Five Reasons For It All Going Wrong At City

With Manchester City's title defence basically over in February, Nick Miller looks at why this season has been a relative failure. Hart? Yaya? Spending? Or all Mancini?

Last Updated: 12/02/13 at 11:20 Post Comment

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Joe Hart
When Sarah Winterburn writes the England Ladder, many are often slightly confused as to why Hart is almost always at/near the top, given the amount of time F365 spends pointing out his weaknesses and flaws. Indeed, it is quite an odd situation, because while Hart is England's best keeper by some distance, his form for Manchester City has been poor, and not just by his high standards.

A couple of interesting stats illustrate the point - City have allowed 69 shots this season, with 24 goals conceded and 64.71% of those shots saved. At the same stage last season, City had allowed 92 shots, but with 19 conceded and 79.12% saved. "Joe has made too many mistakes," said Roberto Mancini after the Southampton defeat. "He has not been good enough. It was a really bad mistake from Joe. It was not good enough. It's not strange because he's done a few mistakes this year."

Many accused Mancini of throwing his keeper under the bus with those remarks, which he did (more on that later) but he does have a point. Hart has cost City a couple of times this season, and the stats above indicate that City's defence is actually a little tighter, allowing the opposition fewer efforts on goal, but more are going in.


The summer spending
The old adage goes that the best time for a team to spend is when they are already successful. Manchester United used to do this all the time and Chelsea spent about £60million including purchasing Michael Essien after winning the league for the first time under Jose Mourinho. But City managed to pull off the fairly impressive feat of jazzing something like £50million on their squad last summer, while somehow making it worse.

Of the summer recruits, only Matija Nastasic can be regarded as a convincing success, with around £23million worth of Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell and Maicon having made eight league starts between them. Javi Garcia has been OK, but Nigel de Jong he is not - something that isn't really his fault since he was third or fourth on Mancini's shopping list for the midfield destroyer role, but it still doesn't reflect particularly well on the manager or club.

The squad has a look of one that needs an overhaul - there are too many players that are not of the required standard for a Premier League or Champions League challenge. For such an expensively-assembled collection of players to be not good enough - and not good enough to the extent that the title race is over in February - is inexcusable.


Yaya Toure & Samir Nasri
Two of City's key men last season, both have not performed as they should in this campaign. When Toure is on form, he is one of the most exhilarating sights in football, barging through a defence like he's a particularly muscular beast striding through tall grass, the opposition bouncing off him like the insignificant weaklings they are. He enables what ostensibly looks like a defensive substitution to actually be a hugely attacking one - last season Mancini's go-to switch when things weren't going well would be to withdraw a striker, bring on a defensive midfielder and push Yaya further forwards, then just wait for him to do something. And he very nearly always did something.

This season Toure has looked listless, without the oomph and drive that makes him so formidable at his best. It almost looks as if he's been playing with a slight injury all season, which would explain some amount of timidity in his performances. It's not as if Toure has been calamitous, but the big midfielder is so good that anything below his usual standard is noticeable.

And as for Nasri...well. 'Spineless' would be one word to describe some of his performances so far. The Frenchman is quick to bristle when criticised, but this season he has loafed around the pitch in the manner of a man who has proved everything. He very much hasn't.


Carlos Tevez, or lack thereof
After the drama of last season and the hissy-fit in Munich, one might think that the reintroduction of Carlos Tevez would be a welcome boost for City, an errant talent harnessed and utilised to his maximum capabilities. However, Tevez has been curiously under-used by Mancini, starting 18 league games when one might think that he would be an ever-present. And Mancini might have even used him less had Sergio Aguero not spent a couple of spells out with injury.

Tevez's goal record (seven in those 18 starts) is good but not one that immediately demands inclusion in every game, however it's his all-round play that is so valuable. He runs and harasses and is a professional pain in the arse to defences everywhere, an assertion supported by City's record with and without the Argentinean. City have won 60% of the games Tevez has started, while only 27% have ended in success when he is absent. That figure is slightly skewed given the second part is a smaller sample size, but it's still an indication that City are a better side with Tevez than without him.

Of course, Mancini received plenty of criticism last season for burning players like David Silva out, so in some ways he cannot win - if he doesn't select Tevez he is criticised for not utilising his squad properly, but if he does he is criticised for grinding his players into the ground. However, there is a middle ground, and Mancini is not finding that at the moment.


Roberto Mancini
Of course, the ultimate responsibility is with the manager. Mancini has made any number of strange decisions this season, from fielding four full-backs in the defeat to Southampton, to shifting his formation to specifically get the best out of David Silva against Liverpool then replacing him with Maicon, to that infernal pratting around with an inappropriate 3-5-2 at the start of the season.

While it might be slightly pointless and perhaps unfair to compare Mancini to the chap across town, it is interesting to look at the different ways Mancini and Sir Alex Ferguson deal with pressure and failure. Ferguson rarely criticises his players in public, preferring to keep his bollockings in the dressing room. Mancini, on the other hand, said this about City's recent poor run of form:

"When you play football and you are a top player, you should take your responsibility, always. It's not always the fault of the manager. The players should take responsibility - if they have big balls. If not, they can't play in a top team."

Yes, of course players should take responsibility. But then again so should the manager. Mancini doesn't do this nearly enough.

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

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