Wednesday 17 December 2008 Robinho mentality article

Football FanCast columnist Emily Brobyn felt that Robinho was right to criticise Manchester City's ‘small club' mentality.
For years and years, Manchester City Football Club have been seemingly plagued. The football club that has an endless managerial merry-go-round with a lack of long-term stability, that spent years flitting between different leagues until finally returning to the Promised Land. Perhaps the only club that could be confirmed as ‘The Richest Club in the World', sign Brazilian Robinho and still be hovering dangerously close to the relegation zone just before Christmas arrives all in the space of a few months. Just what is going on at Eastlands?
It goes without saying that the ‘richest club' tag has brought with it not only a whole lot of money, but an exceeded amount of expectation and pressure. Glory fans have jumped on the Robinho bandwagon, not knowing really what they are getting themselves into. New chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak's first game was watching his new acquisition crush Portsmouth 6-0 in a match that can only be described as a ‘master-class' by City, sending out a distinct message to the Premier League while the January transfer window was still very much on the horizon.

Since then, it has all gone downhill faster than the takeover was sealed. Success in progressing in the UEFA Cup has proved to be a welcome tonic to inconsistency and floundering in the Premier League. City fans are yet to see any reflection of the £19 million pounds that was spent on Brazilian Jo, with the striker either keeping the substitute bench warm during games or leaving City playing with 10 men when he actually stands on the pitch.

Hughes' best signings have proved to be Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany, who have put in confident and assured performances consistently for the Blues. It has been argued how much input Hughes had in the Robinho transfer, but it is certain that without the Brazilian's goals and general creative presence in the team City would be in a catastrophic position, one far more traumatic than the current league placing suggests.

Much was made of Robinho's outburst to the media regarding City's ‘small club mentality'. "City have good players but the mentality of a small side," said the 24-year-old, winner of two La Liga titles with Madrid. "They are content with just finishing fifth or sixth. They are content with little, thinking just a draw might be good enough. What they lack is the mentality of champions. I have learnt that being second is worthless so I want to inspire a winning mentality. You can only be content with winning."

He is right, as regards City having a small club mentality. But City are not content with finishing fifth or sixth. City are not used to finishing that high up in the Premier League at all. How can a club have a winning mentality if they are not winning, if they have such a clouded and unreliable history? There is no mentality of champions because being successful isn't something associated with City. As soon as a goal has been conceded by Hughes' men this season, the players' heads have gone straight down. Confidence has been severely lacking for a club that has more money than sense.

City have been playing with a lack of courage, spirit, endeavour or passion considering players are supposed to be playing for their future. The club's much-discussed ‘soft centre' has been exploited time and again, with too much flair and a lack of grit meaning that once dispossessed in midfield, City struggle to impose their presence on games. If things are to change, signings must be made that will see money well spent on tackling problem areas on the pitch and encouraging City's mentality to adapt.

Something is missing and at the moment there is a way out. It's lucky that this season the Premier League is so close, where a draw and certainly three points can catapult a team up through several league positions. But a complete overhaul is needed, the club needs to get rid of the supposed dead wood and buy sensibly and appropriately in the transfer window. But will this be as easy as it sounds? The bottomless pit will tempt magpie-type players: who see the glitz and shine and are blinded by the zeros on the end of a cheque so much that it distracts from the club they are actually committing their future to. January will undoubtedly prove to be a month full of controversy and shock- but will City discover that money can't buy you exactly who or what you want (as already proven by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Iker Casillas).

Is Mark Hughes the right man for the job? Has he got the guile and equipment that is needed to take City forward into a new era? Is he the kind of manager that is capable of attracting top-quality players to accompany Robinho? He lacks in charisma, he is short of endearing qualities and is always too quick to moan or shift the blame onto the referee, something that a certain Swedish manager tended to shy away from. He is also very short on people skills and seems to have got City in a rut of hoofing the ball up-field instead of playing it out from the back. Garry Cook, the executive chairman, has insisted that Hughes is the man to deal with the current situation and lead City forward, but some fans remain unconvinced.

In the current climate where chairmen demand instant success, a climate that has seen Paul Ince relieved of his duties at Blackburn Rovers after just six months in charge, Hughes is right to be feeling the pressure. He is still a relatively young manager learning his trade, but now the Middle Eastern millions have come to town, success is more or less expected at City. Considering Sven Goran Eriksson was remorselessly shown the door after a season where City finished 9th, just how long will Hughes have to turn it around and implement a winning mentality into a club that has been labelled ‘typical City' at any given opportunity. Perhaps the consistency should begin with giving Hughes a shot at being a consistent manager for City instead of making a rash decision too early and plunging the club into uncertainty and turmoil once more.

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