So the inquest begins. A demoralising and extremely damaging defeat to Ajax in the Champions League has left Manchester City’s hopes of European glory in tatters – but to what extent will the gaze now turn upon the manager?
On the face of it, Roberto Mancini should be untouchable. He not only secured City’s first trophy for 34 years when lifting the FA Cup in 2011, but he then went one better by bringing home the club’s first top-flight title since 1968. And all this added to a CV that includes three straight Serie A titles as manager of Inter Milan.
But all is not what it seems, is it? Closer inspection of his record raises questions about his credentials at the very top of club management and you have to wonder if the powers that be at Manchester City are beginning to question the Italian.
In truth, he was ten seconds away from one of the biggest chokes in sporting history before Sergio Aguero got him out of jail against QPR in May and even then, only a late and uncharacteristic Manchester United collapse let their neighbours back in.
Those Serie A titles were won either via default (when Juventus were stripped of the league due to match fixing) or with very little competition, while his record in the Champions League with both Inter and City is, to be blunt, dreadful and to fail so badly with two such talented teams has to go down as bad management, pure and simple.
I do wonder if Mancini had played like Ian Pearce and looked like Iain Dowie if he would have ever got into the positions he has occupied. He isn’t a bad coach, let’s not go over the top, but he isn’t a great one by any stretch of the imagination and he has never appeared particularly tactically astute, as his ill-thought-out flirtation with 3-5-2 this season is proving.
The thing he does have in his favour at City is a shed load of cash and some of the best players in the world and that will definitely be enough to keep him near the top of the Premier League, but for how much longer Sheikh Mansour will tolerate dismal failure in Europe is another question.
But even with that said, the champions have looked pretty ordinary in the league this season, too. Trailing Chelsea by four points, they have kept only one clean sheet all season and the contrast between now and 12 months ago is stark.
It was just over a year ago when City stormed Old Trafford on that infamous afternoon – the match that essentially won them the title – but that incredible 6-1 triumph seems a distant memory at the moment.
Of course, City have too many good players not to click into gear at some point and they should have no problems when Swansea City visit the Etihad Stadium on Saturday evening. A price of 1/5 suggests as much, with the draw at 21/4 and and the Swans at 23/2, and even if there is a lack of confidence at City, the Welsh side don’t look up to exploiting it.
Michael Laudrup got a vital win last time out, beating Wigan Athletic 2-1 at the Liberty Stadium, but the bad vibes coming from the camp continue to rumble away. It could just be hearsay and speculation, but there is too much talk about dissatisfaction from the players towards the Dane for it to be totally unfounded.
Indeed, Laudrup and chairman Huw Jenkins were moved enough to quell the speculation in the last matchday programme (a sign that all is not well if there ever was one) and with the Swans’ away form so poor, they won’t get much change at City.
Swansea have lost their last two away league games, both 2-0, to Stoke City and Aston Villa and even conceded two goals in a win at League One Crawley in the Capital One Cup. And with such a poor record on the road – only QPR lost more away games last season – the only question is how to get value on a City win.
Mancini’s side have inherited the trait that has served Manchester United so well over the years in swatting aside inferior sides at home and City boasted a 9-1-1-33-8 record last year against the teams in the bottom half, keeping five clean sheets.
They have the firepower to make this comfortable and with all prices on City too skinny, the value lies in the 29/20 on City winning despite giving Swansea a two-goal head start.
New customers joining bwin.com can claim a free £20 bet with their first deposit and placing this on City to win by three goals or more would return £49 if successful.
The Swans have conceded 14 goals in their last seven games and City can add to their woes by getting at least three. After all, this fixture finished in a 4-0 home win last season – I fancy a similar scoreline on Saturday.