A new manager in Manuel Pellegrini and with it a new philosophy. Why quality rather than quantity at Manchester City can bring some much-needed stability on and off the pitch.
Let’s be honest. Over the past few years, throughout the Sheikh Mansour era, Manchester City’s transfer spending has been, in a word, messy. Slapdash and haphazard, like a maniacal contestant on Supermarket Sweep; you would think that City were privy to details of an oncoming striker drought and were madly stockpiling ahead of the famine.
This transfer market monopoly attitude culminated in a squad packed with Premier League ‘it’ boys and later, as the club gained a bit of street cred, genuine global big names. Soon enough, City graduated from duking it out with Spurs and Liverpool for fourth to jousting with cross-town foes Manchester United at the top of the table.
Repeating the act is more elusive and requires more staying power, like a difficult second album – the sophomore slump. Roberto Mancini couldn’t match his 2011/12 heroics with a squad once again packed with heavyweights on astronomical wages. Failing to replicate league-clinching form, falling to Wigan in the FA Cup Final and with no European success to speak of, he was unceremoniously brushed aside. City were playing the long game and they have moved the chess pieces in a way that has suggested a more long-term outlook ever since.
Pellegrini’s glittering CV
So, if 2011/12 was City’s Definitely, Maybe, they’re now in the process of penning their own (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? Producer this time around is a man known to some as ‘The Engineer’, Manuel Pellegrini. Plucked from his post at Málaga, the appointment of the Chilean hints at a continuation of a Spanish revolution at the Etihad. The club brought in Ferran Soriano as CEO and former Barcelona sporting director Txiki Begiristain as Director of Football in late 2012.
Pellegrini is, by all accounts, the ideal man to take over from the ousted Mancini. He’s accustomed to deep pockets having turned his hand to Real Madrid and Málaga. He oversaw the return of the Galaticos era at the Bernabéu, signing Cristiano Ronaldo for a record-breaking fee, and at Málaga experienced the highs and lows of working under the club’s mega-rich investors and their blatant disregard for financial control commitments.
He performed well at both clubs, though he could never satisfy Madrid’s thirst for Spanish and world-domination. His CV glitters mostly because of his stint at Villarreal prior to taking the Madrid job, where he won praise for creative tactics and guided The Yellow Submarine to dizzying heights in Europe.
The Chilean steered Málaga through its most heady period in recent memory, when Sheikh Al-Thani pumped millions into the club, inflated its wage bill with a number of high profile purchases, and then hastily withdrew his financial backing. Dumped out of Europe after qualifying for the competition in Pellegrini’s first season for failing to adhere to financial rules, the manager stayed on and ensured they made it all the way to the quarter finals last year before Borussia Dortmund snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
[City Slickers Infographic – click image to enlarge]
While that was a blow, he claims his managerial success is down to pursuing higher interests:
“I’m not obsessed by football. The manager who just knows about football is lacking…It’s very important for a coach to have a life outside football. Each afternoon, after resting, I study, read and watch movies, as well as other sports. At night, I dedicate two more hours to football and at 11pm I turn the lights off.”
In the same way that City’s technical appointments have suggested shrewder, long-term investment, so has their spending this summer. Signing Italian football’s answer to Taz the Tazmanian Devil (Mario Balotelli) and tantrum-throwing Argentinean mercenaries (Carlos Tevez) seems a thing of the past. While anything but bargain-basement shopping, the nearly £90m they have dropped so far has been wisely spread over four strong additions and for once, none of them seem to have any major attitude issues.
Fernandinho gets to grips with Oasis
Fernandinho set the club back around £30m and was signed before Pellegrini was unveiled as Mancini’s successor. The defensive midfielder, brought in from Shakhtar Donetsk – Eastern Europe’s Hipster Club of Choice – has more creative and technical instinct in his baby toe than Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong put together. He dreams of completing a match without misplacing a pass and has spent his time in Manchester wisely so far, getting to grips with Oasis.
Jesús Navas, signed from Sevilla for £14.9m, had to turn down numerous Spain call ups earlier in his career due to extreme homesickness. He claims he’s over that, and he didn’t try to Great Escape himself out of City’s pre-season tour of Asia so the early signs are promising. He tends to make brilliant runs down the right wing and pick passes out of nowhere for his teammates, which brings us to Álvaro Negredo, whom he partnered at Sevilla.
Picked up for £20m (a bargain for a 25-goal-a-season striker), the broad-shouldered Spaniard is the ideal frontman. Skilled, but strong, Negredo is almost Van Persie-esque in his ability to lead the line, and he and Navas already have a stellar connection that should make adapting to the Premier League all the more easy for both.
Finally, Montenegrin wunderkind Stevan Jovetic. You may remember him scoring twice, aged just 19, for Fiorentina against Liverpool in the Champions League in September 2009. He was hot property then and despite being plagued by injuries, still is. He prefers to play behind the striker, and from that position racked up 13 goals and five assists for Fiorentina in Serie A last season. At just 23, he has the potential to be one of the best in the world.
Despite all of his recent additions, Pellegrini has made one selection choice very clear: Edin Džeko is the man tasked with leading City’s storied front line.
We could’ve signed other players but I consider him the main striker of the team and I’m sure his performance along the season will be really good.
Not shy about the pressure that comes with the job, so confident is Pellegrini that in response to Soriano’s goal of five trophies in five years for the club, he said, “Just five?”. Committed to instilling an attack-driven, attractive brand of football and devoted to providing success and entertainment, City fans have plenty to look forward to this season if the new boss gets his way.
- Can Manuel Pellegrini revive Manchester City’s fortunes? Shoot over to the 2013/14 season’s odds on their team page here