Roberto Mancini has reportedly given his Manchester City players a severe ticking-off after their abject performance in Wednesday’s 3-1 defeat against Ajax in the Champions League.

But many members of the squad feel Mancini should shoulder some of the blame, with the Italian deciding to use just three defenders in their back line; a formation which the players found difficult to adjust to.

City now have just one point from their opening three games and must win all their remaining matches to stand any chance of progressing into the knockout stages.

The relationship between manager and players is reportedly strained, but apparently this is not highlighted when the team wins on a regular basis; although is this lack of unity threatening to undermine City’s chances of success this season?

Mancini himself made a good point in stating that good players should be able to adapt to any formation; but it could be argued that his constant tinkering with the side is not helping matters, especially in defence.

It is not the first time this relationship between player and manager has been tested, when Joe Hart gave a heartfelt post-match interview in City’s last-gasp defeat to Real Madrid, claiming that the result was unacceptable after twice leading the match.

The City gaffer responded in his own post-match press conference that it was his responsibility to assess the team’s performance, not Hart’s in an obvious dig at his goalkeeper.

Mancini also does not appear to have anywhere near the same respect as the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United enjoys; especially when players such as Mario Balotelli are allowed to get away with murder and Carlos Tevez can go on a self-imposed exile and return just in time to act as hero in City’s title triumph.

Therefore, there is a strong belief that the star players are much more important than the manager at the club and of course, this should not be the case.

But at least Mancini is beginning to stamp down his authority at the club; after previously shouldering the blame for any defeat in the past and putting all the pressure on himself in City’s successful quest for the Premier League title last season.

This is the first real time where Mancini has publicly criticised his players and recognises that he needs to be tougher in order for City to stay at the top.

The prospect of early elimination from the Champions League is not simply down to tactics, but to complacency and a degree of naivety; with the players needing to recognise that now is the time to listen to their manager and be prepared to adapt in order to stay apart of Europe’s elite.

You can follow me on twitter: @JamesHilsum

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