What has happened to Man City’s Stephen Ireland?

In May 2009, Stephen Ireland was named Manchester City’s player of the season, as he showed exceptional form and effectively got about his business that had City’s fans really taking to him.

The revolution at Manchester City since the start of this season has seen many changes. Notably there has been the arrival of some fantastic players and the injection of vast amounts of cash from the owner. However, with change it does not always make players go to the next level that is expected of them. In Ireland’s case, he has seen himself in the shadows of the club’s new midfielders and therefore he is frequently being named amongst the substitutes.

Ireland has been down the pecking order in recent weeks behind the likes of Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong, his next challenge will be his toughest one. In some way the signing of Patrick Vieira, in the January transfer window, has put him under increasing pressure even though Vieira is unlikely to play every game. It is the Frenchman’s presence that will put questions in Ireland’s head as to how highly, or not, he is rated by manager Roberto Mancini.

The Ireland that the Eastlands faithful saw last season witnessed a player with natural ability, flair and creativity.  All these attributes should be getting the attention of manager Roberto Mancini, but Ireland has been affected more than most by the managerial change and has not adapted. Ireland seems the type of player who will apply himself to getting his place back in the team; however situations like this always create the rumour-mill to run on over time, (as we saw this past weekend) so there will be lots of speculation that he will be leaving in the summer.

The improvement in Ireland’s game, mainly to do with previous manager Mark Hughes, seems to have gone backwards judging by Mancini’s team selections. If Ireland is good enough, then he will come through the challenge of a what being at a top club is all about.

Even though Manchester City’s front line has an array of attacking talent, the Italian mentality of the manager may prevent Ireland’s inclusion in the team mainly as a note of caution. It seems that if someone has to make way then it must be Ireland. His position of attacking midfielder is one where he may be required to alter his game for the team’s cause. It may not be ideal, it may require a different approach, but Ireland may have to perform different midfield roles to show the manager that he deserves to be in the team. Giving the manager a selection headache would be good for Ireland’s cause.