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Mancini may pay for surrender

FanZone's Manchester City blogger Tom Wilkins considers what impact the champions' struggles will have on Roberto Mancini's future.

Last Updated: 19/02/13 at 11:46 Post Comment

Roberto Mancini: Future at City unclear

Roberto Mancini: Future at City unclear

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Never has a Premier League title been as hard earned as in 2011/12, and never has it been so meekly surrendered as in 2012/13.

In reality, the game looks up this season for Manchester City and a summer of changes inevitable. But does that include the manager, Roberto Mancini?

This season has been a strange one. After the most thrilling denouement in history, the campaign started slowly with edgy wins over Southampton and QPR. Despite never hitting our stride, we remained there or thereabouts until the Manchester derby, when the cruel ending seemed to knock confidence throughout the squad. In reality, we are still yet to hit stride, and there is no indication that we will do so again anytime soon.

The swashbuckling football of last season has been seen in very limited fits and starts - a half hour against Newcastle here, a half hour away at Arsenal there. So what's changed?

Some fans suggest that the desire has gone from the players - having won the title (and particularly in those circumstances) there is no such hunger as last season. The players themselves certainly look shadows of their former selves, with Yaya Toure, Carlos Tevez and Samir Nasri particularly found wanting this year.

The squad itself did not change significantly over the summer, though there are questions as to whether or not it was improved. Perhaps we all underestimated the importance of Nigel de Jong, both on the pitch and in the dressing room, while the summer signings have been mediocre at best, Matija Nastasic aside. Now with Mario Balotelli gone too, our attacking options suddenly look threadbare - a farcical situation for such an expensively assembled squad.

So what must Mancini make of all this? He has seemed as bewildered as the rest of us this season, cutting an increasingly frustrated figure on the touchline and in press conferences. Despite claiming that he knew what the problem was, he has subsequently failed to address it. Maybe he invested too much in the Balotelli circus. Maybe his desire is waning too.

And maybe the players just won't play for him any more. His management style has attracted criticism even when the results were positive, and even more so when things weren't going his way. He has directed a lot of negativity onto his players, with Joe Hart a regular target while others (Toure particularly) seem off limits. We can only speculate on the harmony in the dressing room - something that the tabloids do with wild abandon, but it certainly does not seem a happy camp.

Mancini clearly blames Brian Marwood for the transfer failings in the summer, missing out on the likes of Robin van Persie and Eden Hazard. With both settling well at their new clubs, the failure to capture either looks even more inexcusable.

As to the players we did sign, we can only presume they were Mancini's buys. But while he has done well in the transfer window in the past, these look slightly more suspect. It would be kindest to say that (hopefully) we've not seen the best from Javi Garcia yet, while we've not seen almost anything of Scott Sinclair.

The latter of these transfers remains one of the season's great mysteries. At times we have been crying out for a pacey winger in games, and Mancini has time and time again looked elsewhere.

Ultimately, things aren't looking particularly bright for Mancini. His problem is that we are using last season as a benchmark now, and while many would forgive missing out on the title this year, the manner in which the team has played is simply unacceptable.

The remainder of the season could be crucial for the manager to keep his job. Get the team playing with pace and spirit again, and who knows what could happen? At present though, this seems a long way off.

With the changes in the boardroom, Mancini's position appears even more insecure, though with Pep Guardiola now off the market at least the Barcelona connections have quietened. The final say will remain with Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon, and success will always be measured in trophies. The successive Champions' League failures will not go unnoticed, nor last season's Premier League forgotten. We must all wait and see.

By Tom Wilkins, FanZone's Manchester City blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @tewilkins - and don't forget to follow @FanZone too!

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