Manchester City have lost to Arsenal, everyone seems to want to blame Mario Balotelli. Why? Why are they trying to blame Mario? Yes he got a red card, yes it’s not his first this season and yes he’s not the most conservative and traditionally professional character, but if I was drawing up a list of people to blame for Manchester City’s failings this season, he wouldn’t be anywhere near the top of it.
Mario Balotelli got sent off, it was a rash tackle, in fact it was about his fourth rash tackle of the game. He should have been sent off for a tackle on Alex Song in the first half, it was a horrible cowards tackle where he went in studs up over the top of the ball, it’s a classic leg breaker. He was lucky and you can’t defend him for a tackle like that. But why was he making tackles? Why was he playing in a position where he was being asked to track back and help defend against Bacary Sagna one of the best and most experienced right-backs in the Premier League? The answer is because Roberto Mancini got it horribly wrong.
You’re going for the title, you need a goal away at Arsenal, the one bright spark in your midfield has been former Gunner’s star Samir Nasri, who is obviously motivated for the occasion. 10 minutes to go, you take him off and replace him with Aleksandar Kolarov. Oh dear. Gareth Barry is still on the pitch and you remove Nasri? I hate Gareth Barry and in a situation like that, in a game like that he offers you almost nothing. There was a problem for City, they were getting over-run down their left flank and finally after 80 minutes Mancini realised it might not be a good idea to have Balotelli defending there, but it should never have been Nasri to make way.
Then he takes off Sergio Aguero… Why? You need a goal, why are you taking off Aguero? Barry is still on the pitch. These changes are endemic of Mancini’s attitude towards winning games, he always stays on the safe side of cautious, Man City went out today with a whimper and that is entirely the fault of the manager. You want someone to blame? Start with the boss, for all Balotelli’s faults it’s still up to Mancini to pick him.
Where was David Silva? In the big games you need your big players and against Arsenal he was nowhere to be seen, literally. He wasn’t in the side or on the bench. Was he injured? No reasons were given except for speculation he might have a knee injury. Silva hasn’t scored for City in the league since the reverse fixture against Arsenal on the 18th of December. He doesn’t have a Premier League assist since they played Spurs in January. While Balotelli was rescuing the game against Sunderland, Silva had been subbed. His dramatic loss of form is far more to blame than Balotelli’s antics for Manchester City’s failure in the second half of this season.
Edin Dzeko has gone back to looking like he has never scored a goal. Carlos Tevez has disrupted the team, but unlike Balotelli has contributed next to nothing. All the while Gareth Barry has been playing game after a game for Man City, with his one paced mediocrity the heartbeat of the team. It’s no wonder they missed Yaya Toure so much when he went to the Africa Cup of Nations and the same was true when he went off injured against Arsenal.
Roberto Mancini is responsible for Manchester City’s failures this season. Tactically I think he’s far too often got it wrong. Player wise he’s not managed his squad as well as his more experienced rival. Blaming Balotelli for City’s faults is the easy way out, yes he’s often rash and reckless but he scores goals and important goals at that, his penalty against Spurs took nerves of steel. Against Arsenal, City never got the best out of Balotelli or Aguero or Nasri or Milner. When so many of a team’s players aren’t performing to the best of their ability the blame has to fall on the manager.
I still think Roberto Mancini can bring home a title for City. I think he’ll learn from this season and I think his team will learn and there is no doubting that this City side is now very much his team. There is obviously money to spend in the summer and major new signings are almost inevitable. The problem he will face is that given that it now looks extremely unlikely that City will win a trophy this season, will he still be in a job at the start of next season? It’s starting to seem highly unlikely.