Manchester City Project’ has been a success, despite the club’s silverware. Their title win came after a monumental slip up from their inner-city adversaries, resulting in a 1st place finish due to a goal difference of +64 to Manchester United’s +56.
And while the last game of the season was riveting for City fans and neutrals alike, the Citizens only managed their first title in 44 years by narrowly beating the now-relegated Q.P.R. With margins that tight, the difference between success and failure comes down to the stud on a player’s boot.
Of course, the less said about Manchester City’s time in Europe since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his moneybag cronies stepped in the better, but considering this is an article about Mancini, I’ll say it anyway.
With a collective of European experience in abundance, City failed to impress in what has become the holy grail of cup competitions. Cited reasons for their failure included their admittedly tough groups, a lack of involvement at this stage, and a testing domestic timetable. But one simply needs to mention Borussia Dortmund to render these feeble arguments obsolete.
Considering the £536.7m spent on transfer fees alone (agent fees and wages will make that figure significantly higher) and a return of one Premier League title and one FA Cup, then you have to admit that judgement day is coming for Roberto Mancini – and it doesn’t look pretty.
Granted, he could make it two FA Cups unless Wigan do the unthinkable come Saturday May 11th, but his form in Europe has been woeful. It begs the question; does the suave Italian really have the tools to push Manchester City to the next level – say, back-to-back title challenges and posing a genuine threat in Europe?
If we consider tools to mean finances, then Mancini is fully equipped to do so; everyone is acutely aware of the spending power at his disposal. If we consider tools to mean personnel, then again, Mancini has a wealth of options at his fingertips – a roster of international players, Champions League winners and now league winners.
But if we were to consider tools as Mancini’s skillset as a manager, then his checklist of achievements since joining City would suggest he doesn’t have what it takes to mould this into a team of perennial winners.
Tactically, the former Sampdoria player has fallen short. His dalliance with alternative formations – three in defence, loading the middle of the park – have only offered a sharp retort. The decision to experiment with the shape of his team – even during games – has been baffling, especially as he tinkered in Europe against sides such as Ajax, Real Madrid and Dortmund.
Then there’s his transfer record. Buying players has been a huge part of the project over in the blue side of Manchester. It hasn’t quite been ‘stuff the team full of talent and see what sticks’, but it hasn’t been far off that either.
Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart have been Manchester City’s most consistent performers. Last season, the solid partnership of their Belgian rock and England’s Number One effectively secured them the title, while this year, Zabaleta has once again underlined the importance of the roaming, hard-working full back to a top European side.
Mancini didn’t sign any of these players; he inherited them. Amongst his successful signings, we can count James Milner, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure – signed for a combined fee of £90m. These weren’t exactly unknowns in the footballing world, and had an impressive track record to precede their big-money moves.
Counting Mancini’s less successful transfers takes more time. Maicon, Samir Nasri, Edin Dzeko, Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair and Gael Clichy have rarely been on a run of form befitting a world-class player, at Manchester City anyway. This is not to say their résumés weren’t impressive before joining, but they’ve certainly failed to make the impact they’re paid to make. The buck, unless it is revealed he’s not in charge of first team comings and goings, stops at Roberto.
With tactical deficiencies so rife this season, and a questionable grip on the transfer market today, Mancini seems unable to steer this blue ship towards the glory so feverishly demanded by the club’s owners and fans. Say what you will about their spending power (and plenty has been said) but while it’s there, employing the best person possible to look after it is paramount.
Jose Mourinho’s love affair with Chelsea looks to be rekindled this summer, and while Manchester City could take advantage of the London club’s exiting Spaniard, they probably won’t. Despite a Champions League and (probably) another Europa League under his belt, he too seems to lack that star quality required to be a City manager.