Mancini denies Balotelli row after City held at home to Arsenal
City manager Mancini plays down latest row after failure to hold on to 1-0 lead at home to Arsenal continues stuttering start to title defence
Roberto Mancini played down talk of another altercation with his volatile Italian forward Mario Balotelli as Manchester City's frustrating start to their title defence continued with a 1-1 draw at home to Arsenal.
After the final whistle, Balotelli was pushed down the tunnel by City manager Mancini after shouting in his direction as he left the field - presumably about why he'd played just the final six minutes of the game.
"I don't know what happened, I don't know if he asked me something, but it's not important," said Mancini, understandably concentrating more on the loss of two points. "Mario probably thinks it was important. Tomorrow I will ask him, next time I see him."
Mancini had dealt with similar claims of a rift last week, when a report suggested he was unhappy with his star player's habit of smoking.
The City manager was also said to be unimpressed by allegations Balotelli had been spotted on a night out last Sunday, 48 hours before the Champions League defeat at Real Madrid. The £24 million (HK$302 million) striker did not even feature on the substitutes' bench for that game.
Balotelli has only played 175 minutes of football for City this season, spread over four games, and the Italian can now expect a prominent role in his team's League Cup third-round tie at home to Aston Villa today.
How Balotelli responds will be keenly watched, although Mancini insisted before the weekend that "my patience is endless" when it comes to dealing with the temperamental forward.
Meanwhile, Mancini was more concerned about City's failure to hold onto a lead secured by Joleon Lescott's first-half set-piece header.
Not only have City now failed to keep a clean sheet in their opening seven games but they have thrown away the lead in three of those games already this term, although they have yet to lose, apart from in the Champions League.
"We have this problem, we don't close the game and after that it's clear we don't take our chances," said Mancini. "We had the game under control, only for the last 10 or 15 minutes were too deep. The point is that we need to close the game when we have the chance to score.
"I am frustrated but also the players are frustrated because, if you want to win, clean sheets are important."
There was little doubt that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, whose side host Coventry in the League Cup tomorrow, could take far greater satisfaction from a performance that maintained his side's unbeaten start to the season.
"It's frustrating because we had room to do more," said Wenger. "We had early chances, late chances, I think of the one from Gervinho from the edge of the box. But, overall, I hope the game will reinforce our belief and our confidence… about our potential in this league."