Roberto Mancini has suffered a major blow to his power base at Manchester City, with Txiki Begiristain's appointment as the club's director of football, reducing the Italian to merely first-team coach.
City's chief executive, Ferran Soriano, who was recruited from Barcelona this summer, has driven the move to appoint Begiristain – the Catalan club's former technical director, with whom he worked for three years building success at the Nou Camp. Mancini will now find himself below these two very close allies and third in City's new "pyramid of excellence".
In a further setback, the City manager was also still waiting to hear the extent of the serious knee injury suffered by Micah Richards in Saturday's 1-0 home win against Swansea City. Far from representing victory for Mancini in his battle to exercise greater control than Brian Marwood, who becomes managing director of City's new £200m football academy, the appointment of Begiristain leaves the Italian able only to recommend which players City might buy.
The injury to Richards, who was carried off on a stretcher wearing an oxygen mask, is another blow to an area of the team that already looks weak. Richards may have been vocal in his criticism of City's tactics during last Wednesday's 3-1 debacle in Amsterdam but on the only other occasion the champions have kept a clean sheet – last month's 3-0 win over Sunderland – Richards had looked once more an international-class defender.
There is still far too much resting on Vincent Kompany's shoulders for City to be entirely comfortable. Last season he contributed more than perhaps anyone. This time his form has been indifferent, although Kompany believes both the praise and the criticism are overdone.
"We did our job here," he said. "When you look at the league and the games coming up, we expected nothing but a win and that is all that will be remembered."
With the 12 minutes of stoppage time for injuries to Richards and the Swansea keeper, Michel Vorm, it will also be remembered as the longest game in the history of the Premier League. The champions were booed off at the interval, leaving Mancini to observe: "When you are tired and have just been beaten in the Champions League, maybe you can be disappointing. All teams need their supporters for 90 minutes."