With one of, if not the most expensive squads in football history it is sometimes all too easy to jump on the failings of a Manchester City side that is too rightly expected to challenge on all fronts year after year. This was the case last time out in the Champions League when City were utterly outclassed on their own patch by the European Champions – who have arguably been improved under Pep Guardiola.
Since then, City have returned to Premier League action with a straight forward win against an in form Everton but has Pellegrini done enough in the first few months as City boss to plant the foundations for success that everyone associated with the club so obviously wants?
Focusing just on the league for the moment, if recent seasons are anything to go by, City’s stuttering start in the Manuel Pellegrini era could look to continue.
Pellegrini has vowed to adopt a more attacking style of play this season, with his preference for two strikers when possible one of the reasons for City’s inability to contain Bayern the other week, but his side fared much better against the test of an Everton team who had started life under Roberto Martínez in fine form. Martínez has looked to make his own mark at Everton with the adoption of a new style and system and this system served Everton well again in the first half.
We all by now know of the threat of Leighton Baines on one wing, but on the other Seamus Coleman has carried on his fine form from last season and seems to have settled well in to the style of play Martínez has adopted, causing problems against City. If the first half was a balanced affair however, City dominated the second for large periods, fortunate to win a penalty that secured the result but convincing in the way they responded to the visit of Bayern with Pellegrini no doubt delighted with the three points.
We will now have to wait until after the international break to see if City can build on that weekend’s result, but after navigating the Everton test, City now have successive trips to the capital for games which City have struggled with in recent seasons. West Ham have failed to fire on all cylinders thus far this season before their 3-0 win against Spurs at White Hart Lane, but Big Sam has tried his best to make East London a tough place to visit, with City returning home with only a point last time around.
Pellegrini will then meet José Mourinho again at Stamford Bridge on the 27th of October having met in La Liga last season, with both managers prevailing in respective home fixtures, Madrid running out 6-2 winners against Malaga in May at the Bernabeu.
The home form of Chelsea under Mourinho is all too well documented and it will be a test of huge proportions for the Chilean, against what many expected to be City’s main title contenders before the season kicked off.
City then match up against Norwich followed by struggling Sunderland; who are in fact unbeaten in four home games against the 2011/12 Premier League champions, running out 1 nil winners on the last 3 occasions. Whether Gus Poyet has had time to make his mark at the Stadium of Light before the sides meet in November will have to be seen but City fans will be keen to see their side build on results such as the Manchester derby victory, while cutting out errors that have led to defeats against Villa & Cardiff already in the league this season, if Pellegrini is to win over the blue half of Manchester as his predecessor Roberto Mancini managed to.
Looking past the next five games for Manchester City, which will be completed by the visit of André Villas-Boas’ Tottenham, an area Pellegrini and the fans know they have to improve on from last season is converting one point in to three points in games where opponents may be more than happy to take a draw.
Last season, City struggled in games where they found it hard to break teams down, finishing the season with 9 draws (the same as Chelsea but more than West Brom & Newcastle and four more than Manchester United). This is reflected in the fact that City scored 20 less goals than their red rivals, who ended up winning back the title. This lack of fire power meant City were unable to close the gap even by conceding just 34 goals all season. It was obviously not a problem they had in their title winning season when they netted 93 times, but it may be a problem area Pellegrini has looked to rectify this season with his attacking approach mentioned earlier, and City already leading the goal scoring charts this time around.
I guess time will tell, but if City can work on the defensive errors, both from set pieces and individual errors, while building on the attacking approach already implemented they shouldn’t be too far away come May. Oh and the Bayern defeat? We can just put that down to Bayern being Bayern, looking at whether Manchester City can step up to the mark in Europe this time around will have to wait until next time!