x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Balotelli and Man City increase the pressue on Kean

Fans chant for dismissal of the Blackburn Rovers manager, as Manchester City score four at Ewood Park.

Manchester City's French midfielder Samir Nasri, right, vies with Blackburn Rovers' Argentinian midfielder Mauro Formica.
Manchester City's French midfielder Samir Nasri, right, vies with Blackburn Rovers' Argentinian midfielder Mauro Formica.

Do Manchester City need Carlos Tevez?

It’s a question Roberto Mancini wants answered in the negative. Almost entirely without their tiresome tyro,  City have made their best start to a Premier League season.

With Tevez suspended pending an investigation City hope will allow them to sue for divorce, they overwhelmed Blackburn to stay joint top of the division.Tevez suspended pending an investigation

For Mancini, his working relationship with Tevez ended when the latter refused to take a substitute’s role in the midweek Champions League loss at Bayern Munich. (The player explains it as a refusal to warm up).

When the Italian manager needed Tevez’s drive and goals to elevate City to Europe’s top table, win the FA Cup and secure his managerial future, his proclivity for dissent and complaint was tolerated. Mancini responded to a mid-season transfer demand by handing Tevez the captain’s armband. Targets were met; trouble stored up.

Never more secure as City manager, Mancini now has left his employers to deal with the striker. He said that he is “finished” with Tevez and expects City’s analysis of his insubordination to deliver a sacking for breach of contract or expedient January sale.

Steve Kean would enjoy swapping problems with his counterpart. Bawl out Tevez and force yourself to stick with his £37 million (Dh211.8m) compatriot, Sergio Aguero? Preferable to coaxing a few more penalty-box runs from Yakubu or perming a back four from three fit central defenders.

The latest episode in Kean’s attempt to hang on to one of the division’s most challenging jobs had seen John Jensen sacked as his assistant. “A board decision,” said Kean, who added that the Dane had not been his appointment but that his successor would be.

Already under considerable pressure at the wrong end of the Premier League, Blackburn’s second-half collapse provoked vocal calls for Kean’s own dismissal. A few hundred Blackburn supporters remained in Ewood Park at fulltime to continue the protest.

“I’m 100 per cent determined to battle on,” Kean said. “There is always going to be a section of the fans that are not happy at any club and they wanted to show that by staying in the ground and by putting out banners.

“All we can do is react and stick together and we’ve done that in much tougher times than this. Last season we were everybody’s favourite to go down. We got seven unbelievable results out of nine.

“Every time we got criticism we came back stronger and that’s exactly what we’ll do again. I say bear with us. We’ll turn it around.”

Kean’s strategy with a makeshift side was to draw 10 men behind the ball when his opponents were in possession, denying space to City’s attacking lines.

First-half play turned staccato, Paul Robinson watching several Mario Balotelli strikes fly wide or over but only once being seriously tested, by David Silva.

Phil Dowd’s intolerant officiating aided Blackburn’s cause. In one particularly crabbed moment the referee refused a stationary Aguero treatment for a groin strain that ended the striker’s involvement. As play continued the South American limped off while shaking his head.

The stalemate, though, could not be sustained. Mancini instructed his wingers to play higher and wider, an inswinging Aleksander Kolarov corner was headed to the edge of the penalty area, and Adam Johnson curled a still better ball into the opposite corner.

Not for the first time City’s boisterous travelling support bellowed out Mancini’s name. Four minutes later the points were secure as Samir Nasri crossed from the left and an aerial Balotelli stretched his leg in front of Gael Givet to convert.

It got worse. For the third, Nasri and Silva employed deft movement and ball sense to pass the ball around the area unmolested until the Frenchman’s shot deflected in. Next, Stefan Savic rose free and easy to head in a Nasri corner. Now the chants were not lauding Mancini, they were calling for Kean’s head.


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