Lack of ambition may prove Mancini's undoing
Published 21/03/2011 | 05:00
On 77 minutes, Roberto Mancini summed up Manchester City's approach and the difference between these two sides.
His substitutes were warming up and he sent assistant Brian Kidd to call one over. The game was goalless and there to be won -- would he call on a striker and go for it? Mario Balotelli pointed at his chest, hoping he would be the one. Mancini shook his head and asked for defender Dedryck Boyata.
Before the change could be made, City were a goal behind and it was a Chelsea defender who scored it, the new cult hero that is David Luiz, heading home a free-kick. Not unexpected -- central defenders are supposed to get on the end of such attacking positions -- except Luiz had also won the kick on the edge of the City penalty area. What was he doing there in the first place? He was there because he had decided to try and win the match.
Once behind, Mancini did throw on Balotelli and Adam Johnson but it was too late. The game was up. "We were ready to change when we conceded the goal," Mancini said. But that change was to be a defensive one. City were not going to go for it and they paid the price. It was all the more galling as Luiz is a player they decided not to bid for.
City were well beaten when Ramires scored a wonderful second goal deep into injury-time, adding gloss to a result that saw Chelsea overhaul their opponents and move into third place. The result will also add fresh impetus to Tottenham Hotspur's hopes of finishing in fourth and they now appear to be in a head-to-head battle with City -- just as they were last season.
Just like last season it may also come to down a meeting between the sides, still to be scheduled, at Eastlands. Fail to finish in those Champions League places, the minimum requirement for Mancini, and it's difficult to see him remaining beyond this campaign. His caution will hurt him.
But such is City's poor run of form, having crashed out of the Europa League in midweek, that they appear to be on a downward trajectory. It's just eight points from their last seven matches in the business end of the season and no win away from home since St Stephen's Day. In the absence of the injured Carlos Tevez, they appear more than ever to be a one-man team, which is ridiculous given the money spent.
They also play the same way. Always. Be it against Reading in the FA Cup, Dynamo Kiev in Europe or Chelsea away. There is no variety, no tactical innovation, no boldness. Little changes. Mancini again blamed fatigue yesterday but that's not an acceptable excuse . "Had we won it would have been fantastic," Mancini said. But first they had to try to win. There should be greater ambition at such an ambitious club. (© Daily Telegraph, London)