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Manchester City’s problems go way beyond Manuel Pellegrini

manuel-pellegrini

Manuel Pellegrini’s tenure as Manchester City manager has been called into question after a series of indifferent performances that culminated in a 1-0 loss against Burnley on Saturday. The Chilean manager’s position, depending on what source you consider, is either safe or in terminal crisis.

Ironically at Turf Moor on Saturday, it could be argued that the two best players on the pitch that had ever suited up for Manchester City were Ben Mee and Kieran Trippier, two defenders the Blues gave up on several years ago. Both players have been instrumental in bringing Burnley back to the top flight and to the Clarets survival fight this year. This is no small irony. Manchester City last brought through a regular from the Academy when Sven Goran-Eriksson was manager and Thaskin Shinawatra owned the club. While a “holistic” approach has been promised by the club’s top brass, nothing remotely resembling it has been on display as of yet.

The Blues top brass led by Ferran Soriano and ‘Txiki’ Begiristain have made one mistake after another since assuming control of the club in late 2012. The sacking of Roberto Mancini as City manager ushered in an era of less drama but also of consistently bad transfer buys and ultimately less competitive soccer. Pellegrini inherited a good squad from Mancini and was able to get footballers to play with a collective spirit last season. He also benefitted from Liverpool’s late season collapse and Chelsea’s unlikely dropping of points to multiple relegation contenders in the last two months of the season. Had things gone according to form last season, Manchester City would have finished third in the league, but Pellegrini can be credited with keeping the drama out of the dressing room and being the fortunate recipient of others’ bad luck.

This season, however, the bad transfer policies and lack of understanding of English soccer demonstrated by Soriano and Begiristain have been fully exposed. It can be argued that Manchester City has not made a value buy in the transfer market since Roberto Mancini was manager and Brian Marwood was largely responsible for player dealings.

The last several transfer windows have seen the Blues overpay for several players based on the continent while giving up on some of Mancini’s later buys.

Take the cases of Matija Nastasić and Scott Sinclair. During Nastasić’s first season with the club in 2012-13, he was outstanding and considered one of the brightest young talents in the English game. A single mistake against Chelsea in October 2013 lost him a place in the side. And without any league starts in a year, he was shipped off to Schalke on loan. This week that loan was made permanent. Currently, the Blues central defense is a complete mess whose only reliable performer is 34 year-old Martín Demichelis.

In Sinclair’s case, Manchester City has virtually no game-changing attacking options on the bench except for 36 year-old Frank Lampard who will move to Major League Soccer in the summer. Yet Sinclair was never afforded the opportunity to play a critical late-game role until weeks before he was loaned to Aston Villa, where he started out well, scoring 3 goals in his last 5 games for the Midlands club.

Manchester City has taken a different approach than Chelsea in the transfer market. The West London club has bought young players and either loaned them out consistently, or played them for a season or two, watched their value peak and then sell them. City’s approach has often been to buy older, more established players, give them big contracts and keep them together as a core of the team. This leaves the Citizens with very few good sellable parts in an era where Financial Fair Play (FFP) makes creativity in the transfer market a must.

At the same time, the club has failed to forward an acceptable contract offer to arguably its hardest-working player, James Milner. The utility of Milner would be obvious to those grounded in the finer points of English soccer – but City’s brass, obsessive about being a global brand and committed to continental style, has at least from the outside not given the Leeds-born midfielder the respect he deserves or the respect perhaps he would have gotten were he from somewhere else.

The club’s hierarchy has been focused largely in recent months on the launch of a sister club in MLS, NYCFC and the opening of the City Academy for Excellence in East Manchester. Both are worthwhile projects, but neither solves any of the immediate concerns that very well could see the Citizens slide out of contention for honors over the next several seasons.

So while Pellegrini’s position is in question, the very soul of Manchester City has ripped apart and the sacking of a manager might only give a temporary respite. Bigger questions must be asked of those making the decisions above Pellegrini, as to why a club that looked poised to potentially dominate the English game for many years is so off course.

 

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Steve Davis

    March 16, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    ‘Ironically at Turf Moor on Saturday, it could be argued that the two best players on the pitch that had ever suited up for Manchester City were Ben Mee and Kieran Trippier, two defenders the Blues gave up on several years ago. Both players have been instrumental in bringing Burnley back to the top flight and to the Clarets survival fight this year. This is no small irony.’

    This makes me laugh! City despite their woes still boasts the 4th best defensive record in the league having conceded 28 goals, Burnley on the other hand is the second worst having conceded 47 Goals. So drawing comparison against a relegation side’s defenders, who are albeit former city academy graduates, really is a bit far fetched. These two young defenders as young as they are play for a relegation team with the second worst defensive record in the league! Are you saying they should be in the City starting line-up at present!?

    Talking about the senior management, let’s just take a look for a second at the transfers you have mentioned. Jovetic has been injured far more times than fit in the past 2 years. On the other hand Negredo was a great asset beginning of last season, he also succumbed to injury, needed surgery and could not be included in city’s champions league squad. With FFP restrictions, they had no choice but to consider shipping him out. likewise nastastic spent most of last season injured as he did this season. Scott Sinclair was again brought to fulfill FFP home grown quotas and was a Mancini purchase! Navas has been a good player, Mangala is a good, young and very capable defender. He will develop, like Kompany did! Fernando and Fernandinho are two very good players, the problem is that both of them have to play next to Toure who did not make one tackle the last game and who ran 4km less than any midfielder on the pitch. Toure if he is not scoring is a liability, he is too poor defensively to be a holding player. that puts pressure on the back line who have to deal with gaping holes from runs through the midfield.

    Management have FFP to contend with, Mancini had no such worries.

    You say there are no game changing subs on the bench, Milner, Nasri and Bony were all on the Bench last game. All are game changers! Sinclair is not world class, sinclair is not title contending quality.

    The three poorest players this entire season are Dzeko, Yaya and Kompany. the captain I will give some leeway as I feel he is trying too hard and not hit form after injury but Dzeko is abysmal on the ball, he has a poor touch and his goals to games ratio is appalling. Yaya is awful, everyone is blinded by his wonder goals. but that is it. his workrate is poor, he does not tackle, he does not defend and the whole team suffers.

    • Adam

      March 17, 2015 at 12:19 pm

      Yaya can be good if he wants. I’m reminded of the game against Aston Villa last July when he took off running and scored solo, absolutely amazing. His mentality reminds me a bit of Balotelli though. Could be awesome, just depends what player shows up. When he decides to not work hard, it definitely shows. He looks lazy, tired, no motivation on the pitch, it’s like he doesn’t even want to be there. The way he looked against Burnley.

  2. StellaWasAlwaysDown

    March 16, 2015 at 11:15 am

    I hope Villa holds onto Sinclair as he’s a good fit for Sherwood’s style. But I think we are seeing City get too caught up with big names and paydays. They’ve had a lot of success lately, and have signed a ton of great players. I’m not sure that upper management knows how to handle them now that there is a transition period. Milner is also welcome to come back to B6!

  3. Sun Jihai

    March 16, 2015 at 9:35 am

    A mistake to get rid of Nastasic and Sinclair?

    Wow. Just wow.

    Without disputing (much) anything else written here, the fact that these examples are being used makes me further wonder if Kartik isn’t just some guy who decided to pretend to be a City fan in order to crank out an Amazon e-book title about being one.

    Nastasic had a run of decent performances two years ago after Lescott collapsed. Last season he was utterly shocking and was rightfully dropped once DeMichelis became fit. He is also a back foot defender on a club playing a “front foot” system. Also with Denayer as an academy product looking very likely for promotion next season.

    Sinclair. Again, just wow.

    • Christopher Harris

      March 16, 2015 at 10:24 am

      Anyone that has been following Kartik knows that he’s been a City supporter since the 1980s.

      Scott Sinclair? He was brilliant at Swansea, crap at City (where he never really got a chance), and has scored 3 goals at Villa in their last five games.

  4. Adam

    March 16, 2015 at 8:20 am

    I do agree that the problem stems far beyond the manager. Totally agree with not re-signing Milner. He deserves to be played more and a nice payday. I think his work ethic is 2nd to none of all the players on that squad.

    All that being said, I do not think we (City fans) should all lose our heads. Finishing 2nd or even third is not the end of the world. Fix some of the management problems and the rest will fall into place. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It will take time . We’ll get there eventually. Besides if you win everything all the time, that would be just as boring as losing all the time. Having hiccups makes it interesting football!

  5. simon tilley

    March 15, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    I think this article is well written. I believe as a City Fan that the author’s appraisal of the higher management at the club to be correct and that they are responsible for many of the problems now beginning to unfold.

    I firmly believe a new management structure needs to be imposed at the season’s close. They have the academy; use it. I am also certain the fan base would remain loyal to such development even if overnight success was guaranteed.

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