Roberto Mancini’s departure from Manchester City is good news for City fans, if Manuel Pellegrini is appointed as his successor.
Despite winning the Premier League last season, City’s fundamental lack of attacking width was obvious. Mancini always preferred a compact midfield devoid of wingers and relied heavily on the stamina of Gael Clichy and Pablo Zabaleta to provide overlaps during attacking passages.
These conservative tactics had been stifling the team’s attacking talent and this was shown by their inability to break down the top sides in Europe, evidenced by their failure to advance from the group stages of the Champions League.
Mancini claimed the Premier League title in 2011-12, just. Yet this season has been a different, trophy-less story.
City have become predictable. With 62 league goals this season, they are behind Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and, of course,
Robin van Persie Manchester United on goals scored. Mancini’s pragmatic Italian tactics have seen City concede just 31 times in 36 games, but this is not the philosophy that chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, or Director of Football Txiki Begiristain (formerly of Barcelona), expect.
Time for a change
If – as is widely reported, Manuel Pellegrini is appointed – City will be gaining a manager of distinction and one who is hugely respected, particularly in Spain, despite a relatively modest list of achievements (in terms of trophies, at least).
Champions League success is at the top of City’s list of objectives, and Pellegrini has consistently outperformed his teams’ expectations in Europe. In fact, he is the only manager to reach the Quarter Finals of the Champions League with two debutant teams in Villarreal and Malaga – the latter only narrowly missing out on the Semi Finals after a late siege from this year’s finalists Borussia Dortmund.
In Spain, Pellegrini has extracted exciting attacking performances from each of his teams.
At Villarreal, he mixed Spanish talents with South American imports to great effect, and brought the team unprecedented success. Playing a fluid 4-4-2 (4-2-2-2), El Submarino Amarillo broke the Barca-Madrid duopoly and narrowly missed out on a Champions League final to Arsenal.
At Real Madrid, the Chilean guided Los Blancos to their (then) club record points tally of 96 points, only to be pipped by Guardiola’s party-pooping Barcelona side. Were it not for the availability of Mourinho following his departure from Inter Milan, Pellegrini would likely have been given a deserved second season at the Bernabeu.
In joining Malaga, he was tasked with throwing together any available players under the authority of a rich owner and was had to desperately sculpt them into a team. Despite boardroom problems and off-field disarray, he brought the players together on the pitch.
Suddenly, the pieces start to fit together.
Fortunately for David Silva, Pellegrini loves a playmaker. Formerly with D’Alessandro at River Plate, then Juan Roman Riquelme at Villarreal, briefly with Kaka at Madrid, and latterly with Santi Cazorla and then Isco at Malaga – Pellegrini’s teams revolve around a creative number 10.
City have a number of players who could fit the bill here. At the front of the queue will be David Silva, who must surely be a focal point if City are to become a major force in Europe.
Aside from the Spaniard, Samir Nasri has the technical ability (if not the mindset) to flourish in the playmaker role.
For a change of tactic, Yaya Toure can be deployed in his preferred attacking role. What he lacks in skills and turning circle, he makes up for in raw power and unmatched presence in the midfield.
Manchester City’s formation may change under Pellegrini and – based on the current squad – would likely see Nasri and Tevez deployed in wider support positions either side of Aguero. Alternatively, a 4-2-3-1 similar to Mancini’s starting XI in the FA Cup final could be used, but with the attacking three midfielders more spaced out.
City’s Summer Spending
After recognising that their inactivity last summer cost them this year’s Premier League crown, expect Sheik Mansour to leave his cheque book waiting for the new manager.
Few would be surprised to see Dzeko, Kolarov and Pantilimon leave but, judging by recent performances, there may be half a dozen players who are actively shepherded out the club.
Gareth Barry isn’t up to the task at the top level of European football, and the attitude of players like Samir Nasri are questionable at best. Carlos Tevez has made no secret of his desire to return to Argentina with Boca Juniors, whilst a number of fringe players may seek first team football elsewhere.
Reportedly, top of City’s wishlist are Edinson Cavani and Isco. Whether the transfer dealings are dictated by Begiristain or Pellegrini: only time will tell.
Whatever the summer holds, one thing is for certain: Manchester City’s owners expect the Premier League crown back at The Etihad Stadium in 12 months’ time.