Manchester City are not playing well. Despite being second in the Premier League on 25 points after 11 rounds of games, the Citizens have so far flattered to deceive.
The reason for this malaise falls at the feet at just one man—Roberto Mancini.
Credit where it is due, last season, Mancini did fantastically well to guide City to their first league title in 44 years.
On the way to that elusive title, they played with the imagination, fearlessness and honesty that we associate with all great champions, and they deservedly won the league.
This season, something has changed.
The same panache and vigour is no longer evident. City seem to be a team playing with the weight of the world on their shoulders, and their lacklustre performances are direct and irrefutable evidence.
Team and player performance has dropped from the levels expected, and for this—the buck stops with the manager.
As with any change in performance, the malaise has a number of reasons.
Here, Bleacher Report looks at the main reasons why Roberto Mancini has been Manchester City's biggest disappointment so far this season.
So far this season, Manchester City have played 17 games across all competitions.
From the very first moment their season began on August 12 against Chelsea in the FA Community Shield, City have almost been playing two games per week.
Despite the games coming thick and fast, though, they have, so far, failed to build any real momentum.
The main reason for this is Roberto Mancini's constant tinkering with the tactical setup of his team.
In any one given the game, the shape of the team is in constant fluid motion. The shape and formation of the side is almost biological in terms and changes to suit every incident as the game evolves.
However, when all is said and done, there is always a base-foundation formation.
Tactics are overblown, over-thought and completely over-analysed in today's media, and in essence, they come down to 11 honest men in a formation.
If this formation changes from game to game, or from situation to situation, the players begin to question their roles within the team, and as confidence is eroded, so too is performance level.
This is essentially what has gone wrong at City so far this season.
Momentum and rhythm have not built up, and City are basically living from hand-to-mouth or from game-to-game.
So far this season, Mancini has changed the tactical setup of his team for almost every game and sometimes two or three times within one single game.
In the end, this sends out mixed messages to the players, which results to tactical changes having as much chance of failing as succeeding.
The perfect example of this with City is Mancini's constant insistence on switching to three at the back from his tried and trusted four at the back.
The change worked well against a Tottenham Hotspur side that were tactically controlling a recent match at the Etihad, but its success also had much to thank Andre Villas-Boas for.
With his side still in control at 1-1, Villas-Boas was forced to remove Kyle Walker from right-back through injury. Instead of making a like-for-like change and introducing Kyle Naughton, the Portuguese, instead, brought on Michael Dawson and moved the pace-less William Gallas to the right-full position.
This two-for-one move essentially surrendered the right flank for Spurs and with Mancini's 3-5-2 pushing up the left, Spurs now had no escape from the constant pressure they were coming under.
Ultimately, the brave move to 3-5-2 brought huge dividends, as City dug out a win that had looked extremely unlikely.
The main reason for offering these contrasting tactical examples is that if tactical changes are made too often, they stand the same chance of failing as being successful.
City's success last season was built on the same basic formation for every single game, where every single player knew his role intimately and was ready to step in or out if needed.
The same cannot be said of this season, and Mancini will have to reverse that trend if his team are to retain their title.
At the start of the season, Roberto Mancini became embroiled in a feud with Brian Marwood—Manchester City's ex-Football Administrator.
The spat centred around the lack of signings City had made during the 2012 summer transfer window.
But in reality, it was Mancini flexing his new muscles, as the manager finally brought the title home by telling his colleagues in senior management that he wanted a say in club transfers.
This move by Mancini is very reminiscent of the very same move by Rafael Benitez against Rick Parry in 2008.
Benitez had enjoyed great success by winning the Champions League in 2005, finishing runners-up in 2007 and by guiding the Reds to second in the Premier League in 2009. It was during this, his strongest period as manager, that he chose to go to battle with Rick Parry over the club's transfer policy.
In the end, Parry resigned, but significant damage had also been done to Benitez, who had taken his eye off footballing matters. With that all-important momentum lost, he eventually lost control of the team and was forced out.
At City, the board have moved quickly by moving Brian Marwood to one side as managing director of the club's football academy.
But, and most significantly, they have replaced him with real men of stature.
By giving Marwood's old role to Txiki Begiristain the City board have sent out a real message to Mancini—your job is in matters on the pitch.
The added incentive to Mancini to stay focused on on-field matters in Begiristain's past.
Before City, the ex-Spanish international was sporting director at Barcelona and worked in a daily basis in the now out-of-work Pep Guardiola.
Roberto Mancini was officially unveiled as manager of Manchester City on December 19, 2009.
Since then, the Italian has signed 23 players for a combined fee of £269 million.
Needless to say, he has signed more than one dud.
Given the incredible money at his disposal, Mancini's transfer strategy has been very poor.
For example, in the 2010-'11 season, he signed just three players. But most significantly, he paid a combined fee of £77 million for them.
They are none other than Mario Balotelli (£24m), James Milner (£26m) and Edin Dzeko (£27m).
Even more significantly, each player is no more than a squad player in the current setup.
In general, and to be fair, some of the big-money signings have all paid off.
David Silva (£26m), Yaya Toure (£24m) and Sergio Aguero (£38m) are all regarded as world-class players.
The same cannot be said of Balotelli, Dzeko, Miner or Samir Nasri (£24m).
In this regard, Mancini's transfer strategy is distinctly flawed. He has paid top dollar for squad players who have all yet to make a significant return on their value, with the possible exception of Dzeko.
Mario Balotelli's capture has been an unmitigated disaster, as the Italian has increasingly become an unwanted distraction both on and off the field with his immature behaviour.
Jerome Boateng and Adam Johnson, two of his first three signings—Patrick Vieira being the first—have come and gone. Stefan Savic was an accident waiting to happen before he was shipped out as part of the deal to sign Matija Nastasic from Fiorentina.
Recent signings Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia have huge question marks against them. As do Gael Clichy and Nasri, Milner and Balotelli.
Overall, given the expenditure involved, Mancini should have a better transfer record.
All stats courtesy of soccerbase.com
One thing is for sure, Roberto Mancini seems to have a blind spot for the UEFA Champions League.
The first place to start regarding the Champions League, and Mancini is with Inter Milan.
This was at a time when the Nerazzurri were the dominant side in Serie A. Mancini took over in August 2004-05 and won his first title in 2005-06.
It was the first title of many, as Inter won Serie A every season between 2006 and 2010, with Mancini claiming the title in an almost unprecedented three in a row between 2006, 2007 and 2008 before he was sacked in 2009.
During the Mancini era, Inter were one of the highest spending teams in Europe and, as shown already, were blowing the domestic competition away.
Despite this success and domination at home, Inter, under Mancini, could not make the breakthrough in Europe.
The following season Inter fell to Villareal at the same stage when they were expected to beat the Spanish minnows on the way to the title.
2007 saw another exit at Spanish hands as Valencia triumphed over Inter at the last-16 stage. It was another controversial Champions League exit for the Italian champions as the game finished with a mass brawl between the two sides.
In Mancini's last season at Inter, he saw his side, once again, knocked out in the last 16, this time by Liverpool.
This result eventually led to the Italian being sacked and replaced by Jose Mourinho.
Needless to say, the Portuguese won the Champions League with Inter in his second season.
Now at Manchester City, Mancini has, once again, failed in the Champions League so far.
Having spent almost £300 million on players in such a short time, the City coach should easily have assembled a side capable of challenging for the trophy with big ears.
Last season, they were embarrassingly eliminated from the competition at the group stage, and this season, it looks as if history will repeat itself unless results go their way.
In the Premier League, City, in general, have been excellent. Last season, in particular, they played with great panache, style and a beautiful sense of adventure that is associated with all top sides.
The same cannot be said about their foray in Europe.
The argument against City's involvement in Europe is that it takes time to build the necessary experience and that they will continue to go out until enough has been built.
This, I'm afraid, is pure rubbish.
Football is football regardless of where it is played, and as always, it boils down to 11 honest men in a shape against another 11 men.
The experience argument might be viable when reaching the further stages where experience of pressurised situations comes into play, but in between, it is still a game of football.
The Citizens, admittedly, have found they have been drawn in the toughest groups both this season and last. But, this does not protect them from their performances.
Last year, they drew Napoli, eventual runners-up Bayern Munich and Villareal.
Villareal were in a state of complete turmoil and were roundly turned over in each and every game in the group. While Napoli, also debutantes in the Champions League, played with the kind of abandon we would normally associate with City. Bayern Munich, for their part, were worthy finalists, but they are not the kind of team to strike fear into team like City.
In the group stages, City were poor despite finishing on 10 points.
They only took one point from two games against Napoli, who outplayed them each time and beat an experimental Bayern team on the last fixture date to gain the 10 points.
Madrid are Madrid and were always going to be a tough nut to crack, but the manner in which City approached both the Ajax and Dortmund fixtures, so far, is less than encouraging.
The trend is there for all to see across five different seasons.
Roberto Mancini, in some way shape or form, changes his approach to the Champions League.
Unless he can pinpoint this flaw in his coaching style, City will continue to fail, and Jose Mourinho might just replace him again.
Team selection is the most important match day aspect of a manager's job. If anything, it is probably the most important aspect of his entire job.
Last season, Roberto Mancini only picked 24 players across the entire season of 55 games.
This solidity allowed his team to basically select itself as natural-selection took over, and the best players basically played in the best positions.
Sounds simple, doesn't it?
If anything, this ability to step back and take a helicopter view of the situation was probably Mancini's greatest asset.
He had settled on a shape, the information and expectations he set were conveyed to the team, and the rest looked after itself as City won the league.
His defence conceded the least amount of goals, 29, his attack had the greatest goal difference, plus-64, and in general, his team played the best football.
This term, across just 11 games, Roberto Mancini has already selected 24 players and has changed his setup countless times.
This laissez-faire approach by the manager is undermining all the good work he did last season for a number of reasons.
1. Manchester City no longer have the same solid shape they had last season, and the players are struggling to understand the manager's instructions, which change from match to match and often from incident to incident.
2. This then further manifests itself in the players' suffering with confidence, and as confidence in their role diminishes, so too does their output.
3. His laissez-faire approach to different situations is the opposite of his scientific approach last season, and the only players improving and returning the required performances are the strongest characters in the squad.
4. Weaker characters who are used to be scientifically managed are beginning to regress as the season goes on. This will get worse unless the manager can repair the situation sooner rather than later.
There is little doubt that Roberto Mancini is a highly talented manager.
Like any front-line manager, he has his flaws. But the key to victory is in knowing where the solution lies and how to deal with these flaws.
To many, the name Henri Fayol will mean nothing.
However, the French industrialist was one of the leading philosophers of management structures, organisations and on how to deal with people in industry.
His ideas from the classical school of management still influence the world today almost 100 years since putting them to print.
Despite Fayol's views on management being based on industry, they are equally viable in the sporting world.
His Five Functions of Management have been taken on by leaders in every single industry over the last 100 years, and Roberto Mancini need only remember that these five functions served him ever so well last season.
They are: planning, organising, commanding, coordinating and controlling (analyse and change).
Fayol then went further and introduced 14 principles which are uncannily sport-like in their mentality.
From Suite 101: Henri Fayol's Principles of Management
- The division of labor. Fayol held that the division of labor assists employees to become specialized in their field which yields improvements in skills and efficiency.
- Authority. Fayol advocated authority in an organization and the right to give orders to subordinates.
- Discipline. Employees are expected to respect the organization’s rules and code of conduct.
- Unity of command. The organization’s hierarchy should be clear and each employee responds to only one boss.
- Unity of direction. All employees work to a single plan and everyone works to attain one shared set of objectives.
- The subordination of the individual interest to the company interest. This premise upholds the notion that employees should only consider the company’s interest when at work. Tasks performed should always be work related.
- Proper remuneration. Employees receive payment for their services that is fair to both the individual and the organization.
- Centralization. Management functions and decisions taken should be performed from the top of the hierarchy. Delegating tasks must not fragment the organization’s hierarchy.
- The scalar chain. An organization should have a hierarchical line of authority from the top to the bottom of an organization.
- Order. This principle advocates that a right place should be assigned for everything and everyone.
- Equity. Reasonable treatment and justice in respect to all employees should be encouraged.
- Stability of tenure. Employees should be given sufficient time to become proficient at their job and improve their skills. Turnover of personnel should be approached in moderation.
- Initiative. Employees should be encouraged to take initiative as long as they adhere to the bounds of authority and discipline.
- Esprit de corps. This principle advocates the benefits of working as a team to ensure high morale amongst employees.
Manchester City's unbeaten start to the season has not been down to their manager, as their title win last season so deservedly was. It is down to the good, honest professionals he has at his disposal.
Carlos Tevez, David Silva, Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure are amongst the very best players in the world because they are amongst the most honest. They never leave anything on the pitch and give their all for the cause every, single time of asking.
This seasons unbeaten start is down to them.
Now is the time for Roberto Mancini to step back and realise he is as much to blame as his misfiring players; more if he can be brutally honest.
That is why Mancini has been Manchester City's biggest disappointment this season.
He is the biggest influence on the club, and given the tools at his disposal, he should be doing better.