Where has it all gone wrong at Manchester City?

Manuel Pellegrini has one of the most lucrative and sought after managerial jobs in world football at Manchester City, and after winning two trophies in his first year, he looked the real deal. However, this season he’s finding himself in a currently sticky situation after a poor start.

With the small matter of the Salford-Manchester derby being the only win in recent weeks, Pellegrini sees his team struggling and sitting eight points below Premier League leaders Chelsea. The football has been lacklustre, the players have looked dejected and at times Pellegrini has looked defeated. So, where are the problems?

Despite a statistically decent defensive record this term, City have conceded due to some defensive horror-shows and relied too heavily on last year’s scapegoat Joe Hart. This could be due to the fact the manager feels fit to change the back four every week. Kolarov and Clichy alternate on a weekly basis, despite Kolarov’s obvious superiority. Demichelis and Mangala are also constantly in and out of the team each week, and with ever changing partners to their left this makes it even more difficult for Mangala to establish himself. Kompany is an irreplaceable perfect example of a captain at the back, but it doesn’t take a managerial genius to clock that one. And the irreplaceable perfect vice-captain in Pablo Zabaleta is alternated for the so-far-terrible Sagna. Of course it’s important to alternate players, give people their chance and keep the team fit but every game? Sam Allardyce has had less meat pies than City have had back four changes, and that’s saying something.

This is Manchester City; the so-called richest club in the world! Surely we must be one of the easiest team in the world to manage during the transfer period? Chelsea expertly bought Fabregas and Costa, Arsenal quietly bought Sanchez and Welbeck, Manchester United loudly bought Di Maria and Falcao to fill the void (and play as a centre-back pairing!), and Liverpool bought Southampton and ended up making themselves worse. Needless to say after a big transfer window for the big teams, City needed to strengthen, but did Pellegrini pick the right men?

Frank Lampard has been a fantastic transfer; bagged a few goals, adds experience and cost absolutely nothing. The right man.

Barcary Sagna has had a shaky start to the year and is under-performing in games, but this may just be due to the City faithful being spoilt by the fantastic Pablo Zabaleta for the last few years. There is no doubt that Sagna has quality and as he cost nothing, which’ll irritate every Gunner, and he may prove to be a decent acquisition still but the jury is out.  

Eliaquim Mangala started his Manchester City career with a man of the match performance against Chelsea to follow up with an own goal and conceding a penalty the next game. However, it’s obvious he has the potential to be class (and for £32 million it’s expected), but he needs some time. Soon to be the right man, hopefully.

The acquisition of £12million Fernando has been a failure as he’s under-performed and his boots made of soap see him falling over at disastrous moments seemingly every match. He still manages to start ahead of the benched and superior Fernandinho, whilst the man he replaced, Javi Garcia, plays his football in the exotic land of Russia after a fantastic end to last season, wondering how on earth this man got his job. Please put Fernando on the bench, Manuel.

The departure of Alvaro Negredo can be slightly defended as it’s come to light that he was unhappy with puddly Britain and wanted to head back to sunny Spain, but his exit left City with three strikers. One of these strikers is Stevan Jovetic; otherwise known as ‘the man made of glass’. Another is Sergio Aguero, possibly the greatest striker to wear a City shirt… but also made of glass. The final striker is Edin Dzeko, supplying unpredictable goal droughts, but then enough goals to save his City career each year. City are simply a team that needs four strikers if they are going to compete in all competitions, even without any injuries. So naturally, Pellegrini didn’t buy any and loaned out SPL Player of the Month, John Guidetti to Celtic. John Guidetti: the right man in the wrong place.

It’s fair to say that the lack of good transfer action and City’s back four changes have seen Pellegrini look a bit foolish, but one place where he has shown his managerial nous is the re-introduction of James Milner into the City starting eleven. The Englishman’s desire, hunger and never say die attitude in addition to his natural ability adds up to make him one of the countries most underrated players. In a time where English players are tipped for the Ballon d’Or if they manage to successfully complete two step-overs, it’s a surprise that Milner is so nationally underrated. A good manager knows when to put a player back into the team and when he deserves to keep his place, and Pellegrini has showed this with Milner getting his longest spell in the City team in years. On the other hand, Pellegrini has seen something unfitting in Matija Nastasic and left him in the City wilderness as the useless Dedryk Boyata stumbles onto the bench ahead of him. Nobody in the world seems to know what’s happened to make Nastasic fall out of favour, but I trust Pellegrini with this decision, and as shown with Milner, he will bring him back if or when he feels fit.

The Chilean manager likes football to be played his way and his way only, fuelling ideas that he’s stubborn. 4-4-2 doesn’t seem to be working. The midfield isn’t strong enough, and with only three strikers it’s a very risky approach up top. It makes City look one dimensional and rely too much on the wingers. To be fair to our manager, he has before tried three at the back and swapped back to four, and this season he’s been seen changing to 4-5-1 at certain times, but it is evident that this needs to become the main formation.

A big problem for City is the midfield for the last two seasons has been ran by Yaya Toure, whereas his fantastic season has been tarnished by a horrendous summer and a bad start to this term. Nobody could blame the managerial team for dropping him, but he’s been stuck with him and we simply lack strong competition in that area. Pellegrini is giving Toure the feeling that he believes in him by keeping him in the team and with scoring form slowly coming back, and a big performance against Manchester United, Toure may be making his way back as the main man. Very slowly.

Surely, in time, this Manchester City team will resolve itself. Pellegrini’s transfers were both good and bad, but they are certainly good enough to work with, and surely there’s been enough evidence for the back four to be stabilised. But this isn’t the end of his upcoming troubles. He is still the man for City – proven by his fantastic trophy winning season last year, past European successes (despite a horrendous campaign so far this season), and the belief he puts into the players. All that being said, if results don’t change, there’s a long queue of managers wanting the most sought after job in football.

By Harry Newton – Manchester City fan – @Harry_Newton_