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Why there’s so much difficulty understanding Mancini, Benitez’s plights

May 15, 2013, 11:57 PM EDT

Manchester City manager Mancini walks onto pitch before their English Premier League soccer match against Manchester United in Manchester Reuters

If there’s a commonality between Manchester City’s FA Cup failure and Chelsea’s Europa League success, it’s the empty, futile call to support managers who clearly not longer (or never did) fit their clubs – the appeal for stability in the wake of modest accomplishment, an argument that rest more on nostalgia than the realities of the modern soccer world.

When news broke of Roberto Mancini’s impending dismissal at City, the general reaction was surprise that a man, one year removed from winning a Premier League title, were to be let go. Manchester City needed stability, the chorus sang as Txiki Begiristain affixed the brooches. And with Rafa Benítez, the addition of another major trophy has already lead to main stream coverage’s reflections on whether the former Liverpool man has earned the permanent job at Stamford Bridge.

There’s a strange element of contrarianism in both these views, as on the surface, it seems pretty clear why both Chelsea and City would be willing to move on. Or, put another way, it’s unclear why either Mancini or Benítez would be good bets to meet their clubs’ 2013-14 ambitions, whether you judge their capabilities on current or historic results. Going back to Inter, Mancini’s results have always been those of a well-supported man who can win when things when fortune broke his way. Benítez, at both Valencia and Liverpool, proved capable of challenging for big things, but he’s so far removed from those accomplishments, it’s almost as if the current visage is completely different coach – an insecure performer unable to adapt after a crowd figures out his only trick.

The commonality between the pro-Mancini and pro-Benítez views is an inability to come to grips with modern-day soccer – a state of play in which, much to the chagrin of many who follow the game, players, managers, and executives are held to a standard commensurate with the outlay of their owners. Perhaps supporters of Benítez and Mancini see a world where absolute accomplishments are sufficient, in which case a second place Premier League finish and a Europa League trophy are good enough for any manager. But Sheikh Mansour didn’t this so much money into City to see the Citizens fail to threaten Manchester United. And Roman Abramovich’s ambitions need no explanation. Their managers will always be evaluated relative to their owners’ ambitions, and in that respect, there’s little wonder why Manuel Pellegrini will be hired by City, just as José Mourinho will rejoin Chelsea.

At some point, people who follow (and cover) Chelsea, City – or, for that matter, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, or any team who can keep up with the world’s other huge spenders – need to adjust their world views. When you’re spending enough to have one of the most talent teams in the world, it’s nowhere near good enough when your team doesn’t perform to that level. ‘Why didn’t you compete for the league title? Why didn’t you go better in Europe?’ If there aren’t good answers to these questions, you’re likely gone.

And rightfully so. It’s not that you need to win everything. No owner’s that naïve. But you need to have the squad performing to its capabilities. You need to have trophies taken from you, not given them away. So when City’s boardroom sees their squad never threaten Manchester United, or Abramovich sees his team fighting to stay in the top four rather than threatening for first, they can’t help but wonder: Could somebody else do better?

Pellegrini? He probably can. Mourinho? He’s proven he will.

But this isn’t about comparing managers or the tough decisions boardrooms have to make. It’s about the narratives sounding these managers. The reality is that both Benítez and Mancini, despite their accomplishments at their jobs, have failed to get their immense talent to perform commensurate with expectations. They knew the expectations doing into their jobs, and as they Eastland and Stamford Bridge, their heart of heart will know they’ve failed to meet their chairmans’ goals. And just as acutely, they’ll know other coaches with better resumes are ready to take over their jobs.

If they want, pundits can go on and on about stability and the need to give a manager time, but Pep Guardiola won Champions League in his first season at Barça. Mourinho won in his second year at Inter. Roberto Di Matteo was an interim when he won Champions League, and Jupp Heynckes is only in his second season at Bayern.

At some point, everybody needs to accept the realities of the modern world are not motivated by nostalgia. If I’m paying for a title contender and you say you can give it to me, you’re damn right you’re going to be fired if you come up short.

  1. danielofthedale - May 16, 2013 at 12:21 AM

    Your rational for the irrationalities of City do not make them any more rational. Yes, City have the deepest pocketbooks in the world and can by as much talent as they want. But soccer is played not played on balance sheets or scouts notebooks. On top of that other teams spend money and have talent to match City. Until the Sheikh decides to start paying teams to not show up, he is guaranteed nothing other than a competitive team.

    Man United might be a historically good United team this season. I think if they win this Sunday they match their best point total in the Premier League era, so I mean what can you do when a team is that good. Then in the Champions League they were in a group with Madrid and Dortmund. Not only are those teams both just better teams than City they are two of the best teams in the world! To think you are entitled to advance from that group is hubris of the highest order. Then they make the FA Cup Final, nothing to sneeze at. The team played flat and it was clear that Wigan wanted it more and if you want to fire him for that go for it, but cant say its because of poor results.

    The only way the next manger at City can be more successful is if luck and fortune smile on him more than they did for Mancini this season. Have a more mortal Man United team in the EPL, get a better draw in in the Champions League, win the FA Cup. I would just tell Pellegrini to rent and not by in Manchester, he will not be there to long with these expectations.

  2. cgerstl - May 16, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    If this is how Sheik runs his EPL side, I’m not so certain I want him owning an MLS expansion franchise.

    In MLS, with the salary cap and other mechanisms designed to prevent any one club from acquiring significantly more talent than other clubs, coaching is the most important factor in determining a team’s success. If Sheik refuses to give coaches time to really run the team and create it in his image, which takes time, then any MLS team he owns is going to struggle mightily.

  3. throwinbows7 - May 16, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    I don’t think your argument with Benitez is fair. I don’t think he is a good fit w/ the Blues but you can’t tell me he doesnt deserve to coach a big club again. Lets see why this is the case:
    – to say that you can’t give credit to Benitez for his glory with Valencia and Liverpool is short-sighted. So does that mean we can’t (rightfully) laud Mou for his success w/ Porto and Chelsea. Yeah…right.

    – With a strong Liverpool team (Alonso, Gerrard, Mascherano. etc) he went to two CL finals and in the process eliminated a strong Mou-led Chelsea team in that tournament. The man KNOWS how to win in Europe unlike Mancini
    – Yes Inter was a disaster but he was in a “no win” situation following a team that loved Mou and with a roster that quickly broke down due to injuries and lack of top form. No way am I absolving his time there (his man management and wierd press outbursts is not commendable) but you can argue that his spell at Chelsea (qualify for CL, win Europa Cup, improve Torres) helps restore some shine to his CV
    – He is not the most lovable figure BUT the man can coach and his game day strategy is better in my opionion than Mancini who made some very questionable (and conservative) tactical decisions in the CL

    So overall I think you need to see that Rafa (while not the most loved coach or have the most attractive style) has the PEDIGREE and coaching skill to successfully lead a big club.I think the writer needs to rethink this article and can add to his credibility in doing so,

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