x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Roberto Mancini defends his players as he calls them the new Wimbledon

The Manchester City manager draws parallels with the notorious English hard team, as he welcomes Vincent Kompany back from suspension.

Roberto Mancini is happy to have his captain and central defender back after a four-game suspension.
Roberto Mancini is happy to have his captain and central defender back after a four-game suspension.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has claimed his side are being dubbed the new Wimbledon due to their growing disciplinary woes.

City, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, have had five men sent off this season, including Gareth Barry and Vincent Kompany in successive games at the start of January.

In addition, Mario Balotelli will serve the second match of a four-game suspension when he misses tomorrow night's Premier League trip to Everton after being found guilty of violent conduct when he lashed out at Scott Parker.

It is not a great record. Yet Mancini's team are hardly the physical side it would make them appear to be.

"We are a bad team," said Mancini. "Like Wimbledon."

Wimbledon in the late 1980s and early 1990s were known as the "Crazy Gang", with so-called hard men players such as Vinny Jones, John Fashanu and Dennis Wise. Mancini's verdict was delivered with a rueful smile, as if the Italian could hardly believe it himself.

"My players are good players," he said.

"They never did a bad tackle on another player. This is not on our minds.

"But that is why I have said we have been unlucky for the last two months."

It is why it will be the middle of next month at the earliest before City play a game without someone being missing through suspension, a run that started for the FA Cup visit of Manchester United on January 8, which Barry sat out.

As both Yaya and Kolo Toure have been away on African Nations Cup duty throughout that period, little wonder Mancini views it as the most significant time of the entire campaign.

And the fact a visit to Everton falls right in the middle merely adds to the concern.

City have triumphed on just one of their last 13 visits to Goodison Park.

Mancini has previously noted David Moyes tends to get a bit more out of his Toffeemen when his side are the opposition, although he finds it hard to believe the £22million departure of Joleon Lescott in 2009 is the cause.

"Manchester City paid a lot of money for Lescott," he said.

"We didn't take him for free. I don't think this would be a reason."

Neither does Mancini believe there is any lingering resentment over his touchline fracas with Moyes at the Etihad Stadium in December 2010, the last time City lost on home soil in the Premier League.

"That is in the past," he said.

"We have a good relationship with them. It is not a problem."

Nevertheless, the return of Kompany to replace Stefan Savic is welcome, not least because of the youngster's travails in the last couple of games.

"It is important to have Vincent back," he said.

"He is a strong defender, who has improved a lot in the last two or three years.

"He is a leader and our captain, one of the best defenders in Europe now and someone who can still improve a lot."

However, Kompany will return with a warning from his manager.

Mancini made it perfectly plain at the time, and then through an unsuccessful appeal, that he did not believe his captain did much wrong when he attempted to tackle Nani during that fateful FA Cup tie.

But he knows the punishment, which followed Sir Alex Ferguson's observation that Kompany frequently repeats those kinds of challenges, means officials will be keeping an eye out for any further transgressions.

"It is difficult," said Mancini.

"For us this tackle was a red card, for others a worse tackle was not a red card.

"It is hard for us to understand.

"I hope that Vinny can play all the games from now until the end but because of this, probably he should pay more attention."