodison Park where he watches his beloved Everton, but harbours an unyielding interest in all aspects of European soccer. You can get in touch with Matt via e-mail at mattjones@worldsoccertalk.com or on Twitter @MattJFootball
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15 Responses to What’s Going Wrong at Manchester City?

  1. Kody says:

    What’s wrong with City? Domestically, nothing. They’ve picked up more points this year than from the corresponding fixtures last year. City’s start of 2011-2012 was an aberation- they were scoring at an unsustainable rate.

    Also, David Silva is injured. When he plays well, City play well.

  2. Marc L says:

    Not only has Silva been injured, but Aguero was also hurt in the first week and has not hit his stride. Crazy Mario has yet to capture his lightning in a bottle form.

    Domestically I think you can’t get too bent out of shape. The points City has collected are actually pretty impressive in the aggregate given the overall factors they’ve had to deal with.

    In the UCL, you had a crazy couple of minutes in the late 80′s cost City an immense win at the Bernebeau. A home win against Dortmund was a bad pass by Rodwell away. The two Ajax fixtures were unmitigated debacles, but you could easily be sitting at 7 points and pretty well certain to get out of the group with just a couple of very minor changes to the story here.

    I am less impressed with Mancini in an overall sense. He has always been a bit erratic and “erratic” is not usually among the hallmarks of a legendary and long-serving manager at this level.

  3. Hans says:

    What’s going wrong at Man City? The simple asnswer = Mancini.

    With all the money and all the players he has got, his team struggled to compete with a young Ajax team, formed with limited money and young players. Even Ajax pass the ball much smoother than them in that 2-2 draw.

    Before that, Even Swansea played their passing game much better than Man City. They looked struggle to control the game that they had to resort to playing pressing game in the 2nd half, just to stop Swansea’s passing game. With all that quality in Man City, Swansea still played better than them. And Swansea are not even Barcelona.

    What’s going wrong? The problem is Mancini. He is the one who set up how the team play. He should be sacked without excuse. David Silva is just another excuse. The problem is, Mancini never runs out of excuse. Always blame this, blame that, but never blame himself.

    Both Ajax and Swansea having better team performance than Man City are just embarrassing.

    • Tim says:

      Football is not a beauty contest, with the winner dependent upon a Judge’s scorecard. Scoring more than the opposition is all that matters. If Swansea had “played better” than City, they wouldn’t have lost the match 1-0.

  4. Roger Klotz says:

    I mean when you spend $ like City on a world all-star team, and you lose to Ajax over two European matches, questions about the manager have to be raised. Especially since this team should be relatively familiar with each other by now. And you have spats with Balotelli, calling players out in the press, the fact that Tevez left for HALF A SEASON and came back like nothing happened… there’s a lot of noise from Mancini. Not to mention Mancini wasn’t good in Europe with Inter either I don’t think.

  5. Jon says:

    Yes, you are right. He should have stuck with the same players as last year. It would have been clever management to play Silva, Richards, Aguero, Barry and Lescott all the time, even though they have all been injured at various times. Good thinking. Hey, I’ve got another idea. Its a mad one, but stick with me. Why don’t you do some research and get your facts right before writing yet another article having a go at Man City. Maybe, just maybe, the reason that Garcia and Rodwell haven’t been amazing is because they have been injured too. Maybe – and this is an absolutely insane suggestion – players need a bit of time at a new club before sorry excuses for journalists write inane dirge about them, jumping on a tired bandwagon.
    Oh, and Hans, when you say Mancini is what is wrong with Man City, I would suggest that the league title and FA cup prove that he may be doing something right. Idiot.

    • Matt Jones says:

      Thanks for your response Jon. The point i’m making is that it’s easy to understand why he’s tinkered about with things so much, because of the fact that he missed out on a lot of his main transfer targets and he’s been trying to freshen things up in other ways.

      I’m saying that he should remember he’s got the basis of a side there that were excellent last year and there would be no shame in going back to that.

      Do you honestly think Rodwell an Sinclair are good enough for a side that has aspirations like City?

      I’m not jumping on a ‘tired bandwagon’ and i’m well aware City supporters are still well behind Mancini. They’ve had to endure managers like Ball and Pearce down the years. It is merely a frustrating time for their manager and I expect them to turn it round, starting with a big performance on Sunday

      • Jon says:

        Matt, fair point. And I apologise if my post was unfair to you. I guess my point is that whilst every journalist and his dog seems to line up to claim the demise of Man City, they are a team unbeaten in the league, have had some awful decision go against them (Stoke’s basketball goal, the penalty they should have had against Arsenal, the penalty against them at Fulham – I’m just talking about the league here, by the way) and have had injuries to many key players. I don’t think there is too much wrong, they just haven’t hit form yet, in my opinion. No team can steamroller other teams all the time, and I think people have unrealistic expectations that Man City should be doing so in every game.

        With regard to Rodwell and Sinclair, I honestly don’t now, in answer to your question. But they are young, one has been injured for a while, and they should be given a chance before minds are made up about them.

        Anyway thanks for the response. (And ps – I know that Man City got VERY lucky last week when a legitimate goal against them by West Ham was not given. I’m just saying there have been other decisions that have definitely gone against them.)

  6. King samir says:

    The problem is mancini because his tactic is defensive and left Dzeko in the pench and send off nasri without silva so all and all we need Gardiola please bring him and we’ll see what we dream

  7. Colliahhh says:

    There are so many fools commenting on this post it’s untrue.

    All you lot calling for Mancini to go make it really easy to tell who has jumped ship from Chelsea with their joke of a managerial record.

    I’d rather go back to having Hughes, pierce or ball as manager than cycling through a new face every season. Ok, maybe not ball- but the point is success has to be worked on and when you get it you need to evolve or get left behind.

    This is why Mancini tries the three at the back- everyone and their mother is trying 4-2-3-1 at the moment. Three at the back has worked in the community sheild and when down to 10 in the fa cup last season. It also worked a treat for Napoli in their fixtures against us last season so it’s understandable that Mancini would use his European experience to try and change the squad.

    The novelty of actually being in the champions league is still new to many city fans and we can see, especially with the groups we get, that we won’t win it soon. At the moment I’d rather take the experience of ecl and of playing teams like real Dortmund and Ajax then get into Europa- this will allow players highlighted by the author ie Sinclair and Rodwell and some of our other youngsters such as nastasic razak Suarez and gudetti to get a taste for European and first team matches and a chance to prove they can cut it with the big boys- especially after our embarrassment in the league cup cut those hopes short.

  8. Simon says:

    I think the fact that Tevez came back to the team last season didn’t help, although he is now keeping quiet. Can Mancini handle all these big egos? Is Mancini good enough to go on and keeping winning title after title…his recent rant is showing that he is cracking up

  9. Scrumper says:

    This is the simple act of a manager trying to control a team’s every move and not letting the players use their own abilities. For instance when I played and we defended a corner the Captain would organise the defence i.e. big ones take one of their big ones, small ones take one of their small ones and you and you on the posts. Now it’s zonal marking but if the attackers don’t play that game and roam all over the box the system breaks down and becomes confused, such as we witnessed against Ajax.It’s time the game was given back to the players and let them make more decisions and really use their footballing brains. Then we’d see who are the truly great players and teams.

    To much control from the bench stifles real talent.

  10. PaulF says:

    The problem with Mancini is not his tactics. his biggest problem is man-management and his capabilities as a coach.
    Can somebody name me 1 player that has improved under Mancini? technically and tactically.
    Before anybody name Balotelli. Stop! Balotelli only improved his discipline nothing else.

    Mancini doesn’t leave his players any room for error. You make 1 error today, the next matchday you are on the bench. There’s no stability at that club.

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