City – from champs to chumps

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Inside Manchester City, the Chilean has always provided a welcome contrast to the emotional stresses of life epitomised by his predecessor Roberto Mancini but — on the field and across the landscape of English football — Pellegrini has made the shallowest of footprints.

Progress at the Etihad Stadium has in recent years been slight. Indeed, you could say there has been none, particularly in relation to money spent. At City, however, the fact is that the identity of the manager represents only a small part of the problem.

As reported in Sportsmail after City’s defeat in Barcelona last month, there is no particular desire at the club to sack Pellegrini. More poor results, more points separating his team from champions-elect Chelsea may cause the ground to shift a little further but any decision regarding the manager will be motivated much more by what happens next rather than what happened over the past eight months.

Certainly, this has been a lamentable defence of the title, as bad as when conceding it by 11 points in 2013. At the Etihad there is, however, a recognition that problems are not all down to the manager.

There are some issues with Pellegrini. Some City players think he is too nice — a soft touch who does not inspire with words or his substitutions and who displays a fondness for a 4-4-2 formation that they feel leaves them vulnerable.

Pellegrini has not alienated or even polarised his dressing room, however. The majority are happy to work and play for him. The more significant problem is that City’s squad, constructed carefully and expensively, is too old, too foreign and has not been improved by recent transfers.

City have had a very good team for quite a while now. Signing David Silva and Yaya Toure in 2010 and Sergio Aguero a year later lifted them to their current level but nothing since the first Premier League title has hinted at the further progress many presumed would be inevitable.

Recruitment has, on the whole, been poor, thus allowing established players to coast, perhaps subconsciously, without the pressure of in-house competition.

Football director Txiki Begiristain has been largely responsible for this and his contribution, at least that which we can see, has been disappointing given the reputation earned at Barcelona.

At all clubs, teams and players must move forward to thrive but too many at City have stagnated. Vincent Kompany, for example, no longer seems capable of looking after his own performances, never mind that of his team. For a club captain, his popularity in the City dressing room is limited.

Elsewhere, players such as Samir Nasri contributed when City were playing well but disappeared once things became harder. Since hacking at Neymar during the Barcelona defeat, an act that earned him the cheapest of yellow cards, the France international has played only 13 minutes of two games. It is understood that the two things are not unrelated. Nasri is just one who may fret a little about his future this summer.

Wary of Financial Fair Play restrictions, City cannot spend enormous sums on targets such as Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba without first selling. Others who are vulnerable include Stevan Jovetic, Bacary Sagna and even Toure.

The Toure debate is not new but what should be kept in mind is that the Ivorian will not be going anywhere until someone matches a salary that exceeds £1million a month.

It could be that City’s climb back to the very top will be slow. They will need to be shrewder in the market and hope investment in their academy pays off. Better decisions are required from top to bottom.

As for Pellegrini, he would be daft to think he is not vulnerable and a late-season surge would help him. Odd as it sounds, however, the identity of the manager is currently not City’s biggest issue. – Daily Mail

Original source: City - from champs to chumps

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