In Manuel Pellegrini, Manchester City have acquired an astute tactician who, unlike many of today’s top managers, has shown his ability to be flexible in his choice of tactics.
Throughout his career, Pellegrini has used a variety of formations, some of which include 4-3-1-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-2-2-2 and 4-4-2. When looking at Pellegrini’s favored tactics, one feature is prominent — and that’s using two highly disciplined defensive midfielders. The key word here is discipline as Pellegrini bases his sides on a structured, organized unit, which is defined by two anchors who control the game at both ends of the field. That begs the question, what role will Yaya Toure play?
Since he arrived at the Etihad, Toure has literally been the driving force behind an emerging Manchester City side, dragging City out of sticky situations time and time again. Of course, Mancini often employed Toure in a deep role, whereby he sat alongside Gareth Barry, usually looking constrained and isolated. As games grew on and City struggled to break teams down time and time again, Mancini would finally unleash Toure, allowing the Ivorian to dictate games through the use of power alone.
This is a feature we are unlikely to see often under Pellegrini, whose sides enjoy a slow, structured build up in possession, allowing them to be ready for quick transitions when dispossessed. Here is the key for Toure — transitions. Pellegrini utilizes his full backs to provide width in the attacking phases, allowing his more creative ‘interiores’ to move inside and cut open defences. So what does this mean for the central midfielders?
Pellegrini requires strong, mobile defensive midfielders who must also have the ability to build play from deep positions, so it is not hard to see why the likes of Marcos Senna and Jeremy Toulalan have been vital to Pellegrini’s sides. Looking at this description it is difficult to see why Toure might not fit in. He is one of the most athletic players in the world who is also blessed with exceptional vision and passing. However the key is discipline. Pellegrini requires someone who is prepared to relinquish almost all attacking freedom, which would certainly take the edge off Toure’s presence.
Furthermore City have already invested heavily in Brazilian playmaker Fernandinho, who is almost certain to fill the role of a deep lying playmaker. This means Pellegrini simply needs a partner for Fernandinho,where together the pair will sit deep and look to begin a slow attacking build up. Perhaps more importantly, they will provide solid defensive cover for the attacking minded full backs, limiting City’s vulnerability to the counter attack, which was so evident under Mancini last year.
The real question is then, is Yaya Toure willing to play with so much defensive discipline where his unwillingness to do so led to his departure from Barcelona? There is no way that Pellegrini will try to get rid of Toure, but will the Spaniard try and turn him into a player he doesn’t want to be?
Of course there are other options. Against most Premier League sides, City would not need such a rigorous defensive outline, allowing Toure to move forward. Alternatively, Pellegrini may convene with Fernandinho who may be willing to take some defensive responsibility off Toure, allowing them to take turns in undertaking the playmaker role.
Pellegrini is blessed with several midfield options to consider. It’s going to be a marvel to see what options he selects.