Let me be upfront and honest. I do not like British managers being replaced with foreign ones. I also do not like players from the British Isles being replaced by players from the continent, Africa or North America. Call me a traditionalist, but I believe the fabric and character of English football has been hurt by a foreign invasion. Not that I am against all foreign players, but I do support the 6 + 5 rule and believe it could ultimately help the English game.
All of this having been said, I am an admirer of football tactics and a supporter of Manchester City Football Club. That puts me in the awkward position of understanding that the sacking of a Welsh manager and replacement by an Italian manager was probably the best move the club could have made from a footballing perspective.
City’s shape at the back and spacing in the attack have looked more organized and consistent throughout Mancini’s first two matches than at any time this season under Mark Hughes (even when the side was winning in the first month of the season). Additionally, under Hughes their always seemed to be a desperation on the squad- a chip on the shoulder type play rather than quiet, efficient confidence.
Hughes’ City teams often lost their shape for large portions of the match and tactical changes came late. Last season this was a regular occurrence as Hughes was “burdened” with players inherited from Sven Goran Eriksson. But two of these players, Javier Garrido and Martin Petrov have now been re-integrated into the squads plans under Mancini, who is an Eriksson disciple.
Hughes did plenty of damage by selling Verdan Corluka and Elano, both significant Eriksson signings while replacing them with the less capable Pablo Zabaletta and nobody in Elano’s case. When asked about why his City side looked more capable than his England teams, Eriksson famously quipped that with England he didn’t have Elano.
Yet, for Hughes, Elano was a expendable part. Martin Petrov was as well, and would have undoubtedly been dealt this January were Hughes still the manager. Petrov provides the Blues the type of the attacking width and intent that Arjen Robben used to provide for Chelsea and currently provides (while healthy) for Bayern Munchen.
If Mancini continues to play a variation of the 4-4-2 diamond, this setup is enhanced by Petrov’s presence. In fact, the discarded winger could be the most important player in the new City setup.
The criticisms that Mancini has merely beaten Wolves and Stoke are meaningless to me. The reality is that, City drew with similar quality sides four times in the last two months of Hughes tenure, including twice at home. In each of those matches, City spent significant time looking like a desperate side on the back foot. In Mancini’s first 180 minutes as City manager, the Citizens have generally appeared in control.
I have a great deal of time and sentiment for Mark Hughes. However, City’s ownership absolutely made the right choice in sacking him and bringing in Roberto Mancini.
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