El Centrocampista

UNDER PRESSURE – Manzano walks the line at Atletico

By Richard Thorburn

November may only be in its infancy and the La Liga season only a mere eleven games old, but already there is pressure on many a manger whose teams start to the season has been below the expected level.

And while to date only Michael Laudrup has departed company with his employers Mallorca, the traditional ‘sacking season’ is ever quickly approaching.

Laudrup’s spectacular falling out with major shareholder Serra Ferrer saw the Dane walk out of the club in October with the relationship between the two described as ‘untenable’.

Such are clubs tendency’s to panic at the first sign of adversity; it is perhaps a surprise that to date, no La Liga manager has been disposed of by the normally clinical nature.

That however may all be about to change. Some presidents are losing patience with their chiefs in charge, and are sharpening their axes for imminent use.

Currently sitting in eleventh place in the table, it is fair to say that Atletico Madrid’s start to the season has not exactly gone to plan.

Gregorio Manzano may have only been in charge of Los Colchoneros since June, but already the poor start to the season has seen many ear mark him as the next manager to be called into the boardroom.

Having lost David De Gea, Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero in the summer, you have to feel some degree of sympathy towards Manzano, but it is important to note that he did have the money to reinvest.

Athletico Madrid spent 65 million Euro’s over the summer – the most in La Liga.

The most notable arrival at the Vincente Calderon being the 40 million capture of Falcao, a deal which smashed all of Atletico Madrid’s previous transfer records.

The ex-Porto man was joined in the Spanish capital by Brazilian playmaker Diego and Arda Turun among others, but despite the vast transfer budget given to Manzano, the decision to reinvest heavily has to date not produced dividends.

Last weekend’s 3-2 defeat against Getafe has seen Athletico holding the worst away record in the league this season.

After the game, Sky Sports Spanish reporter Guillem Balague said: “It’s terrible. Manzano said it was a total disaster and he was kind of blaming the players for it. But they are a team with no soul, no aggression, no belief”

Coming just three days after an impressive 4-0 thrashing of Italian outfit Udinese in the Europa League, it is clear that consistency is something that is lacking this season.

There are little doubts that with the players that Manzano has at his disposal that they should be a lot higher in the table than they currently are and the club that has often lived in the shadows of their most powerful neighbours are in danger of receding even more.

Such is the rumour and speculation surrounding Manzano around the Vincente Calderon, Athletico Madrid sporting director Jose Caminero came out on Tuesday and publically issued a statement on the club’s official website.

“Our project cannot last just four months, it was designed to reach certain ends and it will not finish prematurely,” Caminero told the club’s website.

“What we must do is demonstrate we deserve to be at a club as big as Athletico. This is not the time to take drastic measures, but to find solutions to a situation in which we should never have found ourselves in.

“Just like when successes are everyone’s work, everyone should call upon themselves to be responsible for the bad moments.”

The ominous and dreaded vote of confidence if there ever was one.

And while it seems that Manzano may have been given an extended stay of execution at the Vincente Calderon, it would certainly be interesting to see how long the board keeps faith with him, should they continue to slide in the wrong direction

Atletico are currently in Cairo for a money spinning friendly against Egyptian side Zamalek, before returning to Spain to host Levante after the international break.

Very much a game between this season’s underachievers and overachievers, it is crucial that Atleti take the three points that will enable them to start looking up the table rather than down.

A loss however, and Manzano’s time at the Vincente Calderon may well be coming to an end despite the reassuring words of Madrid directors.


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