If Roberto Mancini isn’t feeling the heat already, he will be soon, because the pressure is on at Manchester City. The Citizens fell to their third successive defeat in all competitions on Thursday against Lech Poznan in the Europa League after earlier losses to Arsenal and Wolves.
Reports of unrest in the locker room have been rampant in the last few weeks, with players reportedly rifting among themselves and with Mancini. The only public display of conflict occurred during the Wolves match, when striker Emmanuel Adebayor began fervently arguing with defender Vincent Kompany. Besides that, the reports are mainly hearsay, although rumors of a falling out between Carlos Tevez and Mancini have been floating around since last season.
It’s not going to shock anyone if the rumors do turn out to be true, and City are certainly playing like they are. When a squad of that size, price, and salary are assembled, infighting and discord are always a threat to the team’s performance.
Mancini told the media on Thursday, “If there is someone who wants to write these lies, they can do. I’m happy for them, but it is not true.” Players are staunchly also denying the rumors. That’s a real shocker. Honestly, it’s not like they would come out to the media and say, “Oh yea, we all want to kill each other in there. And that Mancini is a clown, someone needs to kick him and his scarf out of this club.” So sorry James Milner, I know you insist that the players are a “tight group”, but if you want us to believe that you’ll have to start playing like it.
One thing that is for certain: Mancini’s job will be in danger if things keep up like this. His predecessor Mark Hughes was fired despite better results by this time last season. City have the luxury of a virtually bottomless money bag, so should the owners feel that Mancini has lost the plot, you can be sure they will be able to line someone else up in no time. The Italian will be hoping that his “tight group” turn a corner – and fast.
Around the League
Nani’s bizarre goal against Tottenham last weekend left Harry Redknapp fuming, with the Spurs manager labeling it a “farce”. Well, the FA didn’t take too kindly to that, and they were considering fining the manager for the comment.
Redknapp’s response? A ban on post-match conferences a la Sir Alex Ferguson vs. the BBC, should the fine come through. “Good luck to them if they want to make an issue of what I said, then I’ll make some issues as well,” he said. “Don’t expect me to come out on the TV any more, ever, and speak to the press after the game, because I won’t do it.”
Fortunately, in a moment of unusual prudence, the FA decided against the fine. And it’s a good thing too. What did they expect him to say? “Wow what a great goal that was. I know we’re fighting to qualify for the Champions League again, but hey, mistakes happen! It’s not like 99% of people watching that match (the other 1% being the referee Mark Clattenburg, Sir Alex Ferguson, and the Manchester United players) thought that the decision was ridiculous. It’ll even itself out!” C’mon, FA. If you want managers to give post-match interviews, then expect them to speak candidly. And yes, that means occasionally they will have some criticism for match officials (who are apparently above criticism). Supporters hear enough shallow, disingenuous interviews in football – let’s not encourage more.
Meanwhile, in between Spurs’ stumble at Old Trafford, Gareth Bale has set the football world alight with his performances against Inter Milan in the Champions League. The 21-year-old Welshman scored a hat-trick at the San Siro and created the goals at White Hart Lane, tearing the Nerazzurri defense apart in the process. The performances have resulted in the player being linked to virtually every big club under the sun, from Manchester United to Barcelona, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid. However, Bale told the BBC that he wishes to see out his contract, which runs out in the summer of 2014. With suitors hot on his trail, that means Harry Redknapp will have even more motivation to finish in the top four of the league and qualify for the Champions League again – after a taste of the champagne of world football, Bale will likely not want to return to sparkling cider (is that the best analogy for the Europa League? I’m sticking with it.).
Speaking of Europa League participants, Liverpool have appointed Damien Comolli as their new director of football. The name may not ring any bells for you, but rest assured, that’s good news for the red half of Merseyside. Comolli has worked for both Arsenal and Tottenham, and is credited for signing Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue, Gael Clichy, Gareth Bale, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, and Huerelho Gomes for the respective clubs. After Liverpool’s takeover by NESV, the supporters will be hoping Comolli can work some magic in the transfer market and bring more of the likes of Fernando Torres to the Anfield gates as opposed to the likes of Lucas.