Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Top Four for Citeh this season?

Perhaps Roberto Mancini needs to double-up on his English lessons but did he say he’s targeting Citeh to finish in the top four this season? And did he mention that the Blues will be challenging for the Premiership next season? Has Mancini been watching the way City’s been playing all season?

Maybe the Italian’s expecting a large transfer kitty in January and make some major changes to the squad Sparky assembled (maybe he’ll start to get more defenders and fewer strikers). But would City’s billionaire owners agree to another spending spree in the transfer market after the exorbitant amount the club spent some six months ago?

And if they do succumb to some more spending, what guarantees are there that Mancini will adapt to the fast-pace of the Premier League in the remaining six months of the league to ensure City overtake Tottenham and Aston Villa into the fourth place. This is, by the way, on the assumption Rafa Benitez’ Liverpool continues their abysmal form into the new year.

Maybe Mancini was just saying what his new bosses wanted to hear. Unfortunately for him, its going to take a lot more than bold statements to keep his new employers at the Eastlands happy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sparky’s out, is Rafa next?

Very few people, except for Harry Redknapp, would've been surprised with City's decision to axe Sparky over the weekend. After spending more than the so-called "Big Four" over the summer, the odds were always stacked against Hughes making it into the new year. Especially when City's acquisitions over the summer, specifically their defensive ones, have proven to be flops.

In Hughes' defense, turning City into one of the Big Four within a season was never going to happen. But then again, Kuwaiti oil barons who offer a club like City a transfer budget in excess of GBP60 million in one summer can be expected to be a little unrealistic.

Still, would have Hughes produced the results had he been given more time? There was very little to suggest, based on City's performance this season, that Sparky had what it took to make the Blues a Big Four club. Harry Redknapp's assertion that Hughes was dealt with unfairly due to the fact that the Blues have only lost fewer games than any of the Big Four this season. But Redknapp failed to point out was the fact that City had drawn more games than they've won, a feat shared by the likes of Stoke City and Hull.
One can only imagine Sheikh Mansor's reaction when he was notified that his billion-dollar club had more in common with a bottom-feeder like Hull than Manchester United.

All the same, Hughes' has every right to feel short-changed when other managers who have performed far poorer than he has this season have not been accorded the same treatment. And I'm not referring to Phil Brown but Rafa Benitez. If City's owners were too quick to hit the panic button when the Blues began to draw a little to frequent, they could take a lesson in patience from Liverpool's American owners who seem to have shown next to no concern over the Reds abysmal form this season. Or maybe its indifference. Or fear of a pretty sizeable compensation package should they sack the Spaniard.

But whatever the reasons, and it could be a combination of all three factors mentioned above, Liverpool's want-away American owners should well realise that the value of their investments (ie: the English football club they own) will depreciate immensely should the Reds continue their mediocre performances this season and chalk up several more defeats and slip into mid-table territory. And should that be the case, Liverpool's two American owners will find it even harder to sell the club at a price that would settle their debts.

Should this be the case, transfer funds at the club would be become a luxury of sorts and we all know the sort of consequences that could have on Liverpool’s chances of ever winning that elusive league title number 19.

But apart from financial ruin, a bigger question that should be directed at Benitez is whether providing him more time at Anfield will generate the results. It’s unfortunate but when a club like Liverpool has lost as frequently as it has this season, there is very little to suggest that the manager has it in him to get the club out of the rot. If he did, they’d have ended their losing streak sometime ago. But when a team that comprises Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt, Glen Johnson are made to look like amateurs against a perennial bottom-feeder like Porthsmouth, there is a sense that maybe Benitez’ time at the club is up. Should the Reds defeat to Porthsmouth been a one-off thing, it would be easy to mistake the loss as just another off day. But when the club that nearly won the league last season has had as many off days as Stoke, you begin to wonder.

Make no mistake, the writing on the wall has never been clearer. Benitez had five years to make Liverpool a Premiership winning team and six months after guiding them to within six points of the title, the Reds seem extremely unlikely to repeat that feat this season or the next. Benitez often asks for patience and more time yet how many more years does he need before the league title comes back to Anfield? At Liverpool, winning the Premiership has always been a priority, more so now Man Utd is level with Reds on league titles. Are Liverpool fans willing to risk a few more years with Benitez only to see the Devils land title number 19?