Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Alan Green: Axes are out for bosses

Roberto Mancini has told his team to ignore recent criticism of their performances

Sitting at Stamford Bridge on Sunday prior to the Chelsea v Liverpool clash but watching Manchester City and Spurs on the television, someone far brighter than me posed the question: “What odds would you get that none of these managers will still be in their jobs in a year’s time?”

Sack race: Roberto Mancini, Roberto Di |Matteo, Andre Villas-Boas and Brendan Rodgers are all feeling the heat at their respective clubs

It set me thinking. However impressed you are that City came from behind, yet again, to win a vital league game to keep up the pressure on their rivals across Manchester and however persuaded you are by noises from the club that Roberto Mancini remains central to plans at the Etihad, I’m not so sure.

City simply aren’t convincing as champions.

And it’s now odds on that, for the second season in succession, they won’t reach the knock-out stages of the Champions League, which must be a minimal requirement of the owners.

The rent-a-quote David Platt maintains there’s no pressure on Mancini and he’s not displaying signs that he’s ‘losing it’.

You could have fooled me.

Yes, Aguero’s goal should have stood and the challenge on Balotelli in stoppage time merited a penalty against Ajax but Mancini storming on to the pitch to confront the referee and then his haranguing of a cameraman simply doing his job were beyond the pale. Guardiola’s shadow is in evidence.

And Mancini’s opposite number on Sunday, Andre Villas-Boas, continues to divide Tottenham fans with, it seems, only a minority in his favour. They question his team selections, his tactics but, most of all, his results and they see a team rich in resources sliding down the table, rather like their hated rivals Arsenal.

So to Stamford Bridge.

It’s only a few weeks since I saw Chelsea master Spurs in a wonderful game at White Hart Lane.

I left north London wondering if I’d just watched the Champions-elect: I should know better.

A year ago the Chelsea management of ‘AVB’ — how I hate that, feel free to smack me if you ever hear me say that — went into meltdown after the Terry/Ferdinand business kicked off. Chelsea’s results rapidly deteriorated after a promising start.

Is it happening again?

Since ‘Clattenburg-gate’ Chelsea have taken just two points from three league matches and, though Moses’ late, hardly deserved winner claimed victory against Shakhtar Donetsk, you wouldn’t be confident betting that they won’t become the first Champions League winners NOT to qualify from the group.

Chelsea are great to watch but Di Matteo himself has set the barrier high.

Again, Guardiola is in the shadows.

Which leaves us with Brendan Rodgers whose team remain pretty to watch but pretty ineffective in terms of getting results.

Those ‘results’ are actually worse than at the same stage under Roy Hodgson.

The crucial difference is that the majority of Liverpool fans hated watching the team play to Hodgson’s orders: not so with Rodgers. They see ‘light’ at the end of a rather long tunnel.

All of which makes me think Rodgers will still be ‘in charge’ a year from now: not at all sure about the others.

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