x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Fiery Mancini keeps City players in check

Joleon Lescott, the Manchester City defender, admits it was a surprise when he first heard the usually calm Italian manager yell.

Roberto Mancini gets his message across to players.
Roberto Mancini gets his message across to players.

MANCHESTER // If the stereotypical British manager is a ranter and a raver, the temptation is to assume their continental counterparts are that bit more sophisticated.

Manchester provides the men who could be the polar opposites: Sir Alex Ferguson, famed for the "hairdryer treatment", and the paragon of charm and style that is Roberto Mancini. So Joleon Lescott admits it was a surprise when he first heard the Italian yell. It says something for the ferocity of the Manchester City manager's blast that the England international defender was not in the dressing room at the time but was still aware of his manager's anger.

But as the centre-back acknowledges, Mancini's will to win is accompanied by the technical knowledge to improve his charges. A run of four successive league wins took City to second place, but it has not been enough to placate their manager.

"He demands high standards," Lescott said. "He let us know at half-time against Blackpool that we weren't pulling our weight." Goalless at the interval last week, it was a game that was decided by three second-half strikes from City.

In the process, however, Mancini may have stunned anyone in the vicinity of the Bloomfield Road dressing rooms, if his initial display of rage is an indication.

"It was a shock," Lescott recalled. "Last season I was injured, but I came to games. I heard his voice and I thought 'wow'. I heard it while I was stood in the corridor. But no one wants to disrespect him or let him down. He understands that so it's not very often that he does tell us off. He gets his message across. Sometimes he might speak a bit of Italian. It's not for us to understand; it might be a little blast of emotion to get off his chest."

If Mancini can be incomprehensible to many in his native tongue, he makes himself clear when discussing the mechanics of defending. Lescott, part of a much-criticised back four last year, has been in a rearguard that has earned plenty of praise in the current campaign. He detects similarities between Mancini and another Italian, England coach Fabio Capello, in their methods.

"The individual side of the defending, when you get into our defensive final third, they expect a lot more from you," he explained. "It's good. I've learnt a few things. It's not so much one-to-one stuff. It's as a unit they tend to say, when the crosses are coming in, stay as tight as you can to the man so there is no space. In the English game you tend to pick up positions and try and cut crosses out. Obviously if there is space they can score. It makes sense."

Depriving Arsenal of space will be crucial today. "It's a different challenge to what we have faced so far this season," Lescott said. "They're a bit more agile than most teams because of the way that they pass and they are very fluid. They're great to watch but we have a game plan to try and stop them." Fail to do so and they may have to face that strangely fearsome phenomenon: the wrath of Mancini.