What will ‘the engineer’ bring to Manchester City as he brings in attacking recruits?
I think it is safe to say there is an air of optimism in the blue half of Manchester this summer. It has now been over a month since Manuel Pellegrini was announced as the successor to Roberto Mancini in the Manchester City hot seat, and his arrival has coincided with the signings of box-to-box Brazilian Fernandinho and flying winger Jesus Navas in a considerable shake-up at Eastlands. Carlos Tevez, Maicon, Kolo Toure and a player Pellegrini had worked with a Malaga – Roque Santa Cruz – have all left Manchester for pastures new, and with the financial power that City possess, new faces were a certainty. It was always unlikely that Fernandinho and Jesus Navas were going to be City’s only summer signings; however their two most recent captures have come seemingly out of nowhere.
Alvaro Negredo, a Spanish striker both strong in the air and bearing down on goal, and Stevan Jovetic, a talented ‘creative’ Montenegrin forward, have both joined City from Sevilla and Fiorentina respectively. Negredo joins City for a fee of around £22m whilst Jovetic links up with his City teammates after a £27m move, and both transfers seem to have cropped up out of thin air. Perhaps both had been mentioned as rumoured targets for City, but I’m sure few people believed these two in particular would both be joining under Pellegrini’s regime – yet it does make sense.
If you look at the classic Pellegrini system, he is prone to setting his side up with a two-striker set-up. Analysing Pellegrini’s tactics at former clubs such as Real Madrid, Villarreal and most recently Malaga shows that he generally prefers to have two strikers on the pitch with a creative hotbed behind them, where the attacking midfielders can drift in and out of the hole to creative width or create chances from the centre. With City being pretty steady defensively, Pellegrini will most likely not tinker too much with that area of the team with players such as Vincent Kompany and the ever-improving Pablo Zabaleta being key aspects to City’s defensive side, and that only leaves room for the midfield and attack which City seem dead-set on improving. Signing the players they have, Pellegrini’s City are going to have an impressive range of options in attack.
Lining up next to Yaya Toure, £35m midfield man Fernandinho will most likely take on an energetic box-to-box role, contributing both moving forward and defensively and providing some serious marauding power in that City midfield. Beyond these two lies at least two attacking midfield positions – an area of the pitch where City perhaps possess the best range of creative players in world football. David Silva, when firing on all cylinders, is as good as anybody in the world in that position, as he displayed in City’s title-winning 11/12 season, whilst Samir Nasri has also proved in the past how good he is. Jesus Navas, although naturally a winger, will fit in that area in a classic Pellegrini system where he can drop out wide and provide width and blistering pace to support attacks – as will Scott Sinclair if Pellegrini retains and plays him rather than loan him out as has been suggested, and James Milner will add a tireless work rate to the attacking midfield when deployed there. The signing of Jovetic is also one that could benefit this area of the pitch, as he can be deployed in the hole as well, providing more a goal threat and strikers instinct from a little deeper in the pitch.
The two-man striker system I would expect to be deployed at City is only going to benefit from the quality that it both possesses and has feeding it, as Aguero, Dzeko, Negredo and Jovetic will all be vying for regular starting spots come the new season, unless one of Dzeko or Aguero leaves the club, which I doubt. The combinations here are mouth-watering: is the raw pace and directness of Sergio Aguero going to be linked up with the eye for goal of Edin Dzeko, or is the aerial prowess of Negredo going to be the perfect complement to Jovetic’s intricate playing style, and so on? Promising an interesting attacking display every time these strikers line-up together, City’s strike force could wreak havoc against Premier League defences next season.
Pellegrini’s tactics are going to suit City down to a tee next season, in my eyes. The attacking potential in what is considered the 4-2-2-2 formation that Pellegrini often deployed at previous clubs is in abundance at City, but it can also be altered ever so slightly, too. A wider 4-2-3-1 formation could be deployed, with two of the three attacking midfielders becoming classic ‘wide men’ to plant crosses on the head of a player like Negredo or Dzeko, or it could be narrowed to allow the full-backs to provide width whilst the three attacking midfielders slip balls through to the nippy Aguero. The possibilities are almost endless with a manager like Pellegrini: ‘The Engineer’ is a great tactical mind. Having once stated that the intelligence of players within the tactic on the pitch is equally as important as the theory of the tactics, it is likely that players such as Silva, Nasri and Navas will have a lot of creative freedom, which is mouth-watering prospect with players of their calibre. Not altering his tactics to suit the opposition very often, Pellegrini will sometimes leave it down to the players to be clever, creative and tactful in their play, which is an approach that will fit perfectly with the on-field intelligence in this City side.
I for one cannot wait to see Pellegrini field his team next season, with a diverse range of players and a fan base full of optimism supporting him on his quest to bring the Premier League title back to Manchester City in his first season in charge. Can they win it? Certainly – it would be stupid to rule them out. Will they win it? If they can get a good start under their belts and remain consistent, I can’t see why not – but we all know that is much easier said than done. We can only wait and see!
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