Posted by Barrie on Saturday, 19 December 2009

Where Did It All Go Wrong for Mark Hughes?

Manchester City fans who went to today's game may not have been aware they were seeing Mark Hughes final one in charge of their club. With Roberto Mancini in the stands today and an announcement set to made shortly after the match, it was clear what was about to happen.

Guus Hiddink had been linked with a move to the City of Manchester Stadium but he seemed more keen on staying with Russia. Jose Mourinho wasn't a write off but the big money spenders went with the former Inter Milan manager and not with his replacement.

Mark Hughes had spent over £200,000,000 in a season and a half at Manchester City, finishing in a disappointing 10th position and currently lying in 6th with 2 wins in their last 11. They were performing below expectations with the owners presumably wanting at least a top 4 finish. There were signs of the club moving in the right direction with signings of Shay Given, Craig Bellamy, Nigel de Jong and Carlos Tevez. However, inconsistencies lead to his downfall.

The only consistency Manchester City have had this season was when they tied the Premier League record of 7 straight draws. They looked good in victories over Arsenal and Chelsea this season, but the team in whole have looked disinterested in games against lesser sides. With Liverpool struggling this season and even Manchester United losing 5 already, Manchester City have had the opportunities to be in the top 4 right now and haven't taken it.

Getting the best out of his team had been a problem for Mark Hughes. While it was obvious from his early days that Robinho was interested, with his lacking away performances coming to the media's attention last season, Hughes stuck with him. Whether Robinho had promised him better performances behind closed doors, I haven't heard. Maybe there was pressure on Hughes from the owners to play him. Emmanuel Adebayor was another gamble, on a striker who looked disinterested when he was at Arsenal. Since scoring against his former team against Arsenal, Adebayor has given little effort and was part of the problem at City. Hughes seemingly couldn't motivate Robinho or Adebayor but they were still playing.

Other problems Hughes had at City were defensive. Over £30,000,000 was spent on their centre back pairing of Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott. Toure had looked good when the rest of Arsenal's defence was poor and Lescott had an outstanding season with Everton the year before. For a team aiming to compete for the title these were questionable signings. They've proved this season to be bad ones. The sale of Richard Dunne also proved to be another bad decision but how much control Mark Hughes had over that was questionable.

Building a team overnight is just not going to happen in the Premier League. Claudio Ranieri didn't do it with the money he had in one season at Chelsea. Jose Mourinho then had a building block to work on. Tottenham and Aston Villa have been working on their squads for a few years to get in this position of competing for a top 4 spot. Arsene Wenger is continually building a team to challenge for the title again.

Manchester City are taking a gamble on Roberto Mancini. He has won trophies with all 3 Italian teams he has managed. First was the Italian version of the FA Cup with Fiorentina in his first season as a manager. He did lead them to relegation however with a team struggling financially. He also won the same trophy with Lazio in his 3rd season. Lazio finished between 4th and 6th during his tenure and have only done better once since he left. Mancini guided Inter Milan to 3 straight titles helped by the problems at fellow title contenders at Juventus and AC Milan. He was sacked after not getting to the latter stages of the Champions League.

Mancini certainly has a good history in a short spell back home. But what can he do under the pressure of Manchester City having only spent a few weeks in England as Leicester City player 9 years ago?

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