James Lawton: Has the Premier League title ever been surrendered so pathetically?

When Manchester City midfielder Gareth Barry scored his tragi-comic own goal he displayed the body language of a zombie

In the long and not always glorious history of football there may have been more disgracefully gutless performances than the one put in by the champions of England at Southampton on Saturday. There may also have been a more bizarre series of utterances than those which came from the mouth of the man who carried the most direct responsibility, the Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini, but if compelling comparisons are somewhat elusive there is one thing about which we can be certain.

It is that never before can such a miserable example of broken down professionalism, of abandoned self-respect and a total failure to deliver a sliver of value for money (the transfer value of City's starters was approximately £206m, with substitutes James Milner, Aleksandar Kolarov and Maicon representing another £48m), have provoked less in the way of red-blooded outrage.

Mancini, who before the game lamented the possibility that quite soon very rich men may no longer be able to throw infinite amounts of money at the football team of their choice, did say that "big players" should display rather more convincing evidence that they possess "big balls".

But then given that his extremely expensive team had, in the process of an almost formal defeat by a side whose stars Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert came at a combined cost of less than the year's salary of the missing Carlos Tevez, displayed a collective heart so minuscule the great Bill Shankly would surely have likened it to a caraway seed, it hardly seemed an excessive reaction.

We are told that Mancini will survive at least until the summer, by which time his Abu Dhabi employers might have to conclude that if their rival Roman Abramovich had a well-earned reputation for what might be described as brutal whimsicality, their own had come to occupy precisely the other end of the spectrum.

Sheikh Mansour and his cohorts should have known some time ago that their £1billion-plus investment in City was well on the way to becoming a shocking indictment of an idea nursed so lovingly in the upper echelons of the Premier League. They should have known that they were making a monument not to relentless spending and seamless progress but nightmare entrapment by the prospective demands of Financial Fair Play.

Mancini whined that he had been miserably supported in the summer transfer window and that because of this, rather than a painful lack of evidence that he might be able to develop the force and coherence of by far the strongest squad in the country, his defence of the Premier League title and expansion of hopes in the Champions League had been virtually destroyed.

Another truth was much easier to grasp this last weekend. It is that City have become a parody of a club who might be anywhere near taking their place at the heart of European football. Their dismissal from the Champions League was one shocking development. The tolerance of the Mario Balotelli situation was an affront to professional standards. The reinstatement of Tevez after his Munich mutiny was another compromise to make the flesh crawl.

After saying that Tevez would never again wear the City shirt, Mancini soon enough agreed that he might well be a powerful asset in the race for the Premier League finish. That, no doubt, helped to deliver City's first title since the one they landed rather more emphatically with the help of Lee, Bell and Summerbee 44 years earlier. But how much should you pay, in money and basic values, for one championship which in less than a year seems as if it might have happened in another lifetime?

When Gareth Barry scored his tragi-comic own goal at Southampton he displayed the body language of a zombie. It was also a reasonable way of defining the performance of most of his team-mates. It wasn't a defeat. It was a submission. It was a terrible statement about what happens when a team is separated from any sense that it can still achieve its most basic ambitions.

For many, it was almost entirely the fault of players grossly overpaid and seriously under-motivated. Of course they had their huge responsibilities and it wasn't only Mancini impelled to ask what had happened to the command and the wit of men like Yaya Touré and David Silva. Mancini says: "A player who plays like that should stay at home, not even be on the pitch. I don't want to see a player like we saw on Saturday. Usually, we play well and even when we don't play well, we put everything on the pitch. But we didn't even do that."

No, they didn't, demonstrably not, but then isn't it quite a key part of the manager's job to avoid such disaster? Mancini was recently pictured with his hands reaching for Balotelli's throat. There is another study of him linking hands with Tevez. He is, no doubt, an engaging football man with some notable achievements as both a player and a coach, but this doesn't mean so much now when he has to prove that there is really enough money in the world to make a great football team.

Meanwhile, Sir Alex Ferguson tells us that he sharply strengthened his planned team for the winning game against Everton after watching the City debacle. His reward was a 12-point lead – and the latest evidence that his once dangerous rivals surely have to think again.

High-flying England are remarkably grounded

When England's re-born rugby team performed the unthinkable and not only beat the All Blacks at Twickenham but also tore them apart there was legitimate doubt about the provenance of a great victory.

Did its origins lie in the remarkable reincarnation of some of England's best values or the crippling effects of stomach bugs and battle-weariness on the New Zealanders? The reigning world champions could scarcely have been more gracious, ceding the glory to their victors as they firmly turned away from even the breath of an alibi.

A more lasting truth may well be established when the teams next collide. In the meantime we can certainly say that the circumstantial evidence is looking extremely good.

One fear was that a young and extremely promising England might begin to believe in itself a little too much and a little too quickly. Such misgivings have been brilliantly dismissed not only with excellent victories over Scotland and Ireland and an increasingly likely Six Nations Grand Slam but also some superb examples of young and inexperienced players simultaneously reaching for the sky and keeping their feet on the ground.

This would be even more remarkable if the astounding Owen Farrell wasn't so closely monitored by his father and attacking coach, Andy Farrell. You wouldn't want to get carried away in the great man's company, not least for the fear, of, well, being carried away.

On paper, Benitez still has plenty to prove

According to a tactical dossier prepared by Rafa Benitez before the weekend defeat of Wigan, the beleaguered Chelsea manager apparently authored a battle plan which made victory just about inevitable.

In the leaked document, Benitez relentlessly pointed out the weaknesses of the Wigan defence, some of which may not have been total revelation in that the 4-1 losers at Stamford Bridge happen to have the worst record in the Premier League with 51 goals conceded. Still, let's hope that Roman Abramovich is impressed, though it would probably be a good idea to bury in a deep cavern those plans that went into defeats by such as QPR and Swansea and that rather edgy draw at Brentford.

Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits