Is Mark Hughes the man to make City a top four team and win trophies? (part three)
Where has Mark Hughes and the best part of a couple of hundred million in transfers got us? Currently we have 20 points after 11 matches. At the same stage two seasons ago under Sven we had 22 points. Ouch!
Mark Hughes has assembled a squad of richly talented individuals. The concern is that we’re now well into his second season and there’s still little sign of the team as a whole being the sum of it’s parts.
With the quality squad we now possess, the team is resembling the Chelsea of Avram Grant more than that of Guus Hiddink, in the way it fails to shine and doesn’t quite achieve it’s goals.
It would be great if Hughes could turn things round and finally come up with a solid defence, but the amount of time it’s taking make that look increasingly doubtful. The midfield and attack is closer to where they need to be, though even there we look a long way behind Chelsea or Arsenal.
There appears to be a need for a top quality coach to take advantage of the slip by Liverpool and lead us into the top four. Hughes is very loyal to his trusted coaching team, and it’s doubtful he’s prepared to make changes.
We’ve bought quality players and they compare with those at the ‘top four’ sides. Can the same be said of the manager?
Having utilised his professionalism in the transfer market to assemble a strong squad of talented individuals has Mark Hughes served his purpose in taking us as far as he can? Would we now be better served by a better coach?
If change is needed, when is the likely time?
A number of things ought to determine the time to make a change. Obviously results are the main factor – if the team go on a bad losing run then any manager is likely to get fired.
For as long as City are in contention for fourth place, Hughes should be fine. If the team finish the season below sixth, he will be on his way. If the team finish fifth or sixth, then the situation is unclear. If future performances are like those witnessed recently then that shouldn’t be good enough.
Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon al Mubarak appear far less trigger-happy over the firing of a manager than the likes of Peter Swales or Thaksin, so it would be a surprise if Hughes was to go during the season. However, it would be a shame if an opportunity to claim a top four spot at the expense of a struggling Liverpool was missed.
One final indication that Hughes has still to prove himself is that his contract is due to expire at the end of the season and there have yet to be any discussions over a new one.
Quality of potential replacements
Club owners are often castigated for enquiring after other managers when they already have one. After years of witnessing Peter Swales’ stewardship I was left feeling the opposite. The owner should always check out possible replacements and ensure a better manager is ready to come in before disposing of the present incumbent.
If Hughes goes mid season, the obvious candidate is Guus Hiddink. The way he galvanised Chelsea last season was hugely impressive, and he won the FA Cup to go alongside a top four finish. What City fan wouldn’t settle for that this season?
Of course the task with City is harder, even if the expectations wouldn’t initially be quite so high. Chelsea had a proven squad that needed to return to former ways, whereas this City team still needs blending for the first time.
Hiddink may be an excellent quick-fix coach, but his ability to work the transfer market is a bigger unknown.
He has spoke of his desire to return to the Premier League, and there was widespread talk that if Ancelotti crashed and burned, then Hiddink could go back to Chelsea following the current World Cup play-off fixtures. The man himself may prefer a return to Stamford Bridge but we could offer a big cheque and terrific prospects.
If results don’t improve, the spectre of Hiddink could start to loom over Mark Hughes.
AnÃ‚Â interview with Jose Mourinho appeared in The Times this weekend saying he would like to join a Premier League club to build something special. He may have quickly backtracked on those comments before his current chairman saw them, but I’m sure his name will continue to be linked with City. Mourinho himself could have eyes on Ferguson’s retirement, but City may be able to persuade him of our qualities.
In terms of results, Mourinho is excellent. In terms of attractive football, his teams appear under instruction not to do anything that could divert attention away from the manager. The major concern could be his outspoken comments and courting of controversy. Given that one of Sheikh Mansour’s stated aims for City is to promote the good name of Abu Dhabi, then Mourinho’s ability to offend could make him to much of a risk.
If Rafa Benitez were to lose his job at Anfield, then he would inevitably be linked with any vacancy at Eastlands. His stock may be low at the moment, but his CV is still mightily impressive. Concerns about his transfer deals and the beautiful game may abound, but at least he can send out an organised, disciplined side when he’s up against it.
Given the desire for success at City, it’s doubtful whether Sheikh Mansour would look to a manager who doesn’t already have trophies on his CV. Mark Hughes was a promising young manager. If he fails, then the replacement is likely to be a proven one.
Next up in the Premier League is the battle of the under-performers when we travel to Anfield. Normally a draw would be a good result, but given how we’ve slipped down the table, a victory is required to stop the rot. Maybe the losers of that match should get on the phone to Guus Hiddink if they want to be playing in the Champions League next year.
- What do you think?
Footnote: For those who don’t recall the managerial merry-go-round of Peter Swales, here’s a cracking example of the interview process.