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Monday, May 13, 2013

Goodbye, Roberto

So Roberto Mancini is gone. Good riddance. I never liked him much to begin with, and the way he was brought in under a blanket while Mark Hughes was still toiling away without any degree of support from his superiors. Hughes was part of the old guard, hired under Shinawatra's reign, and the new boys in town wanted a toy all their own. I get it, it's water under the bridge. Hughes was never much good at managing that kind of money and talent, so what else is there to say?

But Mancini, here was a man who was supposed to make a difference. A man to ring in a new era of City dominance. Did he? He won the FA Cup in his first full year, you say. He won the league in the next. He qualified for Champions League play three years in a row. How can you fire a man after three and a half years when he ended the club's longest silverware drought in history? We're being daft, you say. We're expecting too much, too soon. We haven't given him a chance to truly turn the club around.

You must be joking.

When we hired Mancini, he was supposed to change the face of the club, to develop it into a powerhouse, a squad to be feared across Europe. What we got from Mancini was, in essence, a stock broker dealing in footballing futures. Mancini's talent was to buy and sell--though, really, mostly just to buy. Do I believe an outlay of cash was required to set City up for success? Of course I do. That's the face of the modern game, whether you like it or not. You have to spend the big bucks to get the big players. But to only do that is the mark of a man with only his own accolades in mind. You cannot build a legendary squad simply by splashing money. You need to do that through development. And that had never been part of Mancini's plan.

While talents like John Guidetti waited in the wings and Edin Dzeko rode the pine, Mancini cried about not having enough strike options. Would Robin Van Persie had made a difference in our squad? Yes, without a doubt. He is a player like few others in the world. But we managed to win the league without him the year before. And while we're on that, let's get this straight: we barely won the league. We won on goal differential in the last whisper of a moment in the last game of the campaign. We did not crush United into the ground. So lifting Mancini up as some kind of hero is ridiculous. What else did we have that year? A piss-poor showing in Europe, a handful of disappointing cup runs, and a bunch of signings that never really did kinda pan out, did they?

Everyone has made a great deal out of the Ballotelli Experiment, but that wasn't the only one Mancini has been playing at during his time here. What about the Savic Experiment? The Nasri Experiment? How about the Tevez Conundrum or maybe the Entire Signing 2012 Summer Signing Period Debacle? I don't expect a manager's ever decision to go his way, but who are the stars of this squad? Zabaleta and Kompany, surely. Tevez got his kinks worked out and has produced like his old self again. Same goes to James Milner. And of course Silva, Yaya and Aguero would have to round that group out. Of the seven of them, the first four were not even Mancini's signings. They were brought on under Hughes. It took them a few years to dig in their heels, but by god, look at what they've done. They're consistent! They're hard-working! They're loved by the supporters! They're… developed, is what they are. They've spent a lot of time working together and it shows.

It's the reason City routinely loses to squads like Sunderland or Everton: there is no consistency in their play because there is no consistency in their squad. Teams that languish in the middle of table don't have the money to spend on massive A-Level squad sheets--every week they play with roughly the same 11 men. I would bet Stephane Sessegnon and Sebastian Larsson can all but read each other's minds by now. Leighton Baines probably wakes up in the night when Marouane Fellaini has a bad dream.

But it's hard to build that kind of consistency when your manager is picking the team sheet every week with all the consideration of a popular high school girl choosing friends to invite to her Sweet Sixteen party. Money, as the rest of the league loves to remind us, cannot buy success. It can buy players who should by all accounts be able to achieve that success, but without proper man management, all money can get you is a bunch of big names who don't know how to work together. You or I could have put together the team Mancini did with about an hour's worth of reading the Guardian's Rumor Mill every other day. And, to boot, we probably would have been a little more gracious about it.

Roberto Mancini wasn't canned today because he lost the FA Cup to Wigan. He wasn't canned because he couldn't get City past the Champions League group stages. He wasn't canned because he let the league slip away, once more, into a more organized, more galvanized United's hands. Roberto Mancini was canned today because he had no future at City. When this summer's transfer window opened once more, it would have been the same old scramble for whatever striker's name was trending on Twitter. And when he wasn't granted another £200m to do whatever he wanted, we'd have spent another campaign hearing excuses about how the owners just didn't understand. He had no future at City, just like he never considered the future of City. He lived in the now and now the now has passed.

So goodbye, Roberto. Auf wiedersehen and adieu. I dare say you won't be missed.