After Saturday’s nightmare against Southampton, Roberto Mancini is now facing the prospect of quelling a mutiny aboard the troubled ship of Manchester City.
The squad are pushing him ever closer to the plank and want Patrick Vieira, the club’s football development executive, to assume control of their disjointed and disappointing title defence. The Daily Star reports that Mancini’s behaviour after the 3-1 defeat at St Mary’s left them ‘shocked’ and ‘disgusted’ as he allegedly refused to speak to his players.
While speculation over the Italian’s future has increased in recent days, the Vieira rumour is surprising. At 36-years-old, the former Arsenal enforcer has no management experience and would surely find it difficult to stand out among the influx of candidates if Mancini was to be sacked.
The former French international has started the necessary coaching badges and completed his ‘B’ licence in the summer. But despite taking the steps towards a career in management, there is little comparison to Mancini’s experience and achievements at the Etihad. Sacking him for Vieira, who would probably take over initially as caretaker manager, would go against the conventional wisdom.
Let’s not forget that Mancini has pulled City from rich pretenders to even richer champions. Last year’s league title was their first in 44 years, and add to that the FA Cup in 2011. It’s too easy to look at the now and forget the past. Would Manchester United have one hand on the Premier League trophy if Robin Van Persie had signed for City instead? Would the Sergio Aguero of last season close the 12 point gap?
Yes, they are unanswerable, and the game is full of ‘what ifs’. But, so is sacking a championship winning coach. There is no guarantee it would boost City’s title hopes for this season and the next – in reality it could easily weaken them further. And is it not the players who should take the blame? No manager – not even Vieira – can legislate for an own goal and erratic goalkeeping.
Mancini criticised his team, saying:
The players should take responsibility – if they have big balls. If not, they can’t play in a top team. It’s not always the manager’s fault.”
A perfectly reasonable response. Indeed, some might say that staging a protest deflects the blame from them. It has certainly produced headlines and put more pressure on the management team. Depending on the accuracy of the reports, how will Mancini walk into the dressing room and exert his authority knowing some do not support him? It undermines his position.
Players will always form opinions, and not all will build relationships with their managers. Fans accept that as do managers themselves. If concerns exist they should be funneled through the correct channels and dealt with by face to face conversations, not industrial action.
A season without a trophy will happen from time to time. As many will acknowledge, the real test comes not with how you celebrate a title success, but how you deal with the pressure of being champions. That mentality is gradually built via consistency and a trust in what you are asked to do.
If the City players are so stung by criticism that they have to abandon the ship, the questions of competency should be directed at them, not the manager. The short answer to their demands is; get on the training pitch and concentrate your efforts on winning matches, rather than generating unwanted speculation.