The Perfect Start For Manuel Pellegrini

August 21, 2013 in Premier League by Louis Baxter

When Manuel Pellegrini stepped out of the tunnel in his first competitive game as manager of Manchester City, the response was somewhat muted. Polite applause, certainly no hostility, but an absence of uproar nonetheless. In a way, this was understandable. The City fans loved Pellegrini’s predecessor Roberto Mancini. They viewed him as the man who finally brought City in from the cold, who gave them success after a lifetime of humiliation and under achievement, and his sacking made no sense to them. The only model of sustained success they have seen is the 25 plus year reign of Sir Alex Ferguson, and they wanted to follow in those footballing footsteps. The sacking of Mancini put an end to that, and left a lot of City fans a bit lost.


But as the rather unpleasant saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a goat. Barcelona and Real Madrid rarely keep a manager longer than three years and have maintained success over decades. Bayern just forced a manager out the door who won them a fairly flawless treble and look to have suffered none. Stability can be achieved at a club without an unimpeachable Ferguson-type figure, and City fans shouldn’t fear for the future. If Monday night’s comprehensive 4-0 victory over Newcastle is anything to g0 by, they should be very excited for it. By the 23rd minute, City fans were singing Pellegrini’s name as they watched a tactically flawless and imperious performance that laid down the law against a worryingly feeble Newcastle United side, and stated City’s intentions for this season in the clearest possible terms.

The spine of the team as much the same as the previous season. The defence was basically untouched outside of Lescott coming in for the injured Matija Nastasic, and City have kept faith in Joe Hart despite his faltering form. Pellegrini has correctly identified City’s main areas of weakness from last season and remedied. A lack of width and pace going forward, and a sluggish central midfield. Out went the ageing Gareth Barry - not even on the bench on Monday, and with him being seemingly below Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia in the pecking order, a move away from the Etihad before deadline day seems plausible enough - and in came the agile Fernandinho. The 30 million pound signing looked a tad nervous in the early goings, but before long, his benefit became abundantly clear. He was everywhere, covering the ground Yaya Toure can’t/won’t, and enabling the big Ivorian to open up his game. The consistency of Yaya Toure will be a big factor in City’s ability to oust the very serious competition, and this was a promising start to his partnership with Fernandinho.

The other debutant, Jesus Navas, replaced Samir Nasri/James Milner in City’s midfield and seems to solve the lack of width and pace in one fell swoop. Navas terrorized the Newcastle full-backs and delivered crosses with a remarkable accuracy, picking out the head of Dzeko almost every time. Speaking of which, Edin Dzeko looked a man reborn. Gone was the sulky, half-assed performances of last season that made his future at the Etihad look very short indeed. Now he’s Pellegrini’s main man, and playing with the enthusiasm and commitment to suggest as such. His link up play with Aguero was excellent, and the two look such a good pairing that it could be hard for new signings Negredo and Jovetic to break into the first team.

Perhaps what was more pleasing was Pellegrini’s manner on the touchline. The manic behaviour and impulse decisions from the Mancini days are gone, and Pellegrini brings a reassuring calm and an in-game tactical astuteness to City that was lacking last season. The one-note team that came a cropper when teams parked the bus against them seemed to have ideas coming from all sides, and a commitment to pressing and winning the ball back which similarly was lacking last season. I’d advise City fans to temper their excitement somewhat because of how truly terrible Newcastle were, looking every inch the relegation candidates they were last season, but you can only beat what is in front of you, and in that sense, things couldn’t really have got off to a better start for Pellegrini’s tenure at Manchester City.

This promises to be one of the most unpredictable seasons at the top of the Premier League for quite some time, but while I still wouldn’t quite consider City favorites, I’d imagine their odds went down after this glorified training session.