5 Threats to 5 Trophies in 5 Seasons
Monday marked the first day in earnest for Manuel Pellegrini as Manchester City manager. The Chilean may have been officially appointed for a couple of weeks or so now, even featuring in this video the club put out chronicling his first twenty-four hours at the club; but with the 'official' start of pre-season (although football these days will see players return in dribs and drabs throughout July) this week he can now get to work.
July 9th, 2013
He will have a wealth of tools available to him of course. Analysis (both video and ‘pure’ numbers) will be able to inform him of all manner of scenarios dating back to the year dot if he so chooses. He will also rely on the likes of Brian Kidd and other holdovers from the Mancini-era to provide the lowdown on certain players psyche’ and character in addition to what he now begins to witness first-hand.
Pellegrini knows City have to rebound from last year, and with the expectation that the club will achieve five trophies over the coming five seasons he cannot afford too much of a settling-in period as he seeks to address some of the challenges he faces now he is in the hot seat; the most pressing of which are outlined below.
A number of reports emanated out of the club in the wake of Mancini’s sacking citing player unrest with the Italian’s methods and often brusque approach. Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli have departed in the past six months along with a clear-out of the dead wood but there hasn’t been (as yet) the wholesale departures perhaps anticipated. Along with bedding in Jesus Navas and Fernandinho, Pellegrini will have to quickly gain the trust of his new squad with the key figures of Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany – known to have been on the receiving end at times last season – particularly important. Getting the best out of the under-performing and inconsistent Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko will also be a priority.
The past three seasons have seen City turn in a quite remarkable return from their home games. Their title-winning season saw them drop just two points and even 2012/13 saw them win 14 of 19 games at The Etihad. Away from home it is a different story. Last year City dropped 24 points on the road, a point worse than their title-winning season. It was the manner of the performances that was the greater concern though, as too often City were one-dimensional and rigid when trying to chase either a tied game or if they fell behind. A lack of pace and options plagued their play and even an imperious home form can only sustain so much. Both Navas and Fernandinho should help in this regard and a change in system (especially with Tevez moving on) may also benefit both Nasri and David Silva from a creativity standpoint.
Increased domestic challenge
The past two seasons under Mancini has seen the Premier League all but a two-horse race featuring City and United, with no other side coming close to crashing the title party. 2013/14 looks set to be a far different prospect, and made even more interesting given that three of the top four from last season come into the season with new managers at the helm. The arrival of Jose Mourinho aligned with a promising squad should see a more experienced and improved Chelsea, whilst Arsenal – perhaps spooked by last season’s close shave in qualifying for the Champions League – have loosened the purse strings. Tottenham have made their own statement of intent this summer too and will not be satisfied with fifth place again. Added to this should be an improved Liverpool as well as an Everton side under the stewardship of Roberto Martinez. Games between the top six or so sides will take an added significance.
Mancini appeared as adverse to Europe as Nigel Farage in a prickly mood, and a third consecutive failure will hardly endear Pellegrini to fans or hierarchy alike. Much – and in Mancini’s defence he was dealt an awful hand – will depend upon the draw with City likely being a third seed. His pedigree and experience in the competition should help, but while there is far less margin for error in the Champions League City, and this is despite individual experience, lack a collective experience and have been guilty of naivety at times. Too often City have been behind the eight ball after poor early results. If Pellegrini can get a quick start in the competition this should also help as he tries to juggle domestic responsibilities.
It is difficult to ascertain what will be the likely tenure of Pellegrini. By no means a young man, experience of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain from their time at Barcelona hints at an average period of 3-5 years (maximum) – believing that while a general ‘fixed’ structure can be in place at the club there will be constant shifts and approaches depending upon the needs of the club at a particular time. Witness the hiring, and subsequent sacking, of Frank Riijkaard at the Nou Camp, replacing him with Pep Guardiola. Fearing Mancini could not adapt to the requirements of such an approach they clearly feel Pellegrini has what it takes to not only deliver success in the present but both oversee and facilitate the development of the next generation of players, with City busy stocking their Academy. By the end of his time at the club this will be considered one of the benchmarks Pellegrini is judged against.