5 steps Manchester City need to take to regain its long-term dominance

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Manuel Pellegrini seems certain to be the fall guy for the failings of Manchester City during the 2014-15 club season. While his tactics and stubbornness can certainly be critiqued, the positives about the Chilean manager have not been seen in sometime.

Let’s take a moment to look at what Pellegrini has accomplished against the tide of adversity in his first two campaigns leading the Blues. Let’s also look at where the Blues must improve regardless of who manages the club next season and who is making the transfer decisions.

For the first time since 1970, the Blues won multiple trophies in a single season during the 2013-14 campaign. Quite frankly, Manchester City was fortunate to be in the frame for the Premier League title. Chelsea’s propensity to drop points against lower table teams, despite doing the double over both City and Liverpool, was shocking and left the door open for Pellegrini’s side to pounce. Steadiness and a sense of purpose characterized the final two thirds of Manchester City’s 2013-14 season after the club recorded four loses before the November international break. City were also able to win the League Cup in a five month run that saw the Citizens lose just twice to Premier League opposition in all competitions.

This season, Manchester City was able to claw back a seven point deficit to be even on points and every other metric with Chelsea on New Year’s Day. This took real character and management skill. Obviously since January, the Blues entire campaign and fabric as a playing squad has quickly come undone. Pellegrini’s tactical decisions have been regularly questioned. But the root cause of City’s malaise lies deeper.

I have previously written about the poor transfer decisions made by Txiki Begiristain throughout his tenure as Manchester City’s Director of Football. Conceding that the squad needs a complete overhaul thanks to bad buying and Financial Fair Play (FFP) restrictions, whoever makes the decisions has to do the following:

1. Buy Younger

One of Manchester City’s core problems right now is the lack of resalable parts. An ageing squad on high wages leads to only Sergio Aguero, David Silva or Joe Hart having significant resale value. The Blues will not want to part with any of this trio, but might be forced to sell either Aguero or Silva to buy under FFP. Manchester City MUST buy players who have a longer shelf life or can be loaned out initially for some return on investment, much like Chelsea does.

2. Look within the Premier League for bargains

Chelsea’s signing of Loïc Remy is a clear example of Jose Mourinho seeing a bargain opportunity to add critical depth from within the league and taking it. Arsenal’s signing of Danny Welbeck similarly can be labeled a bargain. Manchester City has routinely looked to the continent for players who take time to settle in English football or overpay for English-based foreign players like Samir Nasri or Wilfried Bony. The lack of creativity in Manchester City’s transfer policies is alarming. Begiristain consistently has looked to the continent and overpaid for players. In today’s derby loss, only Fernandinho featured as a Begiristain buy in the starting XI. The core of City’s squad remains that from the Roberto Mancini and Brian Marwood days, and has both aged and lost some of the drive that twice made the club champions of England .

3. Take chances with youth

Manchester City’s top brass have spoken openly and idealistically of a “holistic” approach. Yet the club features the oldest playing squad of any top six team in a major European league. Few chances have come for youngsters and while high-priced transfers have not worked out, no room has been made to blood let Academy products who probably would not do much worse than the likes of Nasri and Fernando.

4. Buy English

The values and ethos of English football have been embodied by James Milner, City’s warrior who looks poised to move this summer. Manuel Pellegrini recently spoke to The Guardian glowingly about Milner’s work ethic and versatility. Since the Blues are finding it harder and harder to field English players, they must buy some established worker bee types or flair players. Instead of buying one-trick pony winger types such as Adam Johnson and Scott Sinclair, the Blues must look to the middle of the pitch and English players like a Ryan Mason or Ross Barkley to freshen up the squad. Does this mean Raheem Sterling should be ignored? No, but if Sterling or Theo Walcott cannot be acquired, City need not sign another second-tier winger like Sinclair or Johnson.

5. Be patient

The road back to the top for Manchester City will take several seasons. We are basically at a reset of Sheik Mansour’s project. However having won four major trophies in recent years, it should be less difficult for the Blues to sign players than before. Patience must be given by the top brass and an acceptance of multiple third or fourth place finishes should be afforded.

 

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