Roberto Mancini has stuck by Mario Balotelli through thick and thin. For all the tantrums, the bust-ups, he thinks he is the man that can get the best out of him. Balotelli is the biggest enigma in world football. Undoubtedly one of the most gifted footballers in the world when his mind is on the occasion, as he demonstrated by having a fantastic Euro's last summer. However, this season the good performances have been few and far between, showing the kind of immaturity and petulance that has even the Manchester City fans shaking their head in disbelief.
Mancini seems to be so convinced he can get the best out of Balotelli it clouds his judgement at times. Most evidently in the Derby game with Manchester United last weekend. He gave Balotelli the starting role ahead of the in-form Carlos Tevez and he rewarded his manager with a lethargic performance with no glimpses of the quality he undoubtedly possesses. Substituted just after half-time he stormed down the tunnel glaring at his manager as he left the pitch. He was even booed off the pitch by some sections of the home crowd, which makes it clear to everyone that even the City fans have grown tired of the same old act. He has been a cult hero to the fans since he arrived, as much for his antics off the field than on it. Their patience now seems to be growing thin.
This week at Newcastle was a must-win game, six points behind rivals Manchester United at this stage of the season isn't what the Champions had it mind. A performance was needed and Balotelli was nowhere near the squad. Mancini opting for Tevez and Aguero, who most people perceive to be their strongest pairing. Some say they are too similar, but their constant movement and effort to get into the right position causes the opposition team problems every single game.
This proved to be the case against Newcastle. City looked focused and ready to write off the memory of last week, providing far more energy into this performance. Led by Tevez and Aguero, their movement and pressing caused Newcastle problems from the first whistle. Add to that the rampaging Toure, captain for the day and giving the sort of powerful showing the City fans have come to expect and City have three game-changers to rival any in the Premier League.
This is how it must be from now on. Dzeko is a good option to have off the bench as he provides something different in terms of height and their ability to alter style of play. Balotelli is a luxury they simply can't afford, it has to be Tevez and Aguero from this point on if City have a chance of getting withing touching distance of United.
Not that they didn't have a scare or two against an out-of-form Newcastle. There were chances galore at both ends but the fact of the matter is City look weak with Kompany. He is their talisman, their rock, their captain and when he is missing their weakness is exposed. Lescott is an adequate replacement but much like Kolo Toure, has fallen out of favour with Mancini and will probably be moving on, whether it be in the January transfer window or at the end of the season. Nastatic has shown he has the potential to be a genuine world-class defender but at 19 I doubt Mancini will want to rely on him for the title run-in having no experience of being involved in one.
As always with City the transfer market will prove interesting. A host of names being linked. If I was Mancini I would take a serious look at Danielle De Rossi from AS Roma and Phillipe Mexes from AC Milan. I'm assuming money is no object and the two players have given hints that they are unhappy with their current situation. City wouldn't be alone in their interest in these two stars and they would have to offer ridiculous money for any star with no Champions League football to offer.
The situation isn't as bad as it appeared a week ago. Tevez and Aguero can lead from the front. Leaving Mario out in the cold, nothing more than he deserves.
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