A brief check of the odds show that Roberto Mancini is the bookies second favourite to be given the sack after Avram Grant whose West Ham side are rock bottom. On the surface, this is bizarre. Manchester City are in fourth place, five points ahead of Spurs and Liverpool (technically still rivals for fourth place). They have beaten Chelsea and Liverpool, drawn with Spurs and United. Out of their direct rivals at the top of the table, they have only lost to Arsenal and that was after Boyata was sent off after five minutes.
On the other hand, there is the sheer level of investment that Mancini has been given by Sheik Mansour. The arrivals of Silva, Milner, Toure etc. were supposed to amount to more than one goal against the other top three, being dominated by Arsenal and United. City have picked up only four points from their last five games. Critics claim that the side is too defensive and that without Tevez they lack any real cutting edge.
Much has been made of the fact that Hughes had more points this time last season than Mancini has accumulated. In addition, if Mancini had managed to deliver the same points to games ratio that Hughes did City would be in the Champions League this season. This doesn’t mean that Mansour was wrong to sack Hughes. The results weren’t good enough and there were some terrible purchases (£17m for Santa Cruz was just staggering) but statistically speaking Hughes was a better manager than Mancini.
Defensively Mancini has been a vast improvement. Players like Lescott, Toure and Richards were patently going backwards under Hughes. But the insistence on three fairly defensive midfielders is costing the team. Against United nobody was willing to overlap and get beyond Tevez in the way that limited the team. Spending half a billion and getting an English-style catenaccio is hardly inspiring stuff.
Given the money that has been available and the recent run of results, Mancini is, according to the media, fighting for his job. However sacking the Italian would be a surprising move by Sheikh Mansour. The billionaire doesn’t seem to be in the Abramovich mould, interfering and changing managers regularly. Hughes was given a full season and a half before getting the chop and that was only after drawing seven games on the spin. Mansour actually seems to be willing to give his managers time and money to get “the project” working. A cynical observer could suggest that this is because the amount he has invested into the club is totally negligible for a man of his resources but this would be unfair.
Overall, neither manager has been good enough to match the level of investment poured into the club. However Mansour seems unlikely to sack Mancini, given how long Hughes got in the job, the lack of credible alternatives and the fact that Manchester City are on course for a Champions League place. Mancini should be grateful for these factors as he is just not good enough at this level.
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