Monday, 21 December 2009

The battles that await the man of 'good fortune'

And so we have ourselves a new manager. Roberto Mancini, Italian, 45 years old, is said by his countrymen to be ‘kissed by good fortune' because he has won something at every club he has previously managed. Well, there’s a record right there that City might well threaten to break.

It may have been ugly, but there is little point now in dwelling on the departure of Mark Hughes. The board have cleverly left City fans with little option other than to get behind Roberto Mancini and the players. The new man at the helm will need all the support he can get given the nature of the problem on his desk this morning.

Winning back the dressing room
It’s impossible to say how this one will go. It’s one of those things that could just as easily be a storm in a tea cup as it could end up damaging squad morale to the point that it takes a toll on our league placing. This latter scenario would indeed represent a particularly ironic twist of fate for the powers that be at the club.

But we are not there yet. In fact, it is difficult to say exactly where we are at this point. Although Garry Cook has denied any rumour of a player revolt, it is clear that something went on after the game on Saturday. At best, there seems to be a fair bit of disgruntlement throughout the playing staff. At worst, things might be teetering on the borders of chaos if we are to believe everything we read in the media.

Upon learning of Hughes’ demise, a group of players are believed to have left the dressing room to confront members of the board in an attempt to keep Hughes in the job. The players that are said to have confronted one or all of Khaldoon / Cook / Marwood after the game (Given, Bellamy and a handful of others) are more likely than not our leaders on the pitch. It is thus vital that Mancini finds a way to channel the angst that now flows from these players. I might be wrong, but I think Bellamy might need a bit of work. Today’s press conference tells us this, with Mancini pointing to the fact that the Welshman has lost a manager he loved.

Delivering results that indicate a top four finish
This is such a vague target that I can only say “good luck with meeting this one Roberto.” At what point does a team look like a top four team? This season, I truly believe we will only know for sure when everyone has played 38 games.

According to Garry Cook's statement, after the initial target of 6th place, the board agreed a new target of 70 points with Hughes and his team. Last season, 70 points would have put us in 5th place. This season, it will most likely be 4th. So, the bottom line appears to be Champions League football next season or bust for Roberto Mancini.

This will be difficult because in a sense we are starting afresh. A lot depends on how much we change our style and formation of play and, just as if Mark Hughes would have been at the helm, an awful lot depends upon how the squad processes their instructions and applies the change. Mancini will need to have his communication hat on this week, and plus will need to improve his English to get specific messages across.

Winning over the fans
I certainly don’t expect a negative response from the crowd at the next home game against Stoke. But the fans need to see certain things from Mancini and his team before buying into his regime and the owners’ decision to change things around in the manner they did.

Winning the League Cup, and therein bringing home major honours to the club for the first time in 33 years will go a long way in this regard. Although the foundations of this cup run have been put into place by Hughes, it is of course still there to be won. Mancini’s task will be harder in this respect, but if the Italian is successful, not only will he have returned a major trophy to City’s dust laden cabinet, he will have also put one over on our Red neighbours.

Defensive improvements represent the other area where Mancini can really win fans over. If he can foster a system that gives the back four more protection whilst retaining our attacking potency, he will be onto a winner. But that of course is the Holy Grail as far as this side is concerned, and is easier said than done. A great deal of confidence building needs to take place at the back and the defence badly needs some breathing space in upcoming matches.

Which conveniently leads me onto our next opponents. Breathing space? Funny I should say that. Some might say this is a pessimistic view, but our next opponents, Stoke City, could not have come at a worse time. We all know what’s coming, and it certainly isn’t a game where we will have time when we have the ball. Balls are going to be pumped into the box at every opportunity in a bid to keep on asking questions of our backline. Its going to be a test, as is every game between now and the end of the season because of our newfound prominence in the game.

How well equipped is Roberto Mancini for the job at hand?
The man has good experience in Serie A and more importantly has won things on a consistent basis in Serie A. In this sense I certainly don’t think he is a flash in the pan. Another good point for City’s current squad is that he has dealt with some big name players at Inter – likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luis Figo, Patrick Vieira, Javier Zanetti etc. Not small fish by any stretch of the imagination.

My central concern is how quickly he will get to grips with the English game. It was like water off a duck’s back for Jose Mourinho, and to a similar extent Guus Hiddink, but with Mancini we simply do not know. This is the alarming thing about the whole affair – how the club seem to have gambled on this appointment. Whatever the reality, and however much deliberating they really did, I can’t help thinking that it still looks like a knee-jerk decision, a throw of the dice.

The one positive light that shines on the board is the speed at which they despatched with Hughes and installed a replacement. At least once the decision was made, we weren’t dithering around with botched moves for replacements. That the board were efficient gives Mancini quite a few days to work with the players before Stoke, and importantly it also gives the Italian a transfer window in which to operate.

At any rate it’s done deal now, so good luck to Roberto Mancini. I wonder whether he ever thought those four appearances for Leicester City in 2001 would come in handy?


  1. I think manchini is a good trainer

    we have to learn how to defend

    we scored so many goals but result is only 6th place

    that's because of our awful defence

    hope everything will be OK

    good post :)

  2. Hi Mark,

    Haven't spoken in a while

    Great 2 articles by the way. I think they really reflect the majority views of the city fans.

    Just wondering if you were contacted about a piece in the MCFC Match programme?

    Cheers mate