Crisis? What Crisis?

The media circus that follows Manchester City is like a ravenous lion ready to pounce upon its prey. Manchester City is a club in ‘crisis’ if they go two games without a win or without a goal. The players hate the manager and his tactics if they are angry at being substituted. The players hate each other if there is a disagreement on the training pitch or on the actual field of play. The players hate the club if they do not celebrate after scoring a goal. The list is endless and frankly I think you get the picture.
UNBEATEN
Fast forward to an unbeaten run of seven games and the hysteria surrounding Manchester City has quietened (if only until the next loss). City are playing good football, creating chance after chance (albeit not quite finishing them all off) and Yaya Toure is not even being slaughtered by fans and pundits! It appears as if City’s frightening attacking foursome of Tevez, Silva, Balotelli and Toure are starting to click, and not before too long as the hectic Christmas period approaches. With the ever dependable Gareth Barry and Nigel De Jong behind them adding balance and stability to the team, James Milner must be thinking if he’ll ever break back into the side.  
SPOTLIGHT
Whilst they are playing well and getting results there is (almost) no story to destabilise Manchester City. Add to that the poor form of Chelsea and the media spotlight is beginning (slowly) to stray away from the world’s richest club. After one of the best attacking performances from the Blues this season, particularly at home, against a transformed Bolton Wanderers side, the media could not help but highlight the ‘spat’ between Mancini and his captain Carlos Tevez. Tevez reacted angrily after being substituted in the 90th minute, pointing at the armband he wears so proudly and launching into some Hispanic expletives as he left the field, ignoring Mancini’s offer of a handshake. Had this incident happened at any other club, possibly one only a few miles down the road from Eastlands and with a player of a similar stature to Tevez, one assumes it would have been seen as an act of passion for the club. Indeed, that is how Mancini viewed it; he has said how he wishes he had more players like Tevez – players who are eager to stay on the pitch to help the team. What’s more Carlos Tevez, in an interview in this month’s issue of ManC (the official City magazine), has praised Mancini. There seems to be no problem here, a case of mutual respect and a desire to bring joy to a success-starved club.
Mario Balotelli and Jerome Boateng have a disagreement in training

  ALTERCATION
From the photographs of the altercation between Jerome Boateng and Mario Balotelli from a training session on Friday you could forgive any playground shouts of “FIGHT”. This confrontation is one of several skirmishes that have taken place this season. The others have, more noticeably, occurred on the pitch between the likes of Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor. Whilst they have all been tagged by Mancini as a display of passion and ambition, the more frequent these fights become, the more the media will highlight them as examples of disunity at the club, also known as ‘bust ups’. In order to prevent these disputes becoming public they should be confined to the dressing room or, in the case of Friday’s scuffle, the club need to either ban the press from Carrington or…grow more trees. Arguments happen at every club up and down the country, either they are all capable of keeping them behind-the-scenes or they just aren’t highlighted like they are at City.
BACK PAGES
Whilst City are in good form Mancini, if he even does read the newspapers, can enjoy seeing City’s barren spell on the back pages. Chelsea’s loss of form and the fact that things are running smoothly at City mean that the club are not being talked about like they were a month or so ago. There are no worthy, destructive stories to write about City (yet) and if their unbeaten run continues there won’t be for a while. Crisis? What crisis?
By Matt Hill

Mancini Out?

When writing the match report from Wednesday’s Manchester derby, the words ‘nothing happened’ would definitely have sufficed. Fast forward three days and those two words sum up today’s game between Manchester City and Birmingham. It was a drab match in which Man City had the better of the chances, yet with all their hard work they failed to capitalise on a Birmingham side in poor form and short of confidence. 


A frustrated Roberto Mancini, watching on as his side fail to score for the third consecutive home game



CONFIDENCE

‘Confidence’ is a word which surrounds Roberto Mancini and his Man City side at this present time although it is preceded by the words ‘lacking in’. The Blues have failed to score in three consecutive home games, a run which certainly has not escaped the attention of the crowd. The City players left the field to a chorus of undeserved boos at half-time, although, some may have been directed towards the match officials who controversially disallowed a Carlos Tevez goal minutes from the interval, a decision which proved to be correct. Within a minute of the restart, James Milner thought he’d put City ahead only to see his first attempt blocked by the excellent Foster, and his second effort hacked off the line by Stephen Carr. From then on the game began to peter out as City tried to work an opening. As the clock approached the eightieth minute and City desperate to snatch a late goal, Mancini made a substitution which baffled the Blues’ faithful, replacing captain Tevez with midfielder Gareth Barry. The talismanic Argentinian striker has been the Blues’ best player this season and the crowd vehemently booed the decision to withdraw him ten minutes from time. Desperate to put pressure on title contenders Chelsea and Manchester United, City, in need of three points, ended the game with five midfielders and Roque Santa Cruz as lone striker. Santa Cruz incidentally, had featured once prior to today’s game (the Carling Cup loss against West Brom).

SUPPORT

The old cliché of ‘a week is a long time in football’ rings true based on today’s events. The fans who chanted Mancini’s name at the end of the West Brom game last week were today booing and calling for his head after a draw which still leaves City fourth in the Barclays Premier League after thirteen games. Football fans are notoriously fickle and at a club like Manchester City, whose new found riches have escalated expectations, said fans seem to be emerging from the cracks. What Roberto Mancini needs at this moment in time is the support of every City fan and importantly the support of Garry Cook, Brian Marwood, Khaldoon Al-Mubarak and the Sheikh himself. Manchester United fans constantly mock their neighbour’s thirty-four year trophy drought, and if City don’t stop their culture of chopping and changing managers then it will be a lot longer than thirty-four years since their last major trophy.

HARD TO BEAT

Mancini, in his eleven months at City, has tightened up a defence that was leaking goals left, right and centre under his predecessor Mark Hughes. He has made City a difficult side to beat, especially at home. Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United have all failed in their attempts to beat City this season, and the Blues were unlucky to lose against Arsenal after being reduced to ten men in the opening five minutes. The Arsenal game, in which the final score was 3-0, has proved to be one of their better performances of the season. Despite what on the surface appears to be an onslaught the Blues played with no fear and were unfortunate to lose so heavily. City don’t concede like they used to under Hughes, but they don’t score like they used to under Hughes. Mancini’s Italian-style football has lead to much criticism from fans and commentators.

CRITICISM

Some describe it as ‘negative’, others ‘cautious’, and others ‘boring’, whichever bracket you come under, watching Manchester City is, at times, less interesting than watching paint dry. Mancini’s stubbornness to continue playing two defensive midfielders each game is arguably costing City important points. Add to that his reluctance to start rising star Adam Johnson has resulted in widespread criticism from all avenues – from media to his own supporters. The signing of Yaya Toure from Barcelona has caused mass hysteria from fans and pundits alike. When they had a player in Nigel de Jong who is twice as good (and on significantly less wages), the question of the necessity of buying Toure has arisen. It’s apparent from his seemingly disinterested approach on the pitch that Toure sees joining City from Barcelona as a step-down. He is indeed correct, it is a step down and even the most hardcore of City fans would have to admit that as the truth. Toure however, should at least attempt to earn his ludicrous wages by performing to the high standards he set at Barcelona. Mancini needs to act tougher on his slacking star and demand a higher performance level.

BALANCE

When Mancini has all his players fit and injury/suspension free, he needs to find the balance between a strong and organised defence and a creative, free scoring front line. When City are good, they’re very good and they look like a side capable of challenging the likes of Chelsea and United for the title. But when they are bad, they are horrendously bad. Mancini needs to be given more time at City, eleven months isn’t a sufficient amount to transform a top six side into a top four side.  Given the fact that Jose Mourinho is unavailable Mancini will get the time that he needs and deserves. City are not far away, but Mancini needs to find the right balance sooner rather than later. As shown last Christmas, City’s board can be ruthless and Mancini will feel the heat if results and performances don’t pick up. If by January there has been no improvement, City may look for a stop-gap until Mourinho becomes available. There is no doubt about it, his name will not go away until either Mancini wins a trophy with City or Mourinho joins United. The long-suffering City fans will be hoping for the former rather than the latter.