Both sides must take their share of the blame for the dour derby, but John Baines believes the caution instilled by Roberto Mancini is giving Manchester City an inferiority complex.
Few teams have won much by putting the roof on before the walls are built. Even Arsene Wenger’s eulogised ball players had to morph from the ‘98 title built on the backbone of George Graham’s granite back five plus the midfield maulers of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit. So, it’s perhaps understandable that Roberto Mancini is conscious of setting the foundations of this Mancunian Palatial abode.
Another more recent comparison would be Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, who through the recruitment of Petr Cech, Ricardo Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira and Michael Essien provided the necessary defensive steel on which to base a title assault. The emphasis on building a strong, organised and obdurate backline is not the problem, more the defensive outlook and mentality of the team.
For all the lavish outlays on grandiose forwards, Mancini also has a penchant for pragmatic midfielders. The modus
It was a recurring theme last season too. Mancini made the Citizens less porous than under Mark Hughes, through a blend of defensive organisation and attacking limitations. Recall the final few games, with City jostling for a much sought Champions League place, there were elements of defeatism which ultimately meant defeat.
The corresponding derby was a similar affair to last night but was eventually claimed by a late Paul Scholes winner. City were once again prohibited in their adventure, hoping to contain and conceal rather than impose. Latterly they were off to the Emirates against a beleaguered Arsenal with nothing left to play for. Again, it was a consolidation job and City left with a point and little else. The culmination was the effective fourth place play-off with Tottenham, where once again, at home, City ceded ground and possession against a side deemed roughly their equals. For all the intentions and intensity of the club hierarchy to improve, Mancini has been fairly passive at seizing the initiative.
The party line from the top is that City want to be the best. Money and ambition know no bounds yet that rhetoric is immediately rescinded at its most viewable point – the team. There are many components you need to be a successful side. The right players are of course fundamental and City are blessed in stock. Tactical flexibility is needed which doesn’t necessarily render Mancini’s defensive outlook entirely a problem.
At times, all of Messrs Ferguson, Wenger and Mourinho – amongst others – have retreated under circumstance, and would embrace doing so in order to get points. But perhaps most crucially, the correct mentality is needed; the vision, the outlook, the arrogance and belief that you can and will achieve your aims. By playing in such a moribund style, is Mancini failing himself, his players, his team and his club as they crusade?
On the face of it, there are few reasons why City cannot be genuine title contenders. Their player pool, either as a first eleven or a squad is arguably as strong as anything in the league and they have the required components to chop and change and compete across all competitions all season. They could easily attain a reputation and a fear factor that should be envied, they command respect due to the quality and achievements of personnel, and have a nucleus of players whom, although not achieved at the club, have the experience and expertise of challenging and winning major honours. So why the defeatism?
Perhaps most gauling of all for the Eastland’s faithful is that you cannot identify one truly outstanding side in the league. One they need to be feared of. All have their own flaws and inadequacies, yet City choose to surrender where lesser teams would be prepared to venture. It’s a sad trait, and one on Armistice Day that is tantamount to cowardice.