There is no topic more likely to induce a defensive reaction from a Manchester City fan than the accusation that we have sold our soul, that we are no longer that loveable shambolic circus handed down from the original ringmaster Malcolm Allison, via Kevin Keegan to Roberto Mancini. "Just you wait," we reply, not necessarily hoping that the bad old ways reassert themselves, but certainly conscious that they might.
So it has proven this season. Just when it looked as if Mancini, that most un-City of coaches, had imposed a new mentality and exorcised the ancient spirits, the bad old ways have come back to haunt us. All City fans are open to accusations of melodrama (Phil Neville's description of us as an "emotional club" hurt because we all knew it to be true), but it is no exaggeration to say that this is a hinge week for Mancini's tenure. Good results at West Brom and then in the derby and everything will be back in place. Two defeats, and the trajectory of results will dip sufficiently to endanger the whole Mancini project.
The frustration is that I thought this season was different. In our first nine games (excusing the League Cup loss at West Brom, when we fielded a reserve team) we conceded only two goals; an almost unprecedented record. The 1-0 win over Chelsea was the most atypically City performance I can remember: disciplined, methodical and coolly ruthless. I must admit to believing Mancini had solved the puzzle.
But since then we've conceded 13 in seven, and lost the last three straight. Defensive organisation, the cornerstone of Mancini's approach, has evaporated. The performance at Molineux last weekend was one of the most spineless I can remember, certainly since the last pathetic whimpers of Sven Goran Eriksson's or Mark Hughes' reigns. And without Carlos Tevez we are an imitation of ourselves; it is hard to forsee any success without our talismanic captain.
So does this mean that Mancini has failed, and that we just need to tear it all down and start afresh? Not for me. I've seen too many managers come and go to believe that the saviour is just around the corner. But we know from Hughes' dismissal that a poor run of results is deemed in Abu Dhabi to be a sackable offence. And if next week does not go to plan, I just despair at the prospect of having to go through the whole regeneration process yet again.Reuse content