Tag Archives: theorists

Roberto Mancini sick of being blamed

Mancini's meltdown: I'm fed up taking the blame for my City players

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UPDATED:

23:06 GMT, 10 November 2012

For someone blessed with a bulging trophy cabinet, a 37million contract and heart-throb status in Manchester and Italy, Robert Mancini is awfully tetchy these days.

Nobody it seems is safe from a wild-eyed rant by the 47-year-old Italian, as City players Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott and Joe Hart, executive Brian Marwood, referee Peter Rasmussen and even a Champions League pitchside cameraman can all testify.

No wonder Sky Sports will keep a lens trained on Mancini at all times during City's game against Tottenham on Sunday in case the manager combusts in the technical area over some perceived slight from his own players or the match officials.

In plain sight: Roberto Mancini prepares to enter Carrington

In plain sight: A well-dressed and well-drilled Roberto Mancini prepares to enter Carrington

WATCHING BRIEF

Manchester City v Tottenham

TV: Live on Sunday, Sky Sports 1, 1:30pm

Venue: Etihad Stadium

At face value, Mancini has nothing to
get hysterical about as he welcomes Andre Villas-Boas to the Etihad
Stadium. City are champions and the only unbeaten team in the Premier
League this season.

The club insist his job is safe even
if they finish bottom of their Champions League group, and his close
friends, including City coach David Platt, are adamant he will not walk
away voluntarily from the project, having turned down the Russian
national team job to sign a five-year contract in the summer.

On top of that, he no longer has to
work on transfer deals with Marwood, who he did not respect. But the
arrival of new sporting director Txiki Begiristain from Barcelona won't
mean more funds in January and has also given conspiracy theorists the
opportunity to link Pep Guardiola with the Etihad Stadium.

Yet something is still troubling Mancini – and the relationship with his own players is the key to his future.

Keep calm: Mancini (left) lost his cool as Manchester City drew with Ajax on Tuesday night

Keep calm: Mancini (left) lost his cool as Manchester City drew with Ajax on Tuesday night

Keep calm: Mancini lost his cool as Manchester City drew with Ajax on Tuesday night

Keep calm: Mancini lost his cool as Manchester City drew with Ajax on Tuesday night

No matter how rich an owner, modern football has shown that the players hold the power on all firstteam matters.

Roman Abramovich, the wealthiest and most powerful individual owner football has seen, proved that earlier this year.

He spent 13million and gambled his
own reputation by bringing in Villas-Boas to Chelsea in 2011 to replace
Carlo Ancelotti. But such is the investment in players' wages that, when
John Terry, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard decided they were not
having the young Portuguese manager, Abramovich backed the players,
sacking Villas-Boas after less than a year.

Example set: If Mancini's attitude was more like his captain Vincent Kompany (centre), his life would be a lot easier

Example set: If Mancini's attitude was more like his captain Vincent Kompany (centre), his life would be a lot easier

City's players have never liked
Mancini because of his aloofness, strict discipline and mixed public
messages. But until now they have always respected him, and his ability
to organise a team pattern and deliver trophies, the FA Cup in 2011 and
Premier League title in May.

But that fragile peace was exploded in the hours after the Champions League defeat at Ajax.

Mancini angrily confronted them in
the dressing room and told them he had personally taken the blame in
front of the world's media to protect them. But with his next breath he
shouted in temper that he actually did blame them for the 3-1 defeat
which had all but killed their prospects of reaching the knockout stages
this season.

The reaction of most players was one
of disgust that Mancini had claimed in one breath to be trying to
protect them, and in the next treated them with contempt. Since that
game, City have struggled to beat Swansea and been held to draws by West
Ham and in the return game with Ajax.

Tractor boy: Balotelli warms up in training

Tractor boy: Balotelli warms up in training

It makes the performance, as well as
the result, against Spurs today absolutely crucial. 'Some of the players
hated him for what he did after the first Ajax game,' said a
well-connected source.

'When the manager comes in and tries
to be clever, explaining how he has been protecting them but doesn't
mean it, that's not good for morale. Only time will tell but it might
prove a tipping point in their relationship with him.'

Mancini has been down this road
before. He regarded the 2010 FA Cup final as a make-or-break game for
him, believing defeat against Stoke City at Wembley would give Marwood
and his other enemies the chance to sack him.

Last season he earned a new deal when
a late rally saw them make up eight points on Manchester United in the
closing weeks to become champions.

Just before then, he had resembled a
dead man walking, particularly when Mario Balotelli was sent off in a
defeat at Arsenal to leave United odds-on title favourites.

The question is whether the City
players are motivated enough now to save Mancini's skin again. An
additional problem is what support Mancini will get in January.

Last summer, he wanted A-list signings but was given Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia instead.

The manager stressed at a meeting
with Begiristain last week he would like to do business in the next
window but the view from the top in Abu Dhabi is players such as Edin
Dzeko, Balotelli or Joleon Lescott will have to be sold to finance any
new purchases.

Dangerman: Jermain Defoe hit three against Maribor in midwek

Dangerman: Jermain Defoe hit three against Maribor in midwek

And none of the City squad are keen
to leave because no other clubs can match their wages. Mancini is
fighting the only way he knows how, with intensity and passion.

Platt, a former team-mate of his at
Sampdoria, thinks the Italian will have to be carried out of Manchester
kicking and screaming rather than walk of his own accord.

'I know him – his desire is to win;
it's what he's here to do,' said Platt, now on the City coaching staff
and a valuable ally for the manager.

'He signed a five-year contract in
the summer which was given to him by the football club by virtue of the
fact he's the manager of the league champions. And at the start of this
weekend's fixtures, we were two points off the top in third place after
10 games, with 28 to go. That's 84 points to play for. It's hardly a
crisis.'

With so much at stake, the biggest
decision for Mancini is whether to hand Balotelli his 50th City
appearance. The bad boy of Italian football has come to epitomise the
chaos at City, although he did set up the titlewinning goal in May for
Sergio Aguero.

New look: Mario Balotelli's paint job will turn heads

New look: Mario Balotelli's Bentley has been covered in army camouflage vinyl wrap

New look: Balotelli arrives at training

Causing a stir: City staff admire Mario's latest stunt

Causing a stir: Incredulous City staff admire Mario's latest stunt to keep out of the limelight

Platt insisted: 'Roberto manages him
to try to get the best out of his talent. I've grumbled and groaned as a
player. It's not until you actually put a tracksuit on and put a
whistle in your mouth that you realise just how much of a git you were.

'That's the nature of the beast in
being a footballer. You are heightened into that competitive edge every
day. If you are taken off in games, you don't expect to be happy about
it.'

Sunday's game against Spurs could be a
watershed. Win to stay in contention at the top and Mancini may feel
relaxed enough to do his own press conferences next week (Platt stood in
for him on Friday).

Lose and the commotion surrounding
the club will not go away, even if there is little evidence that
Guardiola sees City as his dream job.

Captain Vincent Kompany will try to
walk out of the tunnel with a sense of balance. 'You won't ever hear me
say one game is less important than another,' said the Belgian.

'Tottenham will want to bounce back
from the defeat they had last weekend (1-0 to Wigan). We want to show
that we can carry on with this unbeaten streak, so it's a game to look
forward to.'

They are wise words from the calm
defender. If only his manager could keep a similar sense of proportion,
his life would be a lot easier right now.

Paul Lambert does not want to sell Darren Bent

Lambert says he does not want to sell Bent… but tells striker to fight his way into Villa side

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UPDATED:

22:01 GMT, 19 October 2012

Paul Lambert says he has no desire to sell Darren Bent and has urged England’s forgotten striker to force his way back into his team.

Aston Villa’s 24million record signing has been a substitute in the club’s last two Premier League games, giving rise to rumours that Bent will ask to leave in January.

Conspiracy theorists also wonder if Lambert is trying to marginalise Villa’s high earners, with Shay Given, Alan Hutton and Steven Warnock also out of favour.

He certainly looks happy: Darren Bent (centre) training with Aston Villa

He certainly looks happy: Darren Bent (centre) training with Aston Villa

Villa, who play Fulham at Craven Cottage, have made the worst start to a top-flight campaign for 25 years and won just one of their last 17 League games.

Lambert said: ‘I understand people are frustrated when they don’t play but you always get a chance again — it’s up to you to take it.

‘Everyone’s in the same boat. I don’t think anyone should have a guaranteed place.

No rift: Paul Lambert says he does not want to sell Bent

No rift: Paul Lambert says he does not want to sell Bent

‘I’m sure he will bounce back. He won’t take this lying down. He’s missed only two games. It’s not a major worry for me.

‘I have to get results and I’ll pick a team that I think can get them.

‘I cannot stop people trying to get my players.

‘The only way to stop it is to answer the question when people ring. But I don’t see any reason for him not to be here.’

Villa owner Randy Lerner sold NFL side the Cleveland Browns for 650m this week but no change to the way he runs Villa is envisaged.

After spending more than 200m chasing Champions League qualification, Lerner wants Villa to be self-sustaining. But Lambert said he had been under no pressure to sell high earners.

‘Not once has either Paul Faulkner (chief executive) or the chairman said: “I need you to do x, y or z”. It’s up to me to make the decisions.’

Ryder Cup captain Olazabal hits back in Harrington "grudge" row

Ryder Cup captain Olazabal hits back in Harrington 'grudge' row

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UPDATED:

23:13 GMT, 24 August 2012

Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal woke up on Friday to find himself portrayed in some quarters as little more than a petty grudge bearer, with Padraig Harrington his hapless victim.

As anyone who knows Olazabal will tell you, the suggestion is as offensive as it is ludicrous, and no wonder the Spaniard reacted with justifiable anger.

'Anyone who thinks that I would let something that happened in 2003 interfere with my judgment is speaking a lot of B.S., and that is putting it mildly,' he said. 'I would be failing completely as a captain if that was the case.’

That will teach Olazabal to answer a question honestly.

Flashpoint: Jose Maria Olazabal and Padraig Harrington clash at the Seve Trophy in 2003

Flashpoint: Jose Maria Olazabal and Padraig Harrington clash at the Seve Trophy in 2003

Asked on Thursday what Harrington
needed to do at the Barclays FedEx play-off tournament in America to
force his way into the wildcard equation — the Irishman was leading at
the time following a first-round 64 — he replied: ‘A win, at least.’

Given that Harrington hasn’t won a
tournament of any note for four years, and is a long way removed from
the automatic placings, isn’t it entirely reasonable to ask him to prove
his nerve, given the wildcard opposition includes Ian Poulter and
Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, with a matchplay win to his name this season
and whose huge hitting would clearly be an asset on a bomber’s course
like Medinah

Apparently not.

Needing a victory: Padraig Harrington in second round action at The Barclays

Needing a victory: Padraig Harrington in second round action at The Barclays

According to the conspiracy
theorists, Olazabal’s comments were fuelled by what happened in 2003,
when he believed Harrington questioned his integrity during a singles
match at the Seve Trophy.

Honestly, would players like Graeme
McDowell talk about how desperate they are to play under Ollie if all he
did was bear grudges Even Harrington gave the theory short shrift. ‘I
know how he feels about the Ryder Cup and I am absolutely convinced the
only players Ollie wants on his team are the 12 best ones,’ he said.

The absurd nature of the debate was
put into sharp focus when Harrington went out and played horribly in the
second round, recording a score fully 11 shots worse than his opener to
go from one ahead to five behind.

This is how it has been for most of a
frustrating season for the Irishman and why Olazabal is perfectly
within his rights to place him a long way behind Poulter and Colsaerts
for a wildcard.

In the swing: Olazabal at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles on Friday

In the swing: Olazabal at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles on Friday

Olazabal visited Medinah recently and
discovered a course that plays to all Colsaerts’s strengths. The
fairways have been widened to suit the bombers in the American team. The
other thing that counts in Colsaerts’s favour is that, if picked, he
would be the only rookie in the team.

‘Experience is often a factor with
wildcards but that is not the case this time round,’ argued Ollie. ‘One
thing we are not lacking is experience. I played the course last week
and there’s not much rough. It’s clearly been set up to help the long
hitters.’

The only long hitters in Europe’s team at present are Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.

Colsaerts was in second-round action
on Friday at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles where,
following a solid opening round of 69, he showed signs of being a little
frayed around the edges.

On the march: Nicolas Colsaerts during the second round at Gleneagles

On the march: Nicolas Colsaerts during the second round at Gleneagles

The 29-year-old only arrived in
Scotland from America on Tuesday, following his seventh-place finish in
the Wyndham Championship in North Carolina. For 13 holes he was going
nowhere, and some way removed from the pace set by Englishmen Mark
Foster and Richard Finch.

But his ability to make lots of
birdies was evident over the final five holes, which he played in three
under to turn a mediocre day into a decidedly decent one. He ended up
with a 70 to be handily placed inside the top 10, just three shots off
the lead.

Over in New York, it was Tiger Woods
who must have been giving American captain Davis Love an anxious time as
he clutched his back on a number of occasions. It didn’t seem to affect
his golf, however, as he finished up only three behind the joint
leaders, American Nick Watney and Europe’s renaissance man, Garcia. Rory
McIlroy and Luke Donald are a distant eight adrift.

Euro 2012: Giovanni Trapattoni blasts Roy Keane

Trapattoni blasts Keane: 'Why would an intelligent man suggest dropping all 11 Ireland players'

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UPDATED:

18:25 GMT, 17 June 2012

Giovanni Trapattoni has taken another swipe at Roy Keane after the former Republic of Ireland skipper delivered a second damning assessment of his team.

Ireland head into Monday night's final Group C fixture against Italy with their hopes of reaching the Euro 2012 quarter-finals long gone after comprehensive defeats by Croatia and Spain.

Keane, who struck his first blow in his role as a television pundit after Thursday night's 4-0 drubbing by the reigning champions, was even more withering in his Sunday morning newspaper column, suggesting Trapattoni should make 11 changes for tomorrow's game because the team which played in midweek is not good enough.

Stay out of it: Trapattoni has blasted Keane for his outburst

Stay out of it: Trapattoni has blasted Keane for his outburst

Euro 2012 email button

Trapattoni, who had his own say the following day, returned to the theme this evening when asked about the former Manchester United captain's latest verbal assault.

The 73-year-old said: 'He has been a great player and had great success. I don't know if he achieved the same results as coach or manager.

'I can ask him why I think for intelligent man, I can't understand it.'

Trapattoni them made a remark in Italian which was not translated, but proved to be less than complimentary.

The Ireland boss was clapped into his press conference in Poznan by Italian journalists who revere him, although perhaps not for his own spell in charge of their national side.

And inevitably, minds have returned to Euro 2004 when Denmark and Sweden draw 2-2 to dump the Italians out of the competition amid cries of foul play, and the conspiracy theorists are already in full flow.

Final flourish: The Irish are out after losing their two opening group games

Final flourish: The Irish are out after losing their two opening group games

Final flourish: The Irish are out after losing their two opening group games

Trapattoni said: 'When things like this go on, we are all ready to think that we Italians are masters at making these agreements.

'We are famous – in fact, infamous – for it. Everything is the same in other countries. These things have happened all over the place. Great scars were left by this.

'We need to play our own game and ask for commitment from players for the people who pay our wages and our supporters.

'We have worked well. We will not change our approach because we lost two games. It would undermine our honour.'

Trapattoni has named the same team which started against Croatia, meaning Kevin Doyle will replace Simon Cox, while Damien Duff will take over the captaincy on the occasion of his 100th cap.

Outburst: Keane claimed Ireland should drop all 11 players who faced Spain

Outburst: Keane claimed Ireland should drop all 11 players who faced Spain

The Ireland players will wear black armbands during the game to mark the 18th anniversary of the shootings of six men in Loughinisland, County Down, as the victims watched the national team play Italy at the 1994 World Cup finals in the United States.

Usual skipper Robbie Keane said: 'It's only right that we do wear the armbands in respect of everyone's families to let them know as a team and as a nation, that we are thinking of their families.'