Challenging the pecking order is first step to failure
It's a big week for Roberto Mancini at Manchester City. He has just announced that his best player can leave if he's not happy, which won't have gone down well with the fans.
Though he was brought in to finish in the top four, he believes he has succeeded since his arrival, whether or not that target is achieved. They face Spurs on Wednesday and it doesn't appear he has the full backing of the dressing room. Time could be running out for the Italian.
Carlos Tevez, despite being asked by his manager not to speak to the press in the build-up to the most recent Manchester derby, gave an interview in which he criticised Mancini's training methods. While there have been complaints already about the introduction of 'shadow play', Tevez said he was speaking on behalf of the squad when he said the decision to have two training sessions in one day was unnecessary and unwelcome.
Shadow play is the term used to describe a training session where no ball is used. A coach would walk the team through various scenarios which may arise in a game situation, and instruct players on their positional responsibilities in each one. It's boring, but if players are regularly being caught out of position in games, it can be much needed. The reasons for training in the afternoon are obvious -- there is time available, and the coach believes it will help.
There are some players who never believe things are that straightforward.
That players object to working longer hours isn't startling in itself, but Mancini's reply suggests he is losing patience with the player he has talked up as one of the world's finest. While his assertion that any unhappy players at the club should leave is not without merit, taking on such a popular player may backfire, particularly given his own contract situation and the possibility that the club may not qualify for next season's Champions League. He warned Tevez it was not to happen again, but it is unlikely he will be around too long after this season to ensure it doesn't.
As with any job, I suppose there are certain players who are just happier when they're moaning. Constantly complaining about anything from the food in the canteen to travel plans for away games, some lads will always be happier giving out about something. Roy Keane made such a trait almost a virtue during his playing days, but now lesser players use it as a means of undermining their colleagues and deflecting attention away from their own failings.
The recent comments from within the Burnley dressing room about manager Brian Laws are an example of this. In a desperate attempt at distracting everyone from the glaringly obvious reality, one player said the whole squad had lost belief in his methods and no longer respected him, insinuating he was solely to blame for their relegation. Unfortunately for the players involved, television cameras have been present at their games all season, leaving us with in doubt as to why they really have gone down.
There are a variety of ways in which to deal with such players, but the brazen nature of his remarks would suggest Tevez wasn't overly concerned with Mancini's reaction. Incidentally, there have been only four occasions since his arrival where double sessions have taken place
(only on Tuesdays when there are no fixtures midweek), so his problem may well just be with Mancini rather than anything that goes on in training.
If that is the case, he may not be alone. Craig Bellamy reportedly clashed with Mancini earlier this year in a disagreement over the best treatment for an injury. And when you consider the response of some senior players to the sacking of Mark Hughes (a delegation went to see the CEO to protest), it appears player power is very much in force at Eastlands.
Tevez also claimed he felt he hadn't improved as a player since Hughes left, for which I assume he is holding Mancini accountable.
For any team to be successful long-term, the authority of the manager cannot be undermined or questioned by anyone in the dressing room. Irrespective of their vast wealth, this needs to be appreciated by those running Manchester City if they are to have any chance of sustaining a challenge for the major trophies they crave any time soon.
That said, they need to have the right man in charge for that to happen, which at the moment they do not.