Should Manchester City show faith in Roberto Mancini?

Week after week chants of “Mancini woooaah” ring around the Etihad Stadium from the Manchester City faithful. After winning the 2011 FA Cup – their first major trophy in 35 years, and then the 2011-12 Premier League – their first top flight title since 1967-68, Mancini and his two accomplices, David Platt and Brian Kidd have failed to build on this success as much as perhaps many were expecting with their funds and spending over the past few seasons.

roberto mancini

Last season saw the most dramatic end to a Premier League season in its then 20th season. Sergio Aguero scoring a 93rd minute title winner against struggling 10-man Queens Park Rangers in a game that many had down as a comfortable home win from the start. Roberto Mancini’s side made hard work of it.

Manchester City were only in that situation after Manchester United were beaten 1-0 at Wigan and then drew 4-4 at home to Everton in April after leading 4-2 going into the final 10 minutes. A victory in the Manchester derby on 30 April was a requirement for Mancini’s side and after Sir Alex Ferguson lined up a defensive formation, Vincent Kompany scored the only goal of the game from a corner that would go a long way to secure the title.

Many expected the blue half of Manchester to go on and “dominate for the next 10 years” [Alan Hansen]. I had my doubts, particularly when I tipped and backed Manchester United to win the 2012/13 Premier League title.

That started with the summer transfer. Manchester United were bringing in the league’s top goalscorer from last season, Robin van Persie, to go alongside Wayne Rooney who was the second-highest goalscorer in 2012-13.

Manchester City’s transfers at the start of 2012-13 season suggested they already had the best team in the world. That despite being eliminated at the group stage of the Champions League and winning the Premier League on goal difference.

Transfers haven’t improved 2012-13 team

Jack Rodwell (Everton) – £12 million
The young midfielder made a bad start to his Manchester City career, at fault for Southampton’s second on his debut in the first game of the season (Manchester City came from behind to win 3-2 in the final 20 minutes) and even came close to scoring a long-range own goal versus Queens Park Rangers in his third appearance.

Manchester City have won all 5 Premier League games in which Rodwell has started and provided he remains fit for the most of his career I see him being a good investment over the long term.

Richard Wright – Free Transfer
Experienced substitute, didn’t feature for Manchester City this season. Perhaps helping out with the youth team goalkeepers. Hasn’t been a fault.

Then came four deadline day signings:

Javi García (Benfica) – £17 million
The former-Real Madrid holding midfielder had been highly-rated in Portugal with Benfica before his deadline day move to the defending English Premier League champions. Javi García made an immediate impact heading in an equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Stoke City in August.

Essentially a less-aggressive Nigel de Jong playing in front of the back four and who allows Yaya Touré to adventure forward. But the Ivorian certainly hasn’t made as bigger impact this season as he did last.

Matija Nastasić (Fiorentina) – £12 million + Stefan Savić
The 20-year old centre-back has been good during his first season and gone unnoticed by a number of pundits. The Serbian has certainly been a massive improvement on the Montenegrin who looked woeful in his handful of appearances last season. Which makes you wonder why this transfer went through on deadline day and not much earlier in the season.

Matija Nastasić was part of the Manchester City defence that kept five clean sheets in his first seven Premier League games, whilst Vincent Kompany was making a slow start to the season. Has found himself switching in and out of the first team with Joleon Lescott a lot towards the end of the season.

Scott Sinclair (Swansea City) – £6.25 million
A surprise move but Roberto Mancini seemed keen on adding a few more English players to his squad over the summer. In Swansea City’s debut Premier League season, Scott Sinclair scored 8 league goals from the left forward position. This represented 18% of the Swans’ goals but it is worth noting 4 of these came from the penalty spot.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Sinclair and was surprised by this move in August. Competing with David Silva, Sinclair has made just two Premier League starts this season and a total of 212 minutes. He is still only 24 but ultimately he was signed as a backup in case the Spanish star got injured.

Maicon (Internazionale) – £5 million
The 31-year old Brazilian has certainly been amongst the best right-backs in the world at one point. But he wasn’t at his best during his final season in Italy and certainly hasn’t made an impact in his few appearances in England.
It doesn’t help when Pablo Zabaleta is one of the best right backs in the Premier League right now, making the PFA Team of the Season. Not a young backup, not one for the future, a strange and ineffectual signing.

Manchester United

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side don’t stay down for long. The Scottish manager has overseen battles from Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, Arsenal and Chelsea over the years. And won them all. He wasn’t going to roll over for his noisy neighbours.

And that he didn’t. Losing 6 points to and with an aggregate scoreline of 1-7 to Manchester City last season was one place his team needed to improve on. Goalkeeper David de Gea was coming good at the end of the season after costing his side quite a few goals and points early in his debut campaign.

Shinji Kagawa was another strong summer acquisition by the Red Devils, despite suffering from injuries and struggling to get a good run of games in the first team. Otherwise, I was fairly confident Manchester United would be stronger this season than last.

Roberto Mancini wasn’t as prepared, and with both Arsenal and Chelsea making slow starts to the season, City also failed to put any real pressure on United at the top of the table.

As well as failing to improve his side over the summer, Mancini wasn’t able to steal as many late victories this time around, despite doing so at the start.

Manchester City came from behind in the final 20 minutes to beat Southampton 3-2 on the opening day, before being gifted an equaliser 10 minutes from time at Liverpool in their second game. Edin Dzeko scored an 87th minute winner at Fulham in September and then one in the final minute at West Brom after James Milner’s first half dismissal.

The same would not continue throughout the season. A poor performance at West Ham earned the Citizens a 0-0 draw. They were held 1-1 at home by Everton, beaten by a late goal from Robin van Persie and downed by Adam Johnson’s strike for Sunderland, all in December.

Heading into 2013, the league was heading out of sight and Manchester City were already out of the Champions League. Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Ajax all getting the better of them. That’s two seasons without making it past the group stage – Blackburn Rovers are the only other English side to compete in the competition without making it to the knockout rounds.

Tactically, Mancini has been outclassed in Europe. This even goes back to his Internazionale days. Here is his record in full:

Lazio UEFA Cup 2002-03

Roberto Mancini’s first season in Europe was his finest. Playing European giants like Xanthi, Sturm Graz and Wisla Krakow, he guided his Lazio side with the likes of Angelo Peruzzi, Jaap Stam, Sinisa Mihajlovic, Diego Simeone, Stefano Fiore, Dejan Stankovic and Claudio Lopez to the semi-finals. Until they faced the up-and-coming José Mourinho and his eventual UEFA Cup winners FC Porto in the semi-finals. Thrashed in Portugal in the first leg, the two sides played out a stalemate in the second leg with Mancini’s side all but admitting defeat.

Lazio Champions League 2003-04

Roberto Mancini had guided his Lazio to a fourth place finish in Serie A, finish directly above Parma, Udinese and Chievo, some 12 points behind Juventus at the top.

The Italian coach’s first season in the Champions League proved to be a tough test. Taking 4 points from Turkish side Besiktas and only 1 from Sparta Prague, Mancini’s Lazio side were beaten 2-1 at Stamford Bridge before being thrashed 4-0 at home by Claudio Ranieri’s richly-invested Chelsea.

Internazionale Champions League 2004-05

A move to Internazionale followed that summer. A fourth place finish the season before saw them go through the third qualifying round, beating Swiss side FC Basel 5-2 on aggregate.

In 2004-05, Internazionale were building a squad to compete for the Serie A title. They had finished 23 points behind the winners the season before, and with the likes of Francesco Toldo, Javier Zanetti, Marco Materazzi, Ivan Cordoba, Esteban Cambiasso, Juan Sebastián Verón, Dejan Stankovic, Adriano and Christian Vieri, managed to close the gap to 14 and a third place finish.

In Europe, Mancini’s side cruised through a group that included Valencia, Werder Bremen and Anderlecht. In the knockout stages, he eliminated an FC Porto side in their first season under Victor Fernandez before being eliminated by city rivals AC Milan. Down 2-0 from the first leg, they trailed 1-0 in the return before Dida was hit by a flare and the game was postponed in the second half.

Internazionale Champions League 2005-06

A respectable victory in Ukraine against a well-funded Shakhtar Donetsk side saw Roberto Mancini’s side reach the group stage of the Champions League the following season. Hard work was made of Artmedia Bratislava in the first leg, playing most of the second half with 10-men following Juan Sebastián Verón’s red card. A Glasgow Rangers side coached by Alex McLeish weren’t supposed to be much of a threat and neither were FC Porto.

Internazionale led Danny Blind’s Ajax on away goals from the first leg before winning at home 1-0. Spanish debutants Villarreal proved one challenge too much for Mancini’s side, eliminating the Italian giants on away goals. In recent days, it’s the former Villarreal and now Malaga head coach Manuel Pellegrini that has been linked to replacing Mancini as the Manchester City boss.

Internazionale Champions League 2006-07

Elimination on away goals would be Internazionale’s fate the following season, this time at the round of 16 and also to a Spanish side. This time after failing to score in the away leg in Valencia. They had finished runners-up in their group to Felix Magath’s Bayern Munich having picked up a key 6 points against Spartak Moscow.

Internazionale originally finished third in the league this season, but were awarded first place after the match-fixing scandal.

Internazionale Champions League 2007-08

An impressive domestic campaign that saw Internazionale win Serie A by 22 points with just 1 defeat in the league all season, they failed to live up to their expectations in the Champions League. This was the season Juventus were playing Serie B football and AC Milan handed an 8-point penalty.

Zico was in his first year as a head coach in Europe, with Fenerbahce, Jan Wouters was in temporary charge at PSV Eindhoven – he had had a spell at Ajax at the end of the previous millennium and since 2011 has been in charge of FC Utrecht. The group stage proved to be easy for Mancini, winning five of the six group games. Then he faced tactical master Rafa Benitez and was duly beaten 3-0 on aggregate by Liverpool in the round of 16.

Roberto Mancini left at the end of the season. In came José Mourinho and two seasons later Internazionale were champions of Europe.

Manchester City Europa League 2010-11

Roberto Mancini took charge of Manchester City in December 2009, replacing Mark Hughes. He guided them to a Europa League place for the remainder of the season.

At the start of the 2010-11 season Mancini seemed to have an unlimited cheque book. In came Yaya Touré (£24 million), David Silva (£24 million), Mario Balotelli (£24 million), James Milner (£18 million), Aleksandar Kolarov (£16 million) and Jerome Boateng (£10 million) over the summer, and Edin Dzeko (£27 million) joined in January.

The Europa League didn’t appear to be the biggest of Manchester City’s priorities that season as they focussed on qualification for the Champions League, which Mancini succeeded by finishing 3rd. They were eliminated at the round of 16 by Dynamo Kyiv in Europe’s ‘B’ tournament.

Manchester City Champions League & Europa League 2011-12

Manchester City’s first season in the Champions League proved to be a disappointment. Bayern Munich had beaten them comfortably 2-0 in the second group game. The Germans would go on to reach the final, losing the final group game to Manchester City having already won the group and playing a number of reserve players. Napoli were a good side that season and took 4 points off the English side. Whilst Manchester City recorded 6 points from a Villarreal side that lost all of their six group games in a season that would see them relegated from La Liga.

The Europa League didn’t prove any easier for them, despite a commanding 6-1 aggregate victory over FC Porto. They were eliminated on away goals by a poor Sporting Club side.

Manchester City Champions League 2012-13

The champions of England put in an embarrassing performance in this season’s elite European competition. Up against the champions of Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, Manchester City picked up just 3 points, all with draws at home. They were lucky to pick up a draw versus Borussia Dortmund too.

Roberto Mancin’s record in the Champions League

Roberto Mancini’s overall record in the Champions League is like so for all those interested in win-loss records:

Roberto Mancini Record in Europe

A more worrying table for the Italian is below. In seven Champions League campaigns, Roberto Mancini has not made it past the final eight. He has even been eliminated three times at the group stage (once with Lazio, twice with Manchester City):

Roberto Mancini Champions League Stage of Elimination

Roberto Mancini’s record in the FA Cup

Manchester City’s FA Cup success in 2011 ended that trophy drought, beating Stoke City in the final. A win over Manchester United in the semi-final was the most impressive performance in the tournament from Roberto Mancini’s side.
Here is the Italian coach’s performance in his four FA Cup campaigns:

Manchester City 2009-10 FA Cup

After beating low league opposition, Manchester City were eliminated by Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium after extra time of a fifth round replay.

Manchester City 2010-11 FA Cup

After being held at lower league opponents Leicester City and Notts County in the early rounds, Manchester City kept five straight clean sheets on their way to lifting the trophy, concluding with 1-0 victories over Reading (quarter-final), Manchester United (semi-final) and Stoke City in the final.

Manchester City 2011-12 FA Cup

A controversial Vincent Kompany red card in the first half of their third round tie with city rivals Manchester United led to a 3-2 defeat at home.  The Citizens offered a late fightback from 0-3 but it turned out to be too little, too late.

Manchester City 2012-13 FA Cup

Manchester City went 540 minutes without conceding a goal in this season’s tournament before Ben Watson headed home an injury-time winner for Wigan Athletic to produce the biggest upset in an FA Cup final since sixth-place Wimbledon beat league champions Liverpool in 1988.

The future

The Manuel Pellegrini to Manchester City link appears to be over a massive bet placed in Chile at Stan James. Naturally we’ll assume it’s someone in the know and/or connected to the current Malaga head coach. And when do bookmakers get it wrong when odds are this short?

The Chilean’s experience in Europe has been with three Spanish clubs. He took Champions League debutants to the semi-finals when he reached the final four with Villarreal in 2006 and narrowly missed out repearing that feat with Malaga this season, losing late and dramatically in the quarter-finals to Borussia Dortmund.

One season at Real Madrid came in between, before the Spanish giants replaced him with José Mourinho. The Portuguese manager should also be considered by Manchester City in the summer, provided they ditch Mancini. Though with the ex-Barcelona staff members at the club, namely director of football Txiki Begiristain, and with the strong rumours of Mourinho already agreeing a move to Stamford Bridge it looks unlikely.

Current odds from Sky Bet:

Manuel Pelligrini 1/8
José Mourinho 6/1
Rafa Benitez 20/1
Brendan Rodgers 33/1
Carlo Ancelotti 33/1
Jürgen Klopp 33/1

A number of manager’s are judged on their spending and what they win from it. Winning a Premier League title is always an achievement regardless of the money spent. So whilst this post may be seen as very anti-Mancini, I would like to take the time in this sentence to congratulate Roberto Mancini on his success 12 months ago. Now on to his transfers:

Manchester City 2009-10 January transfers

Patrick Vieira looked past it when he joined Manchester City in January of 2009. But he helped Roberto Mancini to Europa League qualification via a fifth place finish in his first season and to the Champions League as a bit-part player the following season.

Adam Johnson made a bright start at the Etihad but soon faded out with limited chances before being sold to Sunderland.

Manchester City 2010-11 transfers

The summer of 2010 was certainly the most productive of Roberto Mancini’s transfer activity. The likes of Yaya Touré and David Silva have been two of the best players he has signed, whilst James Milner has played a big part in his three seasons at the club now.

Edin Dzeko scored some important goals during their title-winning campaign although the Bosnian’s ability has often been questioned since his arrival in England. His winner against West Brom recently ended a six-game streak without a league goal that dated back to early February.

Aleksandar Kolarov played a number of games during his first season but hasn’t been a regular starter over the past two seasons. His defensive abilities have been questioned but has been a good set piece taker for Manchester City.

Jérôme Boateng never settled in at Manchester City and was quickly shipped back to Germany, and Bayern Munich.

Mario Balotelli was both an entertainer and a liability under Roberto Mancini. Scored some important goals, was a reliable penalty taker but not even the manager knew what he was going to do next. Shouldn’t have lasted so long at the Etihad before he was finally sold to AC Milan in January 2013.

Manchester City 2011-12 transfers

Gaël Clichy has since gone on to become the team’s regular first choice left-back. A good attacking threat who has pace to help him get back when caught out of position.

Stefan Savić had a shocking time in defence in the few games he played for Manchester City. Roberto Mancini made the good decision to sell him a year later and upgrade to Matija Nastasić. The Montenegrin perhaps didn’t settle into the country so well at a young age.

Sergio Agüero has been arguably Roberto Mancini’s finest signing at the Etihad and certainly the most expensive. Scored the title-winning goal and numerous more both last season and this season. A fantastic player who is capable of winning any game.

Samir Nasri has been inconsistent during his time with Manchester City. Cannot deny he was a Premier League winner last season but even Mancini has questioned his performances this season.

Owen Hargreaves was seemingly brought in just to stir things up with Manchester United, most notably the talk of him being a “guinea pig” during his injury-plagued time in England. None of which I was buying.

Costel Pantilimon has been a solid backup to Joe Hart in goal.

Manchester City 2012-13 transfers

This season’s transfers as discussed earlier in this article.

Two trophies for all that money spent, on top of the talented players already at the club – including Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and Carlos Tévez.

Roberto Mancini’s man management skills, particularly with Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tévez didn’t win him over much praise either.

A trophyless 2012-13 campaign (excluding the Community Shield), which included an abysmal Champions League campaign and 10 points behind Manchester United with two games to go is surely enough to see Roberto Mancini out of the door.