Was Eamon Dunphy Right to Attack Roberto Mancini's Manchester City Project?

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Was Eamon Dunphy Right to Attack Roberto Mancini's Manchester City Project?
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Tired of bland, cliche-hugging pundits playing it safe? Sit back and watch RTE's Eamon Dunphy savaging Roberto Mancini and the Manchester City "project," in the wake of City's 3-1 loss to Ajax in the Champions League.

Dunphy does not hold back.

"I've never liked Mancini. I've never believed they are a team," he begins.

"Yaya Toure is on £220,000 a week, and he never tried a leg tonight from start to finish. There's too many guys out there who don't care."

Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy, both expensive imports from Arsenal, are others singled out. But it's Mancini who fields the harshest blows—taking the blame for the Carlos Tevez debacle last season and being accused of having "bought badly" during his time at the club.

Dunphy doesn't like him. He doesn't like what's he's doing at City, either. If the two men met in a bar, it might go something like this.

"This is an expensive folly of a project, and it's actually bad for the sport," Dunphy says. "They're the champions of England and they did nothing right."
At first glance, what we have here is TV shock-jockery of the first order. Dunphy went for the jugular, and did so knowing full well we'd all be talking about him this morning.

Just a case of he who shouts loudest lasts longest? Or was Dunphy saying things that needed to be said?

Let's examine the evidence and see if any of his points stand up.

 

1. City Are Not "a Team"

Stu Forster/Getty Images
Dzeko, Balotelli and Tevez on the bench together
The suggestion is that Mancini's squad remain a collection of talented individuals and not a cohesive unit, pulling together for the greater good.

There may well be an element of truth here. Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko have made no secret of their self-interest during Mancini's reign, and it was always going to take time to blend his expensively assembled cast.

The more you pay, the more placating you need to do.

Just last night, Micah Richards openly questioned Mancini's tactics. Was that the act of a man with his team's best interests at heart? Or another sign that City haven't quite grasped the notion of team unity?

City's away form in Europe is another reason to question their character. They've lost four of their last five Champions League games on the road and appear set to go out in the group stages for the second season running.

Last night's trip to Ajax called for fierce resolve, but—as this report by the Guardian attests—City rolled over instead.

The counterargument can be found in City's drive to the title last season, and also in the strength of character they've already shown in the Premier League this season—most recently in their comeback win at West Brom.

You don't get that kind of fight from a team without a soul. The problem is, that soul occasionally goes missing when City need it most.

 

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
2. The Players Aren't Trying Hard Enough

It's hard to buy into this one. Yaya Toure brings a ferocious drive to City and was a vital component of their success last season, so he seems a strange example to pin this on.

Toure covered 11,543 meters against Ajax. Only one City player ran farther, and that was Nasri with 12,242.

Nasri wouldn't be the first creative midfielder to drift in and out of game, but it's clear from the numbers he worked his socks off in Amsterdam. And his goal was the reward for it.

That said, Ajax had five players over the 12,000-meter mark to City's two—in Christian Poulsen, Christian Eriksen, Siem de Jong, Ricardo van Rhijn and Lasse Schone.

Is there an argument here that they got the reward for it?

 

3. City Have Bought Badly

Since Sheik Mansour's takeover in 2008, they've bought aggressively and spent liberally—that's beyond dispute. But while there have been notable flops—Robinho, for example—there have also been the signings that took City to the Premier League title.

In those you have to count the likes of Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, Joleon Lescott, David Silva, Sergio Aguero, James Milner, Tevez and Balotelli.

Was it worth the expensive mistakes to win City a title? You'd have ask their owner, but there's no doubt they've wasted substantial sums along the way and could have achieved their goal on a far smaller outlay.

 

4. Is City's Success Bad for Football?

Is it right that City have bought themselves a place at football's top table?

If you feel uncomfortable with it, then at least consider this—how else would they have gotten there?

Is City's success bad for football?

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Europe's elite are established and have a license to print money on their rich tradition. Could City have breached that group with no more than diehard fans, smart coaching and a strong youth system to pull from?

Of course they couldn't. But that doesn't mean they should have been allowed to. Therein lies the moral dilemma—in a sport driven my money, should money be able to drive success?

The fact City are mindful of UEFA's financial fair play rules will hopefully bring an end to kind of preposterous spending we've seen in the last four years. But it won't change the fact they've bought into club football's richest game.

As Ajax proved on Wednesday night, however, City's money still isn't good in the Champions League.

There's no doubt Dunphy went a long way over the top, but even the most ardent City fans will hear some truth in his words after last night's performance.

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