10 Talking Points on Roberto Mancini's Sacking at Manchester City
That the sacking took place a year to the day that Sergio Aguero sealed City’s first ever Premier League title in dramatic fashion is ironic. That it happened at all is a reflection of this team's unfulfilled potential.
Appointed in December 2009, Mancini has taken City to new heights during his tenure at Eastlands, while his success led to a new contract as recently as July 2012, not even a year before his dismissal.
What does the Premier League’s latest managerial change entail?
Here are 10 things Roberto Mancini’s sacking means for Manchester City—and it is not all doom and gloom.
The End of a Fine Era
It instantly became a legendary moment in English football history: Sergio Aguero’s last-minute winner for Manchester City against QPR a year ago secured a dramatic first-ever Premier League title for the Citizens.
It capped a fine domestic season where the City attack scored and defended to great effect, and also a fine turnaround that saw an AWOL Carlos Tevez return to inspire his team to make up a considerable deficit to Manchester United.
A year earlier, at the end of Roberto Mancini’s first full season as City manager, he delivered the FA Cup and ushered in a whole new era of City players, with Aguero and Yaya Toure the marquee components of a world-class spine.
The memories don’t stop there, of course. Among a host of impressive results, Mancini’s finest achievement was a 6-1 thrashing of archrivals Manchester United at Old Trafford, while Mario Balotelli ascended to cult-hero status with his equally brilliant and frustrating displays in the No. 45 jersey.
The fans’ reaction to the sacking was a powerful reminder of the rapport that the Italian had struck up with the City faithful; now they must look forward to the prospect of a new Manchester City next season.
Results Proved the Downfall
Unfortunately for City and Roberto Mancini, that was all in the past tense.
The (erstwhile) present was that City failed to build on a landmark achievement last season by going one step further.
This was made abundantly clear through its official statement on the sacking: “Despite everyone’s best efforts, the Club has failed to achieve any of its stated targets this year, with the exception of qualification for next season’s UEFA Champions League.”
What those targets were, perhaps we will never know for sure, but one can safely assume that qualifying for Europe’s top club competition was a bare minimum given the lofty ambitions of owner Sheikh Mansour. A sustained run in Europe was not achieved, nor was the retention of the Premier League itself.
The final nail in the coffin was the FA Cup, which provided the easiest route to three successive years of high-profile silverware. What would have been a required achievement for Mancini instead turned into a fairytale for Roberto Martinez’s Wigan.
And so, the death warrant was signed.
Ultimately, football is a results business. There are no two ways around that.
Outdated Man-Management Techniques?
It has been a season full of controversy for City, not least in the player department.
Samir Nasri was the most high-profile target of public criticism from Roberto Mancini, which, while acknowledged by the player himself to have proved a source of motivation (Telegraph), could perhaps have been better dealt with in private.
Then there was Joe Hart, whose relationship with Mancini soured so considerably that journalists were told in April not to ask the goalkeeper about his own public criticism at the hands of the coach (Daily Mail).
What about club captain Vincent Kompany, a rock in the defence in last year's title-winning campaign? Even he was not spared a mouthful as Mancini publicly questioned his commitment to the City cause following an appearance for Belgium soon after a calf injury (BBC Sport).
In the aftermath of his sacking, ex-player Danny Mills commented that it was perhaps Mancini’s poor relationship with the players that led to his exit from the club (BBC Sport).
Mancini is well-known for his distant style of management, but in an era where player power is king, perhaps that had gone too far.
A Distinct Lack of a City Identity
Most worryingly, not only did Manchester City not experience a progression from last season, they exhibited an obvious regression.
There are mitigating factors, including Yaya Toure’s duties in the Africa Cup of Nations, Vincent Kompany’s injuries and Sergio Aguero and David Silva’s lack of form.
But overall, with the experience of a title chase accumulated, City did not add resilience to their DNA, which Manchester United—whose sole identifier is perhaps “winning”—took to their full advantage.
The lack of a club identity could not have helped, either.
Roberto Mancini’s approach seemed to be game by game, tailored in response to the opposition rather than any imposed style. There was no signature City move cultivated after their attacking swagger and defensive solidity of the 2011-2012 season. Instead, individual brilliance was too often relied upon for three points—and in some cases, just the one point.
For a team who had been playing the season as Premier League Champions, this was simply just not good enough.
The Impact That a Failed Summer Can Have
Underlying all this was a most underwhelming transfer window last summer.
A host of illustrious names like Daniele De Rossi (Metro) and Javi Martinez (Daily Mail) were rumored to be high-profile additions to a title-winning squad, signings who would have brought prestige, experience and real quality to a new European force.
Instead, the likes of Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia have featured in the Etihad stands, as De Rossi and Martinez failed to dislodge the current XI. Only the precocious Matija Nastasic, who should have been a shoo-in on the Young Player of the Year awards, has proved to be an astute acquisition.
The irony that Roberto Mancini failed to meet the board’s targets for the season, working with a squad that met his own requirements, will not be lost on anyone.
Sadly, it also enforces the importance of transfer business on a season. City’s summer failures set the tone for the season’s underachievements.
Acknowledging Mancini’s Role in a Bigger Picture
From June 2008 to December 2009, Mark Hughes was in charge at Eastlands.
Back then, controversial Thai owner Thaksin Shinawatra was the club’s principal owner, and Hughes was chosen to continue the rise of Manchester City from Sven-Goran Eriksson.
For the first time in recent memory, City had the financial power to persuade big names to join from top European sides. Robinho joined from Real Madrid, while Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta, two stalwarts in the current team, first arrived. Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry, Emmanuel Adebayor and Joleon Lescott were all high-profile additions from Premier League rivals, but there was no silverware to be won.
Roberto Mancini, known most famously for his exploits at Internazionale, was chosen to continue the rise of City—a managerial appointment that signaled the imminent arrival of a Premier League force—and he duly delivered the silverware that became a necessity.
But all the while, City were evolving. The youth structure was overhauled and a new academy built. The backroom team was upgraded and enhanced, and the arrival of world-class names became a normality.
In hindsight, and in a bigger picture, Mancini was the one who brought domestic success to Manchester City, but his reign was still one of transition.
The next step, naturally, is European domination.
The New Management Team Looks to Make Its Mark
If all of this progression just took place in the imagination previously, it was confirmed emphatically when former Barcelona technical director Txiki Begiristain was appointed City’s director of football in October 2012 (BBC Sport).
That came on the heels of Ferran Soriano’s arrival at City, where the former Barcelona general manager took up the position of club CEO.
The whispers of a new Barcelona-in-the-making started immediately and only intensified with the celebrated Pep Guardiola, curator of the modern Cules legend, then taking a year-long break from the game.
The apparent lack of a City DNA and identity was exacerbated during the current Premier League season, and with this management team in place, it is not surprising that, in hindsight, perhaps Roberto Mancini was already on borrowed time when they arrived.
Recent rumors linking Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini with the Etihad (Telegraph) only serve to confirm the role and power of Begiristain at the club.
This Is Not Chelsea Mark II
If all this sounds like the shenanigans going on at a certain West London Premier League club, it is not surprising.
After all, despite their ruthless dismissal at the hands of FC Bayern Munich a few weeks ago, Barcelona remain the standard bearer of European dominance, attractive football and youth academy prowess.
But make no mistake, this is not another Chelsea.
Roman Abramovich’s trigger happiness, while bringing an unprecedented period of success to the club in terms of silverware, has not created any sort of lasting legacy at Stamford Bridge. Their last high-profile attempt, Andre Villas-Boas, was let go after a disappointing few months and is now overseeing at an exciting project at Tottenham Hotspur.
With their considerable investment in the Manchester community and City’s own youth academy, the club’s owners seem to have their priorities set on long-term success.
Europe was never Roberto Mancini’s strongest suit, but the evolution of Manchester City to become a European force has to be credited to the Italian.
Just as we suggested a few slides prior, perhaps Mancini’s dismissal will, in time, prove to be a necessary evil.
The (Possible) Beginning of a New Dynasty
The most high-profile name linked with the now-vacant Manchester City hot seat is the aforementioned Manuel Pellegrini.
The debate on his seemingly imminent appointment has already begun, but his record is impeccable. He transformed unfancied Villarreal into a La Liga and European force, while his current achievements at Malaga have already begun to turn heads.
In his first full season in charge at Malaga, he guided them to sixth in the Spanish League, securing their first ever Champions League qualification in the process. Their European exploits this season have made waves across the continent, and barring a debatable linesman’s decision, could well have contested the semifinal against his former club Real Madrid.
Pellegrini’s appointment could have massive ramifications around Europe and in England. His statesmanlike handling of the media will be well-received by the City hierarchy in comparison to Roberto Mancini’s outspoken character, while his firm footballing philosophy fits all the apparent requirements.
Given the right support, Pellegrini could be the final piece in the City jigsaw. He could usher in a new era at Eastlands.
A Whole New Premier League Awaits Us
No matter the ultimate choice as Roberto Mancini’s successor, the landscape of the English game has changed immensely in the past week.
First is the jarring statistic that the most high-profile trophy winners from 2011-2012 have been sacked: Kenny Dalglish won the League Cup with Liverpool; Roberto Di Matteo won the FA Cup and Champions League double with Chelsea; Brian McDermott won the Championship with Reading; and now Mancini, who won the Premier League.
Most significantly, the red half of Manchester has just overseen a change in leadership for the first time in 26 years as Sir Alex Ferguson passes the Old Trafford reins to David Moyes.
No one knows whether Moyes' reign will be even half as successful as his predecessor’s, but what it means is that the new Manchester City manager will be operating in a whole new Premier League.
He will find the club in good shape to take on to the next level, and he will recognize the fine work that Mancini has done to get them to where they are now.