x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Roberto Mancini's mistakes have hurt Manchester City's title hopes

A few weeks ago, the April 30 derby at the Etihad Stadium looked like it would be the one which decided the title. Now, I think United could well have won the league by then.

Roberto Mancini is enduring a frustrating period as Manchester City manager.
Roberto Mancini is enduring a frustrating period as Manchester City manager.

Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, looks like he is buckling under the pressure as the race for the English Premier League title moves into the home straight.

I do not think the Italian is a bad manager, it is just that he has made too many errors this season.

And his team are showing their inexperience in chasing titles.

Recently, aside from when they beat Chelsea, they have been unable to get key results when the pressure is really on.

City are about to enjoy their highest league position since 1977 when they finished a point behind the champions Liverpool.

They have 15 more points than at the same stage last season and boast the best home record in the league.

But the mood among my City-supporting mates in Manchester is one of doom and despair. They think they have blown the league and will not hear otherwise.

The same friends were very sure after they had destroyed United 6-1 at Old Trafford in October.

They were convinced that they were going to win the title and when you saw the football City were playing, I could understand why.

City played wonderfully for six months, with Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Joe Hart among the best players in the league.

It barely mattered when Carlos Tevez went AWOL to Argentina or Mario Balotelli did whatever mad thing he does every day, because City were still winning.

My mates will be the first to admit they got carried away - probably because they had not seen anything like it at City before. Now they are feeling a little bit silly, especially as it appears that United, the team they hate, are going to win the league.

I cannot see City closing the five-point gap on a United side who have an easier run-in.

A few weeks ago, the April 30 derby at the Etihad Stadium looked like it would be the one which decided the title. Now, I think United could well have won the league by then.

Mancini is now showing signs that the pressure is getting to him and his team.

He said last week that he "couldn't trust" Balotelli and then said that he should have taken him off the field after five minutes. What does he think fans will think when they hear something like that?

A manager is supposed to take pressure off his team, not add to it.

Top managers do not criticise their players in public, however much they warrant it. And Balotelli does warrant it. He is a fantastic player but he would start an argument in an empty room.

Mancini knows what he is like and has indulged him to the point that it annoys the other players. But Mancini brought him to City. He is sending out mixed messages and hardly inspiring faith.

It was the same with Tevez. In October, Mancini said he was never going to play for City again; in March, Tevez played for City again, probably after Mancini realised how good Tevez is. Again, it is a mixed message which does nothing for team spirit.

Some of Mancini's players have let him down, too. Silva has faded after a being the best player in the league before Christmas. Yaya Toure has not been as good since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations. Edin Dzeko has stopped scoring.

Players are bickering. A team can carry a few out of form players and deal with a few off the field incidents, but too many and they start to get bogged down.

When negativity leaks into your mindset it can be very damaging, especially if your main rivals wins every single week.

I am not saying that should be replaced as stability breeds success, not constant change. And a new boss would bring in several new players who would all need time to adjust.

Will Mancini learn from his mistakes? He did in Serie A with Inter Milan, if not in European competitions where the Italian champions failed to do well.

He is intelligent and will analyse what has gone wrong and learn from it.

City have a very respectable 71 points from 31 games and sooner or later Mancini has to win the league, but first he has got to learn to handle the pressure of an English title race.

Andrew Cole's column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.

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