Roberto Mancini has had a fantastic run at Manchester City, which isn’t surprising because Roberto Mancini is an accomplished manager. Four league titles in just under a decade of management at the top of European football will attest to that. But as of late, things have become fractious at the Etihad Stadium.
Last season was a Mancini masterpiece: As United became complacent at the top of the table, Mancini mercurially steered City back into title contention, all the while acting in post-match interviews as if someone had recently run over his dog.
He said the title race was over. Even after his side famously beat their cross-town rivals 1-0 at the Etihad to take the league lead on goal difference, Mancini maintained that with only two games to go in the season, United were favorites to retain the league title.
And they almost did retain that title, against all odds, until against even bigger odds, Sergio Aguero provided the blue half of Manchester and the football world the most memorable on-field moment in Premier League history, scoring the league-winning goal in last minute of the last game of the season.
Last year at this time, Mancini was just settling into his role of batting down expectations and hopes, covering for his team, playing down expectations and pressure so his team could make a run at the title unburdened. Mancini was sneaky. He made all the right calls with his personnel; he got his bad-boys – Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli – onside, and his tactical astuteness gave his team an advantage in every game down the stretch of the season.
This season, the other side of Mancini has revealed itself in full force. Mancini has gone from bickering with his players internally, to fighting with them in the press – telling one special Frenchman through the Sunday papers that his manager wants to punch him. The Italian boss has gone from just appearing he’s not enjoying himself, to actually not enjoying himself.
Now, City aren’t having a disastrous season. They have second place in the league locked down, and they already have champagne in their dressing room at Wembley ahead of the FA Cup Final against Wigan. This is a season City fans would have been ecstatic with even three years ago, but the fabric of the team is beginning to rip.
City have been far, far too disinterested and inconsistent in the league this season – not showing up for whole games, or not showing up for games at all. City shut off in the second half at White Hart Lane last weekend, they never turned on for their trip to St. Mary’s against Southampton earlier in the year.