Five key factors in Manchester City’s revival: How ‘Bobby Manc’ has turned the tide and won over the supporters
Published 13/01/2010 | 05:00
ROBERTO MANCINI, aka Bobby Manc to those Manchester City supporters already hypnotised by the Italian's instant impact at Eastlands, has taken less than a month to transform the club from the Premier League's most expensive underachievers into genuine title challengers.
The former Inter Milan coach has made just one signing -- 33-year-old midfielder Patrick Vieira -- and been forced to begin life at Eastlands without a host of players due to injury or international commitments.
Yet after just four games at the helm, Mancini has revitalised the club and banished any discord among the supporters over the dismissal of his predecessor, Mark Hughes.
Here are the reasons why City are now living up to the hype:
Mancini's mission statement, on day one, revolved around the key issue of ironing out the increasing flaws in City's defending.
In the four games prior to Hughes' dismissal, City conceded 10 goals. In Mancini's first four fixtures, only one goal has been conceded by goalkeeper Shay Given.
How has this happened? Intensive training sessions at Carrington, involving specific defensive coaching in the afternoons, have enable Mancini to drill home his demand for rigid defending.
The defence and midfield are told to operate in banks of four, no more than 10 metres apart, when City are defending.
The conspiracy theorists have suggested that Hughes' dismissal was delayed to allow Mancini a soft landing in English football.
There could be an element of truth to those suspicions, with the Mancini talks commencing prior to Hughes' difficult regime-ending games against Arsenal, Chelsea, Bolton and Spurs.
Yet Hughes' team still failed to beat Hull City, Fulham and Burnley at Eastlands. Against similarly unfancied opponents, Mancini's City have racked up four comfortable victories.
The complacency has gone and the simplicity of Mancini's 4-4-2 system has also brought stability to the team. Four games in, confidence is high, but bigger tests are yet to come.
Injuries and Absentees
Most managers, faced with the loss of a £40m central defensive partnership and a £25m forward to injury and international commitments, would happily get his excuses in before a ball had even been kicked. Yet being without Kolo Toure, Joleon Lescott and Emmanuel Adebayor has worked in Mancini's favour.
Toure and Lescott's form in the dying days of the Hughes' era was so poor that either or both could have justifiably been dropped by Mancini. Adebayor was also struggling to impress under Hughes. With all three and injured £10m Wayne Bridge being unavailable, Mancini has been spared some big selection dilemmas, which he will now make from a position of strength.
Mancini has wiped the slate clean and given even the most unlikely players the chance to impress.
His open-minded approach has already produced eye-catching results, with Javier Garrido and Benjani being recalled from the wilderness to great effect, while unheralded Belgian centre-half Dedryck Boyata excelled on his debut in the FA Cup win at Middlesbrough.
Martin Petrov, who made little secret of his disenchantment under Hughes, was given a chance by Mancini and the Bulgarian winger has been transformed.
Even Robinho, a player aching to leave City for Barcelona until recently, appeared lively and threatening as a substitute against Blackburn on Monday.
The Welsh forward is a huge admirer of Hughes, having worked with the former manager with Wales, Blackburn and City, and his influence in the dressing-room is strong.
Mancini wasted no time in getting Bellamy onside and the two men appear to have a genuine respect for each other. Mancini understands Bellamy's training requirements following a history of knee problems and he has not attempted to impose a new regime on the 30 year-old.
Mancini has learnt quickly that Bellamy's intentions are good rather than troublesome.