Transfer Window Thoughts

February 2, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Adam Johnson, Benjani, Roberto Mancini, Robinho 

The decision to loan Benjani to Sunderland will no doubt provide a bit of a shock to the supporters base that has been concerned about a lack of scoring punch beyond Carlos Tevez recently. Benjani scored the only goal in City’s 1-0 victory over Boro in the FA Cup Third Round, and has a reputation for lively play inside the opposition 18”.

Combined with the loan deal that sent Robinho to Santos, City enters the final portion of Premier League matches and the fifth round of the FA Cup with substantially less going forward. The signing of Adam Johnson from Boro will certainly help in the league, he is FA Cup tied, and will play no further role in that competition.

While the collapse of the Gago deal may actually provide a blessing in disguise for City, the failure to secure McDonald Mariga thanks to the UK Home Office is a devastating blow for the club. Additionally, the failure to sign Victor Moses, a young striker with tremendous future upside was disappointing.

When Patrick Vieria returns from injury, this transfer window will truly be judged. If the former Arsenal great provides the leadership and midfield cover necessary, Mancini’s cautious movement can be applauded for not unsettling the team too greatly. However, if Moses provides a spark for local rival, Wigan and Benjani helps revitalize Sunderland’s season, question will no doubt be asked of the manager.

Mancini Makes a Promising Start

December 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Roberto Mancini 

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.

Mancini Takes Charge

December 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Roberto Mancini 

Roberto Mancini has made quick assessments about the City squad according to published reports. My thoughts are found at Set Piece Analysts.

Is City Headed For Yet Another Relegation Fight?

December 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Garry Cook, Mark Hughes, Roberto Mancini 

While the above may seem like an attention grabbing headline, those of us who have supported this club for a longtime know that nothing is ever easy at City. Switching managers mid season has already led to a player revolt and the hiring of a manager with no Premier League coaching experience. (And only four matches as a player).

In other words, Garry Cook and Brian Marwood have begun the process of City rediscovering its recent history and becoming a relegation fighter again. City’s 29 points are only 12 clear of the relegation zone, which is a similar position to where the Club found itself in the 2006-07 season under Stuart Pearce.  That season, City escaped relegation by all of three points.

Cook and Marwood evidently want to tempt high profile Continental targets to Eastlands, but who is to say any would choose City over let’s say Inter or Lyon, and furthermore, how can Continental players be trusted to fit into an English team in the dead of winter? The acclimation to the English game is nearly impossible for a target brought in during the January window. That’s why Hughes wisely spent his time focusing on English based targets, who would play the game the right way.

City’s form prior to the Sunderland match 11 points from 10 league matches was almost relegation form. Included in that stretch were home draws against Burnley, and Hull as well as Derby draws versus Wigan and Bolton. All four listed teams are relegation fighters this season. Without Mark Hughes ability to rally his team spiritually, all four matches could very well have been loses which resulted in six point swings against City. Hughes may have been tactically inept at times, but his force of personality allowed City to escape several matches the side should have lost, with draws.

While Richard Dunne did not appeal to “fans” in China and India whom Cook seems to be concerned about, he certainly appealed to those in the Northwest that supported City have been through the relegation wars. It is highly possible that with a star laden team on big contracts, that City will simply wilt after this managerial change.

Roberto Mancini will need to use every trick he has in his management repertoire to keep this side afloat. Relegation may not be looming, but a bottom half finish is looking likely as the Cook/Marwood revolution takes the building blocks Sven Goran Eriksson and Mark Hughes built, and trashes them.

Hughes Sacked

December 19, 2009 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Mark Hughes, Roberto Mancini 

MCFC have sacked Mark Hughes with immediate effect. Roberto Mancini takes over with former City striker Brian Kidd becoming Assistant Manager.

The promotion of Brian Kidd to Assistant Manager is a safe move. Kidd served in the same capacity for Manchester United and England. Kidd is best remembered however by me, as a goal a game striker for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the NASL after he had moved stateside. A Manchester native, Kidd played for both United and City.

Hughes did the best job he could with a club that lacks the continuity or stability to truly contend for major honors. This having been said, he made a number of mistakes on the job, and if City is as ambitious as the ownership claims, an upgrade was eventually needed.

Roberto Mancini is a solid hiring. Of the available names on the market he was in my mind the most qualified to manage City. Nonetheless, City’s season and future hangs in the balance and the side could either finish in the top four or flirt with relegation by making a change at this point in the campaign.

Hiring a manager from outside England is often times a disastrous move for Premiership clubs, particularly in the winter. A manager from Italy is unlikely to have any real idea of how to tactically cope with the brutal winter weather that grips traditional Lancashire. I also have serious concerns as to whether Mancini understands the English game, and knows how to work with players who are either British or have spent the bulk of their professional careers in England.

However, I still consider Mancini a better hiring than Guus Hiddink (who recently failed to qualify the most talented Russian team since the USSR’s breakup, for the World Cup), Jurgen Klinsmann (whose player moves with Bayern Munchen were as perplexing as some of Hughes worst moves) or just about anyone else that is currently availible.

We’ll have much more on the sacking, tomorrow morning UK time.