Five issues at the top of new Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini's in-tray
1 Bring harmony from discord
Many City players were deeply dispirited at the end of a difficult few years under Roberto Mancini, finding it hard to tolerate the way the Italian criticised them publicly. City hope that an older man, with better interpersonal skills, will quickly begin recreating a team ethic. At the heart of chief executive Ferran Soriano’s philosophy is the notion of a core of players steeped in the City philosophy who will teach it to newcomers. It will be for Pellegrini to help introduce that.
2 Help resolve contractual issues with players
Pellegrini will be first-team coach, leaving director of football, Txiki Begiristain, to resolve the off-field issues. But he will be expected to make an appraisal of those players he wants to keep. Gareth Barry, Joleon Lescott and Carlos Tevez all have one year remaining on their City contracts. Lescott and Barry may well be allowed to leave the Etihad, though Barry would be happy with a one-year rolling deal and was superb last season. Tevez’s future remains uncertain, though persuading him to extend for a year could be invaluable and the South American connection could help.
3 Win the Champions League
City are light years away from Manchester United and Liverpool in global awareness, and success in the elite European competition is vital to making good the gulf in commercial might. Mancini’s poor Champions League performances contributed heavily to his dismissal and Pellegrini’s success in the competition with Villarreal and Malaga helped secure him the job. It will be difficult, though. As Mancini found, the seeding system leaves City with perpetually difficult groups. They are almost certain to be third seeds for next season’s competition.
4 Good luck with another revolution
At a time when Manchester United and Chelsea are starting over with new managers but tried and tested systems, City’s early forays into the transfer market reveal a club reinventing itself once again. Jesus Navas’s arrival from Sevilla for £14.9m and the Brazilian Fernandinho from Shakhtar Donetsk for around £30m are illustrative of Pellegrini’s vow that the club would “start another way of playing”. That sounds good in theory, but launching a technical revolution which requires patience, while trying to live up to the usual huge expectations, will be a formidable challenge. The last player City signed from Shakhtar, Elano, was wonderful in spring but less than wonderful in winter. Acclimatisation will be needed.
5 Create a successful academy
It was no coincidence that Pellegrini’s introductory interview with City’s website last night saw him repeatedly allude to the academy and the need to bring two players a season from it into the first team. City are currently a long way from achieving this and it is why their attempt to recreate Barcelona’s model will be especially difficult. Pellegrini succeeded at Villarreal in this respect, though the B-team used to develop players have a far higher standard of opposition than Manchester City reservers, playing as they do in the Spanish second division.
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