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Page last updated at 14:04 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 15:04 UK

The end of Eriksson's era

By Ian Hughes

Sven-Goran Eriksson

Sven-Goran Eriksson may have been effectively sacked as manager of Manchester City, but he leaves Eastlands with his reputation in far better shape than when he arrived.

The Swede's appointment just under a year ago was met with raised eyebrows in some quarters following his time as England boss, which was almost more notable for Eriksson's off-the-field antics as it was for his team selection and tactics.

Questions were being asked about how Eriksson would again cope with the media, with whom he had a tempestuous relationship, and also whether he could re-establish himself as a top-class club manager.

In less than a year, Eriksson answered those questions so emphatically that the circumstances of his departure from City have provoked sympathy, astonishment and disbelief.

When City owner Thaksin Shinawatra stated in April that Eriksson "is not the right man for the job", there were very few who agreed.

And in a perverse twist, it could even be that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich feels Eriksson is the right man for his club, as he seeks to install a new manager after dismissing Avram Grant. After all, the Swede has been touted at Stamford Bridge before.

606: DEBATE
Ntini

Ultimately, Eriksson paid the price for City's stuttering form in the second half of the campaign, which did not match their blistering performances up until Christmas.

But their ninth-place finish in the Premier League - their highest position in three years - is a far cry from the relegation battle they were involved in last season.

Eriksson might also feel aggrieved that he has achieved the first-year goal of Shinawatra's five-year plan, only to find the goalposts were moved.

It is also clear that the 60-year-old has done much to restore hope to City's fans and bring flair to the team.

There were real highs for City last season, including a league double over rivals Manchester United - a unique achievement in the last campaign.

But there were also lows, with the 6-0 thrashing by Chelsea in October a particularly nasty memory for City fans, players, manager and owner alike.

And the 8-1 demolition by Middlesbrough in the final game of the season will not have been the way Eriksson would have wanted to bow out.

Overall it seems Eriksson has been a victim of his early success at the club. Would things be different had he instead suffered a slow start to his time at City and improved results over time?

The reality is that the season started so promisingly as City sat on top of the table after the first three games this term, with the only 100% record in the top flight.

And Eriksson's summer signings, which cost more than 45m, were proving an instant hit. At the mid-way point of the season, City were riding high in fifth place in the table.

But as the season wore on, it was clear that not all the new players - some of whom Eriksson admitted he had only seen on video before buying them - would make the impact hoped of them.

In the last 20 matches, City accumulated 21 points after five wins, six draws and nine defeats.

Compare that to 34 points, from 10 wins and four draws and only four defeats, in the same period from the opening day.

Sven-Goran Eriksson is flanked by Martin Petrov and Geovanni
Eriksson scored a hit with Petrov but a miss with Geovanni

Shinawatra felt the second half of the season was a missed opportunity to achieve more.

Eriksson's team ran out of gas, particularly demonstrated when City threw away 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 against Fulham in their final home game which will have angered the Thai owner further.

Some will question whether Eriksson spent his transfer funds wisely but few would argue that the success of Elano, Vedrun Corluka and Martin Petrov has not made up for the disappointments of Geovanni and Rolando Bianchi.

Yet there has been unrest in the camp, with Brazilian forward Elano recently complaining that he was being played out of position. Eriksson has also admitted he made mistakes during his tenure, including over-training his players around Christmas time.

However, the Swede will leave City feeling he had been on the right track - and City's improvement last season is undeniable.

Is Shinawatra simply being unrealistic in terms of his ambitions and the timescale for achieving them?

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari - Eriksson's nemesis at international level - is already being touted as a potential candidate to manage the club and Blackburn have give their manager, Mark Hughes, permission to talk to City.

However, Scolari and Hughes have both been linked with the vacancy at Stamford Bridge and Shinawatra may soon be faced with a reality check on which managers he can choose from.

But whoever replaces Eriksson at City, they can be sure that expectations are high and failure is not an option.


see also
Sven's signings - hits or misses?
29 Apr 08 |  Man City
Eriksson to be sacked by Man City
29 Apr 08 |  Man City
Man City 2-3 Fulham
26 Apr 08 |  Premier League
Micah Richards column
25 Apr 08 |  Football
Eriksson unfazed by exit reports
20 Apr 08 |  Man City
Thaksin coy on Eriksson's future
16 Apr 08 |  Man City
Thaksin completes Man City buyout
06 Jul 07 |  Business


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