Thursday 14 December 2017

Mancini has no sympathy for bench-warmers

Roberto Mancini has told the disgruntled members of his squad that no-one at Manchester City can expect to play every week any more.

Shay Given, Roque Santa Cruz and Adam Johnson have all voiced their concern about not getting a regular game with City this season, whilst Emmanuel Adebayor's voice has become increasing persistent in expressing his displeasure.

Adebayor claimed earlier this week that a loan deal had been done with Juventus that would allow him to leave for Turin in January, although City sources insist the assertion is not true.

It does seem inevitable the £25m purchase from Arsenal will be allowed to quit at some stage during the transfer window.

However, with a packed programme approaching, right through to the end of the festive period, Mancini is calling for further commitment.

And the Italian has also pointed out that, having joined the quickening City bandwagon, highly-paid players must accept the downside of what comes with battling for major honours.

"They must understand that in a top team, it is impossible to always play," said Mancini.

"When a player plays, he must do well. That goes for Adebayor, Jo, Mario Balotelli, everyone.

"For Adebayor, probably this situation can change in January. But it depends. If we lose a striker, we must get another one.

"No player is happy when they don't play. But between now and when we play Arsenal on January 5 we have 10 games, so all the players will play this month and we need them to concentrate on that."

The message clearly has not got through to everyone, although Mancini can reflect on a positive response to that disappointing goalless draw with Birmingham a fortnight ago.

Sunday's handsome win at Fulham contained an attacking verve not always present on home soil and was enough to close the gap on leaders Chelsea to three points.

Yet, having already declared Carlo Ancelotti's men are certainties to win the title, Mancini is sticking to his belief.

"Chelsea can win the title because they are a strong team," he said.

"They are like Manchester United but better.

"But the situation can change. The Premier League is tough in every game."

It is a phrase that very often has not rung true.

This season though, nothing can be taken for granted.

Indeed, City's failure to beat Birmingham was put into context just seven days later when Alex McLeish's men overcame Chelsea at St Andrew's.

"It is very tight," said Mancini.

"The situation changes every two games. Now there are four teams within three points of each other and Tottenham and Bolton are doing very well just now also.

"This is good for the league and the squads who are in Europe find it harder. When you have to play every three days it is not easy."

While a recall for Adebayor appears unlikely this weekend, Mancini will have to make at least one change because Pablo Zabaleta has been ruled out after picking up his fifth booking of the season at Craven Cottage.

Either Jerome Boateng or Micah Richards will take the versatile South American's place, the other likely to find himself sitting alongside Balotelli on the City bench.

The tempestuous 20-year-old has already endured a mixed time of it, scoring on three occasions despite making just four appearances so far, suffering a knee injury that kept him on the sidelines for a couple of months then getting sent off at West Brom.

Balotelli launched a fruitless appeal against the severity of the three-match ban he has just completed and Mancini remains convinced his young forward was treated unjustly.

However, the Blues boss recognises there are some areas of Balotelli's character that need to be improved if he is to fulfil his enormous potential.

"I spoke with him about his mentality. We need him to behave," admitted Mancini.

Whether Stoke are the best opponents to test his fragile mental state out on is open to debate.

Although Mancini emerged victorious against Tony Pulis' men in his first game as City boss last December, he subsequently failed to with three more matches against the Potteries outfit.

And he knows a unique challenge awaits this weekend.

"Stoke are a strong and physical team," said Mancini.

"They create a lot of chances on set pieces, so we must pay attention in those situations.

"Then we need to get the ball down and play our football."

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