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Man City's horse bolts as Balotelli heads for the exit

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Phil McNulty | 07:45 UK time, Monday, 9 April 2012

Roberto Mancini stopped short of admitting defeat, but Manchester City's manager surely lost two crucial battles at the Emirates - the fight to win the Premier League and his personal crusade to control Mario Balotelli.

The striker's chaotic contribution to a loss at Arsenal, which leaves City eight points behind Manchester United with six games to play, was symptomatic of his part in the decline of a season that held so much promise for Mancini and his team.

And, while the conclusion to this campaign's story has yet to be written, it is increasingly likely that the red card Balotelli received to complete a day of unrelenting misery for City could be his final act in England.

On a day when, after United's win against QPR, City knew only victory would suffice they produced a performance short on ambition, low on energy and looked and acted like a team that knew the game was up.

Honourable exceptions could be found in defenders Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott, as well as keeper Joe Hart, but there was nothing of substance to console City.

Mario Balotelli reaches towards the injured Bacary Sagna

Mario Balotelli, the great enigma, was once more exposed as a liability. Photo: Getty

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger turned to an old French phrase to predict a United title win as he said: "When a horse smells the stables it is difficult to stop them."

For City, there was only the whiff of resignation at an opportunity lost.

At the heart of it all, with grim inevitability, was Balotelli. The great enigma, whose admirers warm to his generosity of spirit and his relentless capacity to generate headlines, was once more exposed as a liability.

"Why Always Me?" read his famous t-shirt during City's 6-1 win at Old Trafford this season, a question asked days after the infamous fireworks incident at his house.

He has given the answer on many occasions since. Here he proved, once again, that for all Mancini's paternal words and occasional tough love, every week provides fresh evidence to back up Jose Mourinho's message when they were together at Inter Milan, namely that Balotelli is "unmanageable."

Sunday's t-shirt apparently bore the slogan "YOLO" - You Only Live Once - although in strictly footballing terms he lived twice in a game settled deservedly in Arsenal's favour by Mikel Arteta's majestic late strike.

Balotelli was fortunate referee Martin Atkinson was unsighted for a first-half challenge on Alex Song that ran the serious risk of a broken leg for Arsenal's midfield man - but he was not to be denied and subsequently played in a manner that made his eventual red card predictable.

After kicking a goalpost in fury after missing a chance, Balotelli set about Bacary Sagna on more than one occasion before a needless late lunge on the same player brought his dismissal.

There was something almost sad about the sight of this gifted but wayward maverick trudging slowly away with the manager - who has invested so much in him - waving frantically for him to speed up as City's fate was sealed.

The contrast to Arsenal's elation was stark. Goalkeeper Hart kicked the goalpost, coach David Platt clasped his hands to his head while Mancini raged at his team from the technical area, presumably at substitute David Pizarro for his cheap concession of possession.

Mancini spoke candidly about how Balotelli is in danger of wasting his career as he sifted through the damage caused to City's aspirations - not out of sympathy for himself, but for a player in real danger of squandering a wonderful talent.

Balotelli is capable of icy calm and moments of great footballing lucidity, such as ignoring the heat of a Manchester derby to score a goal of composure at Old Trafford or nervelessly converting a stoppage time penalty to win a crucial game against Spurs.

Roberto Mancini

Mancini's handling of Balotelli may be taken into consideration by City's Abu Dhabi rulers. Photo: Getty

Too often, though, Balotelli's dark side surfaces, whether by kicking Scott Parker in the head, coming on in a sulk and getting sent off at Liverpool or bickering with team-mates over a free-kick as he did in the draw against Sunderland.

Throw in the countless off-the-field headlines and, for all his obvious affection for Balotelli, it seems Mancini has reached the point where patience has expired. For all his gifts he is now more trouble than he is worth.

Balotelli's ill-discipline at the Emirates was startling as, having escaped an early sending off, he produced several more studs-up tackles. "He was on the fringe in many situations," said Wenger. "He flirted with orange a few times then got the second yellow."

In the wider context, Mancini's handling of Balotelli may also be taken into consideration by City's Abu Dhabi rulers, with chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak stern-faced at the final whistle, when they review a campaign that now looks certain to finish empty-handed.

Mancini invested his reputation as well as £23m to bring Balotelli to City in August 2010.

The volatile character was not an unknown quantity to the manager who first encountered him as a 17-year-old and events at the Emirates did not reflect well on his judgement - despite the goals he has added to the side this season.

The Italian insists he is "sure - 100%" that he is the right man to take City forward and pointed to improvements since his arrival, improvements that surely had to be expected given the scale of investment. He will strongly plead his case for more time.

Mancini cut a dignified, brutally honest figure after the game but there can be no hiding from the disappointment facing him and his players.

The spark that illuminated City's season has been extinguished recently, disturbed by the loss of Yaya Toure to the Africa Cup of Nations and a four-game ban for captain Vincent Kompany after his disputed red card in the FA Cup defeat by Manchester United.

And the brightest light of all in the early months, David Silva, suddenly became jaded with Sergio Aguero also looking to be running on empty after his tireless work this season.

In such times Mancini needs men he can count on and yet he was left to make the admission that, even if he was available for the rest of the season, he was unlikely to use Balotelli because he simply cannot trust him to stay on the field.

This statement alone surely signals that his time at City may be coming to an end. This was a day heavy in significance for Balotelli, Mancini and Manchester City.

Comments

Page 1 of 12

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    As expected, you're on the bandwagon with evryone else Phil. Balotelli was anything but the story of this match. Arsenal were excellent for starters and hardly merit a mention in your piece.

    If Balotelli had been sent-off, as he should have been, for the tackle on Song then fair enough but by the time he went it hardly made any difference. If anything Balotelli was one of the few City players giving 100%, chasing down the opposition and not giving up.

    Yes he was rash and yes he is a loose cannon but he cannot be blamed for yesterday's defeat. Mancini and the City players have lost the plot and shown no togetherness or fighting spirit when it has been most needed.

    Balotelli actually needs professional help. The disturbing time he had in early life has created someone with a lot of pent up anger. Dealing with this in the full glare of the media is not the way to go. Someone needs to help him sort himself out or his career will go nowhere.

    Well done Arsenal on a top performance.

  • Comment number 3.

    Not exactly a huge surprise. I predicted United would win the league and the demise of Balotelli. Tevez however I didnt but the same issues are there. I've been surprised by Lescott but ultimately Lescott, Barry, Dzeko, Milner etc arent not good enough at the level Man City aspire to and that is the fault of Mancini.

    1st of October - Defensively and mentally they look suspect. The Community Shield was a painful bullying. Great managers must have a deep sense of belief to be able to manage such egos. I’m not sure Mancini (and Kidd and Platt) have it.

  • Comment number 4.

    @1 - I like you was praying for another lets all laugh at Liverpool blog but I guess the mid table little teams just don't get the media attention, even if they have the greatest history if any football club in the whole universe.

    As for Balotelli the child is a self centered clown, and won't be on Garry Neville's Christmas card list any time soon. If the t-shirt rumor is true then its just shows again why it is always you.

  • Comment number 5.

    ALEX

    Lawro is neutral, just an occasionally lousy pundit!

    PHIL

    Balotelli was one of the few Citeh players up for it yesterday, albeit in a partly very idiotic way. I watched him emerge on Football Italia & he's never been any different, which is a shame, because he is a stunning talent WHEN he concentrates on trying to score.

    He brings a spark, a sharp edge and something else to the table for them. The question is whether there are other footballing mercenaries in that squad who are also hindering the development of team spirit, because that's what has so far got us through(and it isn't over yet,as we all know)the bad times, whereas Citeh have singularly failed, so far, to overcome problems.

    Personally, I'd love to see Fergie sign him.

  • Comment number 6.

    Blaming one player for City not still being at the top is making him a scapegoat and not looking at other issues.Perhaps City should invest in a player that is good at diving in crucial games and getting players sent off.Typical Fergie comment after the game '"I was a little bit disappointed after their man was sent off because it put us in the comfort zone," yeah right.Imagine if it was a QPR player that had gone down like that.That's why his standing with non-United fans is less than it should be.
    And Taylor said Fergie would have got rid of Balotelli you mean like he did Cantona, Keane and Rooney who have all been guilty of shocking behaviour.Standard comment from the media.

  • Comment number 7.

    City lost the plot a while back and the in-fighting at the club along with the loss of form of some key players like Sliva have sealed their fate as runners-up.
    Talk about a season of two halves for them.
    Imperious in the first half disjointed and disunited in the second.
    You sense that for all Mancini's qualities he can't handle his players.
    The growing list list of players guilty of sedition grows longer as the season draws to a close.
    However it was the manner of their loss at The Emirates that must disappoint the hardened City fans.
    They were just quite average.
    Second to every ball, lacking imagination to break down a fragile Arsenal defence clueless in front of goal (which is such a stark contrast to the first half of the season).
    So what's the answer?
    Spend another "billion" pounds, replace Mancini, or put this season down to experience and rebuild for next season but getting rid of the prima donnas?
    I think the likes of Chelsea will spend big and mount a more threatening challenge next season, Arsenal will learn from this season have Wilshire back and make some essential changes, Spurs are 2/3 players short of being serious contenders and Liverpool (who are in a mess) will get their act together with or without King Kenny.
    So CITEH need to think outside the box (or chequebok) for next season if they want to realistically harbour any aspirations of winning the title.

  • Comment number 8.

    WordsofWisdom you must be having a laugh, if you honestly thought Mario was chasing back and putting in an effort you are sadly deluded. The guy is a huge waste of time.

    Jose worked him out very quickly and he hasn't changed a bit since. I know the media love his 'wacky' nature but the man doesn't even back it up with anything special on the pitch. Yesterday just summed him up-poor awareness of people around him, lack of ability when trying to go past a man, poor passing and crossing and a horrible cynical nature which could have resulted in a broken leg.

    Why Mancini, who had both Dzeko and Tevez on the bench didn't remove him after his challenge on Song I will never know. What he did to Scott Parker was bad enough but now he will get his just desserts as he won't feature again this season once the FA charge him for the tackle on Song.

    Alan Hansen said he wouldn't have bothered with him again 3 weeks ago, Shearer just laughed and said how he was great entertainment, well judging by Joe Harts reaction I don't think any of his team-mates are finding him amusing at all. Fair enough if he produced moments of genius a la Maradona but he is an average player with a shocking attitude.

  • Comment number 9.

    @6. At 09:08 9th Apr 2012, Fountain of Wayne

    It didn't take long did it!!! You're coffee tasting a bit bitter this morning?

    Fergie was spot on. I would have much preferred that the linesman got the decision right. Utd did go into too much of a comfort zone and QPR had to shut-up shop. It would have been a much more interesting and open game then and I'm still confidant Utd would have won.

    The big culprit was the linesman and I don't agree with red cards in those situations either. But there was definite contact on Young who was off balance have just turned 180 degrees to chase the thru ball, so accusations of diving are highly debatable.

  • Comment number 10.

    Balotelli has only 1/11 of the responsibility for the City defeat at The Emirates.
    In all honesty, Arsenal were all over them and could comfortably win 2-0 or 3-0.

    In my opinion, the main culprit for the City misfortunes this season has been Mancini.

    City forgot the Premier League has 38 matches and their team's best players are burnt out now. Also, Mancini has made some mess in the transfer market. You don't bring a Balotelli in a team when you know he smells trouble. And when you have Adebayor as the tall man option, you don't lend him away to buy a lesser player at an expensive price.

    Manchester City should have won the title this season, by now, with the squad they have and with United's inefficiencies in midfield. It's been a great opportunity. However, this campaign will leave burning marks in their memory and it is all their own doing.

    Arsenal were great to watch yesterday and it's credit to Wenger. They were so fluent in the ball, restricting possession for City to a great extend. They should have won the match more comfortably as they created the chances and they were never in any sort of danger.

  • Comment number 11.

    Sorry Alex but that has nothing to do with this column and I'm not sure many people care beyond being able to rub it in the face of LFC fans faces with their tendency to always think they are going to win the league.

    On the real subject of this column, Mario has just become far too costly to keep as a player at MC. He can be great but yesterday was just a highlight reel of why he is no longer worth the greatness he some times achieves on the pitch.

    This season has had some of the best games ever in it but without a doubt it has generally seen a lot of the top teams hit Banana skins at various points of the year, this is why MC really have to be questioned when it comes to another year without the rewards many of them perhaps expected and yet still with a massive wage bill and bad attitudes.

  • Comment number 12.

    Mancini deserves a hefty portion of the blame for not subbing Balotelli earlier. Aside from the leg-breaker on Song, he made a few rash tackles and could have had 3 red cards yesterday. Still, credit to Arsenal, they played really well and deserved to win. I have never wanted Arsenal to score as much as I did yesterday!

    As for the United game, the ref definitely got it wrong with the penalty, Young was offside and went down a little too easily. Still think we would have won the game anyway but it's a shame to give ammunition to the conspiracy theorists. Title all but wrapped up now, happy days!

  • Comment number 13.

    I See mario the "genius" doing a usual, there's me thinking geniuses do clever things..........

    I'm sure it may be there but im still waiting to see this supposed talent he has.

    Business as usual for man u, oh! And I couldn't help notice another Englishman collapsing under a gust of wind, "someone lift the rug" there is some sweeping under needing done. And some have the nerve to say barca are bad when it's alot worse nearer home. Haha

  • Comment number 14.

    Gary Neville summed up City to perfection when he said 'it is a circus, and every time I have been to a circus I see a clown'. (words to that effect). City have imploded, you wonder what they will do in the summer, Jose seems committed to Madrid for one more year (as Barca chase them down in the league) so who would be available and good enough for them?

  • Comment number 15.

    Mario is a brilliant yet flawed footballer. He has the ability to be one of the top players in the world, and yet he is an idiot. Joe Hart's reaction summed it up when he said something along the lines of "why does he have to do it?"

    He wont be there next season, if City can sell him. What manager is going to want him when they will know he is like this? No one in England, France, Spain or Germany. Milan or Inter? Most likely, but will their managers want a headcase like him to come in - probably not if they've any sense.

    Mario probably wont be there next season, but will Mancini? I doubt it now. He gambled his reputation when he brought Tevez back into the team. If he had stuck to his guns and not played him, and City hadnt won the title, i think Mancini could have held face. Since he has been back, City havent racked up many points. Dressing room harmony? I doubt it.

  • Comment number 16.

    Also, will Balotelli get more than just the 2 game ban for his red card? Can the FA add additional games to the total because of the challenge on Song?

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    Arsenal were superb yesterday and should have won by at least a 3-0 scoreline. Shame that hasn't been touched on in this blog but there you go! Wonderful strike by Arteta which was fit to win any game.
    As for City they deserve to miss out on the title. There is no unity in their squad and with the likes of Balotelli and Tevez around there never will be. Theie away form since late November has been shocking.

  • Comment number 19.

    I like Mancini, he's a decent guy who conducts himself well but he has failed to control the egos in the dressing room and that's a major problem. It's not just about Tevez and Balotelli but how many times have we seen City players spit the dummy when substituted and being openly disrespectful to Mancini?

    Mancini should have made a couple of examples of players early on to set the tone and he also should have walked rather than agree to bring Tevez back in.

    If he loses his job it will be because of this in my opinion.

  • Comment number 20.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 21.

    I thought Man. Ciy were overrated right from the start. Where is this amazing depth to their squad people were waxing lyrical about?

  • Comment number 22.

    At least Balotelli hadn't given up like some of the other City players. It amazes me, Phil, that you can make excuses for Aguero, Silva and Toure, when City have such a large squad of talented players in rotation, and yet Arsenal, though it pains me to admit it, are still working hard and playing excellent football with a smaller and less gifted squad. I'm not making any excuses for how Spurs have been lately, which is to say, not good enough.

    I've thought it for a long time now: if Man City want to win the league, they need a new manager. Mancini was fine for bringing them through the transition from normal club to super-rich, but it's obvious he can't keep his team motivated or disciplined, and it is by such things that titles are won. For that level of investment, one trophy in three years is not good enough.

  • Comment number 23.

    @17 roli78

    Calm down, buddy. There is more to debate in Balotelli's value as a player than there is about the game yesterday. Arsenal murdered them and should have scored way more than they did.

  • Comment number 24.

    It was always going to happen yesterday. Every time the camera panned to Mancini he looked to be venting his frustration at Balotelli. Tevez has a point to prove and should have been on the pitch from the outset. As an Arsenal supporter the victory yesterday wasn't about the demise of city - it was about Arsenal's intensity. In recent weeks they've over- run the likes of Spurs and Milan, so credit where credit's due. Clichy also had a decent game - considering he was isolated.

    On a wider topic yesterday and as someone mentioned above - the sending off at Utd-QPR was appalling. Ashley Young for me falls into the category of "fantastic player" but falls over way to easily. How a hand in the back takes his legs away is embarrassing. Messi has my respect not just for being a football genius but also because whenever I've seen him he doesn't fall to the floor with great ease. Drogba has been guilty in recent times and this season Young & Bale seem to be going down this route. A shame for very talented players.

    Anyway, big props to Arsenal and bad man management for City... They should have given Silva more rest with him being their most dangerous player.

  • Comment number 25.

    I like how Balotelli's being made a scapegoat for Mancini's failure to motivate and prepare his team tactically for away fixtures. Funny how Mario was "a breath of fresh air" not so long ago and is now all of a sudden a pariah for doing what he's previously done, do people not like his new hair-do?

    Fact of the matter is that Mancini isn't that good of a manager. Won 3 Scudettis in a league that was shorn of its top teams due to the match-fixing scandals, one of them by default as they were 3rd when the Milan and Juventus were docked points.

    As a United fan I knew we won the title the second we overcame Spurs in that tough run of fixtures we had as we'd played all our tough games and were still within 3 points of Etihad City who had all their big games remaining. Ultimately it wasn't the big games that cost them but the away ones they would've banked on such as Swansea and Stoke

    Still can't decide who's had a worse season between Liverpool and Etihad City, when you look at their pre-season ambitions where they are now both clubs need to rid themselves of their managers as well as their overpayed trouble-making tripe (suarez, tevez etc)

  • Comment number 26.

    I think yesterday was the the final straw for Balotelli, he has had so many chances to change and control his behaviour but it's just not happening. He has scored important goals for us this year but it seems ever since Tevez came back that Mario has been having a massive sulk, maybe he feels that he puts in the hard yards over the season and Tevez has just waltzed back in after the way he acted. Team spirit is essential in this league, just look at Everton, always a better side than the sum of their parts but City obviously don't have this and the way we have dropped away and left Utd to cruise home is a little bit embarrassing.

    City have been poor since the turn of the year, but I was worried once Utd got through their four tough fixtures against Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs and City had to play Villa, Swansea and Everton away - Utd picked up nine points from their three games, we picked up three. Teams worked us out pretty quickly and as the players became burnt out, the pace and intensity went out of the side. We did go on a decent run at one point but we were not playing well - scraping wins against Villa and Wigan and two ordinary performances against Bolton and Blackburn did not fill me with confidence.

    As much as it pains me to say, you have to take your hat off to Utd though, their form has been incredible since the turn of the year and City haven't been able to cope with the pressure. All Citys early season form seems light years away and for next season the players have to learn that it's about the last ten games and being in a position to challenge.

  • Comment number 27.

    Alex Song, along with a few other of Arsenal and other clubs' French imports, are among my least favorite players: rolling around in agony following mild tackles, getting away with obstruction when the ball is played past them, arrogant time wasting, all the tricks of the trade. Sure, Balotelli is a flawed character, but there's something appealing about his flaws. he can laugh at himself. Mancini must have known he was a risk factor against Arsenal and the type of game it plays. I hope he (Balotelli) turns his life around.

  • Comment number 28.

    I do not believe that Balotelli's performance yesterday was the reason for City's defeat. City as a team seem to have lost it at many levels and I attribute this to both the reported disruption caused by Mario in the dressing room and the whole Tevez affair.
    Faith in the manager's decisions should almost be on a subconscious level and when he is seen to favour a player who openly disrupts the squad and then backs down over Tevez then questions must be asked of Mancini. Favouritism for one player alienates others.
    I think the subconscious element of managerial trust may also have played a part in both Chelsea's and Liverpool's woes because of AVB's insistence of playing Torres when he was just a passenger when other players would have been dropped, and Dalgleish's handling of the Suarez incident which tarnished Liverpool's reputation and by association the players within the Club.

  • Comment number 29.

    21.
    @At 09:30 9th Apr 2012, Russeljones wrote:


    I thought Man. Ciy were overrated right from the start. Where is this amazing depth to their squad people were waxing lyrical about?
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Excellent point! I saw Lee Dixon questioning their squad depth and inability to cover the losses of Kompany and Lescott and questioning the impact of losing Toure in January.

    All season long we've heard how fantastic the City squad depth is but now the truth is out. Utd have had far more injuries than City this season and Fergie has had to dig into every recess of his squad......... and, to a man, they have delivered.

  • Comment number 30.

    9

    I was looking for an excuse for young too, and the one you mention is the only one usable, but at a stretch. Blatant dive!

    Still not as good as cart-horse Carroll tho.

  • Comment number 31.

    @ 3 barry's not good enough, im sorry but i think barry has been one of thier best players, he sits back and allows yaya to roam anywhere he wants, barry can pass, can tackle, and can shoot, anc track back, unlike balotelli, who i think should be sold this summer, he is a disturbance anywhere he goes, at inter, not at city, he should go to ac milan thats where the misfits are.

    man utd winning no big deal, just worried about the english game, real and barca will continue to spend to add to thier sqaud and their depth, i dont see man utd spending over 100 million, winning the leauge is not as important as the cl., sir alex thinks the leauge's better to win, i would rank cl to be higher than world cup at this stage.

  • Comment number 32.

    Haven't we seen this before? City outclassed by Bayern Munich and all the talk after the game was on a certain Tevez. Why is the story about Balotelli? His sending off at 88mins did not influence the result of the game. Like others have said here, he was just one out of the eleven. Mancini is not doing himself any favours by focusing city's failures on Balotelli. Given this blogger wrote endlessly about Wenger's short comings when results were bad (when results really didn't matter), I wonder why we do not have blogs vindicating mr Wenger now he has turned things around.

    Arsenal is currently fighting for third, yet Man City that splashed the cash will definitely end the season without a trophy. Unthinkable! What about Liverpool and Daglish? No blogs? At least the failure of his expensive English imports compared to the success of Alan Pardrew's foreign imports is worthy of a blog. At least drive the point home. Over pricing English players is doing home grown talents lots of harm. English players should be valued at their true worth.

    Arsenal's cheap midfield shut out everything from Mancini's expensive 11. They controlled the game from start to finish. Credit to Arsenal.

  • Comment number 33.

    City aren't out of the title race yet, lets not forget that!!!
    Man Utd still have some very tough games, Wigan away, Everton home, City away, Swansea home and their last game Sunderland away.
    City now have the easier run in, Newcastle away being their toughest game, apart from the Utd game which could go either way.
    I think Utd could draw against Wigan, Everton and Sunderland, 6pts in total dropped.
    Therefore if City win all their remaining games, then they will win the Premier League.
    Balotelli's suspension might just help City, as not having him around might boost the other players confidence.
    I guess we will just have to wait and see.
    Lets not forget that this is not the best Utd side, but they could get more points in a season than ever.
    For those who disagree with my last comments, all I have to say is Ronaldo and Teves are quality players which are almost impossible to replace.
    Giggs Carrick and Scholes, slower than they were a few years ago, meaning Utd can't counter attack like they used too.
    Now looking forward to Wednesday night, a Utd win would really heap the pressure on City!!!!

  • Comment number 34.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 35.

    On a realted note, I wonder if Manchester City's implosion this season will mean that the BBC will stop giving inexplicable amounts of exposure on their website and Football Focus to the opinions of that renowned sportman Noel Gallagher?
    We live in hope.

  • Comment number 36.

    @ 29 man city's starting 11 and their bench is better than mna utd's starting 11 and the bench, they have a very good squad depth, but the difference is that man utd players know when to step up to the plate, and city players dont step up

  • Comment number 37.

    #22

    The trouble from Mancinis point of view is that he hasnt really rotated certain people e.g. Yaya Toure who has been pretty much ever present outside of his month at the ACON. When you have spent the amount of money that City have in the last 3 years, you would expect them to be able to mix and match any set of players from the 25. Compare it to what Mourinho did when he went to Chelski, using the full squad to make sure people stayed fresh.

    Which of course leads neatly onto the predicted outcome this summer, Jose finally finds a way to topple Barca in the CL final, before coming back to England on his magic carpet to teach the City players how to win things.

  • Comment number 38.

    No 2 WordsofWisdom. "As expected, you're on the bandwagon with evryone else Phil. Balotelli was anything but the story of this match. Arsenal were excellent for starters and hardly merit a mention in your piece."

    The article was about Balotelli, not the match in particular. That's why there's not much mention of it.

  • Comment number 39.

    What I saw in the match last evening was that Arsenal played again the Arsenal way and there was going to be only one winner, all day long.

    While in the past Fabregas, Nasri and Arshavin / Rosicky were dictating the play in midfield, yesterday it was Rosicky, Benayoun and Arteta. Arsenal were comfortable in midfield, making the pitch look big by using Gibs and Sagna as fullbacks turned wingers on every opportunity.

    In defense, Koscielny and Vermaelen were immense while Sagna and Gibbs were good both defending and attacking. And Szczesny was the last puzzle in a stable defense performance for them. City created no opportunities.

    City were unfortunate to have Yaya Toure injured but you could see while he was playing that he wasn't as fast nor as influential as he's proven to be this season. Had it not be for great defending performances by Kompany and Lescott, City would have lost yesterday by some margin.

    It's been about a month now that City have been showing a drop of form and, when you're a team that has invested as much as they have, you keep drop of form to a much less period of time.

    All in all, a great performance for Arsenal. The burning question for them, in my opinion, is will they keep hold of RVP in the summer? I doubt it.

  • Comment number 40.

    Looking on the bright side - Can I assume that 'Scoop' interviews between Balotelli & Gallagher will be a thing of the past?

    Really BBC - it seems like you pamper with one hand and scold with another ...

  • Comment number 41.

    Post 6 wrote: "That's why his standing with non-United fans is less than it should be."

    What utter rubbish - the reason Fergies standing with non-United fans is less than it should be is because he wins things and you can't stand it.

    City has shown in recent weeks that they can't handle the pressure, whereas United have shown they can. This is all good experience for City however, for next season, they will be a little bit wiser to what to expect come crunch time.

    I do think though that City's fates have relied on the energy levels of Silva, Yaya and Aguero, who lets face it have all faded significantly in the past couple of months. This is not La Liga - every game is an intense physical battle, and they have been found wanting. Mancini should have rested them when he could, so they had enough energy for the final push.

    United, in contrast, have a team of players rested and ready for the challenge. That is the secret to United's success after xmas - the players are rested throughout the year (although a lot of those rest periods were enforced through injury).

    Great day for United, and if we can invest in holding and a creative midfielder next season, we will be stronger still.

  • Comment number 42.

    Cannot believe manure have won the league considering the massive amount of mediocrity that represents them each week. The EPL is in decline and it will only get worse once the FFP rules kick in.

  • Comment number 43.

    To those complaining about Phil's piece, please note it comes under 'comment and analysis' and not 'match report' so I think to discuss how City have imploded and Balotelli's role in that is fair enough. It basically comes down to one thing. United on and off the pitch are a team. City have too many'individuals' who think they are the main man and let the real team players (e.g. Hart, Kompany, Lescott) down. It proves that while it is easy spending millions on top players, they have to be the right sort of players that suit your style/ethic. It takes time to build a team.

  • Comment number 44.

    It'll be a shame to Balotelli go, as he's such a character, but he's also an utter liability. He lets his team mates down with his actions on the pitch, and their view of him was seen by how they just walked past him as he lay on the pitch.

    City still don't look like a 'team' to me, and Balotelli and Tevez are likely part of the issues stopping them becoming a team, both being utterly selfish.

    Be interesting to see what happens over the summer, who comes in (manager and/or players), but unless they manage to forge a team for next season, they won't be winning the title.

  • Comment number 45.

    #42. LeRed,

    Are you trying to avoid the burning question for Liverpool fans?
    Your lot were laughing stock when they treated Hodgson the way they did.
    Yet, Hodgson's results for poor, old Liverpool were much better by Dalglish's results, without being able to invest the money Dalglish spent.

  • Comment number 46.

    @ 42 actually ffp might only effect barca, real, city chelsea, being realistic maybe only chelsea, as they cannot turn over a profit, the ffp rule says each club must make profit, and not lose more than x amount of some. man utd make profit, so does aresnal, but you are right the epl is so weak, the weakest in a long time

  • Comment number 47.

    City were never going to win the title this season the moment that Mancini backtracked over Tevez and accepted him into the fold once again. With their financial backing City do not really need money from the sale of Tevez and should have made an example of him by refusing to release him from his contract and let him rot in the reserves.

    Hopefully Mancini will now see fit to dispose of Balotelli, sure he's fantastic entertainment, but he is an utter liability and with behaviour like his he's not fit to grace a premier league pitch. Funny he may be, but he is also supposed to be a role model to thousands of young City fans.

    Mancini is a dignified manager and seems to be a decent man, i hope he remains City manager for next season at least, perhaps all he needs to realise is that he ought to offload some of the big egos and form a team around good, hard-working players who aren't there just for the gigantic pay packets.

  • Comment number 48.

    //What utter rubbish - the reason Fergies standing with non-United fans is less than it should be is because he wins things and you can't stand it.//

    Mouseburger and you know this how?Being a United fan?Bob Paisley was never disliked and he won plenty.But he didn't rant at the press who questioned him or refuse to speak to the BBC for years.

  • Comment number 49.

    Does anyone have an explanation for;

    1 How one Official can see a player marginally offside ( van persie ) yet
    another Official is unable to spot a player at least a yard of side.

    2 How it is Konchelsky makes ONE! rash challenge? and is immediately booked?
    and now faces suspension.

    3 Just how was a penalty awarded, not only for a blatant Offside, but a
    wonderful dive also.

    I think we all witnessed a terrible stink over the previous days football, and i include
    chelseas obvious good fortune and as chelsea fans would put it a " fair " referee who
    it seems along with a few others are more than anxious that the club should be in CL Football next season.

    as for the game:

    Arsenal were absolutely magnificent ! though i have to say, the more i see of ramsey the more i think he should be loaned out to Wycombe Wanders next season, from what i have seen of him this season i think AW could well have signed a duff, not at
    all impressed with his performances.

  • Comment number 50.

    @42 You're gonna have to elaborate, since many of the EPL's clubs are self-sufficient.

  • Comment number 51.

    @34 roli78

    Phil's blogs usually cover the biggest talking points that will get the most people interested. For better or for worse, at this point it is Balotelli. Phil is like the BBC's tabloid journalist, covers want the majority of people want to read about, and due to the media hype around Balotelli and the collapse of City's title challenge, its the obvious choice for a blog topic (no matter how much I want a 'lets all laugh at Liverpool' blog).

  • Comment number 52.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 53.

    Balotelli is a fantastic footballer when it suits him. Unfortunately he's also devoid of brain...there can be no other explanation for the (countless) reports of stupidity that he has generated this year. Whether beating up youth team players, crashing cars, being stopped by police for illegal windows, missing open goals with needless back heels...etc, he has shown that its not only his on field temperament that is lacking...the sooner he's sold, the better for English football. 

    Also, off topic slightly: any Arsenal fans who are whinging about Young's blatant dive earlier, I still remember Pires, Petit, Henry, Overmars, Eduardo, Eboue...glass houses and all that? Sorry for the mini rant, but I've had enough of people crying about diving footballers: this just in: every team has more than its share of featherweight prima donnas! They're not just at a handful of successful clubs. Thank you for listening!

  • Comment number 54.

    Whilst it is clear that United are definitely in the driving seat at this point, I'm still not completely convinced that the title race is a done deal yet. The reason for this is that as many have pointed out all season, this is not the best United team for a long while.
    City fans may point to key injuries, but surely this is an attempt to hide the truth- they (or Mancini) are not good enough at the moment as they have not made use of their squad throughout the year. By playing all of the best players at all times has allowed them to become jaded-Silva is an excellent case in point. United on the other hand have been hampered by injuries throughout the year which has forced a rotation which has allowed players to remain fresh at this point. Also they have a past master at winning things which cannot be undervalued. Still could be twists to come though.

  • Comment number 55.

    I agree Redfootball there is something deeper than football going on with Balotelli.He is a Gascoigne in the making.

  • Comment number 56.

    I'm a bit fed up with this idea that SAF would not have tolerated MB. The United manager has stood firmly by a number of problem-players in his time: Keane and Cantona being the most notable examples. Granted SAF - and I hope I've got this right - was piqued by Jaap Stam and, to a lesser extent, van Nistelrooy. For me, Tevez was a piece of opportunism for SAF, there was never any intention of United buying into that product (remember the agent!).

    I'm no fan of either City or MB. The latter is, IMHO, overrated and the idolatry guff on these pages that followed the Football Focus interview with Gallagher was an embarrassment. Either give the interview or don't. End of.

    But, out of respect to many City fans who have been honourable throughout this campaign, my view is that Mancini at least should stay. There is no buying titles. Mancini has mounted a credible campaign in double-quick time. That is an achievement. City fans have to be patient as United fans were in the late 80s, as dawn finally broke on United's colossal era.

    Next season will be harder for City because I think Arsenal will be back in the running. Tevez and MB have been unsightly warts on an otherwise impressive domestic season. And that's all these little men are: warts. They are only kings in their dreams and in the minds of fans daft enough to swallow whole the unpalatable hype.

    Assuming that their challenge is now over, City should recover from this. Keep Mancini. Whatever happens to Tevez and MB there are 'truer' City players among thé ranks who deserve as much credit as Tevez and MB deserve to be forgotten.

  • Comment number 57.

    @49 HAHA

    That miss from Ramsay at the end..... wow! What an idiot. I have no idea how Arsenal didn't win at least 3-0, I think you must have taken pity on them after your bad run at the start of the season. What with Vermaelen clearing off the line from Van Persie and then him and Benayoun managing to miss two rebounds from a yard out, supporting Arsenal can't half be nerve wracking!

  • Comment number 58.

    49: "Does anyone have an explanation for;
    1 How one Official can see a player marginally offside ( van persie ) yet
    another Official is unable to spot a player at least a yard of side."



    Good Question. Perhaps it was the same linesman that allowed Adebayor to blatantly slap the ball into the net with his hand to give Arsenal the lead at Old Trafford a couple of years back?

  • Comment number 59.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 60.

    @56 R-Brooker

    Keane and Cantona were both inspirational figures in the team though, both captains in their time and completely driven to win. Players like Giggs and Scholes have spoken about how they looked up to Cantona and how he would stay behind after training to put in extra practice and would adhere to a strict diet in the days where not many footballers did. I don't think there is a comparison to be made between those two and Balotelli, he is more in the Ravel Morrison mould - talented, but not worth the effort.

  • Comment number 61.

    @57

    tell me about it :) I've been a said supporter for well over 40 years now.

    speaking of supporters what a magnificent lot they were, who were at the Emirates !
    the place was buzzing thanks to them, and as for the effort by the players, i was very proud indeed. the same will be required in the weeks ahead otherwise it will all be for
    nothing.

    Arsenal Rock!

    simples.


    PS: well done the Ladies also :)

  • Comment number 62.

    Balotelli great talent, but doesn't have a great mind, cannot control his temper. Arsenal were very good, just imagine if they had a decent start, they would be challenging Utd and City for league.

    HOW DOES BARRY GET INTO THE ENGLAND TEAM LET ALONE THE SQUAD! Surely, Micheal Carrick should be given a chance, he has been in great form all season. Anyone else agree?

  • Comment number 63.

    @52.

    Just read your utter nonsense about diagnosing MB with autism with a sprinkling of ADHD thrown in. Have you met MB? Have you assessed him. Which diagnostic model are you using? (There are several different sets of criteria which do not necessarily converge on the same underlying pathology).

    It is possible to be a spoilt brat without having a mental disorder. An autistic adult is unlikely to have comprehended the social dynamics of the bullying case (where MB supposedly returned a victim to the school to confront his bully).

    The unqualified 'diagnosis' is crass. Few enough mental health professionals get it right without you chipping in.

  • Comment number 64.

    @61 HAHA

    Yeah great noise yesterday, I particularly enjoyed the booing of Nasri. Kind of poetic that he left to win trophies and the team that he abandoned put what is likely to be the final nail in the coffin of their title challenge.

    Van Persie better start scoring again soon, my fantasy team is suffering from his drought. If I could have reached through my TV and throttled Vermaelen for blocking his header on the line, I would have.

  • Comment number 65.

    As good as man city were in the first half of the season man u are producing better in the second half, man city are now poorer in the second half as man u were in the first half.

  • Comment number 66.

    So Dr R-Brooker spoilt brat is your diagnosis?

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    Please resign this week, Roberto.
    Roberto's public comments over his players are astonishingly childish, his man-management decisions are strange, some of his players behaviour on the pitch seems borderline dysfunctional.
    Collectively the team have come up short, desite having some terrific players (they surely DON'T need more players?). If Mancini is 100% the right man for the club, then why not announce his intentions for next season? What will he do different to acheive success next season? What is plan "B"? (because he does not know which country he will be in, I suspect.)
    The best team in the league on paper falling at this stage of the season, when the battle is in the mind and legs, is disappointing. Vidic has been a massive loss for Man U, yet they well may coast home now, under 0 pressure.
    How would Mancini have coped with De Gea's troubled start, or of Cantona? Surely you dont abandon your players like Mancini has done, and then reinstate them? (he knew of Balotelli before, he knew the risks, surely he should be helping the player stay focused and calmer... not making him say "I need to grow up" all the time, what good does that do?) Cantona broke the law, Tevez broke club discipline, put it into perspective! Now Mancini makes Balotelli the scapegoat when the going gets tough.. who purchased him, who picks him, who trains him, who motivates him, and what about the other ten players on the pitch?
    Unbelievable. Even for Mancini, who I watched give up as a player on the pitch when times got tough for Sampdoria so many times after the industrious Gianluca Vialli moved on to Juve.
    Balotelli's situation reflects on Mancini. The buck stops there.
    Manchester City maybe lost the league solely over Tevez, and Mancini is making Balotelli into a scapegoat. (it would be great to see Sir Alex buy Mario, but that's up to him) Roberto surely knows his time is nearly over, I have NEVER wanted anyone to lose a job (except in politics) before.
    Do you remeber what Roberto said when his team lost to Everton? How can any manager say what he did and be surprised when they don't acheive their targets.
    Please resign Roberto, I may not be 100% accurate in what I say, I am not a coach but it just hasn't worked out despite the excessive funding, and it won't without some sort of change, which I cannot see being suggested in post-match comments.
    Change comes from the top.
    Walk before you get pushed.

  • Comment number 69.

    @60.

    I'm a United fan and agree with you. But both Keane and Cantona did things which required Sir Alex Ferguson to take a stand. Which he did. As I said above, I don't rate MB as much as the press do. I think it's a misrepresentation of SAF by Graham Taylor and Lauro to say that SAF would dump problem players. It dépends how good they are.

  • Comment number 70.

    The biggest moment of the game yesterday, that could be described as ending City's title challenge, was the Nasri for Kolarov substitution. It was an effort to contain Arsenal at 0-0, when City NEEDED a win to keep the gap at 5 points! As a United fan I loved that substitution. Mancini can blame this, that and the other, but he should've taken Balotelli off at half-time. He knows what the guy is like and yet he trusted him in such a big game; now the Mancini and the media is using Balotelli as the scape goat when it never should've got to that stage! Nonetheless, Arsenal truly deserved the win yesterday as they were comfortably better than City in each department, I'm amazed it was only 1-0....the clear cut chances created, it could've been 3-0 or 4-0.

    62. I agree on the Carrick point, he's been in great form all season and overlooked as usual. Still though, this is United's gain!

  • Comment number 71.

    On current form it's more likely that Arsenal will catch City than it is that City will catch United. Bringing Tevez back was the final nail in the coffin of any remaining harmony in the City dressing room, They need to offload Tevez and Balotelli.

  • Comment number 72.

    It is a shame that amongst all the hysteria about Balotelli, people are failing to give Arsenal any credit for an excellent performance. In particular the midfield trio of Song, Arteta and Rosicky were outstanding. Arguably our best perfromance of the season, and with a bit more luck we could easily have got 3 or 4 - including a nailed on penalty not given in the first half.

    Balotelli was a disgrace yesterday, and should have seen red for the challenge on Song, however he is not the reason City lost yesterday. The game was won in midfield where Barry and Milner were completely outplayed. As usual when confronted with a team looking to play at pace, Barry was out of his depth.

    Just as with Liverpool, City have placed too much trust in mediocre English players and it has cost them the title.

  • Comment number 73.

    I think Kolarov came on to score from a set-piece, something Nasri would never do.

  • Comment number 74.

    @64

    i also was very pleased with the warm reception for Nasri perhaps him and others of his ilk will think twice before making big money moves, then taking the opportunity to
    slate Arsenal supporters as having no passion.

    with regards to RVP, did you see the look he gave Ramsey :) :) :) and Chamberlin wanted to lynch him to :)

    as i said before i am not at all impressed with ramsey, from what I've seen thus far.

  • Comment number 75.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 76.

    Etihad City were bigging themselves up so much earlier on in the season, putting themselves on the same level as Barcelona!!! What happened bitters?!

    You put your faith in mercenaries and this is what happens. Half the players they brought to wastelands obscene wages probably weren't even aware of the existence of Manchester City FC a year or two ago. Robinho thought he was moving to United, wasn't he? Shambles. Come back after you spend another quarter billion.

  • Comment number 77.

    @66

    don't understand your point. But I'm guessing it's this: i've shown myself to be particularly inept at making a point since I've also 'diagnosed' someone without meeting the self-same exacting standards I identified above.

    If that is your point then...err...well done.

  • Comment number 78.

    Of course Arsenal would never poach any players with the offer of more money would they?

  • Comment number 79.

    Disappointing blog Phil. You and others in media let Mario's display influence your blogs and newspapers and that takes away all the credit from a wonderful Arsenal victory.

    In hindsight I am happy you dont write about us Arsenal that lets us focus on our next game.

  • Comment number 80.

    #59 can you take your racist rubbish and post it somewhere else. The reason Balotelli gets so much coverage is, apart from the fact that he is a talented player, because he makes headlines. Players who perform on the pitch, then go home to their family do not sell newspapers in the way the likes of Balotelli or Gascoigne.

    #67 to try to defend Reina's actions last week is a joke. Yes he was caught, and the Newcastle player did make the most of it, but that doesn't alter the fact that Reina was guilty of an act of utter stupidity. If you lead with your head against an opponent, it has to be a straight red, otherwise you end up with a grey area regarding what does or does not constitute a head butt. Clearly Reina did not butt his opponent, but if there was any contact, no matter how slight, it was alwayys going to be a red.

  • Comment number 81.

    Pointless wasting time discussing arrogant, self absorbed and selfish players such as Balotelli.

    Move on!!!

    He wants media attention and he gets it. Lets concentrate on Cisse as his talent in the last few weeks far out weighs the joke that is Mario Balatelli.

  • Comment number 82.

    City's recent performances could be the blueprint on 'team dynamics'.

    Will England falter at Euro 2012 on the same issue, I wonder..?

  • Comment number 83.

    Baslotelli's biggest problem is his ego, he's so self obsessed, I half expet to see ine of his tee shirts simply say "me, me, me".

  • Comment number 84.

    No the point is you just shot him down for offering an opinion on why Balotelli acts like he does.You offered that he was just a spoilt brat.I think there is a lot more to it.Do you get my point yet?

  • Comment number 85.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 86.

    Unfortunately for Mancini, I doubt whether he is man of his words. Tevez was never supposed to play under him but he did. Same applies for Balotelli... he might still be part of the squad next season if Mancini stays as City manager.

    Secondly, there's only one way in which City operate. even if they sell Balotelli, they will spend 200m, 300m on some other player.

  • Comment number 87.

    @ 72 John, only an Arsenal supporter would call that excellent. Arsenal were quite average.

  • Comment number 88.

    This spirit that SAF speaks of - is it the kind that comes in an expensive bottle and delivered to certain referees?


    Can't discuss with Liverpool fans, over 18s only ;)

  • Comment number 89.

    #45 Mind The Gap

    Couldn't have said it better. The way Liverpool fans and the media ,who had campaigned for him to get the job, treated Hodgson was simply despicable. How LFC can keep Dalglish considering their league position and how he handled the whole Suarez-Evrà affair is beyond me, hope they get their just desserts this weekend against Everton. Would be interesting to see what the "fans" would say if King Kenny only had a Carling Cup to show for all his spent

  • Comment number 90.

    @2 - kinda missing the point of the blog. Its not a report on the actual match so praise of arsenal isnt needed. Its a blog about one players issues. Want to read about the actual match? read a report on the game instead

  • Comment number 91.

    I'm loving the notion that people think MB has ADHD or some other problem that they can blame his behaviour on. Welcome to the UK in 2012 - we need to blame someone or something for everything. It's wishy washy liberalism at it's worst!! The kid who doesn't behave at school and MB who can't behave on or off the pitch don't need labelled with ADHD. Tell it how it is - they're bad little so and so's.

    Here's a guy, whatever his background, who has more football talent in one little toe than everyone commenting here put together. He has a gift that will set him up for life and open every door possible to him. If he wants to waste that by being a petulant, arrogant liability then let him. Don't make excuses for him.

    There are precious few moral's left in football and MB can do as he pleases because someone else will come along and pay his sky high wages until the day he retires. At least Mancini condemns him and takes a stand and will hopefully get rid of him. More manager's should do the same and SAF should have done the same with Cantona and Keane. However, they were too important for Man U. More manager's and players should also man up and condemn the diving and cheating going on in the game but that won't happen either. They are quick enough to slam the officials for poor decisions (and rightly so) and don't we just see how mad they get when it's their team who was cheated? Well, how about the other team that they are cheating? Doesn't matter does it. Until FIFA get super strict on the cheats and stop allowing players to fall over at the slightest bit of contact, the game is doomed.

    Anyone play touch rugby at school? That's modern football, except when you get touched you have to fall over, grab the ball and make the ref give you a free kick. It makes me sick and makes me turn over.

  • Comment number 92.

    #74 your criticism of Ramsey is a bit harsh. He has had a very good season for us, putting in some key performances when we were struggling. It was a poor decision not to play in the Ox, and then a very poor shot, but at least he did put his foot through the ball. A tame shot saved by the keeper and allowing City to break on us would have been far worse.

    #78 Of course Arsenal have signed players, and those players in question have sometimes got an equally hostile reaction when going back to their former club. The chants of "Nasri, what's the score", were not on a par with the racist and homophobic abuse and death threats aimed at Sol Campbell by the cave dwelllers from up the seven sisters road.

  • Comment number 93.

    I remember the arrogant crowing of the Citeh fans after the 6-1 at OT or the swamp as they so funnily call it. I remember seeing Noel Gallacher on Soccer AM being his usual witty self talking about how Citeh were going to walk the league. I'd love to see what Noel has to say this morning. Curly Watts or Les Battersby for that mater.

  • Comment number 94.

    And crisis averted at Anfield I see. I'm loving Dalglish more and more - his team makes the relegation battle very entertaining and his press conferences are hilarious. Nice work on the kit deal, job done.

    clap, clap, clap-clap-clap, clap-clap-clap-clap DAL-GLISH!!

  • Comment number 95.

    Come on U14538189 City have had to watch United, their neighbours winning everything and ramming it down their throats with that well known chant.Can you blame them for giving it back after winning 6-1 at OT?

  • Comment number 96.

    I cannot believe that Balotelli came out for the second half, nor that Tevez wasn't used and that Nasri was substituted for Kolarov. There have been many of these bizarre decisions recently.
    To find the broader tactical reasons why City have fallen away, go to the away game with Sunderland: relentless domination, chance after chance...and defeat in the 94th minute to an offside goal! All the thrill and excitement of City's new style drained away over the next phase of the season as Reality dawned. Mancini drew in the horns, dispensed with wingers and width and reverted to the Italian holding game; in other words they became predictable and there was no plan B if they didn't score early on. Yaya disappeared for six weeks, Kompany was disgracefully banned and creeping disillusionment ensued. Add in the ridiculous penalty given against Richards at Liverpool and the way in which all opponents seemed to raise their game against City to an intense level as if their lives depended on it, and you have the complete toxic storm. Balotelli is merely the last straw.
    Still - and don't be surprised by this - the most loyal fans in the country see remarkable progress: this is only Mancini's second full season in charge and he will learn from all this. We still have the derby to look forward to - I expect a resounding victory for City and our highest ever position.
    Arsenal thoroughly deserved to win yesterday but we had already beaten them this season by the same score twice! Have we all forgotten the torrid times Arsenal endured a mere few months ago? Ten points adrift of City, are they assured of Champions League football next year? Their fans are contemptuous of Nasri's and Clichy's motives for leaving - so why did Arteta, scorer of that great goal yesterday, leave Everton for a team that hasn't won a trophy for seven years?
    City have smashed the power of the Big Four and their cosy media fan club and for that, as well as the wonderful football they played in the first half of the season, all true football fans should be grateful.

  • Comment number 97.

    #87 we were up against the second best team in the country, yet we dominated stopped them getting a single shot on target - depsite the usual pro-mancherster bias from the ref. Hardly an average performance.

  • Comment number 98.

    Threatening to leave him on the bench for the rest of the year and then sell him is ridiculously hollow from the man who said Tevez would never play again for City.

    I would love to see Ballotelli go to a Moyes/Dalglish/Ferguson/Redknapp/Wenger and see whether one of these proven man-managers with a record for protecting their young players can turn his undoubted raw talent into something more.

    Can you imagine any of them standing up in a press conference and saying they would like to punch their own player in the head? No wonder he is a maverick if his own boss is willing to hang him out to dry with comments like that.

  • Comment number 99.

    FoW.

    You are a card. I get it now. My point remains that the diagnosis of autism is absurd for a host of reasons. Opinions need to be justified. But do keep me update with yours. They're fascinating (in a clinical kind of way).

  • Comment number 100.

    Balotelli's been given enough chances by Mancini for all but the most partisan Manchester City fan to conclude that Mourinho's assessment of unmanageability is correct. He's selfish, self-absorbed and in denial; like a child with little of no social contact with either other children or adults. He either doesn't want to learn or can't: I suspect it's the former, largely because he thinks or wants to think he knows best about everything. His skill on the football pitch is an irrelevance if he persists in disrupting the atmosphere in the dressing room by his consistently-childish behaviour; to attempt to argue that it won't affect the other members of the squad is naive; Mancini has done himself damage by placing so much faith in him. It has also contributed significantly to City losing the title.

 

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