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Five early-season problems for Roberto Mancini at Manchester City

Always problems.

Issue one: Joe Hart

Most witnesses agree Hart was fine to criticise his team-mates for the late capitulation against Madrid. In fact so did Mancini – on Tuesday night and in his Friday briefing – so why also scold his goalkeeper during that same post-game briefing? On Friday, Mancini said: "We don't have any problem with Joe." Not unless you create one in the first place.

Issue two: Mario Balotelli

"My patience for him is endless," Roberto Mancini claims, yet reserves become finite as results and the manager's employment prospects are affected by the 'challenging' striker. On Tuesday he was left out of the 18-man squad for the Real Madrid game, and on Friday Mancini was admitting Balotelli could smoke if he really wanted. Expect this one to keep running, until the January transfer window at least.

Issue three: goals conceded

These stand at nine: six in the league and three in the closing 14 minutes of the opening Champions League game, at Madrid, with Vincent Kompany seeming to duck under Cristiano Ronaldo's 90th-minute winner and Maicon, right, erratic on debut. Asked about the captain's form dip, Mancini stonewalled: "Sometimes it can happen in one team because for two years we were the best defence in the Premier League. Probably the problem is we didn't work enough with the players in pre-season."

Issue four: need for a win

In five outings City have managed two draws, a defeat and just two victories, with the last win three weeks ago – the 3-1 result over Queens Park Rangers – as the in-form Arsenal roll into the Etihad on Sunday. "I don't think we have had an easy game," Mancini said. "When you start the season after a European Championship, you have some problems with some injuries."

Issue five: Sergio Agüero

Mancini must hope the Argentinian can start against Arsenal as since his injury on the opening day City have lacked the option of getting behind defences. Why Agüero did not feature in the past two games is something of a mystery. After suggesting he could return at Stoke, Agüero also missed out against Madrid. "We're unlucky because I wanted to put him on in the Bernabéu but we had a couple of injuries," the manager explained.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jamie Jackson, for The Guardian on Friday 21st September 2012 23.02 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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