It saddens me to have to write this article as a Manchester City fan, but here goes. Under the leadership of Eriksson and Shinawatra the club has improved beyond all recognition. This remember is the club that was rudderless last summer. If you cast your mind back to last season and its aftermath. Dreadful boring lifeless football with no end product and just about enough in the tank to survive relegation, albeit because there were worse teams around. Add into the mix that three star players chose this time to pursue their careers elsewhere. This summer of turmoil left the incoming manager with very little time to sign new players. Eriksson however, along with Tord Grip had been scouting during their time off. They were able therefore to make several inspired signings. Some did not work out for the best, most notably up front where the City curse seems to have struck once again. Bianchi, like Samaras before him could not seem to reproduce his talent in the Premiership.
We were led to believe that the club had a three year plan to get themselves into contention for The Champions League. First year, the club were to finish in the top ten. The second year would see them qualifying for the Uefa cup. The third season would see them challenging for a Champions League position. This I understand could be seen as realistic given the correct financial support from the chairman.
Undoubtedly the charismatic Eriksson used this three year vision to persuade his signings to come across to the blue half of the city. Petrov for example was taken from under the nose of Tottenham. Not only this, but the young players from the academy also persuaded by Eriksson to further commit themselves to the club.
This brings me to the man himself. What a performance from a man whose stock had sunk so low after his England role. Not that he did so badly there either. Sure the second half of the season has been relatively disappointing, but the club cannot finish lower than 9th. And in fact could still finish 6th. There will be no trophy this season, but this was not in the original plan. Like Lazio, City managed to win both derby matches under Eriksson for the first time in my living memory. We have also seen the emergence of some real talent at youth level included the Youth Cup. Eriksson has encouraged the breakthrough of several youth team players and reserves into the first team, notably Daniel Sturridge. One for the future is Vladimir Weiss, who I would expect Eriksson to blood next season, if he were still there. England will also be able to thank him for his faith in Joe Hart when he becomes an England fixture. The cool Swede has been magnificent in building relationships with the fans and the local community and looks to be on target for his three year plan. He has also been excellent in his dealings with the press and has been very reserved in criticising officials.
So what has happened? Why has he apparently been given his cards? We know that results have slipped, but let us look at why. By his own admission Eriksson has made mistakes tactically. He has had bad luck with injuries, especially at the back. The first half of the season was built upon the strength of his defence, with Corluka, Richards, Dunne and Garrido all playing amazingly. The second half of the season has seen this back line decimated through injury and suspension. The other big injury was to Bojinov. Next season we will see if he is the missing piece to the jigsaw.
Sacking him is going to lead to another summer of uncertainty and turmoil. We can forget about the three year plan as it will have to be scrapped. Presumably, this time in year one, the new manager will have to qualify for the Uefa cup as the chairman has lost year one achieving his previous plan. All of the targets highlighted for summer transfer by Eriksson will be abandoned.
I think that the chairman has to have a long hard look at himself. He claims to have the club’s interests at heart. Simultaneously, he wants to drive a global brand and attract superstar names. To do this he needs to make funds available and have somebody with pulling power and a global brand at the helm. Eriksson is perfect for this. Is the chairman worried he needs a Brazilian manager to attract Brazilian superstars? The fans, the players and the rest of the board have made their feelings clear. They know class when they see it and for them Eriksson is very much the man to complete the original three year plan. Sadly, the problem would appear to be one of team interference by a power hungry chairman. Look down the road at what can happen when multi-millionaire owners do not meddle in team affairs! I only hope that the chairman reconsiders his and Eriksson’s position as one is rising stock and the other is rapidly sinking. I do not need to point out to him that the club will see another exodus of players this summer if the man who charmed them into staying or indeed joining the club is so shamefully treated. The vultures are already circling the club. The players have a dilemma. How can they best show their support for the manager? Imagine if they can reach 6th. This would make the situation all the more farcical. Or do they start planning for summer and throw in the towel as they show their disillusionment? I hope it is the former!
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