The winning mentality Roberto Mancini’s men miss
Norwich City fans who spent Saturday lunchtime at Carrow Road and also made the trip to the Etihad in December probably find it hard to understand how Manchester City are not already Premier League champions.
Roberto Mancini’s men must love facing the Canaries, given the way Sergio Aguero and his accomplices dismantled Paul Lambert’s squad for the second time in four months. They are the only side to manage it, even once, in three seasons.
Norwich’s goal-difference stands at -11; nine of that deficit comes from Manchester City, who have dropped just two points at home all season.
Yet they sit five points behind a Manchester United side seemingly destined for title number 20, despite arguably their poorest playing staff for some time – and yes, that is a big ‘arguably’.
In the three years since Paul Lambert took charge at Carrow Road, Norwich City have proven their ability to win things – be it the League One crown or Championship promotion. Both efforts took some almighty guts and nerves of steel along the way.Yet for all the money Manchester City have spent, that is the one thing they are still to possess.
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Suddenly that 3-2 Community Shield defeat in the summer – where City were 2-0 at half-time, before losing to United – seems pertinent to the entire campaign.
At Carrow Road Mancini’s side proved they don’t miss Mario Balotelli, as much as they have missed Carlos Tevez.
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There is no doubt had Aguero and Tevez spent more time on the pitch together this season, they would have ripped teams apart – I certainly find it difficult to imagine Manchester City failing to score more than once in an away fixture from November to Saturday; a run which included all their Premier League defeats this season. But while some people would no doubt love to blame Tevez or Balotelli for Manchester City’s failings, it comes down to more than that.
Titles take consistency, relentless focus and an ability to brush off any disappointment either within minutes, or certainly by the time your next game comes along.
It’s an experiment played out in every division, every season.
In the Championship this term, West Ham pose the questions: like a 6-0 win that left Sam Allardyce morose at his team for not managing the same explosive results more often. That very fact may yet cost them their Premier League return.
“I can’t remember where I first heard the statement ‘stop listening to yourself, start talking to yourself’, but it’s true,” writes football psychology expert Dan Abrahams on his website.
“We tend to have a lot of thoughts pop into our head that are negative and we tend to listen to them…champions are champions because they choose to ignore this rubbish.
“In fact, they drown out their negative self-talk, stop listening and constantly talk to themselves.”
Of course that all sounds a little pseudo-analytical, but to Manchester City it may ring true.
Perhaps the saddest legacy of the Premier League’s 20 years is its winner will now only ever be one of a select band of clubs.
But at least this season, Norwich City’s champion-esque winning mentality has transferred successfully from successive promotions to their primary goal in the top flight – that of survival, and with relative comfort.
Despite Manchester City smashing the Canaries twice this season, on that score they are still to match Paul Lambert’s men.