Roberto Mancini under pressure as Manchester City's senior players start to turn

Scepticism at the manager's methods grows after Champions League debacle against Ajax

Some of Roberto Mancini's most experienced players are becoming increasingly sceptical about the manager's methods, with Micah Richards' critical comments about his defensive changes reflective of a wider view within the squad that the Italian has got it wrong.

The frustrations that some players have about unnecessary changes to the defence are compounded by the fact that Mancini is testing relationships to the extreme with his repeated habit of making negative public comments about players. Joleon Lescott was the latest to be the subject of some thinly veiled sarcasm, in Mancini's Amsterdam ArenA press conference late on Wednesday. There is no sense of rebellion against the Italian, whose position remains very secure, with a lucrative new five-year deal recently signed. But with City's Abu Dhabi ownership examining why the club is struggling to reach the potentially lucrative knockout stages of the Champions League, there is a feeling among some players that he lacks the interpersonal skills to bring the best out of the lavishly assembled squad. They feel they can and should be a force in the Champions League.

As City struggle to progress on the Continental stage, reports from Spain suggest that Txiki Begiristain, the former Barcelona sporting director, may be appointed imminently to the same role at the Etihad. He would join up with the club's new chief executive Ferran Soriano, who was recruited from the Nou Camp this summer. A City spokesman firmly rejected this notion as "untrue" on Wednesday night – and it is possible the reports are a bargaining ploy, as Chelsea are also interested in recruiting the Spaniard. But sources in Spain suggest that Begiristain, out of work since leaving Barça in June 2009, will bring Joan Patsy, an ex-journalist turned sports consultant, who worked alongside Johan Cruyff at Barcelona.

 



The doubts about Mancini's three-man defence stem from the fact the four-man unit has been the meanest in the Premier League in the past two seasons. City, for whom Mancini appointed his compatriot Angelo Gregucci as the new defensive coach ahead of this season, have kept a clean sheet only once in all competitions during the current campaign and conceded 20 goals in 12 games.

The form of Vincent Kompany, last season's Player of the Year, has dropped sharply and Richards pointed out after the 3-1 defeat to Ajax that the side had twice conceded after going to a back three. The new defensive formation caused problems in the 2-2 draw at Anfield in August and was also rolled out when Aston Villa beat City 4-2 in the Capital One Cup.

City can ill afford the loss of a potential £18.2m Champions League revenue in prize-money alone, were they to progress to the knockout stage of the elite tournament, with TV money and commercial revenues on top of that. But even the prospect of Europa League football is looking doubtful, with City bottom of Group D, with one point. That means the club – in serious need of revenues to help them meet Uefa's Financial Fair Play regime – could be competing only to retain the domestic title and in the FA Cup, by mid-December.

A number of players have also been left feeling vulnerable about their places in the side, including Lescott, whose first Champions League start of the season ended in the calamity of Ajax's second goal. "Last season we were good, not conceding many goals. We got a lot of plaudits so it's only fair we get criticism now because we are conceding more goals. But as a team we are not overly enthusiastic about the way things are going," Lescott said. "We still believe we have the players to do well in this competition. On paper our squad looks great, but paper doesn't win games, does it?"

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
news
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
Brendan Rodgers looks on from the touchline
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick