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Roberto Mancini right to want more funds to develop his Man City squad

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The papers are all up-in-arms over Roberto Mancini supposedly asking his owners to fund further transfer activity this Summer.

Why? He’s absolutely right to do that.

Regardless of the £210m he’s already spent, of course he needs to strengthen his side.

The first stage for Mancini was to build a first eleven capable of competing for the Premier League, and he’s done that – regardless of this season’s outcome, City’s first-choice players are obviously capable of at least competing for the tile. Now, the Italian needs to address the shortcomings in his squad that will probably cost them the title.

Why is this even a story – surely Mancini would be criticised if he didn’t recognise the need for improvement?

Edin Dzeko isn’t suited to playing a back-up role, Mario Balotelli is what he is, and Stefan Savic isn’t a capable deputy for either Jolean Lescott or Vincent Kompany. Given the resources available to Mancini, of course he’s going to look to spend money when the transfer window opens.

The speculation over his job is irritating too. Whenever large sums of money are involved, the press lose all sense of context. Look at the development curve since Mancini took the job: 5th to 3rd to, probably, 2nd. That’s progress. That’s a club developing under a manager, there’s no evidence that suggests City’s momentum has stalled – so his approach warrants at least another year.

To overtake a team like Manchester United, obviously you need the players, but you also need to compete with the in-built winning mentality at Old Trafford. That’s a club, and that’s a manager, to whom winning silverware has become second nature, and who are well-versed in what it takes to cross the finishing line at the end of a season. Any team that wants to finish above them has to artificially recreate the belief that United have traded-off for the best part of two decades.

It’s a hard thing to do, you can’t just dismiss a manager because he loses a two-horse race in April or May, it would be completely counter-productive. Let him refine this squad, and let him use his experience in the rarefied air of the summit this year, and let him take them over the top – he’s taken City this far.

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Not buying into the open revolt at Manchester City

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‘Balohelli’ is the laboured headline in The Sun this morning, and Shaun Custis’ article on the supposed animosity towards Mario Balotelli from his fellow players is equally tedious in its transparent fiction.

According to Custis’ ever-reliable ‘source’:

“Mario is starting to get on some of the players’ nerves.

He can be a really great character but he seems to think he can live by a different set of rules.

It isn’t good for team spirit when he gets into that place where it really is all about him.”

Can you say ‘invented’?

Mario Balotelli is, as we are all aware, a fairly complex player who needs to operate in slightly wider boundaries than most of his peers, but please don’t tell me that his fellow players at Manchester City are only just noticing this.

As for the apparent anger towards the manager? Well, Roberto Mancini was openly critical of the Italian after the game against Sunderland, so his on-pitch performance seems to be under the same scrutiny as the rest of the squad. While Balotelli does cause problems, it’s just overly simplistic to try to turn this into a ‘well Mancini brought him into the club so now all the players hate their manager’ type story. Rubbish, the title is still very much achievable for City, and the players all know that.

If it does all end up going wrong at City this year, then it’s just too convenient and easy to blame Balotelli – he’s an obvious villain. In reality, maybe Custis and his pack of hounds are better off looking at some of Stefan Savic’s performances or the contribution of Edin Dzeko. Or maybe, just maybe, asking a question or two of Carlos Tevez.

That story in The Sun was an EXCLUSIVE! by the way. Naturally.

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Why signing Luka Modric wouldn’t make much sense for Manchester City

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Tottenham fans will doubtless be concerned by Harry Redknapp’s comments regarding Luka Modric this week, with the England manager-elect describing Spurs as being ‘powerless’ to prevent the Croatian leaving if Manchester City were to come a-bidding.

He’s not wrong; every club in the world is vulnerable to City’s affluence, and all of their players are at a risk of having, to use a Redknappism, ‘their heads turned’.

But does a move for Luka Modric actually make sense for Roberto Mancini?

The player himself is obviously extravagantly talented, but he has no natural place in the City team. He’s doesn’t provide the consistent offensive threat of David Silva, he’s too defensively frail to replace Gareth Barry, and leaving Yaya Toure out of that side is inconceivable.

Couple that with the dawn of Financial Fair Play, and does a probable £40m outlay on a player that doesn’t really improve the side seem worthwhile?

Modric, for all his merits, is not a difference maker – he’s a player that sets a side’s temperament. This is something that often gets disguised by his labelling as an ‘attacking midfielder’ – he’s actually not that much of an offensive asset. In Tottenham’s side, he’s the King of the ‘ice hockey assist’ – he provides the pass that leads to the assist. It’s a role he can thrive in at Tottenham because of the extravagant pace that exists outside him in Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon. To facilitate him and extract the most from him at the Etihad, Mancini would not only have to reshape his team, but he’d also need to repopulate it with pitch-stretching wingers – would it be worth tinkering with a successful formula for the sake of one player?

No, I don’t see it. The only reason that would merit a pursuit of Modric, is if City wanted to take a key player away from a rival club. Chelsea did this right at the beginning of Roman Abramovich’s tenure, not necessarily with rival clubs, but with a talent stock-piling mentality. City is a different project though, especially under Mancini. Whereas Abramovich was signing cheques for Scott Parker and Shaun Wright-Phillips, there’s a rhyme and a reason to the allocation of Sheik Mansour’s millions.

Modric? No, the money’s better off spent elsewhere.

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Carlos Tevez risks casting himself as a greater villain by returning to Man City

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It’s been a while since Carlos Tevez’s name featured in these pages without being immediately followed by words like ‘mercenary’, ‘sulking’, or ‘flouncing off to Argentina’.

Welcome back Carlitos.

Of course, the Argentine’s imminent return to first-team action has a potential fairytale ending – he scores goals in important matches, and City win the title. Tevez dances off into the Milanese sunset a hero, and Kia Joorabchian spends the rest of the Summer telling everyone that his client was right all along.

What a nightmare that would be. The football agent and the spoilt player win again.

But, if City now fail to win the title, and Tevez is again visible – be it on the pitch or on the substitutes bench – he has again made himself the most obvious scapegoat for their failure.

He’s the missing link.

He’s the derailer.

People will start to talk about ‘what could’ve been’ if the Argentine had been available to Roberto Mancini at, for example, Goodison Park or the Liberty Stadium.

There’s no way Tevez is fully-fit, so if he turns in a few ineffective performances at opportune moments, City fans’ memories are likely to return pretty quickly to his extended break in South America. If his return coincides with a slump, the football media – rightly or wrongly – are not going to hesitate to point the finger.

Squad chemistry? Yup, also potentially a problem. If Roberto Mancini starts Tevez ahead of Edin Dzeko or Mario Balotelli, how are either of those players supposed to deal with losing their places to someone who preferred to sulk alone rather than help his side win a Premier League title.

It’s all hypothetical of course, and by all accounts the majority of the City squad are pleased to have him back – or are at least making the right public noises about it – but we’ll see if that holds over the course of the next 10 games.

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Manchester City efforting David Pizarro signing

This comes with a few more assurances, as it’s accompanied by the Sky Sports Understands prefix no-less…

Roberto Mancini is returning to his native Italy to bolster City’s troublesome midfield area with Roma’s diminutive midfielder David Pizarro – discussions are apparently on-going…

Chilean international, deep-lying playmaker, and a lovely passing range – City fans this is what you might be getting:

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Manchester City – The season so far

The Manager

Phantom yellow cards aside, Roberto Mancini has done an admirable job in an enviable situation. When a football club is as monied as Manchester City is, more than half of the job of a manager is going to be ego management – big wages attract stars, and stars carry attitudes. Mancini has assembled a squad of talented, well-paid elite players, some of whom don’t see the pitch every week – in light of that, you have to admire the harmony by the Italian.

Pundits and journalists looking for a story will point to the losses at Chelsea and Sunderland, and the FA Cup defeat to Manchester United, as justification of their own belief that Mancini’s lack of ‘title race experience’ could cost his side – in reality though, City’s indifferent form is only exaggerated by the previous excellence.

You can dismiss Mancini’s achievements by quoting his net transfer spend if you like, but there are plenty of managers who have failed to achieve anything despite affluent ownership. To build a team, to build a functioning unit, out of a situation that encourages mercenary attitudes amongst players – how can you not applaud him?

The Squad

Obviously largely excellent, but with room for improvement. David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany are the spine of the team, the rest of the first eleven is fairly interchangeable. As easy as it is to whip Gareth Barry, an upgrade surely exists in that position. Daniele De Rossi seems to be a longshot now, but would have been a more effective middle ground between Silva and Toure.

At left-back, a poor performance against Chelsea has created a question mark against Gael Clichy’s name, more secure options exist in the market. Adam Johnson is one that you could happily let leave; his ability is fine, but I’ve never warmed to his attitude, and his apparent reluctance to be a squad player. Samir Nasri’s different, because he seems content to play a fragmented role – and if you get someone of his calibre to agree to that, then fantastic.

Edin Dzeko? Meh. A Jekyll and Hyde performer, equally capable of brilliance (Spurs away) as he is of extreme profligacy (most other games). At this level though, and without Carlos Tevez in support of Aguero, City need someone more reliable as an impact player or second forward.


What’s not to like? Yes, the team’s out of the FA Cup, but that competition stopped mattering to title challengers about a decade ago. There was always going to be a point of the season at which their form suffered, but does anybody really believe that City don’t have the talent – and the resources – to keep their rivals at arms length through to May?

Say what you like about United traditionally finishing the season strongly – and I understand nervy City fans clinging to that Caveat and not getting carried away – but it’s not even really close at the moment. The table may say that the gap is only three points, but the gulf in class is vast in reality – City will canter to the title.

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Manchester City’s Wayne Bridge fires back at Roberto Mancini

Prepare to have absolutely no sympathy here…

I can’t stand it when players do this, when they revert back to teenage levels of sensitivity. You’ll remember Roberto Mancini’s comments about part-time footballer Wayne Bridge a few days ago, where he pretty much accused him of staying at the club purely for financial reasons. Well Wayne didn’t seem to like that much, and has come out swinging at his manager:

“When I was at Chelsea I was playing for a team where Ashley Cole was the best in the world and I still got games.

It won’t happen at City. There has never been an explanation, but it’s obvious they don’t want me.

Mancini doesn’t really speak to me, he doesn’t really speak to any of the players. The only time I’ve known a player isolated like this was Winston Bogarde at Chelsea. Usually you still train with the first team, even when they want you out.

I’ve never caused trouble, I’m not that kind of character.

There will be days when I’m frustrated – not depressed, but down. Training helps take my mind off the fact that I don’t play.

If I kicked up a fuss I might have got out easier.”

Yeah Wayne, you’re a real hero for not ‘causing trouble’. There ‘are days when’ you’re ‘frustrated’ are there? Poor you, it’s so very difficult when you’re stuck at a club that doesn’t want you and you just have to sit there and collect your money.

Regarding the lack of an ‘explanation’ – grow up. If Bridge is not playing, the chances are that it’s because Roberto Mancini thinks that he’s not capable of performing at the level that the rest of his team is. Which, incidentally, isn’t unreasonable given the abomination of a loan spell he phoned-in at West Ham last season.

Maybe Wayne Bridge’s quest for first-team football would be helped by reconsidering what he’s worth on a week-to-week basis? Just a thought…

Man City’s Tevez with a transparent PR exercise

I’m not usually an advocate of schadenfreude, but I am quite enjoying what’s happening to Carlos Tevez.

So, you want more money do you? A move back to Argentina to be closer to your family? Or maybe a move to Spain would do? Or Italy?

Of course, not only did the Argentine not get his move away, but once he was forced to stay he was stripped of the captaincy and now finds himself languishing on the bench watching Sergio Aguero usurp his position in the hearts of the fans.

Good, hats off to Manchester City, because I’m sure every fan who’s watched a star player treat their club like Tevez has treated City will be loving this. This is the trade off when a player is employed by a phenomenally wealthy club; while they may earn an astronomical salary, the ‘player power’ antics aren’t nearly as effective as they would be at a less affluent club. City don’t need to sell him and have no problem paying his wages.

Last night showed Carlos Tevez for who he really is as a footballer. His refusal to warm-up had nothing to do with his family, his inability to speak English, or the Manchester weather. He’s sulking, because for once Kia Joorabchian was unable to twist a club’s arm into getting his client what he wanted.

Of course this morning, the usual ‘misunderstanding’ stories are being leaked out by Tevez’s PR team.

“There was some confusion on the bench and I believe my position may have been misunderstood.

I would like to apologise to all Manchester City fans, with whom I have always had a strong relationship, for any misunderstanding that occurred in Munich.

They understand that when I am on the pitch I have always given my best for the club. In Munich on Tuesday I had warmed up and was ready to play.

This is not the right time to get into specific details as to why this did not happen. But I wish to state that I never refused to play.

Going forward I am ready to play when required and to fulfil my obligations.”

There was no confusion, watch the interview with Roberto Mancini below.

What a difference a conversation with your agent makes. A misunderstanding, but one that you’re unable to explain? Sounds reasonable Carlos. Nobody doubts that these words belong to Joorabchian rather than Tevez, because the former is smart – he knows that every little incident like this moves makes him more of a risk to the Barcelonas, AC Milans, and Real Madrids of this world.

A bit of PR skullduggery to protect the image, it’s all lies. He did refuse to warm-up and play, an entire Champions League television audience can attest to that.

This kind of player is a cancer in the game, so Roberto Mancini is to be whole-heartedly applauded if he follows through with his threat never to let Tevez play for him again. It would be quite childish, and to their own detriment, but I’d quite like to see City force Tevez to see out the rest of his contract – make him sit on the bench and watch the fans fall in love with Sergio Aguero.

He wouldn’t even have to warm-up for that…

Best & worst of the weekend – Luka Modric and Roberto Mancini


…Luka Modric’s goal against Liverpool.

I bet that woke you up after lunch didn’t it?

If Modric produced this kind of strike on a semi-regular basis, then nobody would have argue with Daniel Levy’s astronomic valuation of his Croatian playmaker. Almost peerless in possession, never misplaces a pass, strong on the ball – goalscoring has been the one string missing from his bow since his arrival in England. Couple yesterday’s strike with the one he scored and Croatia ten days ago, and Modric developing a habit for being a threat from thirty yards.

Amongst the many things that will have pleased Harry Redknapp yesterday, was Modric’s reaction to scoring. Come the end of the season, the whispers and agitating may all start again, but for now the player does at least look content to call White Hart Lane home. How many times have you seen a player dip in form after being denied a lucrative move – not so Modric, who seems to have actually got better. Credit to the Chairman for keeping him, credit to the manager for lifting him, and credit to the player himself for such a startling contribution.


…Roberto Mancini claiming to be ‘down to the bare bones’

Oh, Roberto, just when we were starting to like you and your attacking team. Word of advice; if you spend your Summers unsettling and then buying other teams’ prized players, then nobody is likely to tolerate your bleating when you run out of midfielders.

‘We are lacking at this moment because we lost two midfielders. I don’t have players. I can only change the full-backs.’

By ‘only change the full-backs’ we presume he actually means ‘only change the full-backs, forwards, wingers, centre-backs and goalkeeper’ – because City’s bench at Craven Cottage featured at least one alternative in all of those positions. Poor City, it must be tough making do with Yaya Toure, David Silva, Gareth Barry, and Samir Nasri.

Four things we’ve learned – Tottenham, Manchester City, Blackburn, Chelsea

Harry Redknapp will never take any responsibility for Tottenham’s failings

As unpalatable as their team’s defeat to Manchester City was yesterday, it will have further irritated Spurs’ fans to hear their manager blame ‘Luka Modric-gate’ for the humbling his side received. As disruptive as having one of your best players courted by another team is, it’s unfortunately now a part of the game, and you have to develop some kind of resistance to it. It’s not good enough just to shrug your shoulders and make accusatory noises about ‘heads being turned’ and ‘unrealistic wages’.

This is a theme with Redknapp, because all his merits as a manager are undermined by the same deficiency – an inability to recognise when he’s wrong. When Spurs dominate a game at White Hart Lane without scoring and then concede a sloppy goal to a lesser team, it’s always explained away as just being ‘one of those days’. Much like yesterday; the team he has constructed and put on the field were second best – and if Luka Modric’s state of mind was so destabilising, why was he playing? Instead though, he hastily fashioned an excuse out of a ‘poor pre-season’ – right, well you planned and executed that pre-season, so have a word with yourself.

There are three more days left of this transfer window, and Redknapp would be better served identifying players that can actually improve his team rather than simply playing the victim card in response to Chelsea and Man City’s affluence. Yes Harry, it’s not a level playing field anymore, but if you’re unwilling to come to terms with the realities of the modern game, then it’s time to go.

Steve Kean needs to go now

It’s pointless to debate whether Kean or the current owners at Blackburn are more to blame for the position the team finds itself in – that’s the reality, and the manager is the only variable in this situation. Yes he’s had a lack of financial support, yes the team has been weakened by injuries, and yes the owners don’t seem to be delivering on any of the promises that were made – but ultimately it doesn’t really matter, because the owners will blame him before they look at themselves.

This team will not stay in the Premier League with Steve Kean as their manager, that’s an absolute certainty.

It’s time to recognise Roberto Mancini’s abilities as a manager

…because he’s done an extremely good job. Unfortunately for him, what he’s achieved is always suffixed with the amount of money he’s had to spend. Fine, endless resources of course make the job a lot easier – but with big spending comes big egos, and with big egos comes the need for very astute man-management. Couple that with the expectation that weighs on his shoulders, and you really have to admire what he’s managed to build.

Edin Dzeko is a case in point. You don’t become a £30m player without a decent sense of how good you are and without a sizeable chunk of self-belief – and you probably don’t expect to spend six months in and out of the team you’ve joined. That Dzeko exploded into life yesterday is credit to his manager, because there are plenty of his contemporaries that wouldn’t know how to deal with such an expensive fringe at their football clubs.

There was a specific moment when I started liking Roberto Mancini and admiring what he was doing – when he hauled off Mario Balotelli in the friendly against LA Galaxy. That was a manager with authority, treating his players as employees – ‘no, you don’t behave like that – I don’t care how much you earn’. Love it, there’s not enough of that in the game.

If City were a boxer, then last season they were too quick to cover-up and too hesitant to start swinging. This season, they have the same defensive nous, but with an added patience and stinging right hand that they now know how and when to use. The difference between the Tottenham fixture this season and last season shows how far City have come – and Spurs will not be the last team that are left dazed and confused by Mancini’s side.

Chelsea will not win anything this season

Because they’re just not elite anymore Whether that’s relative to both Manchester clubs, or just an accurate assessment of where that squad is you can’t be certain – but right now, they’re not even a contender. Barring something dramatic happening in the next two days, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t also be mauled at some point by City and United. To varying degrees, they have so far looked vulnerable against West Brom, Norwich, and Stoke – that’s not particularly encouraging. Truthfully, the spine of that team is creaking, and the players that could be relied on to produce individual game-winning moments – Drogba, Lampard – are now in steady decline. Yes, Juan Mata’s a good player, and Luka Modric will probably give them something – but neither of those two is going to win you a Championship.

Four years have now passed since Jose Mourinho left Stamford Bridge, yet the team is still built in his image. In comparison, look at the evolution that has occurred in the same time span at Manchester United, Manchester City, and even Liverpool. Gradual, incremental changes have gone on everywhere else except at Stamford Bridge – that’s why they are where they are now. The purchases of David Luiz, Fernando Torres, Juan Mata and potentially Modric, clearly show that this is recognised at Chelsea – but you just can’t change a team that quickly – these types of players should have been integrated over a longer time period, and not brought into the club in the panicky way that they were. Of all the transfers, Torres’ move south best embodies this. Having lost the fear factor that won them so many points under Mourinho, whoever decides on the buying policy at Chelsea – and it’s not the manager – threw some money at a ‘name’ player that was playing the worst football of his career. It’s all gone a bit ‘Galactico-era Real Madrid’ at Chelsea, which is ironically completely the opposite approach of what brought them success – Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Arjen Robben, Michael Essien – all of those players grew into what they would become after they had been brought to the club.

This is the downside of having a very wealthy owner – there’s no room for the kind of patience that’s needed to build a proper team, so everything becomes very short-term.