With riches comes pressure for Mancini

British oddsmakers are already listing Roberto Mancini as

favorite to be the first manager fired in the Premier League this

season, highlighting the pressure on the man in charge at

Manchester City.

Even the slightest of setbacks won’t be acceptable for City’s

wealthy Abu Dhabi owner – as Mark Hughes discovered to his cost

last season.

Even helping the club to a fifth-place finish in May – City’s

highest since 1992 – after less than five months in the job wasn’t

enough to silence Mancini’s critics.

But the 45-year-old Italian isn’t showing any strain, outwardly

at least.

”I don’t get pressure,” Mancini insists. ”Before I was a

manager, I was a player for 11 years and I never felt pressure

then. I managed Inter Milan for four years. No other manager has

been there for that long.”

He replaced Hughes, who enjoyed success in his first managerial

position with his native Wales and then at Blackburn but was fired

in December, midway through his second season with Manchester City,

when the club’s owners began to doubt his ability to guide the team

to a top-four finish.

While there’s plenty of focus on Mancini at big-spending City,

Alex Ferguson’s rule is virtually unchallenged at Manchester United

despite only collecting the League Cup last season and making just

minor adjustments to his aging squad in the offseason.

Ferguson’s 11 Premier League titles and two Champions League

triumphs make him almost untouchable at Old Trafford.

”I can keep going as long as my health keeps going,” Ferguson

said. ”I tried quitting a few years ago and it was a disaster.

Agony.”

Arsene Wenger also goes into the new season at Arsenal with no

serious threat to his job security despite failing to produce a

trophy since 2005. Top-four finishes in the league have proved

acceptable for the Gunners despite struggling in Europe

competition.

It’s the stability enjoyed at United and Arsenal that Chelsea

must forge after a succession of managers at Stamford Bridge. The

Blues went through three managers in the two years before settling

on Carlo Ancelotti last June.

And with Ancelotti, Chelsea has a manager who can create such

stable foundations at the club.

Crucially, he’s living up to the expectations created under Jose

Mourinho, who won the Premier League in 2005 and ’06, after winning

the league title in his debut campaign.

What Ancelotti shares with fellow Italian Mancini – albeit in

smaller measures – is the backing of a wealthy owner in Roman

Abramovich.

Operating in more frugal conditions is Roy Hodgson, who was

persuaded to defect to Liverpool from Fulham after Rafa Benitez’s

troubled relationship with the Anfield hierarchy proved beyond

repair in June.

Benitez was expected to deliver the Premier League title in May.

Now the Reds are just desperate for Hodgson to guide them back into

the top four – and with it the Champions League competition in

2011.

While Liverpool remains English football’s most successful team

historically, it hasn’t added to the 18th title won in 1990 and

slumped to seventh last season.

Hodgson has none of the riches available to Mancini or

Ancelotti.

What the appointment of Hodgson in July did do, however, was to

provide a boost for English managers at a time when Premier League

clubs were looking abroad for coaches.

Having previously taken charge of three national teams and

managed clubs in six countries, the much-traveled Hodgson finally

secured a top job at home he has craved after masterminding

Fulham’s remarkable run to the Europa League final in May.

Hodgson’s main rival among the other English managers is likely

to be Harry Redknapp, who is one year his senior and also at the

pinnacle of his career having helped Tottenham into the Premier

League’s top four.

Finishing among the Champions League places is the target for

Martin O’Neill, who has transformed the fortunes of Aston Villa and

led the Birmingham club to three successive top six finishes.

For Blackpool, manager Ian Holloway’s task will just be ensuring

the club survives its first season in the topflight since 1971.

Even if the newcomers don’t provide memorable performances on the

pitch, Holloway is likely to be the most entertaining character off

the field with his array of one-liners and quips.

At least he sounds like he’s willing to take on all comers.

As he joked during his time as Queens Park Rangers manager:

”Most of our fans get behind us and are fantastic, but those who

don’t should shut … up or they can come round my house and I will

fight them.”