Perhaps Eliaquim Mangala, Manchester City’s £32 million centre-half, will regard this implosion as a blessing in disguise. An opportunity to reflect upon his adversities in English football, to apply the tweaks and alterations required.
Perhaps one of those days that will make the Frenchman stronger, those he can learn from to assimilate himself with the Premier League.
For, much of his contributions at St Marys’ on Sunday was unnecesary and ill-advised. Exposed as City moved within reach of league leaders Chelsea with a 0-3 dispatch of Southampton, Mangala represents a weakness in City’s defence, an exploitable proposition, providing unwelcome company for Vincent Kompany, City’s classy leader.
Arduous start to life at City
It is not that he is incompetent, nor is it that he will fail in his arduous mission to vindicate the £32 million investment City committed to during the summer to acquire him from FC Porto. There is an aura of quality which attracted such keen admirers as he asserted his excellence upon the Portuguese Primeira Liga, the vaunted attributes which took Europe by storm.
It is little wonder that, having made the strikers of Portuguese football his personal fiefdom, he was affectionately nicknamed as ‘Skidmark’ for his thrilling propensity to lunge into last-ditch tackles, the hair-raising moments which endeared him to the Estadio do Dragao.
As he shone in the core of the Porto side which excelled to the semi-final phase of both Portuguese cups, third in the Primeira Liga and the quarter-finals of the Europa League, Mangala had established himself as one of Europe’s most prized assets, gracing the wanted lists of many a manager.
The gossip columns were overwhelmed by the speculation of Mangala seeking unfamiliar challenges away from the volumity of the Estadio do Dragao, with a plethora of Europe’s elite mesmerised by his mobility, solidity and reading of the game.
Manuel Pellegrini, City manager, was intrigued, eulogising of the potential defensive partnership, between Kompany and Mangala, that the Frenchman’s acquisition would bring. It seemed the base for more triumphs for City, providing an antidote to their defensive malaise.
Mangala was touted as City’s saviour, the man to bridge the gap between City and Europe’s very best, the exorbitant signing to finally assert City’s mercurial brilliance upon the European stage.
The France international’s dream move to City, though, is yet to unravel as he would have imagined. Mangala has struggled to acclimatise himself with the unqiue adversities posed by the Premier League, languishing to fufill the potential which the City hierarchy deemed sufficiently attractive to acquiesce to Pellegrini’s request.
The 23 year-old is blessed with the attributes to blossom into one of Europe’s finest centre-halves. Mobile, fast and an imposing frame, it is little wonder the defender arrived at the Etihad with plenty to vindicate.
He impressed on his debut at the Etihad in September when Chelsea were the visitors, thwarting the potent Diego Costa with his power, strength and mobility. His level of performance, however, has suffered a sharp descent ever since, most notably when he scored a brace of own-goals at Hull City in October.
Pellegrini, though, will stand by the Frenchman, insisting he was satisfied with his individual display post-Southampton. The Chilean is left with no choice, having implored for a substantial investment to sign one of Europe’s most venerated prospects.
Rash and daft
There is a sense of belief within City that Mangala will repay Pellegrini’s faith and proceed to form a formidable understanding with Kompany, a partnership they hope will blossom.It must come quickly, though.
There is a rashness to Mangala which perturbs Pellegrini, his propensity to laboriously commit to tackles and accumulate bookings. Poleaxing Southampton’s Toby Alderweireld and brusquely halting the Belgian’s progress, Mike Jones was unforgiving, producing a yellow card to repress the Frenchman’s rashness.
Then occurred a moment of ineffective communication which verged on proving costly. As Joe Hart leapt in an endeavour to extinguish the threat posed by Ryan Bertrand’s enticing cross, Mangala needlessly conceded a corner, heading the ball into the joyous Southampton support.
His afternoon worsened dramatically after the break, suffering from referee Jones’s accurate judgement. It was daft and clumsy from Mangala, leaning into Shane Long as Kompany raced to cover. It was lacklustre marking primarily and poor communication secondarily. Hardly worth £32 million.
City’s Mangala is at pains to when Premier League acclimatisation will dawn, but for the Frenchman, it must come quickly.Published 01 Dec 2014, 01:43 IST