December 2010

Italian Job: Roberto Mancini The Right Man To Guide Manchester City To Global Elite

EDITORS’S NOTE: This is a guest piece from A Football Report Editor Eric Beard, writing from Boston. The article originally appeared yesterday at his wonderful website. We thank him for allowing us to reuse it here.

We’re all guilty. No matter how noble we may try to seem in 140 character splices, we’ve all done it. Whether it is in FIFA 11 or Football Manager, we’ve all disregarded allegiances to our lifelong clubs and have succumbed to the lure of taking the reins at what is now the richest club in world football. However, most of us have also never actually turned City into a sustainable success. Maybe it was the £100m transfer fee for Messi or the £300k-a-week wages for Didier, but in reality managing a club with an indefinite amount of money is never quite as easy as it seems in theory. Despite the catatonic state including scuffles in training, inflated egos with inflated wages, and even transfer requests, Robert Mancini is doing just fine with the impossible job.

Everything seems to have gone wrong for Manchester City this season so far. Right? Am I right? What’s that you say? They’re sitting in 3rd place in the Premier League just below Arsenal on goal differential? They’ve qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League above Juventus? Fine. They’re doing alright I suppose. But what about the situation off the pitch? There’s nothing but chaos at the City of Manchester Stadium! News Of The World tells me every week that training sessions are testosterone-filled Roman gladiator fights and nights include a hybrid of Joey Barton and John Terry-esque antics. City is going to fall to pieces one of these days. After all, didn’t the Titanic sink because the captain was too busy imagining how great it would be to take a detour to Argentina?

“Were you talking about me? Sorry, I was too busy laughing at Carlo being below me in the league table!”

The truth is that I hate City, you probably hate City, the populist British media loves to hate City, and pretty much everyone that doesn’t wear Claret and Blue or live in Abu Dhabi cannot bear Manchester City. Last year on Cinco de Mayo, before City took on Spurs in the crucial match for 4th place and a spot in the Champions League, I wrote howwhy Tottenham needed to win to defeat sport’s newest evil empire.

Simultaneously studying for a Macroeconomic theory final, I wrote, “no team in any league around the world should ever splash cash like Manchester City plan to do. Because once Manchester City become powers in the Premier League, all other teams will try to keep up to stay competitive. The thing is, when clubs try to keep pace with City in terms of player salaries, transfer fees, state of the art facilities, etc… that is when some of England’s best clubs will be forced into financial ruin. While I know that if City qualify then they may attract stars such as Kaka, David Villa, Ibrahimovic, and whoever else you can think of that makes far too much money. But at what cost?”

Manchester City may very well break the social fabric of English football and destroy the domestic game, however, do you think for one second that Roberto Mancini stays up at night because he bears a guilty conscience? Not a chance. Mancini’s sole intention is to win and keep on winning until he’s on top of the mountain that is European football and is looking down at Pep Guardiola, Sir Alex, Arsene Wenger, and the rest of the continent’s elite personalities. The scariest part? Mancini knows exactly what he’s doing. The club’s oil-ridden owners may force the Italian to take trips to visit an academy in the Middle East that may never produce a player in the first team, but beyond that the former Sampdoria and Lazio star is in full control.

Just like any competition, the politics of the Premier League is merely a game to trump your adversary’s amount of influence and power. Roberto Mancini is doing a masterful job at slowly creating an unstoppable army with an applaudable amount of ambivalence. Arsenal may be a club that continues to take strides forward for the English game with its current crop of talent, however, Manchester City, through inevitable periods of success and failure, will ultimately become the powerhouses their owners want them to be. Amongst all of this banter about the apocalypse in football, perhaps the greatest asset for the Citizens is that Mancini remains a likable lad.

If Alan Pardew was in charge of City then perhaps by now the City of Manchester Stadium would simply be a pile of ash and rubble. And yet the chronic attention-deficit disorder that streamlines across football seems to wipe our memories with a clean slate every season. Your average fan may hate City now, but what if Kolarov, Balotelli, Boateng, and Silva adapt to the Prem and start playing to their potential in a year’s time? If Mancini can survive and thrive amongst the aura of animosity surrounding him, will our perceptions show fortitude or will their moral basis collapse at the will of sexy football? What if City develop chemistry, sign Kaka, and go out and play like Barcelona? Will we be strong enough to resist the tryst?

Eric Beard is the Editor In Chief of A Football Report. His writing appears on a guest basis frequently at The Yanks Are Coming. You can follow him on Twitter at @afootballreport.

Eric Beard

  • Neil W. Blackmon

    Devastatingly good stuff, Eric. And really, the answer is, at least somewhat, no ?

    The rub is that Mancini is negative tactically— as I wrote yesterday the guy thinks catenaccio is too exciting, and this limits the skill set of some of his best players, including David Silva. Ballotelli is the real wild card, I think…. attitude issues aside– he’s a brilliant talent– when will he start to play that way ?

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  • Jon

    I think he’s doing a fantastic job. His tactics are negative, bu he’s got offensive talents up front that are good enough to bail the team out and often turn nil-nil draws into one-nil wins, which has Citeh sitting on more points than if they were managed by some offensively minded but reckless Diego Maradona-type.

    As for the strife in the dressing room and on the training ground, it obviously doesn’t bother him. He willingly brought in Mario Balotelli, who he knows is a tempermental child, but he just doesn’t care. He’s not Phil Jackson, massaging each ego just the right way, he’s a soccer coach in a silly scarf who doesn’t want to be your friend, and that’s okay.

  • Puck

    While I really hate Mancini’s style of football, the team is doing quite well. The whole team is a group of overpaid assclowns, but I still can’t help but cheer for them.

    And another thing, if you don’t like Manchester City, you are probably really poor.