Sunday 22 April 2018

Mancini: I'll need a couple of months to make it work

tottenham 0
man city 0

Ian Herbert

visiting Italian managers can find it difficult to get into the ascendancy at White Hart Lane. Just ask Fabio Capello, who had to loiter for five minutes in reception on Saturday, making small talk to security staff because his companion did not have the right dress code to go up to the VIP area.

In a footballing sense, Roberto Mancini had the same kind of experience. He was the one with £106m of new talent, but it was Harry Redknapp who was on the up -- his same players who bounced City out of the fourth Champions League spot in April have apparently widened the gap between themselves and the big spenders.

Mancini's Serbian left-back Aleksandar Kolarov, sidelined at half-time with a knee injury, looks a seriously good acquisition but none of the others looked ready. That is a temporary situation but the discontent of those players who find themselves on the margins of Mancini's team -- Shay Given foremost among them, after Mancini identified Joe Hart as his No 1 -- looks permanent.

It is unclear whether Hart's impressive display, which included four top-class saves, will further cement his pre-eminence in Mancini's pecking order -- it is Given's command of his box, not his shot-stopping, that the City manager questions, and that part of Hart's repertoire was not put to the test at Tottenham.

But Given is unlikely to see it that way, despite the joke he managed to lean back and share with his sideline companions after Hart's second save.

With a bench valued at £90m on Saturday, Mancini will need a diplomat's powers to maintain harmony. In his defence, he declared that he had spoken to all the players, informing them that their playing time might now be more limited.

"All of them except Craig Bellamy," Mancini added, his grin hinting at a continued determination to see Bellamy out of the club.

"Management is difficult," he continued. "You have 20, 25 good players, and every three days have to choose 11 players. The others are sure not to be happy."

Mancini related the story of his early days as an 19-year-old struggling to make Renzo Ulivieri's first XI at Sampdoria as evidence that he has lived through what some of his players are experiencing.

"I stayed on the bench for many games and I was angry every game," Mancini recalled. "That is normal. Every day you must work to convince the manager to change his decision."

Redknapp believes Mancini is in an impossible position.

"Sometimes I think you can cause your own problems having too many players around," he observed.

"I'd hate to have another striker -- I wouldn't care who it was. I'd have five strikers, what would you do with them? Four is plenty."

Mancini is certainly going to some unexpected lengths to keep his personnel happy. Even Carlos Tevez, one of the few who need never worry about the teamsheet, needs some appeasement, judging by Mancini's curious decision to hand him the captaincy that had been Kolo Toure's.

Vincent Kompany or Nigel de Jong seem far better candidates than Tevez, whose relationship with Mancini was strained last season. Tevez didn't take up the role with great vim on Saturday, although he was suffering with a severe sore throat heading into the game.

Redknapp, who seems disgruntled by his club's failure to pick up free agent William Gallas, suggested that City would struggle to hit the top four, although little can be read into this performance.

Sublime

David Silva, who Mancini said on Friday was not match-ready, was indeed not match-ready. Neither was Yaya Toure, outmuscled by Tom Huddlestone and the wonderfully versatile Luka Modric in the midfield battle. Micah Richards's horrible afternoon against a sublime Gareth Bale made one worry for him.

The gulf between the sides was tactical. City lacked a striker because Tevez felt he had to head back into midfield to forage for the ball and only looked a force once Emmanuel Adebayor arrived for the last eight minutes. Tottenham had a striker in Peter Crouch, whom Aaron Lennon repeatedly found.

World Cup hangover? It was as if South Africa had never happened.

Mancini's estimate of the time it will take his side to be ready has now increased from the "two or three weeks" -- his assessment on Friday -- to "one month, maybe two months to make it work".

But neither City, nor those unsettled players, care for hanging around.

For Mancini, it is to be hoped there is not an unhappy omen in the story of his battles with Ulivieri at Sampdoria.

The Italian was asked about the outcome of his frustrations there. "They changed the manager!" he replied. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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