Thursday, 8 March 2012

We Must Learn From The Mistakes of Others and Our Own History...

A while ago I was cooking something horrifically mundane and I was listening to Radio 5, I am really not into Talksport and their brand of sports 'journalism' and chat, so I spend a lot of time tuning into to Sport on 5.  For those unaware, on a Monday evening, presenter Mark Chapman, journalist Ian McGarry, City hating former Pompey striker Steve Claridge, and John 'Motty' Motson discuss the weekends football stories, this is dubbed 'The Monday Night Club'.  

As I was stirring whatever listless 'delight' was in the pan on the hob, McGarry matter of factly said: 'well obviously if City don't win the league Mancini will be out' or words to that effect.  This was delivered with such an air of authority and confidence that it genuinely bothered me, what made the comments worse was that the other 'pundits' didn't question it, instead it was just glossed over and the conversation continued.  I wondered if McGarry had some kind of inside knowledge, unlikely, or if maybe it was the reasonable action and it was just me that thought it was madness, and then I realised what it was based on, we were being compared to Chelsea, our Abu Dhabi owners were being likened to Roman Abramovich, his attitude of 'no success = no job' was being applied to us.

It is nothing new, there were occasions last season when 4th place was far from a certainty, and when we were toiling against lower league opposition in what at the time looked like being a spectacularly fruitless FA Cup run, during these periods the tabloids would run negative stories about Mancini, the knives were well and truly out.  I do wonder what would have happened had we finished 5th and not picked up the FA Cup, would the Italian still be in charge?  There was a great deal of frustration shown towards him at times, our method of grinding out 1-0 wins throughout the early parts of the campaign was not greeted with over the top enthusiasm by supporters, but he won us over and delivered that famous trophy as well as our highest ever Premier League finish, bettering our 4th place aim and finishing level on points with 2nd place Chelsea.

At this moment in time, I genuinely wouldn't swap Mancini for any other manager in the world.  This season has brought with it the best football that I have ever seen City play, at 27, I suppose that is not overly surprising, but surely it must be getting close to, if not better than what we were producing in our glory days.  Clearly there have been disappointments, the defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup was a shame, but is still something everyone can hold their heads up high about.  We were perhaps a bit naive in our first Champions League outing, and the manager will obviously have to take some blame for that, but it is a learning experience for everyone, let us not forget we managed more points than our neighbours in a far more difficult group, and the 10 points we did achieve would normally guarantee progress to the knockout rounds.

I was watching Barcelona dismantle Bayer Leverkusen last night in the Champions League, as the goals rattled in, you could see what the Italian coach was trying to achieve.  The Catalan giants are clearly the template that we are trying to use as our inspiration, now I am not saying that we are close to their quality, but you can see that this season our approach to the game is very similar to how they play.  Mancini would never accept the cavalier attitude that they possess defensively, but their style of keeping the ball, dominating possession and grinding the opposition into the ground is definitely something that we have started to do.  Both teams pass and pass and pass, pull the opposition all over the field, pass, pass, pass until space for the killer ball opens up.  The improvement on the last campaign is huge, scoring 5 at White Hart Lane, 6 at Old Trafford, being top of the league for the majority of the season, this is dreamland!

The man behind all of that is Roberto Mancini, he has put us where we are, sure it has taken hundreds of millions to do it, but as Chelsea have proved, without a good manager at the helm, you won't achieve very much, despite how much you spend.  So is Ian McGarry right? Will Mancini be sacked if we fail to lift the Premier League trophy at the end of the season.  Well as is quite clear from this piece, I sincerely hope he isn't.  I understand that we are in a strong position, but we must recognise that for as great as we have been, our rivals are only just behind us, we have clearly played the best football, but whatever United are doing, it is picking up points.

For me, the most important thing when it comes to judging a manger is improvement, and it is impressive how far we have come over the last 12 months.  Should we finish 2nd, it would really not be the end of the world, should we not win the Europa League it would not be such a big deal.  Sacking Mancini for failing to deliver the league, would be a big error of judgement by those at the top.  Clearly there could be a degree of revisionism, but genuinely at the start of the season I expected us to improve, and I wanted to finish closer to Manchester United, I didn't expect us to win the league, I certainly didn't expect us to play as well as we have, and I would imagine this attitude applies to many City supporters.  So why now should we be disgruntled with our management?

Chelsea have proved on a couple of occasions that sacking the man in charge rarely helps, their decision to bin Carlo Ancelotti was ridiculous, they sacked Scolari after barely giving him a chance, they got rid of Avram Grant despite him guiding them to a Champions League final.  This instability has not helped them, we are progressing well, and we know all too well what chopping and changing the management brings.  Besides if Mancini is to go, do you really want Mourinho in charge at City? REALLY?

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