Two Games Later, And We’ve Forgotten Mark Who!?!?
On Monday night, as I stood shivering in the Steve Bull Stand at Molineux, surrounded by a couple of thousand fellow City fanatics, it struck me that after just two matches, all our so called ”woes” under previous manager Mark Hughes had dissipated, and we had settled into a new dawn under the leadership of Roberto Mancini. After so much controversy following the Welshman’s sacking, with the majority of anger directed towards Garry Cook for his appalling handling of the situation, new boss Mancini already seems to have imposed his relaxed manner on the squad, a tranquility which has been more than evident on the pitch, with City notching two consecutive victories, both accomplished without conceding a goal.
Much has been written and spoken about the departure of Hughes and I for one was strongly in favour of giving Sparky more time at the helm of my beloved club. As can be seen in this article, the manner of his sacking was the aspect that vexed me the most, but I am more than happy with the start than Mancini has made. Fortunately, the languid and stylish Italian has galvanised our previously shaky defence, which was conceding goals willy-nilly. Stricken by injuries, the former Fiorentina, Lazio and Inter Milan manager was shorn of Joleon Lescott, Nedum Onuoha and Wayne Bridge in defence, but, along with the vast experience of assistant manager Brian Kidd, managed to reverse our fortunes, with our defence recording consecutive clean sheets. The fact that Stoke scored a blank at Eastlands was largely down to the underrated brilliance of Shay Given, but during the past couple of games, in my view at least, we have looked much more assured and solid.
Mancini has had a promising start to his managerial career at City
For all the criticism of Hughes and the subsequent adulation of Mancini, it must be remembered that the players who have guided us to the two wins were the same ones at the disposal of our former incumbent. Kolo Touré, the much maligned Ivory Coast centre-back, has improved immeasurably since Mancini arrived, whilst Micah Richards and Pablo Zabaleta have continued their solid form. However, as far as I’m concerned, the Blues’ fortunes have been improved in defence thanks largely to the presence of a 6′ 4″ Belgian hardman.
Willing to exert his considerable physical presence and dominate in the air, an attribute which had been missing from the City defence until now, Vincent Kompany has displayed his undoubted quality to add power, strength and commitment to the City backline. Forced into playing in his unfavoured centre-back position courtesy of the afore-mentioned plethora of injuries, the former Hamburg man has been a revelation, especially in his handling of Mamady Sidibé and then Chris Iwelumo.
Kompany has been instrumental in reversing our defensive fortunes
Mancini has also reintroduced Spanish left-back Javier ‘I’ve Got His Parents’ Autographs’ Garrido to the fold after the heartthrob (according to his mum) had spent this season kicking his heels in the reserves. Garrido replaced the injured Stephen Ireland against Wolves and repaid his manager’s faith with a stunning free-kick which bent more than Graham Norton and left Marcus Hanhemann rooted to the spot.
The Spaniard looked solid in that match, linking well with Martin Petrov, another who Mancini has brought in from the wilderness. Hughes and Petrov certainly didn’t see eye to eye, resulting in the Bulgarian finding himself occupying the luxury of the City bench with regularity. However, Petrov was named in Mancini’s first side to face Stoke and showed his indubitable quality with a goal and an impressive performance. He kept his place against Wolves and one pleasing aspect struck me in particular. Apart from his glorious touches, which set up some gilt-edged chances, Petrov showed a willingness to track back and displayed an increased responsibility. I noticed a couple of occasions when the Bulgarian slotted in to the area vacated by Gareth Barry or Pablo Zabaleta, highlighting his team play. If Petrov can keep this up, he will surely prove to be a valuable asset to the Blues.
Garrido and Petrov have been a revelation since Mancini arrived
In summary, Mancini has taken Hughes’s underperforming squad, made a few minor tactical and personnel adjustments and has seen the players respond with a pair of promising and solid performances. Expectations should remain high, as when all our injuries clear up, along with our potential to invest again in January, we will only go from strength to strength. I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year, hopefully to be complemented by a successful FA Cup run, a victory in the Carling Cup and an enjoyable remainder to the Premier League season.
Thanks for reading. What do you think is a realistic aim for Mancini during the rest of the season, and how impressed have you been with the Italian since his arrival?
Happy New Year!