Mancini starting to show strain as players feel pain
Manchester City 1 Wigan 0
Monday 07 March 2011
There are many ways to look at Kolo Touré's plight. You could see at it as a morality tale; how great footballers are brought down by an act of stupidity. How they are undermined by their own insecurities into taking their wife's diet pills because they fear for their place in a high-octane team. You could even wonder at a world in which a man called Valerie Gouriso, a man of whom Manchester City had never heard, could claim to be Touré's representative in all this.
But viewed through the eyes of Roberto Mancini, there is only one consequence of Touré's suspension – he is deprived of a fine defender at a time when Manchester City are starting to run out of footballers.
The City manager did not employ Harry Redknapp's "down to the bare bones" line, which in any case sounds much more elegant in Italian – "sono ridotto a pelle e ossa" – but the sentiments were the same.
This barely deserved 1-0 win at home to the Premier League's bottom club, achieved through a goalkeeping blunder, was shot through with tiredness and on Wednesday they endure a three-and-a-half hour flight to Kiev to face Dynamo in the Europa League.
Mancini said he had 16 available players and unless they wanted him or his assistant David Platt to play, he could not afford to leave anyone behind to recuperate. Some, like Carlos Tevez, who had been irresistible here against Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion but anonymous against Wigan, needed more work on the training pitches at Carrington. City's schedule, said Mancini, made that impossible.
"Carlos needs to work harder on his conditioning but when you play every three days it is hard to do that work," said Mancini of a man who scored a hat-trick in a dozen minutes in the corresponding fixture last season. "Carlos needs to work but we can't do this because we are playing, then recovering, then playing. It is impossible at this moment. Carlos is always playing every game when sometimes it would be better if he stayed on the bench and recovered."
One of the reasons Tevez is playing every game is because Manchester City authorised the loan deals that took Emmanuel Adebayor to Real Madrid and Roque Santa Cruz to Blackburn. As Chelsea discovered, it is wrong to equate the spending of vast sums of money with a deep squad.
When Carlos Queiroz managed Madrid it was under the policy of 'Zidanes y Pavones' – his players either had to be galacticos or products of the youth team and sometimes Queiroz would look at his bench and find himself amazed by the thinness of his team.
"Until January we didn't have any problems," said Mancini. "We played every three days, changed four or five players every game and played well. After January we started to have problems with injuries." And the man who has spent a fortune on footballers knows that all players, however much they cost, are all the same when hurt.
Scorer: Manchester City Silva 38.
Subs: Man City Kolarov 5 (Balotelli, 68), De Jong (Silva, 83), Dzeko (Tevez, 86) Wigan N'Zogbia 5 (Moses, 60), Gohouri 5 (Lopez, 69), Sammon (Diame, 84). Booked: Man City Richards, Kompany, Barry. Wigan G Caldwell.
Man of the match McCarthy Match rating 6/10. Possession Man City 44% Wigan 56%.
Attempts on target Man City 3 Wigan 5.
Referee S Attwell (Warwicks). Att 44,864.
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