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The Lead

As ever, Brooks Peck manages to think my thoughts for me. And I think his alternate Manchester City statement on why the club sacked Roberto Mancini is about as close to the truth as we’ll ever come. Regardless of the opinions of the kit-man or the rumours swirling over whether Mancini was a clique-y jerk, City is not the kind of club that likes an off year. The results this year just weren’t good enough, and Manuel Pellegrini has a very good resume in Europe.

As to whether the decision was for in the long-term best interest of the club, opinions are mixed. Chris Anderson and David Sally’s book excerpt in the Times today was coincidentally on whether it’s in the long-term best interests of football clubs to sack their managers. His answer appears to be no; I’d tell you why but it’s pay-walled.

I agree in principle, but then the question remains about what kind of identity City wanted as a football club. From that perspective, it wasn’t clear Mancini was the best option across all possible worlds for City back in December 2009, but maybe the best option available at the time. Remember, this was a football club managed by Mark Hughes, a man today more remembered for his half-season of horror at QPR than his little trial run for ADUG.

Mancini built the wildly expensive core of the club, and it’s hard to fault him on his signings. Yaya Toure is one of the most compelling midfielders in England. Writing off the talent of David Silva now would be insane, and Sergio Aguero is among the best strikers in the world. Mario Balotelli is Mario Balotelli, for better or worse.

The problem as ever was Mancini’s technocratic worldview and his belief that he could motivate his team by speaking about his players candidly to the press. In return, they felt nothing about letting their feelings be known when he threw on wing backs and moved to three defenders in the Champions League. On a good day, City just walked through defenses. Their Total Shots Ratio was consistently outstanding. They looked exactly like a major football power should look. Except threatening. Which was odd for a side with a midfield of considerable, well-remunerated talents. City were the uncanny valley of elite football. The more they looked like scoring, the closer they were to total disappointment. The better they played, the more scoring chances they racked up, the less and less likely it seemed they would score.

Whether that was Mancini’s doing is uncertain. I guess now we’ll find out…