Is Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini losing the faith of his players? Following his team’s 3-1 loss away to Ajax—a result that left City bottom of UEFA Champions League Group D and in need of a miracle to qualify for the Round of 16— defender Micah Richards told reporters that the change of defensive formation to a back three cost City the game. “It is something we have no worked on very much and it is the second time we have conceded after going to a back three,” Richards said. “We will have to work on it ... but I think the players prefer a back four.”
To be fair, Mancini shouldered the blame for the loss, saying that the team’s preparation for the game was poor. However, the Italian dismissed suggestions that changing to three defenders at the back—which lasted for all of five minutes—was the turning point. In fact, on hearing of Richards’ dissenting opinion about his tactics, Mancini said his opinion “is not important,” adding: “Maybe Micah doesn’t know because it was his first game for two-and-a-half months.”
As the Independen’t Ian Herbert and Pete Jensen point out, Mancini is starting to make a habit of criticizing his players in press conferences. Earlier this month, he publicly put Joe Hart in his place following the goalkeeper’s criticism of the team. Then, after Wednesday’s defeat, Jolean Lescott became the latest victim of some thinly veiled sarcasm from the Italian.
Meanwhile, City, which had the best defense in the English Premier League last season, has only one shutout this year in all competitions, conceding 20 goals in 12 games.