Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Dark Blue

It started in defeat, it ended in defeat, and there was nothing to shout about in between. That’s the short, gloomy story of City’s 2012-13 Champions League campaign.

It’s difficult to draw any positives, other than the fact that the squad has gained more of the much-vaunted “European experience” that some quarters say is so essential in these kinds of situations.

Last year, one result ended up killing us – it was the 1-1 draw at home to Napoli. If we have won that, we’d have been into the knockout stages at the first time of asking. This year, three draws at home effectively gave us no chance, but by the time we came to the last of those home fixtures – against Real Madrid – the momentum was already lost.

And it had all started so well.

Travelling to Madrid for our very first match of Group D was no easy task, but by the 86th minute we were 2-1 up and heading for a historic victory. Five minutes later it had all gone wrong, a trademark Cristiano Ronaldo strike putting us to the sword, and we went home empty handed.  Looking back, that result was our Napoli result this time around, and we never recovered.

We could have put things back on track two weeks later, at home to Borussia Dortmund, but we came away with a point.  Then came the hammer blow. With the next two games coming first away and then home against Ajax, I think a lot of fans expected us to get things back on track with six points. Instead – once again - we only managed one, and things came apart.

But it’s one thing looking at the results and another to look at the performances – this is the real concern. Things were always going to be tough against Real, but we capitulated in the Bernabeu. We were played off the park at the Etihad against Dortmund. We lost a winning position away at Ajax, and then had to come from 2-0 down at home against the Dutch team to salvage a point. You can’t be going 2-0 down at home against the weakest team of the group and expect much in return.

There was a lot of debate surrounding the final game against Dortmund. Some fans wanted us to go for the win, snatch third spot in Group D and then qualify for the Europa League. Others wanted us to lose, finish bottom of the group and thus not qualify for a competition they saw as second grade, a distraction to our league and FA cup push.

Of course, the latter got their wish, and along with it came the record of being the lowest-ever Champions League group points total returned by an English club. That’s not a record I’m proud of.

A run to the latter stages of the Europa League would have also increased our UEFA coefficient, which in the long term will spare us the fortune of being lumped with a group as hard as the ones we’ve had to endure. Now we won’t have the chance to do that, and will instead likely have to face Group of Death part three next year.

We have of course also been unlucky with the draw in both years. I’m not an expert on UEFA coefficients, but this year, the likes of Malaga ranking (66th) and Montpellier’s (97th) are well below City’s (19th), and yet because of the luck of the draw, they got distinctly easier groups that City did. Drawing Dortmund in Pot 4 was the killer.  We could have had Cluj, instead we got the German champions. The margin of error in the Champions League is slim at best, but for us – this year - it was minute.

But we can whine on about draws all we want. For the money that has been lavished on this squad, for the facilities they have, for the player care department that pampers to their every need, there is no excuse – this Champions League has gone badly wrong for us.

Given our recent history, some will say we should be grateful to be in the Champions League at all. But that's a loser's view. We weren't there to make up the numbers.

One thing’s for sure – this early exit won’t have been in the 10-year plan of Mansour and Khaldoon. They invest in progress, not regression. And so for this club not to be involved in European football is surely unacceptable for the men from Abu Dhabi, the men who usually win, whatever they turn their hand to.

So now all eyes turn to the men in Manchester, who are tasked with winning. Inevitably, questions will be asked of them and of their leader, Roberto Mancini. The Champions League monkey on his back just got a whole lot bigger. Remaining in the Europa would have lessened the media/fan focus that is now going be brought with full force on City’s every move on the domestic front.

Silverware is managerial oxygen at the Etihad these days, and Mancini’s options are getting blocked off. He needs to keep winning – its as simple as that.

I’ve written before about Mancini’s days of judgment nearing. Those first set of judgments – a top four finish, winning a cup, and then winning the league – he passed with flying colours. But football waits for no man and now further judgments are on their way.

The team is at a defining point of their season. They’ve come nowhere near reaching the heights of last year and at times have looked a bit labored and out of ideas when the magic of David Silva is not around.

The wreckage of the Champions League lies around them, but somehow, the English Champions must put that ordeal behind them, find strength in adversity, and steal themselves for the task that now lies ahead.

Just look down the road – isn’t that what champions do?


  1. Anonymous5/12/12 11:49

    Generally I don't learn article on blogs, however I wish to

    say that this write-up very forced me to check out and do it! Your

    writing taste has been surprised me. Thank you, very great article.
    Also visit my site spain soccer team to play in south africa

  2. Anonymous5/12/12 12:50

    You have to put things into perspective :- 1 - toughest group ever known. 2 - should have won at madrid away and got 3 points at home to madrid afterplaying well, 3- took united 2 seasons to get out of the group stages. All in all just a blip on the way to world domination !

  3. i wonder if anyone had briefed the players before the game that it was imperative not to lose, not just to make the europa league and improve the co-efficient but also to avoid the worst English C/L record, worse than Blackburn's even? it has been a horrible day trawling through the media's treatment of our 'dismal' failure.

    with a team of our investment there are no excuses. there was defensive mistakes and a fair amount of tinkering that didnt help, but we dont seem to be able to change our game when we need to, change the tempo or attacking approach. we have a great style when we are on fire but few would say we have been on fire this season. Yaya, Balotelli, Nasri and others all really need to step up. Nothing like a derby to train the minds of the players!

  4. Anonymous5/12/12 21:02

    Once I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added-

    checkbox and now each time a remark is added I get four emails with
    the same comment.

    Is there any means you may take away me

    from that service? Thanks!
    Take a look at my blog ...

  5. Anonymous5/12/12 22:32

    Thanks for the auspicious writeup. It in reality was a entertainment account it.
    Look advanced to

    far introduced agreeable from you! By the way,
    how could we keep in

    Check out my web blog ;

  6. Anonymous5/12/12 23:21

    Hello, you used to write excellent, but the last few posts

    been kinda boring… I miss your super writings. Past several posts are
    just a little bit out of track! come on!
    Here is my blog post

  7. Anonymous8/12/12 06:15

    You made some respectable points there. I appeared on the

    internet for the difficulty and located most individuals will

    go together with with your website.
    My page :: Holiday Costa blanca

  8. Anonymous8/12/12 06:24

    When I originally commented I clicked the "Notify me when new comments are added"
    checkbox and now each time a

    comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove

    people from that service? Bless you!
    Also visit my blog post ::

  9. Anonymous8/12/12 21:52

    You made a number of nice points there.
    I did a search on the

    topic and found the majority of

    persons will agree with your blog.
    Here is my web site -

  10. Anonymous9/12/12 16:22

    I'm no longer certain where you're getting your information, but good
    topic. I must spend some time learning much more or working out more.
    Thank you for great info I was in search of this info for my mission.
    Stop by my site :: click the next website page

  11. Hello there! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an
    established blog. Is it hard to set up your own blog? I'm not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I'm thinking about
    creating my own but I'm not sure where to start. Do you have any points or suggestions? Thanks
    my web site - ass hole porn movie

  12. Great blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
    I'm planning to start my own blog

    soon but I'm a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like

    Wordpress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out
    there that I'm totally

    overwhelmed .. Any recommendations? Appreciate it!
    Also visit my web site - spanish translator certification In florida

  13. Heу thеrе! Quiсk queѕtіon that's entirely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My weblog looks weird when browsing from my iphone. I'm trying to find a theme or
    plugіn that might be ablе to resοlve this issue.
    If you hаve аny suggеstіonѕ, ρleаse ѕhaгe.
    Apρгecіate it!

    Feel free tо visit mу sitе ...
    Feel free to surf my homepage ; silk'n sensepil review

  14. Anonymous13/2/13 07:22

    We stumbled over here different web address and thought I
    may as well check things out. I like what I see so now i'm following you. Look forward to looking into your web page again.
    My page: bmi calculation