Why there’s so much difficulty understanding Mancini, Benitez’s plights


If there’s a commonality between Manchester City’s FA Cup failure and Chelsea’s Europa League success, it’s the empty, futile call to support managers who clearly not longer (or never did) fit their clubs – the appeal for stability in the wake of modest accomplishment, an argument that rest more on nostalgia than the realities of the modern soccer world.

When news broke of Roberto Mancini’s impending dismissal at City, the general reaction was surprise that a man, one year removed from winning a Premier League title, were to be let go. Manchester City needed stability, the chorus sang as Txiki Begiristain affixed the brooches. And with Rafa Benítez, the addition of another major trophy has already lead to main stream coverage’s reflections on whether the former Liverpool man has earned the permanent job at Stamford Bridge.

There’s a strange element of contrarianism in both these views, as on the surface, it seems pretty clear why both Chelsea and City would be willing to move on. Or, put another way, it’s unclear why either Mancini or Benítez would be good bets to meet their clubs’ 2013-14 ambitions, whether you judge their capabilities on current or historic results. Going back to Inter, Mancini’s results have always been those of a well-supported man who can win when things when fortune broke his way. Benítez, at both Valencia and Liverpool, proved capable of challenging for big things, but he’s so far removed from those accomplishments, it’s almost as if the current visage is completely different coach – an insecure performer unable to adapt after a crowd figures out his only trick.

The commonality between the pro-Mancini and pro-Benítez views is an inability to come to grips with modern-day soccer – a state of play in which, much to the chagrin of many who follow the game, players, managers, and executives are held to a standard commensurate with the outlay of their owners. Perhaps supporters of Benítez and Mancini see a world where absolute accomplishments are sufficient, in which case a second place Premier League finish and a Europa League trophy are good enough for any manager. But Sheikh Mansour didn’t this so much money into City to see the Citizens fail to threaten Manchester United. And Roman Abramovich’s ambitions need no explanation. Their managers will always be evaluated relative to their owners’ ambitions, and in that respect, there’s little wonder why Manuel Pellegrini will be hired by City, just as José Mourinho will rejoin Chelsea.

At some point, people who follow (and cover) Chelsea, City – or, for that matter, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, or any team who can keep up with the world’s other huge spenders – need to adjust their world views. When you’re spending enough to have one of the most talent teams in the world, it’s nowhere near good enough when your team doesn’t perform to that level. ‘Why didn’t you compete for the league title? Why didn’t you go better in Europe?’ If there aren’t good answers to these questions, you’re likely gone.

And rightfully so. It’s not that you need to win everything. No owner’s that naïve. But you need to have the squad performing to its capabilities. You need to have trophies taken from you, not given them away. So when City’s boardroom sees their squad never threaten Manchester United, or Abramovich sees his team fighting to stay in the top four rather than threatening for first, they can’t help but wonder: Could somebody else do better?

Pellegrini? He probably can. Mourinho? He’s proven he will.

But this isn’t about comparing managers or the tough decisions boardrooms have to make. It’s about the narratives sounding these managers. The reality is that both Benítez and Mancini, despite their accomplishments at their jobs, have failed to get their immense talent to perform commensurate with expectations. They knew the expectations doing into their jobs, and as they Eastland and Stamford Bridge, their heart of heart will know they’ve failed to meet their chairmans’ goals. And just as acutely, they’ll know other coaches with better resumes are ready to take over their jobs.

If they want, pundits can go on and on about stability and the need to give a manager time, but Pep Guardiola won Champions League in his first season at Barça. Mourinho won in his second year at Inter. Roberto Di Matteo was an interim when he won Champions League, and Jupp Heynckes is only in his second season at Bayern.

At some point, everybody needs to accept the realities of the modern world are not motivated by nostalgia. If I’m paying for a title contender and you say you can give it to me, you’re damn right you’re going to be fired if you come up short.

Watch Live: Three Premier League games, 11am ET

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Three Premier League games are coming your way at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Huddersfield host Crystal Palace, West Brom head to Bournemouth and Stoke welcome Everton to the Potteries.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 11 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for the three games at 11 a.m. ET is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.

11 a.m. ET: Huddersfield vs. Crystal Palace – NBCSN [STREAM]
11 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
11 a.m. ET: Stoke City vs. Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM

Tottenham beat Swansea to reach FA Cup semis

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Tottenham Hotspur beat Swansea City 3-0 at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday to book their spot in the FA Cup semifinal for the second time in as many seasons.

With Harry Kane out injured, plus the likes of Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele on the bench, Christian Eriksen was the star of the show as he scored twice, while Erik Lamela added another in a game Mauricio Pochettino‘s men dominated from start to finish as their final chance of silverware this season remains intact.

The semifinals of the FA Cup being held at Wembley Stadium on April 21-22 also give Spurs a big advantage as Wembley has been their temporary home ground for the 2017-18 season.

Swansea will now focus on staying in the Premier League as Carlos Carvalhal‘s men are battling against relegation.

[ MORE: Follow all the FA Cup scores ] 

Early on Nathan Dyer burst through and although it looked like he could’ve won a penalty kick as Michel Vorm raced out, neither the referee or VAR awarded the Swans a penalty kick.

Spurs then took the lead with a moment of magic as Eriksen ran towards goal and curled home a superb effort into the far corner to give his side the lead. That was his seventh goal in 10 games against the Swans.

Tottenham then dominated much of the game after going ahead as Eriksen’s perfect ball over the top found Heung-Min Son and he finished magnificently off the crossbar but the South Korean star was flagged offside and VAR decided that was the correct call. Another moment of controversy surrounding VAR…

Chances kept coming for Spurs. A cross from the left almost found Lucas Moura at the near post but he couldn’t quite get on the end of it, then Eriksen had a curling effort tipped onto the bar by Nordfeldt and Eric Dier nodded just over as Tottenham totally dominated the first half.

Lamela made it 2-0 right on half time as he ran towards goal and curled home a low shot past the unsighted Nordfeldt.

At half time Luciano Narsingh came on for the Swans as they tried to get back into the game.

Martin Olsson had a rasper pushed away by Vorm and the former Swansea goalkeeper then denied Tammy Abraham with a fine double stop. At the other end Dier’s long-range shot was tipped wide by Nordfeldt brilliantly as the game opened up.

Eriksen then finished the game off as Moura found him on the edge of the box and his low shot crept past several Swansea defenders and in. Game. Set. Match.

Tottenham could’ve added more goals late on but they settled for three goals as Swansea were in full damage limitation mode.

FIFA budgets $6.56BN income for 2022 World Cup in Qatar

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA expects to earn $6.56 billion in a four-year financial cycle to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, despite a drop in ticket and corporate hospitality sales.

FIFA’s 2019-2022 budget projects rises of more than $400 million each in broadcasting and marketing income over the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Still, FIFA says “smaller stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup” should mean ticket and hospitality sales of $500 million will be $75 million less than in 2015-18.

More than half of FIFA’s revenue will come from broadcasting rights, “86 percent of which is already contracted.”

FIFA plans to spend $6.46 billion from 2019-2022, including a $250,000 annual raise for member associations. Each will get $1.5 million annually.

FIFA expects to end the 2022 World Cup with reserves of $1.9 billion.

VIDEO: Eriksen curls home screamer for Spurs

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Christian Eriksen, take a bow.

Tottenham’s Danish magician waltzed towards Swansea’s goal early in their FA Cup quarterfinal on Saturday and curled home a stunning effort into the far corner to give his side the lead.

Eriksen stepped up to the plate with Harry Kane out injured, plus Dele Alli and Fernando Llorente on the bench, as the playmaker has now scored seven goals in 10 appearances against Swansea.

Check out the video below to see Eriksen at his very best.