Aug 19, 2010

Inter's Shadow on Mancio City!

By Gautam Sharma

What is the price of failure? Manchester City may soon give this question a whole new answer... or is Mancio building another Inter at Citeh? As Mancio City cross the £100m mark in transfer spend this summer, this has become one of the most debated topics in football...

This is an honest attempt to analyse the grand Mancio plan, and form of view on whether this would work...

First allow me to digress, for there is a prelude to this story. A few years ago, Inter ended their worst era in Serie A by winning a title after almost 2 decades of failure. Led by Mancini. A club with probably one of the worst transfer reputations, suddenly had become a very astute player in calcio mercato. We nerazzurri fans had often argued whether the protagomist behind this sudden transformation in transfer strategy was Mancini (as the team was clearly of his style & character) or Branca (as he did make all the transfer decisions). Once Mancini left Inter and the club continued making astute moves in the market, most of us assumed it was and is mainly the work of Branca, a market genius.... but there are some who still suspect Mancio had a large role to play in all this, as post Mancio Inter mostly bought establised stars, whereas many of the Mancio-era successes were "unearthed gems" (Maicon, Cambiasso, Balotelli, etc). And that team definately had Mancio's stamp all over it. Strong. Physical. Hard Working midfield. Attacking full backs. And loads of Attitude.

Now lets come back to this summer. Mancio has spent over £100m, mostly paying over the odds for all of his acquisitions. Thats a lot of money, specially considering that his predecessor had already spent about twice that last summer. What has Mancio bought for all that moolah?

J Boateng. Silva. Yaya. Balotelli. Milner. Kolarov.

With the exception of Silva, these are all very Mancio style players. Strong & Physical. This is the kind of muscle Mancio had started building at Inter as well. And Silva is top quality and hard working, so he is not that atypical. Perhaps these 6 players should have cost £20-30m less, but they are quality and definately do seem to have the characteristics Mancio looks for in his team.

Lets do our usual Two Team Test, in an attempt to analyse what Mancio may be building:

First XI:

Richards - Toure - Boateng - Kolarov
Yaya - De Jong
Balotelli - Silva - Tevez
Second XI:

Zabaleta - Kompany - Lescott - Bridge
Vieira - Barry
Milner - Robinho* - Adam
Santa Cruz*

*I know Robinho/Santa Cruz may be on their way out, but (mostly for effect) I have assumed they will stay and Jo/SWP will move out. Also, I am not suggesting that the "First XI" will be the starting XI in any way - it probably will NOT be (Milner will probably start over either De Jong or Balotelli, for example), this is just an illustration to fit the squad into two strong 4231's.

Either way, those are two amazing teams. The First XI now has Mancio's stamp all over it, unlike last season. It looks much more physical, the midfield presence is remarkably more than last season (and a bit like Inter a few years ago), attacking fullbacks, hardworking midfield, and a front three oozing with attitude.

But it is the "Second XI" which reminds me even more of Mancio's Inter. It is almost identically strong as the first XI, in similar formation and construct, which is what worked so well for him at Inter. He used rotation so effectively at Inter, and had a ready back up for EVERY player in such a way that quality never suffered. Now I can almost see that happening at City as well, with that kind of back up XI.

Another accusation generally poised at City is that they are buying a lot of foriegn players (read mercenary), losing their identity. And that will negatively impact their teamwork and fighting spirit. I don't generally buy that, and again I point towards Inter as an example. Coz those are Inter's biggest strengths. The team spirit to battle and rally, Inter have so many times over the last season come back from dead in game. Inter may not have an Italian identity as a team, but the team has a lot of spirit and character, the key reason we are champions of Italy and Europe. Also, regarding loyalty, I am yet to come accross a player with more loyalty towards his club than Zanetti. As national boundaries start to fade in this modern world, I think its no longer the prerogative of local/national players to be loyal to their club. Just like it was never the prerogative of foriegn players to be mercenaries. Perhaps I lean towards the founding vision of Inter, that we will select players irrespective of their nationality. If Inter have managed to forge such team spirit with so many foriegn players, then so can City...

So to summerize, Mancio is building a squad in his style & charater. While he may have overspent for the players he bought, they do seem to fit into his plan.

However, there are still a couple of questions that should concern all Mancio City fans...

1. Enough time to Gel? The key question for me is whether Mancio will be given the time to make this team work? It took Mancio over 2 years of progressive work to make champions out of Inter. Even if Mancini is on the right track, will City give him enough time to demonstrate the results? When you spend £100m in a summer, the expectations are sky high.... afterall, what is the price of failure?

2. Was it actually Branca? Mancio has bought the same "type" of players that he/Branca bought at Inter. But same type may not necessarily result in same impact. Kolarov has shown glimpses of becoming a world class fullback, but will he become like a Maicon? Balotelli has the potential to do what Ibra did at Inter, but would he realise it? As most nerazzurri now believe, at Inter Mancini only suggested the type of players he wanted, it was Branca who actually selected whom to buy. Is that true? And even if it is, did Mancio learn enough to build another Inter on his own instinct?

I believe the Mancio's project is on the right track. The £100m he has spent already shows a clearer direction/plan than the £200 his predecessor spent. I give him the benefit of doubt on the astuteness of his purchases, until proven otherwise. Given time, Mancio City will become serious title contenders, if not this season then next.

As a coach, Mancio has always been too ambitious for his level of experience. Perhaps in City, he has met his perfect match....


Allan said...

The only word I can find wrong in your very good article is 'failure'. After many years of watching Manchester City - I can tell you this club is now the real deal. Failure is not an option. Watch this space as they say.....

Bluenine said...

Thanks for your comment, Allan.

Mancini also behaves that way, failure not being an option. So that is a perfect match.

Unfortunately, the bar separating success and failure keeps getting raised with expectations and spend. Mancio knows that well, getting sacked at Inter just after he won the league title ;)

I will be watching this space very keenly now, wish you guys a good season!

fearinwaves said...

Does Mancini have a centre-forward as good as Ibrahimovic was at Inter though? Is Tevez the right man to captain the team? Great blog by the way!

Bluenine said...

Thanks fearinwaves.

Adebayor is pretty decent as a CF. But the "Ibra" of the squad will be young Balotelli... you may remember the last months of Mancio's reign at Inter... Ibra had got injured, Inter coming off a series of poor results triggered by the CL KO, and Roma quickly closing in the gap... and Mancio introduced Balotelli in an exact Ibra role.

Many people might credit that season to Ibra making his comeback in the last game of teh season, and scoring the winning goals. Which will be correct. But for me, Balotelli played a major part by ably filling in for Ibra for the critical last month or two. That kid has the talent...