Skip to content

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

May 15, 2013, 11:57 PM EST

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Everton, Man United, Man City, Stoke

    Feb 27, 2015, 4:20 PM EST

    464041878 Getty Images

    Citizens, Red Devils and Toffees will all bag big wins this weekend, according to PST’s Editor and Lead Writer.

  2. Premier League Preview: West Ham v. Crystal Palace

    Feb 27, 2015, 3:50 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-FACUP-CRYSTAL PALACE-LIVERPOOL Getty Images

    Preview of West Ham-Crystal Palace match airing live on NBCSN this Saturday morning.

  3. Watching a UEFA Champions League game with US star Geoff Cameron

    Feb 27, 2015, 3:16 PM EST

    Cameron admires, and has beaten, Arsenal. Cameron admires, and has beaten, Arsenal.

    In our latest with Stoke City and U.S. national team star Geoff Cameron, we sit down in his house and watch Arsenal’s clash with AS Monaco.

  4. WATCH: PST Extra previews Liverpool vs. Manchester City

    Feb 27, 2015, 2:55 PM EST

    PST Extra - Feb. 27

    The PST Extra crew dissect the key areas as Liverpool host Man City on Sunday.

  5. Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Sunderland

    Feb 27, 2015, 2:25 PM EST

    Swansea City v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Watch United vs. Sunderland live on NBCSN and online via Live Extra at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday.

  6. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 27

    Feb 27, 2015, 12:44 PM EST

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch all the Premier League games during Week 27.

  7. Sepp Blatter wants 2022 World Cup final to be played on December 18

    Feb 27, 2015, 12:01 PM EST

    Blatter: “The World Cup will not go on until the 23rd, definitely not.”

  8. Europa League last 16 draw: Everton head to Ukraine; Spanish, Italian clubs clash

    Feb 27, 2015, 10:00 AM EST

    The Toffees get a tricky test in Kiev, while Italy dominates the last 16 with five clubs.

  9. Jack Wilshere undergoes latest surgery, as Arsenal return is delayed

    Feb 27, 2015, 9:20 AM EST

    Wilshere AP

    Gunners midfielder goes under the knife once again.

  10. Report: Chelsea join Manchester United in chase for Nathaniel Clyne

    Feb 27, 2015, 7:37 AM EST

    Queens Park Rangers v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Will Clyne stay at Saints or move to one of the big boys?

  11. Toronto FC unveil new primary jersey for 2015 MLS season

    Feb 26, 2015, 11:37 PM EST

    Photo credit: MLSsoccer.com Photo credit: MLSsoccer.com

    It’s red — lots of red — and “All For One.” Do you dig it?

  12. Ahead of Capital One Cup final, Thibaut Courtois admits he’s never been in a PK shootout

    Feb 26, 2015, 11:10 PM EST

    Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea FC Getty Images

    Petr Cech has been in plenty of PK shootouts for Chelsea, but Courtois has never done it.

  13. CONCACAF Champions League: D.C. United battered by Alajualense, 5-2

    Feb 26, 2015, 10:32 PM EST

    Andrew Dykstra, D.C. United Andrew Dykstra, D.C. United

    *sigh* Another MLS team gets hammered in CCL, and we’re (probably) down to one last hope.

  14. Keller, Hejduk, Conrad headline 13 new eligibles for National Soccer HOF

    Feb 26, 2015, 8:15 PM EST

    Kasey Keller & Frankie Hejduk, USMNT Kasey Keller & Frankie Hejduk, USMNT

    It’s a who’s-who of USMNT, USWNT and MLS stars who are now eligible for the U.S. Soccer HOF.

  15. World War II bomb found, defused near Borussia Dortmund stadium

    Feb 26, 2015, 6:51 PM EST

    Signal Iduna Park, Borussia Dortmund Getty Images

    A 550-pound British bomb was found near Dortmund’s stadium on Thursday. That’s a little bit crazy.

  16. Chelsea signs five-year, $300-million Yokohama jersey sponsorship deal

    Feb 26, 2015, 6:13 PM EST

    Juan Cuadrado, Chelsea FC Juan Cuadrado, Chelsea FC

    Five years, $300 million — the going rate for prime real estate on a top PL team’s jersey.

  17. Europa League roundup: Tottenham, Liverpool out; Everton, La Liga sides advance

    Feb 26, 2015, 5:05 PM EST

    Romelu Lukaku, Everton FC Getty Images

    The Premier League’s nightmare week in European competition continued on Thursday.