Question: why did Roberto Mancini allow Joe Hart to be interviewed by television immediately after a Madrid game in which he was arguably culpable for the second and third Real goals, having played a heroic role in the first half when he was responsible for three or four saves which kept his side in the match?
After that interview, which followed so hot on the heels of this dramatic game, Hart would inevitably be in a state of emotional tension. Mancini should, with all his vast experience as coach and player, surely have known that and prevented him from giving the interview. After which Mancini rebuked Hart for criticising his team and tactics. Mancini criticised these too, insisting that his players dropped far too deep in the latter stages and thus conceded goals.
But if Vincent Kompany had not ducked under the dazzling Cristiano Ronaldo winning drive – a matter Mancini simply glossed over when asked about it – had Benzema been better marked and opposed who knows what might have happened.
And once again in Europe Mancini was guilty of a serious misjudgement in defence. Last season he inexplicably picked “the other” Toure for central defence when he had been out injured for weeks; to the profit of Bayern in Munich. Now he picks after one mere appearance as a substitute, Maicon at right-back, with predictably disastrous results. He cannot have it both ways.
Arsenal dominant in the first half at Montpelier, uneasy and lucky in the second, seem at last to be surviving the loss of the prolific Robin van Persie. Podolski has emphatically found his range.
Gervinho, previously used as a winger, is shining in the centre of attack. Abou Diaby shone too in Montpelier, before he tired and should arguably have been replaced. And all this without the use of the precocious Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Danny Welbeck might well be lauded as England’s saviour in that late, embarrassing penalty promoted draw with a superior Ukraine team. When he sensibly moved into the middle where he thrives, off the left wing where for some strange reason Hodgson had exiled him when he arrived as a substitute, England at last seemed capable of goals. He hit a post, he procured the spot kick whereby Frank Lampard saved England’s face.
Less edifying was his conduct in the recent Manchester United win over Wigan at Old Trafford. In the first half he blatantly dived to gain a non-existent penalty; how unusual at Old Trafford! In the second half, he committed a blatant, painful foul, which could well have had him sent off. It is a pity to see such blemishes on a player who could well be so valuable to England in future times; has indeed, been invaluable in the match against Ukraine. Time for Alex Ferguson, perhaps, to bring out the hair dryer?
Meanwhile, we might call the theme of England’s future effectiveness, Waiting for Wilshere. Sadly but incontestably, the one English player capable in the Italian phrase of “inventing the game” with an unexpected pass. It’s said that after over a year out of football, he could soon return. Let us cross our fingers and hope earnestly for that.