After their dismal result against resource poor Ajax on Tuesday, Wednesday night’s defeat of Barcelona by another resource poor club in Celtic should have the superstars of Manchester City and their increasingly bewildered manager not just hanging their heads – but banging them against the wall. The Champions League has a way of exposing your weaknesses, and once again, Roberto Mancini’s are coming into sharp focus.
Mancini has a case in arguing that it may take time for City to eventually capture football’s biggest prize – after all, no one has a divine right and there’s plenty of competition. But that should not be allowed to obscure his side’s abject Champions League campaigns this season and last; overall victory seems to be beyond them at present, but being properly competitive at that level should not be – and that is there very least that should be expected of them.
To defend his position, Mancini pointed to Chelsea’s ten year quest to win the European Cup. He failed to mention that in that period, Chelsea grew to be one of the most feared sides in Europe – and were a threat from the off, reaching the semi finals in the first year of Roman Abramovich’s tenure. Mancini would also do well to reflect upon the fact that from that first season under Abramovich’s control to their eventual success (inclusive), Chelsea reached the final twice and the semis on four other occasions. His decision to invoke Chelsea was misguided at best.
City’s failure at this level should not be seen as a surprise when you consider the Italian’s record in the Champion’s League at Inter Milan – where his four attempts saw him go no further than the quarterfinals. Add that underwhelming record to his last two seasons with City, and one could be forgiven for forming the opinion that it’s not the club or the players who are not capable at this level – its Roberto Mancini himself.
His argument for time and understanding suggest a lack of confidence in his own methods and his own team. That lack of confidence seems to have fed through to a team that has lumbered through the opening stages of the season and has come apart at the seams in European competition. City’s complete lack of organisation, lack of application and general sluggishness in the back to back games with Ajax were in stark relief to the efforts of the Dutch side and indeed Celtic on Wednesday – both of whom showed that you can be competitive on a meagre budget.
It seems that despite the lavish expense and the squad at his disposal, Mancini is not even getting the basics right at this point.
His European record would suggest that he’s not likely to suddenly hit upon that winning formula and his plea for time is surely going to alert the club’s owners to look for managers who have proven they can win Europe’s biggest prize in a much shorter time frame. It’ll not have escaped their notice that one such candidate – currently residing in New York – is looking to get back into the game.