It seems something of a contradiction that a club with the unfathomable riches of Manchester City can find themselves in the impoverished scenario of struggling to field a team. Yet, with the absence of Kolo and Yaya Toure’s on African Cup of Nations duty and Carlos Tevez’s self-inflicted long-term exile from the squad, the Premier League pacesetters are beginning to stutter.
Youth Elite Development squad members Abdul Razak and Denis Suarez, hitherto glimpsed only in the League Cup, were called to the substitutes bench for the FA Cup third round exit to Manchester United, whilst Vincent Kompany’s contentious dismissal in the same game left the Citizens with just three recognised centre-backs. With a faltering Premier League assault to reignite, little surprise that Roberto Mancini sees another blank chequebook as the solution to his woes.
In addition to the dwindling playing roster, Mancini remains frustrated by the economic rationale that has tightened the City purse strings. The tightening comes about as the club attempts to fall into line with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations and the City board strives to get the club’s financials closer to break even. These factors are at odds with Mancini’s wish to embellish what he perceives to be a thinning squad. The former Inter coach continues to send lascivious glances in the direction of all-action Roma midfielder and compatriot Daniele De Rossi, sensing that an exorbitant salary may be sufficient to tempt the lifelong Roma ragazzo to end his lifelong bond with his boyhood club.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to empathise with the concerns of the Italian supremo. The three centre-backs he considers as insufficient to defend his team’s title aspirations throughout the forthcoming, perhaps defining, weeks of the season include two England internationals – Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards – and promising Montenegrin youngster Stefan Savic. Although Savic’s recent displays have hardly exuded the experience and confidence demanded at the top level, it is still a ‘paucity’ of talent which most other Premier League managers dream about.
His concerns also imply an innate lack of trust in the ability of City’s Youth Elite Development squad. Razak and Suarez’s talents have been on show during League Cup cameos, whilst Luca Scapuzzi and Karim Rekik have also tasted first-team action in the competition. Surely the logical step – indeed a decision taken out of necessity by most Premier League managers – would be to integrate the youngsters into the first team. Sure, their inauguration into the squad may be a little earlier than planned, but such is football. All the money in the world should not preclude Mancini from embarking on such a solution. Who knows, perhaps a new star may be born out of the adversity.
What we are therefore witnessing is perhaps the first true test of Mancini’s resourcefulness as City boss. In turn, he has ousted noxious dressing-room influences Robinho and Carlos Tevez and, eventually, coaxed some of the most flamboyant, swashbuckling football from what was once an innately cautious team. These challenges overcome, he ought to have the confidence to manage a slightly depleted squad over a few months. At the very least, he should have the decorum to keep his counsel regarding the problems he faces. Sympathy is unlikely to fall his way.
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