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. Schake’s Di Matteo plays down Chelsea reunion ahead of UEFA Champions League clash

    Nov 24, 2014, 3:00 PM EST

    Germany Soccer Champions League AP

    Schalke is three points back of Chelsea despite drawing 1-1 in the Stamford Bridge portion of group play.

  2. Tesho Akindele brings FC Dallas its first MLS Rookie of the Year award

    Nov 24, 2014, 2:23 PM EST

    Tesho Akindele AP

    The league announced Monday that Akindele edged Steve Birnbaum of DC United and Harry Shipp of the Chicago Fire for the honor.

  3. Watch live: Aston Villa vs. Southampton (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Nov 24, 2014, 2:05 PM EST

    BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - APRIL 19: Jose Fonte (R) of Southampton tackles Gabriel Agbonlahor (L) of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Southampton at Villa Park on April 19, 2014 in Birmingham, England. Getty Images

    The second-placed Saints need a win to keep pace with a Chelsea team threatening to run away with the Premier League.

  4. Young American defender Will Packwood leaving Birmingham City on short-term loan

    Nov 24, 2014, 1:17 PM EST

    bcfc.com bcfc.com

    Packwood is a promising defender who can be a big part of the US U-23 picture and onward.

  5. Lukas Podolski is “not some clown” and sounds like a man ready to leave Arsenal

    Nov 24, 2014, 12:36 PM EST

    Arsenal Training Session Getty Images

    Seven of his eight appearances have been substitutions, all in the 76th minute or later.

  6. Yikes: Suspended Bradley Wright-Phillips, teammates, Petke “didn’t know rules” of card accumulation

    Nov 24, 2014, 11:35 AM EST

    Bradley Wright-Phillips AP

    No one told Wright-Phillips another yellow card would keep him out of an MLS Cup Playoff game. Pretty unsettling if you’re a Red Bulls fan.

  7. Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta “shocked” at loss to Manchester United, rues “lack of ruthlessness”

    Nov 24, 2014, 10:45 AM EST

    Arsenal v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Arteta felt they were dominating the game before an own goal from Kieran Gibbs changed the temperature and, at the risk of losing something in the language, doesn’t think highly of the Red Devils.

  8. England women set attendance record in loss at Wembley Stadium

    Nov 24, 2014, 9:46 AM EST

    England v Germany - Women's International Friendly Getty Images

    It wasn’t quite a number that rivaled top American matches, but women’s soccer in England can take an extra bow.

  9. Americans Abroad review: Boyd bags brace, Johannsson heads home (video)

    Nov 24, 2014, 9:09 AM EST

    Dutch Eredivisie - "AZ Alkmaar v Vitesse Arnhem" Getty Images

    A trio of American attackers scored goals and a bevy of defenders and netminders worked good shifts in the own end.

  10. FIFPro’s World XI five goalkeeper shortlist includes… Iker Casillas???

    Nov 24, 2014, 8:20 AM EST

    iker_casillas Getty Images

    Certainly keepers like David De Gea, Tim Howard, Wojciech Szczesny, Hugo Lloris and Salvatore Sirigu are scratching their heads.

  11. Premier League Preview: Aston Villa vs. Southampton

    Nov 24, 2014, 7:30 AM EST

    http://www.avfc.co.uk/ http://www.avfc.co.uk/

    Two teams on very different form meet on NBCSN to finish off the weekend’s Premier League action.

  12. La Liga and Serie A roundup: Valencia, Napoli falter in Champions League bids; Milan derby a stalemate

    Nov 23, 2014, 10:20 PM EST

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-LEVANTE-VALENCIA Getty Images

    Catch up on all of Sunday’s action and movement in La Liga and Serie A.

  13. Inside Look, MLS Cup Playoffs: How Revs, Galaxy built very different one-goal leads

    Nov 23, 2014, 8:15 PM EST

    Jermaine Jones AP

    The Revs and Galaxy may both hold one-goal advantages, but they’re very different leads built in very different ways.

  14. Video: Warnock delighted with “old fashioned cup tie” from Palace

    Nov 23, 2014, 7:45 PM EST

    Warnock Getty Images

    The Crystal Palace manager hailed his side’s “Neil Warnock performance” as they pull themselves out of the relegation zone.

  15. Recap: LA Galaxy grab 1-0 lead over Seattle Sounders in Western Conference Championship

    Nov 23, 2014, 7:14 PM EST

    Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy - Western Conference Final - Leg 1 Getty Images

    The Galaxy find themselves just 90 minutes from the third MLS Cup final in four years after a narrow victory over the Sounders.

  16. Halftime, MLS Cup Playoffs: LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders in 0-0 Western Conference Championship stalemate

    Nov 23, 2014, 6:05 PM EST

    Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy - Western Conference Final - Leg 1 Getty Images

    Zeroes on the scoresheet, but plenty of action in the first half. Sounders very patient, but Galaxy getting close.

  17. Despite artificial turf, New York Red Bulls’ Thierry Henry says he’ll play next week at New England

    Nov 23, 2014, 5:32 PM EST

    New England Revolution v New York Red Bulls - Eastern Conference Final - Leg 1 Getty Images

    He’s only ever done it twice in his MLS career, but with the season — and maybe his career — on the line, Thierry Henry will play on artificial turf next week.

  18. Video: Mauricio Pochettino keeps even keel after Hull win

    Nov 23, 2014, 4:50 PM EST

    Pochettino Getty Images

    The Spurs manager wouldn’t be drawn into talk about the winner from Christian Eriksen or the red card to Gaston Ramirez, instead discussing how he was just delighted to get three points any way he can.

  19. Lineups, MLS Cup Playoffs: LA Galaxy host Seattle Sounders in Western Conference Championship, leg 1

    Nov 23, 2014, 4:25 PM EST

    Juninho, Landon Donovan, Dan Gargan, Robbie Keane Juninho, Landon Donovan, Dan Gargan, Robbie Keane

    Lineups are in for the Galaxy and Sounders’ Western Conference Championship first leg matchup. Two massive omissions leave Seattle shorthanded.

  20. Recap: New England Revolution snatch 2-1 lead, two away goals from New York Red Bulls

    Nov 23, 2014, 4:07 PM EST

    Jermaine Jones, Luis Robles AP

    The Eastern Conference Championship first leg finished Red Bulls 1-2 Revolution, putting Jay Heaps’ side in full control of the series.

Featured video

Week 12: PL Sunday recap