Lee Dixon: On the surface taking charge of City is the dream job. In fact, it's become a nightmare

The Weekend Dossier
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What on earth do Manchester City do now about Roberto Mancini, a manager who's clearly under pressure and at a crossroads? I have conflicting views depending on which hat I'm wearing: City fan, former player turned pundit, or Utopian.

Life isn't black or white, so I can't, hand on heart, say I'm certain which way City should go next. But if I split my feelings into those of fan, realist and idealist, then the fan in me thinks he is a couple of bad results from the sack.

The realist – who played for many years and knows you can't build a team instantly – thinks he should be given more time. And the idealist thinks clubs should guarantee managers lengthy, fixed-term periods in charge to encourage long-term stability. But let's ignore the idealist, because that's not going to happen.

In this era of the game where the pound is king, what owner or chairman is going to spend the right amount of time and effort making absolutely sure they have the right man, with the right staff, the appropriate funding, facilities and back-up, and then give him two years, for example, to make tangible progress? Exactly.

What's happening to Mancini now is part of his education as a manager but because of his wages, his players' wages and the shopping bag of money hanging from his wrist, he's under unprecedented pressure. If you removed the money from this equation, we wouldn't be having this debate. But half a billion quid buys a lot of expectation.

The perception is that City, because of the cash, is the managerial dream job, but it's become a nightmare. And when Mancini comes up against the relative paupers of West Brom, and his compatriot Roberto di Matteo, tomorrow, that will become more obvious still. Because all City's money, in some strange way, actually detracts from Mancini as a coach, or to be more precise, removes some of the necessity for him to be a good coach.

Not for a second am I suggesting he's not good on the training pitch, or that he isn't a good tactician or man manager or anything like that. But at a club like West Brom, with finite resources, if you're having a problem at full-back, say, you're going to have to try to solve that more often than not by coaching, or by replacement from within, by some other improvement. At City, you can reach for the cheque book, which adds its own pressure because then every signing isn't just massively expensive but another test of your credibility.

Right now City are an immensely tough club for Mancini to manage, with the pressure for results huge in the coming week. It's fine having a squad of big names on huge contracts when everything's rosy and you're winning and there's a bit of rotation to keep players sweet, but now? The cracks are showing.

The defeat to Wolves told me as a fan that something was wrong. There was a good start and then it fizzled. The team weren't knitting, they didn't want to win ugly, the back four weren't united. The litmus test comes now. Beat West Brom and United in the derby in midweek and things will look better. Fail to win either game and it's got to be hard for Mancini to stay.

It was just a few short weeks ago that us City fans could celebrate being above United and about to nick their best player, Wayne Rooney. Three losses on the trot and it all looks so different, and as a fan I wouldn't want that to go on.

But switching heads, and being sensible and rational and looking at the situation as a seasoned former pro who understands that sides don't just gel, and that team-building takes time, and that actually the size of your wage packet doesn't automatically fill you with proportional ability, and Mancini really needs to be given time. Ups and downs happen. It's unrealistic to expect instant success. How can we expect that? City have no ballast.

By that I mean the changes have been massive, and quick. There wasn't a single starter against Lech Poznan who was at the club three years ago. Many of City's players have been there 18 months or less.

Look at Manchester United's squad and see its depth of experience at that club: Neville, Scholes, Giggs, others already rooted. At Arsenal, Arsène Wenger used evolution not revolution. Even at Chelsea, there's a core of long-serving players. I bumped into Frank Lampard the other day and asked him to remind me how long he'd been there. It seems two minutes. It's coming up 10 years!

West Brom won't be a comfortable place to be for Mancini, that's for sure. Let's just hope for everyone connected to City it's the start of the renaissance.

Five Asides

1. Comolli's arrival looks ominous for Hodgson

Liverpool's appointment of Damien Comolli continues a trend normal on the Continent but still new in England. It's clearly the blueprint NESV want but I'm not sure it would be Roy Hodgson's choice. If signings start happening above and beyond Roy's say-so, it will end in tears.

2. Bale is brilliant but don't anoint him yet

Another fine week in the career of Gareth Bale, but let's hold back on the claims that he's already among the best few footballers in the world. He's a huge talent and he's put in some brilliant performances. Les Ferdinand at Spurs also assures me he's a top lad with a mature head on his shoulders, and with a lot more to come.

3. Gunners' defeat may be a blessing in disguise

Arsenal's midweek defeat at Shakhtar was disappointing and Arsène Wenger was right when he said they lost concentration and focus. But it wasn't disastrous and some players having a look at themselves on the long flight back won't be the worst thing that can happen.

4. Hail to the quiet men – Hughton and Poyet

Two coaches quietly making strides are Gus Poyet at Brighton, top of League One, and Chris Hughton at Newcastle. I've heard reports that Poyet is brilliant on the training pitch, and Hughton deserves better for turning Newcastle around after relegation.

5. Oh deer, night riding in Richmond Park is scary

I like my biking as regular readers know. Tuesday and Thursday nights I do circuits of Richmond Park with the Prologue Team of Sheen; 40k in the dark! I don't know who's more alarmed – me clinging to the back of the pack or the deer in our headlights.

Dixon's verdict on all the weekend action

Bolton vs Tottenham Hotspur

Dixon's verdict: Spurs may be feeling the effects of their midweek heroics and, having only won once on the road this season in the League, I think they'll struggle to break down Bolton like they did Manchester United.

Kick-off Today, 12.45pm (Sky Sports 2; Highlights BBC1, 10.20pm)

Prediction Draw

Birmingham City vs West Ham

Dixon's verdict: Birmingham are strong at St Andrew's, and even though we have not yet seen the best of recent signings Nikola Zigic or Alexander Hleb, I think the Blues will have enough to overcome the bottom club West Ham.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC1, 10.20pm)

Prediction Home win

Blackburn Rovers vs Wigan Athletic

Dixon's verdict: Blackburn have not won at home in the League since beating Everton 1-0 in the opening fixture, but Wigan have lacked consistency and I can't see the Latics coming away with anything today.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC1, 10.20pm)

Prediction Home win

Blackpool vs Everton

Dixon's verdict: Blackpool have performed fantastically so far this season, but I fancy Everton to continue their recent run of form which has seen them take 10 points from their past four games.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC1, 10.20pm)

Prediction Away win

Fulham vs Aston Villa

Dixon's verdict: Although Fulham won last week, they have not won back-to-back league matches since February. Both sides have underperformed this season. Villa may find it hard to score without John Carew and Emile Heskey.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC1, 10.20pm)

Prediction Draw

Manchester United vs Wolverhampton

Dixon's verdict: United are on a run of six straight wins and haven't lost at home to Wolves in over 30 years. Wolves have been terrible on the road lately, and could suffer their fifth successive away defeat in the League.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC1, 10.20pm)

Prediction Home win

Sunderland vs Stoke City

Dixon's verdict: Sunderland have looked solid at home, with two draws and three wins from five league games at the Stadium of Light. That will bode well against Stoke, who have lost five of their last six away from home.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC1, 10.20pm)

Prediction Home win

Arsenal vs Newcastle United

Dixon's verdict: I expect the Gunners to bounce back from their defeat in the week, they have kept clean sheets in their past two league games. Newcastle could be brought back to earth following their derby win last Sunday.

Kick-off Tomorrow, 1.30pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights BBC2, 10.30pm)

Prediction Home win

West Bromwich Albion vs Manchester City

Dixon's verdict: City are in danger of suffering a third straight league defeat against West Bromwich, who are unbeaten at home. Mancini's side have struggled without Carlos Tevez but should have enough to avoid defeat.

Kick-off Tomorrow, 3pm (Highlights BBC2, 10.30pm)

Prediction Draw

Liverpool vs Chelsea

Dixon's verdict: Super Sunday matches have a habit of disappointing and with Liverpool having a mini-revival, Chelsea, who have been vulnerable on the road this season, may find it hard going against the rejuvenated Reds.

Kick-off Tomorrow, 4pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights BBC2, 10.30pm)

Prediction Draw

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