Is Mario Balotelli affecting City’s title aspirations?

by Kobina Monney

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

The above headline is a thought that’s been brought up on several occasions, most notably by Alan Hansen every time he asked about City on Match of the Day. It’s an opinion that’s been thought and voiced so much in the last few months that it’s turned into a rhetorical question. Mario Balotelli is affecting City’s title pursuit in a negative manner.

Except I don’t think he is.

There’s a streak of petulance in him, coupled with a nonchalant swagger that follows him everywhere.  You could make a novella out of the press cuttings about his activities since he arrived in Manchester. After Mourinho left the press have been looking for a ‘character’ or ‘maverick’ personality to fill the void. Balotelli fits the bill, except rather than playing up to it; the tag has been forced upon him.

Why this is I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because he’s foreign (we never afford English players the same kind of treatment); or maybe it’s down to Balotelli himself, unwittingly playing up to the image we’ve created for him on the pitch. The criticism lain at his feet for the ‘argument’ he had with Kolarov, an argument shown as the moment City ‘cracked’ seemed unfair. Kolarov takes a fair amount of shots/free kicks and they usually whistle wide. This situation called for a right-footer to bend it either over or around the wall. The squabble looked petty but Balotelli had fair justification for having a go. The spin on the story has made Balotelli the fall guy when, from another perspective, it could be viewed as him wanting to take charge.

Mancini’s comments haven’t helped matters either. Saying that he couldn’t trust Balotelli is not something you’d hear out of Ferguson’s mouth at this stage of the season. Balotelli has been made into a scapegoat, deflecting attention from Edin Dzeko’s lumbering performances, a defence that lacks depth and a midfield that looks tired. If Balotelli has affected the dressing room in the way reports have suggested, then there’s staggering lack of leadership – both on and off the pitch – in guiding Balotelli to becoming less of an intrusive presence.

Mancini’s handling of Balotelli has been poor – and it’s been circumspect in other areas too – with Mancini’s words adding fuel to the fire that something is off in the vibe emanating from the Etihad. For a disciplinarian Mancini’s resorted to just shouting or looking incredibly grumpy. If he’s angry at Balotelli then it’s not reflected in Mancini leaving him on the bench or out of the squad. If he’s playing him out of necessity then you wonder why Mancini isn’t taking greater care in managing Balotelli’s personality at this stage of the season.

Something’s definitely gone wrong at Manchester City and while it’s not enough to derail their title aspirations (yet), it’s building a head of steam at a pivotal point in the club’s season. If they can’t right their keeling ship, then it won’t be down to Balotelli as an individual but to the team and management as a collective.

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  • Robert Jacobs

    One minute the papers/tabloids are praising this fella, the next dragging him through the muck. I’m an Arsenal man and I do like Super Mario and think he has brilliant character for the EPL. A lot of what he does off the pitch is self inflicted, but why doesn’t he get credit for going into public places having a laugh with punters or covering bar tabs?
    It seems to me when he has a blip, people either want to cash in on him or make him look more stupid than he is! The boy is 21 yrs, rich and living his life(wild&free). If I had his wealth at his age…I would be doing the same!

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