Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Are Manchester City just not good enough for Europe?
What is it about Manchester City and their consistent failure to show up when they're in the Champions League? Last season was their first attempt in the competition and despite winning 3 games in the group stages, they were knocked out by the defeats to Bayern Munich (including a Carlos Tevez tantrum) and Napoli. This season, they've come in to the competition as Champions of England. The expectations are high, but with 4 games gone in the rightly-named "Group of Death", they're still without a win.
2 defeats and 2 draws have left City rooted to the bottom of their Champions League group. Their 4 games have can be summed up with 1 sentence for each game. They were taught a valuable lesson about seeing out a result at the Bernabeu vs Real Madrid. Against Borussia Dortmund, Joe Hart suddenly became superman and saved their behinds from a proper spanking. In Amsterdam, they were simply outclassed - one could imagine a trip to the coffee shops before the game might have had an effect. And last night, at the Etihad Stadium they threw their final dice to try and salvage something in the competition but were unlucky to leave with a draw. So basically right now, City are more or less out of the competition.
Last season a lack of experience could have been used as a justification for their poor showing. But they've grown since then. And that excuse is no longer a valid one for Robert Mancini. If anything, City's team is full of Champions League experience and also includes 4 players who have won the trophy with big ears (in case you were wondering the 4 players are Maicon, Balotelli, Tevez and Yaya Toure).
The rest of the squad contains players with experience in the competition as especially huge experience in international tournaments - Hart, Clichy, Zabaleta, Lescott, Nasri, Javi Garcia, Dzeko, Kolarov, Barry, Kolo Toure...etc. These aren't kids. These are all players playing at the peak of their powers. Not to mention that they've got some world class players like Aguero and Silva as well, so their current failure in Europe cannot be deemed to a lack of experience.
What about the manager? Roberto Mancini has massive European experience as well, though his track record has never taken him further than the Quarter-finals. Will that be good enough for City's owners? The Premier League title was the first step for the Italian to prove his worth to City's oil-rich bosses and a good showing in European football's elite stage would have done him the world of good. But it's not looking likely again. Why?
Well, my simple answer would be: if something's not broken, don't fix it. Mancini, time and time again this season, is trying to impose the "3 players at the back" formation which has seen Juventus stomp on to an incredible unbeaten run and for some reason he believes this is the way forward for City. So far, it's backfired against him. By keeping the same formation and ethos that he instilled in City at the end of last season - which led them to the title - he could easily have been getting the results he wants. But his stubbornness and tinkering has punished City and he's the only man to blame. The players may be good enough for European football, but Mancini isn't. His record speaks for itself. Long may it continue.