Mitch Cook’s column - Mancini heaping pressure on himself with preparation statement

Mitch Cook's weekly column
Mitch Cook's weekly column

British teams enjoyed mixed results in the Champions League this week.

The two that stood out for me were Celtic’s superb efforts at the Nou Camp, coming so close to a point against Barcelona, and Manchester City’s defeat at Ajax.

Ajax players celebrate scoring their second goal against Manchester City player during the Champions League Group D soccer match at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday Oct. 24, 2012. Ajax won the match with a 3-1 score. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Ajax players celebrate scoring their second goal against Manchester City player during the Champions League Group D soccer match at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday Oct. 24, 2012. Ajax won the match with a 3-1 score. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

I watched the Ajax v Manchester City game and I have to say Ajax were magnificent.

Seven of their side came up through the ranks and three were brought in on free transfers, and they totally outplayed the Premier League champions, big-spending City.

Ajax put their faith in youth and it pays off for them. They play the same formation from under-nines all the way through to senior level and all the players know their role in the team.

They don’t change their formation or their system. The players fit in around the system and adapt to the formation and that worked for them.

FC Barcelona Andres Iniesta reacts after scoring during a Champions League soccer match group G against Celtic at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

FC Barcelona Andres Iniesta reacts after scoring during a Champions League soccer match group G against Celtic at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

City, on the other hand, altered their formation at least a couple of times during the game and looked out of sorts.

Defender Micah Richards then came out in the post-match interviews and said the team were unfamiliar with the system as they hadn’t worked on it in training.

This put manager Roberto Mancini in an awkward position when it came to his television interview.

In my opinion what he then said has put him under pressure. Saying it was his fault is all good and well, but saying he hadn’t prepared the team properly isn’t the best thing to be admitting.

Manchester United's Javier Hernandez celebrates scoring his second goal against Braga during the UEFA Champions League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday October 23, 2012. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Manchester United's Javier Hernandez celebrates scoring his second goal against Braga during the UEFA Champions League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday October 23, 2012. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

At whatever level you’re at, coming out and saying you haven’t prepared your team properly immediately puts pressure on you.

Especially when you’ve spent hundreds of millions on your squad and are playing at the pinnacle of european football.

The most impressive performance of the British sides was Celtic’s at Barcelona in my opinion.

Celtic epitomised the British mentality with their gutsy, backs to the wall performance and they were so close to coming away with a point.

Fernando Torres of Chelsea FC, right, challenges for the ball with Darijo Srna of  Shakhtar Donetsk  during a group E Champions League  soccer match at Donbas Arena  stadium in Donetsk, Ukraine, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012.  (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Fernando Torres of Chelsea FC, right, challenges for the ball with Darijo Srna of Shakhtar Donetsk during a group E Champions League soccer match at Donbas Arena stadium in Donetsk, Ukraine, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Going out on to a pitch in front of about 100,000 fans knowing every single of the 11 opposition players are a lot better than you must be a very difficult task.

But they got a goal and defended for their lives and it if it wasn’t for goals at the end of each half they’d have come away with something from the game.

They’ll now go into their home game against Barca with more confidence and who knows what will happen if they play well?

Manchester United continued to make life difficult for themselves by going 2-0 down to unfashionable Braga.

They bounced back and showed the character and resolve necessary to win the game, deservedly in the end.

There was also a so-called shock in the Ukraine when Chelsea lost 2-1 to Shakhtar at the Donbass Arena.

Schalke 04's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar celebrates scoring their first goal of the game with team-mate Ibrahim Afellay (left) during the UEFA Champions League match at the Emirates Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 24, 2012. See PA story SOCCER Arsenal. Photo credit should read: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

Schalke 04's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar celebrates scoring their first goal of the game with team-mate Ibrahim Afellay (left) during the UEFA Champions League match at the Emirates Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 24, 2012. See PA story SOCCER Arsenal. Photo credit should read: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

I don’t see that as much of a shock, Shakhtar are basically doing the same as Chelsea did a few years ago - spending a load of money to try and make a medium sized club challenge for honours.

Chelsea were well and truly beaten on the night and also suffered an injury to Frank Lampard, which is a blow to them heading into the big game at home to Manchester United on Sunday.

Arsenal are so hit and miss, and they were poor in their 2-0 home defeat to Schalke 04 at the Emirates.

The Gunners showed their spineless side against the German side and were also well beaten.

You also have to remember that Schalke went into the game on the back of a superb win against German champions Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal couldn’t even register a point at Norwich.

Looking at the British sides now - I think United and Chelsea will qualify from their groups, City will really struggle and Arsenal need to up their game.

I’d really like to see Celtic qualify from their group. It would be a superb boost for Scottish football - they need it.

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