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Manchester City: Roberto Mancini Pinned Under Weight of Unreasonable Expectation

"Embattled" should be on Mancini's business card these days.
"Embattled" should be on Mancini's business card these days.Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Phil KeidelContributor IIFebruary 16, 2013

Today's fun Google search is "Roberto Mancini sack."

Thankfully, the search results do not pull up anything revolving around Mancini's recent ill-considered rant about the manhood of his players, per the Mirror.

Instead, the search results revolve around Mancini's perceived lack of job security and the possibility that he could be managing his side's upcoming fifth-round FA Cup tie against Leeds United to save his job.

"Roberto Mancini 'could face Manchester City sack,'" bleats BBC Sport (quoting former City defender Danny Mills).

"Roberto Mancini bristles at 'sack claims' by critics," chuffs the Express.

"Roberto Mancini scoffs at idea that FA Cup defeat might be curtains," intones the ominous Guardian.

On and on it goes, a thrum of threat against Mancini's position. He is blithe in his dismissal of it, going so far as to say that if his job is in danger then no Premier League manager's job is safe.

Right he is.

Real or imagined, the threat against Mancini's job is the result of numerous factors. Few of them are his fault.

The immediate issue is Manchester United's 12-point lead at the top of the Premier League table. Blaming Mancini for United's dominant play this season is like blaming the weatherman for the windy rain.

While Mancini was given spare parts at the summer transfer window (Maicon, Scott Sinclair, Javi Garcia), United hauled in Robin van Persie to devastating effect.

Thanks in large part to the van Persie signing, United has won 21 of its 26 starts this season and is on pace to finish with 93 points. They may actually eclipse that pace, since the only away match left on United's schedule against a top-five club in the table is at Arsenal.

United's next five matches, in fact, are against teams languishing in the bottom half of the table.

Until City's shock loss at Southampton last week, its position in second place in the table was quite comfortable. It is less so now, but City still controls its destiny vis-à-vis qualification for Champions League play next year.

Which brings us to another black mark against Mancini's record, i.e., two consecutive flame-outs in the Champions League, including this season's embarrassing performance.

Granted, three home draws and three away losses in Champions League group play is not the stuff of legendary managing.

But no one knows how City's Champions League campaign might have turned out had his side been able to protect a 2-1 lead at the Bernabeu for six minutes, either. That devastating opening loss, points thrown away, is much more fairly pinned on Mancini's players than it is on him.

Which, it must be said, is the whole point.

Mancini's troubles this season have much less to do with his predilection for tweaking formations that it does with the inability of his players to stay on the pitch and to produce when they do play.

It is fitting that Mancini will be asked again to manage this purported be-all, end-all match against Leeds United without Vincent Kompany, per ESPN FC. Why should this match be any different from so many in the past month?

Kompany's absence—and his dip in form when he has played—has compelled Mancini to make it up as he goes along at the back, with predictable results. When Javi Garcia is playing center back, as he was at Southampton, that is not the manager's fault.

Nor can Mancini be blamed for another protracted absence from Yaya Toure, a devastating injury to Micah Richards, the appalling behavior of the now-departed Mario Balotelli or the suddenly comical keeping of Joe Hart.

Let's not mention Samir Nasri at all.

Put another way, the question probably should not be "how is Mancini not winning the league with this side?" The question is, more appropriately, "how has Mancini kept this side in second?"

But by all means, sack Mancini and hire Jose Mourinho.

Because a manager who can take Cristiano Ronaldo and company and trail Barcelona by 16 points is obviously a better choice.

It is certainly possible that Manchester City will part ways with Mancini. Maybe not this week, but some time soon.

And that's fine. City may not deserve Mancini anyway.

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