How do you solve a problem like Mancini? Ger McCarthy looks at what’s going wrong at Manchester City in the wake of the Premier League club’s third consecutive league game without scoring.
The chorus of jeers ringing around Eastlands at full time on Saturday said it all. Manchester City had failed to get the better of Birmingham City following a dull and lifeless 0-0 draw. Worse still, the home side’s manager Roberto Mancini had decided to haul off his lone striker and Captain Carlos Tevez five minutes from the end. The Italian was seemingly content to settle for a point rather than go for a late winner much to the chagrin of the City supporters who have now seen their side fail to find the net for the third consecutive home league game.
Mancini’s after-match comments alluded to the fact his brief for the current season is to finish in the top four and qualify for next season’s Champions League. If that is true and the club’s billionaire owners will be happy to accept a berth in the most lucrative club football tournament (for TV rights money) then a home draw with Birmingham City isn’t the end of the world. Or is it? City fans must have felt an overwhelming sense of disappointment with a manager not willing to let his forwards loose the previous Wednesday evening in the closing stages against Manchester United but will have accepted that a point at home to a true title contender was better than nothing.
The point is Birmingham City at home would have been viewed as a much more winnable game so why not go for the jugular? This is what led to the City fan’s frustration at seeing Tevez replaced by a midfielder (albeit a good one in Gareth Barry) in the closing stages when the game was still there to be won and these emotions only intensified at the final whistle with the 0-0 result.
“I am frustrated as well. I wanted to win. I don’t want to draw or lose. Carlos has had a little injury for two or three weeks and I felt if we took off that player we might have more chances to score. But if you think I put four strikers on and we score four goals, it is not true”.
“All supporters are like this, in England and Italy. I must think like a manager. We can play wide, get the ball into the box, then we can score. Supporters just think why don’t you put more strikers in the box, two, three, four, five”.
What is wrong in the eyes of the long suffering City supporters is the fact Manchester City has never had such an array of world class talent available to them so why not deploy their attacking weapons and go for the title rather than settle for ‘safe results’ in an effort to secure fourth rather than first? Any manager would relish the opportunity to have the likes of Carlos Tevez, Adam Johnson and James Milner at their disposal not to mention Silva and Balotelli as well.
Mancini’s background in the more defensive minded Italian football is important his mentality of ‘not losing’ rather than ‘going all out to win’ is in stark contrast to that of Sir Alex Ferguson or even Arsene Wenger when Arsenal are in the mood.
The bottom line is that recent performances and results are simply not good enough to warrant fourth place let alone aspiring to win the Premier League title. That is what is causing upset amongst City fans and thus the pressure mounts on Roberto Mancini to do something about it. Although you’d be hard pressed to think the Italian was under any undue anxiety based on Mancini’s after match comments:
“Which pressure? For what? You continue to say I am under pressure. Which pressure? Because some supporters say I did not put two strikers on, or journalists say I am too defensive? I am not under pressure. We are in fourth position. We have some problems. Since the start of the season it has been the case that if Carlos Tevez doesn’t score, no-one does”.
“We must improve that. But we have only played 13 games. When I have all my players and we have the right balance, then maybe we play better”.
Anything less than a Premier League victory over former manager Mark Hughes’s Fulham when City visit Craven Cottage on Sunday the 21st of November will only serve to further ratchet up the pressure on the Italian manager.
Ger McCarthy is author of the book entitled ‘Off Centre Circle’ about a lifetime spent playing amateur football in Ireland. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.