Nothing brings people together like a common enemy; local gangs put aside differences in the summer riots, Eric Cartman and Bart Simpson came together to stop Family Guy on South Park and Carlos Tevez brought the Manchester City fans closer to their manager.
After the infamous game away at Bayern Munich all City fans began throwing away their replica Tevez shirts, began chanting Mancini’s name spontaneously during games and the man that once lead the blue armies football revolution became hated amongst the hardcore of the Etihad. But this episode coupled with a great start to the season helped by the fact all City’s rivals seem to falling over each other, seems to have allowed City fans to get carried away with the talent Roberto Mancini has as a manager.
His club record so far in the league would suggest he has done extremely well, along with outstanding victories away at Tottenham and Manchester United but given the amount of money he has spent and the endless cash at his disposal anything less than top of the league would be seen as abject failure. In fact Mancini’s last club, Inter Milan, had endless cash available too and although he would often win the then declining Serie A by a good twenty points his attempts in Europe were poor at best. This was highlighted by Jose Mourinho’s achievement of winning the Champions League with Inter in 2010 two years after Mancini’s departure for not achieving what was expected in Europe.
In the modern age of football the difference between a good manager and a great one is the ability to get the best out of what he has at his disposal. Anyone can buy a new team given enough money but to win with a team that under-performed in a previous season shows character and man management. It would be very interesting to see how Mancini coped if he lost Balotelli, Silva and Aguero in February and had to rely solely on Dzeko and the youngsters that impressed so much against Wolves.
For any City fan that’s optimistic about their chances in Europe they’d do well to look at Mancini’s record in the Champions League. To ruin the surprise he has never gone further than the quarter finals and that was over six years ago. Since then he has gone out in the opening knock out round whenever he has been involved or, like with City, not made it past the group stage.
Now I know that City had the group of death and I know that it was City’s first time in the competition but let’s not forget that the team that beat them fair and square to second place in the group were also new to the competition and don’t have the vast riches available to them that City do. All credit must go to Napoli, and the English media has been quick to forget them in the wake of City’s exit. Not only that but the trio that lead the attacking line, Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik are names often linked with the sky blue galacticos.
It must also be remembered that even though City had a blistering start to the season it is only because they were the inform side. Chelsea, Newcastle United and Arsenal have all been clear at the top of the Premiership thanks to wonderful starts to their seasons but that old devil Manchester United kept plugging away and eventually caught up with them once they found their zone.
If we look at the contenders for the title this season no one has really got going yet, except Arsenal but one tackle on Robin Van Persie could end all that. Chelsea are a team in transition with a talented new manager still learning and look to find his teams right groove, Liverpool have played some great football but been unable to turn domination of a game into winning results, Arsenal, as I said, are playing wonderfully at the moment but they have Van Persie to thank for that and the African Nations cup could halt them too, Manchester United started with a bang but stalled since their humbling against City and Tottenham are another team in form but Harry Redknapp aside, no one is pinning the badge of title contender on them just yet.
What’s that I hear you say the Europa League is an easy target because Mancini is going to take it seriously? Well given the fact that the games are on a Thursday night, there are plenty of banana skins still in the tournament including Udinese, Athletico Madrid, Rubin Kazan, Ajax, and Manchester United and the fact it’s the fall back competition to the Champions League which must have an effect on players competitiveness for it should be remembered.
Also I seem to remember that Mancini said something very similar in March ahead of a game against Dynamo Kyiv about the Europa League but they weren’t able to overturn a two goal deficit at home in the second leg and lost the tie two goals to one.
That’s not to say Mancini has no talent because he must have some to have the record he has but with an early exit in Europe and his domestic rivals all starting to find form this season, cracks are surfacing at the Etihad and the former rich kids of the Premiership, Chelsea, have been the first to show this.