Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has again faced questions on indiscipline within his squad with serial offender Mario Balotelli the subject of a number of stories, including a training ground altercation with teammate Micah Richards, just days after reportedly being fined for breaking a team curfew ahead of City’s clash with Chelsea. In a reign beginning to prove fruitful for Mancini and the City board, the off-field dramas are proving as big a challenge for the manager as ending their local rivals’ dominance of the Premier League.
With former captain Carlos Tevez still AWOL having returned to Argentina without the permission of the club Mancini has coped comfortably in the absence of his former skipper, with Balotelli, Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero all performing well in attack for the Premier League’s top-scoring side. Tevez, believed to have struggled with personal problems throughout his time in England, had been frozen out of the City first-team squad after allegedly refusing to warm up after being named as a substitute against Bayern Munich in September, after lifting the FA Cup for City just four months earlier.
Despite his public dispute with former Manchester United striker Tevez, who became a hero among City fans following his controversial switch, the stance taken by Mancini has earned the backing of the City faithful, with Mancini turning to acknowledge the fans chanting his name during the game at Stamford Bridge. Having taken over from Mark Hughes, perceived by many to have been harshly removed from his post in favour of the former Inter Milan coach, Mancini has been able to assemble a squad of some of the world’s finest talent and turn them into genuine title contenders, as well as ending a 35-year wait for a major trophy, winning the FA Cup last season.
While City remain firmly in the hunt for four trophies, including being among the favourites for the Europa League, City’s more immediate challenges may lie within their own dressing room. While the recent training-ground bust up was almost inevitably played down by the manager, one of Mancini’s toughest tasks may be controlling squad of high-profile characters as City’s stars look to build upon their recent success.
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