Will Manuel Pellegrini settle on a first-choice side or chop and change the Manchester City line—up?
Choices, choices. Manuel Pellegrini faces a lot of them in charge of Manchester City this season.
The recently installed manager has a multitude of options at his disposal, with an expensively assembled squad shot through with star quality. Will the Chilean chop and change, play the tinker man? Or will he quickly settle on his preferred starting line-up?
His predecessor in the Etihad Stadium hot seat, Roberto Mancini, settled on a core that steamrollered its way towards the Premier League title in the spring of 2012, but then almost threw it away until Sergio Aguero altered the course of history.
That City side saw Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli, Adam Johnson and a few others forced to watch from the bench, but when some star names were still sidelined the season after, the cracks began to appear and Mancini was a goner.
Pellegrini comes with a reputation for good man-management (via The Sun, subscription needed) and he will need it to keep those he leaves out happy this season. So, what might his first-choice side be?
Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy; Silva, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Navas; Aguero, Dzeko.
In many ways this is, of course, a "perfect world 11." At the time of writing, Matija Nastasic is out with an ankle injury for at least a month, and Aguero is touch-and-go for the start of the season (but not too far beyond) with a knee problem. But it also allows a touch of flexibility.
There has been a feeling that the club’s hierarchy would like all teams at the club, from under-nines up to the seniors, to play 4-3-3 in the way of Barcelona, where chief exec Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain spent several years. But although Pellegrini is their guy, I think he may well go his own way. Mancini did, of course, but the new man is less abrasive, as the Daily Telegraph’s Mark Ogden has reported.
Joe Hart is a sure thing, and I think Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy will keep Micah Richards and Aleksandar Kolarov disappointed most of the time, but expect to see Richards mount a strong challenge. Vincent Kompany’s partner will be the unlucky Serbian Nastasic, once he recovers from the injury which he collected on a pitch which evoked fond memories for those of us who can remember the 1970s.
If Fernandinho can get up to speed with the Premier League early on, he will get the nod for the deeper midfield role, allowing Yaya Toure to impose himself and rampage ahead when he can. If Pellegrini goes for 4-2-3-1 then David Silva and Jesus Navas could flank Aguero in the three behind Dzeko.
Going for this option will see the Argentine partner the Bosnian, who looked rejuvenated in preseason. This combination did not always pay off in the past, but there are signs Pellegrini is better equipped to get the best out of Dzeko than Mancini. The Italian plumped for Carlos Tevez’s industriousness when the chips were down, so this is Dzeko’s chance to shine.
Of course, this leaves two expensive signings in Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo, among others, on the outside looking in, testing Pellegrini’s motivational skills.
Much remains to be discussed, and this is just my suggestion. Will there be a specific team for the Champions League? Will there be a “horses for courses” side against physical opponents? What about Samir Nasri? The youngsters?
This is just a jumping-off point so get debating—and we’ll review once the season actually starts!