Why Sheikh Mansour’s gamble on Mancini makes sense
Sympathy abounds for Mark Hughes, along with criticism of his sacking, so let’s have a look at why City have decided to make a change now and bring in Roberto Mancini.
Firstly, it’s clear that with Liverpool struggling there is a belief that a Champions League place is up for grabs and City should be going all out to grab it. Forget that line from Khaldoon at the end of last season about 6th place being good enough this time round. At the time it felt like a PR statement to keep the media happy and the pressure off Hughes in public. And now we see that’s all it was.
Following a successful Summer transfer window, and an open Premier League this season, their can be no doubt that this season’s target is a top four place.
As I’ve written previously, the professionalism of Hughes in the way he conducted himself and on matters off the pitch won the initial backing of the board and he brought in experienced quality players. We may have paid over the odds, and they aren’t Kaka style galacticos, but it is still a very good squad with strength in depth.
Unfortunately, when the team goes out on the pitch, it has consistently failed to be the sum of it’s individual parts. The defence in particular never looks convincing, and Hughes’ coaching team haven’t been able to resolve the problems.
The problem with the tactics and coaching has been best exemplified by Richard Dunne – a solid defender under Stuart Pearce, Sven, Martin O’Neill and Giovanni Trappatoni; he looked a liability under Hughes. Micah Richards has likewise gone backwards under the Welshman. Bridge and Lescott followed a nightmare performance against Burnley by appearing as England’s best two defenders against Brazil when under the guidance of Fabio Capello.
Looking back, under Sven, we went to Old Trafford, kept it tight and took the sting out of the game, before scoring twice and closing the game out. There has never been that level of discipline and control under Hughes.
In contrast, we have now conceded three goals in each of the last three fixtures. After a year and a half, a good coach shouldn’t still be waiting for the defence to gel. That has completely undermined Hughes’ position, regardless of all the good work off the pitch.
The loyalty of Hughes to his coaching team has meant no fresh talent has been brought in to this area.
Having decided that we’re going to bid for a top four place this season, the decision for Sheikh Mansour, was whether that would be best served by persevering with Mark Hughes or bringing in someone else.
The run of draws and defeat at Spurs, along with insufficient signs of improvement in the defence has made that decision go against the Welshman. The way we’re playing, there isn’t sufficient evidence that Hughes could claim a top four spot.
Therefore should we just right off this season, or take a gamble and appoint someone else mid-season?
Unfortunately for Hughes, the example of Guus Hiddink at Chelsea is still fresh in everyone’s minds.
Last season, Scolari was struggling with a squad of talented individuals. Drogba was a shadow of his former self, and a top four place was in doubt. Abramovich acted decisively, bringing in a proven coach and hey presto, second place in the league and the FA Cup. Drogba was a man reborn.
City’s board have decided to take a similar gamble. For Drogba, read Robinho and Adebayor. The refusal to sanction Robinho’s move to Barcelona indicates that Sheikh Mansour believes the Brazilian can be salvaged and help inspire us to that top four place.
Guus Hiddink may well have been the preferred coach, but time is of the essence. Games are coming thick and fast. City can’t afford to slide down the league, and there is a transfer window to negotiate.
In contrast, Hiddink is at an age where he is in no hurry to take on a major challenge like City. Extracating him from the Russia job would also be a process that couldn’t be rushed against the Russian Federation’s wishes. These factors are likely to have ruled him out.
If Inter had failed to qualify for the next stage of the Champions League, then Mourinho may have been available. They made it, and he was never going to run away from the challenge of taking on Chelsea in the knockout stages.
Mancini on the other hand has arguably the best CV of any available manager and is keen to work in the Premier League. People are questioning his lack of Premier League experience and the fact Inter benefited from other clubs being punished in the Serie A financial scandal. However Ancelotti, Wenger, Benitez, Hiddink and Mourinho didn’t have previous Premier League experience, and Mancini still managed to finish above Ancelotti and Kaka three times to get his Serie A titles.
Appointing him this weekend may be brutal for Hughes, but it gives the Italian a full week to work with the squad before the game with Stoke. That’s as long a period as he could have at this time of the season. It also gives him a few weeks to assess the squad and bring in new players during the January transfer window.
Wholesale changes are unlikely. Initially, Mancini is here primarily for his coaching skills and ability to get results. There may be a couple of additions, but the turnover of previous transfer windows is highly unlikely. That won’t stop the speculation in the press mind.
His lack of experience in England and inability to speak the language (though apparently he has been having lessons) make the appointment a big gamble. But once it was decided that Hughes wasn’t likely to take us to fourth place, what is there to lose?
Finishing in a Europa League place is neither here or there to City’s owners. If Mancini crashes and burns, then Mourinho or someone of that ilk may be available in the Summer. There is talk of a clause in the Italian’s contract that he could be paid off in the Summer, though that may just be speculation.
One thing’s for sure, the target of fourth place has now been set. We have a coach with an impressive record of trophies who is hungry to do well. It promises to be an exciting ride once again. Here we go with Mancini’s blue and white army!
- Do you think City have done the right thing? I’d be interested to hear thoughts on Roberto Mancini.