For Manchester City, getting its money's worth is far from certain
Then there was the response of Blackburn manager
The general reaction was to laugh off his comments and regard them as the self-justification of a manager whose job was about to get immensely easier -- and perhaps his statements were exactly that. But whether he meant it or not, Allardyce was right. Success in football these days is all but impossible without money. But as countless sides have proved, it's very possible to have money without success.
Nobody, of course, has more money these days than Manchester City, and that creates pressures and expectations. So far this season it remains a team, to use the most popular euphemisms, that is in transition and is struggling to jell. After a shaky start at Tottenham Hotspur when it was saved by
When City then beat Liverpool 3-0 at home, dominating possession, squeezing its opponent back and allowing the inverted wingers,
At Sunderland on Sunday, though, those questions re-emerged, and starkly, in City's 1-0 loss. Yes, City can point to Tevez's extraordinary first-half miss, when he spooned over an open goal, and the breathtaking reflex save
It's true that Sunderland has historically had a fine home record -- only Chelsea, Aston Villa and Manchester United won there in the league last season -- and a draw would not have been a bad result. Neither does defeat rule City out of the title race. But there are a number of sides of roughly Sunderland's level in the Premier League, and if City plays against them all away from home as it played at the Stadium of Light, it will struggle even to finish in the top four.
What was most striking was how City in the second half suffered the same problems it had in the first at Tottenham. Unable to dominate possession -- against a central midfield three (
There are issues, though, beyond the tactical. If, as former Scotland striker
As a player who had come through City's academy, he perhaps felt particular irritation, and spoke of the "high-profile" players who had usurped him, suspecting that they were being favored because their high price tags had to be justified. "Sitting on the bench, I didn't feel part of the team," Ireland said. "I was neither happy or sad if we lost."
If a player who had spent his entire career at the club could feel like that, then how must
Most clubs have a core of, say, 16-18 first-team players who accept they will each play about 70 percent of games, with the squad supplemented by young players on the way up and old players on the way down. At City, though, there are probably 25 players who would see themselves in the category of first-team regular, which is impossible.
Many have been newly brought to the club and lack any sense of residual loyalty. The result can only be bruised egos and dissatisfaction, which is one of the few defenses football has against absolute domination by the rich. For Mancini, coping with that will be almost as important as bridging the divide between midfield and attack.