It’s been a remarkable first six months in charge of Manchester City for Manuel Pellegrini. He's watched his side score 103 goals in 34 games—a record in the Premier League era—with superb attacking football and ruthless efficiency the defining features of their play.
Wave after wave of remorseless attack has seen City notch up a string of big wins, becoming the most exciting English team to watch by some considerable distance, a point made wonderfully well on these pages by Nick Miller just last week.
Pellegrini arrived in the summer from Malaga, where he’d led the Spanish side to new heights, securing a fourth-place La Liga finish with a club-record 58 points before guiding them to the brink of a Champions League semi-final place. Only two stoppage-time Borussia Dortmund goals denied them a last-four meeting with Real Madrid.
Prior to that, he’d spent a year at the Bernabeu, but things hadn’t quite worked out. Madrid finished the 2009-10 season with 96 points in La Liga—a record for the club at the time—but lost the title to a Barcelona side at the height of their Pep Guardiola-inspired dominance. He was replaced after just one season by Jose Mourinho.
That followed a magnificent stint at Villarreal, where he led a small provincial club to a Champions League semi-final and a second-place finish in La Liga, 10 points ahead of Barcelona. It was a remarkable five-year spell that must surely rank as one of the great managerial performances of recent years.
With his vision already being realised at the Etihad, and with plenty of financial power to improve his squad in the future, he could turn City into a dominant force over the coming years, and to do that, he should remain true to the attacking principles that have characterised his first half-a-season in charge.
There appears to be little danger of him altering his approach. He has consistently stressed the need to play the same way from the first minute to the last. Under Pellegrini, City will never attempt to defend a slender lead, preferring instead a relentless search for goals no matter how many they’ve already scored.
The Chilean recently told the Manchester Evening News:
The way in football is to score goals, that is why people pay for their tickets. Fans are always trying to celebrate the goals of their teams.
That is very important, I think it is the best way to win. As much as you can. Maybe sometimes winning 1-0 is a very good goal, and that goal is three points more.
But if you are playing well, why would you change if you are winning by two goals? If you are winning by two, why don't you continue the same way?
But Pellegrini will surely be looking to add some further quality to his squad in the near future, particularly the back line. The nature of their attacking formation means they leave themselves somewhat open to conceding goals, and the addition of a couple of top-class players would certainly improve them.
Matija Nastasic is a superb talent likely to play at the highest level for years to come, but after a remarkable debut season in which he looked unruffled throughout, his form has subsided somewhat. Pellegrini appears to feel he needs to be used more sparingly while he learns his trade still further.
It’s likely that was the reason he signed Martin Demichelis, a 33-year-old Argentinian who is beginning to impress after his summer move from Atletico Madrid. He is exceptional in the air and reads the game immaculately, but he is clearly a stop-gap signing; a player tiding City over until a more long-term, high-calibre option can be sought.
They have consistently been linked with Eliaquim Mangala, a highly rated 22-year-old Porto defender via John Cross of the Mirror, who is strong and powerful, and who has impressed scouts from all over Europe during the past 18 months. A player of his ability would make City a much sterner proposition.
Pellegrini may also be tempted to sign a new left-back, with Luke Shaw reportedly on his radar via Rob Dawson of Manchester Evening News. Aleksandar Kolarov has improved massively this season but still lacks positional sense at times, whilst Gael Clichy's form has been inconsistent.
If City want to continue improving their squad, left-back will almost certainly be an area they will focus on.
There’s also possibly the need for a new central midfielder to provide adequate cover for Yaya Toure and Fernandinho, who are now the best midfield pairing in the league. They have been used together to great effect, but City's options beyond those two are slim.
Newcastle's Yohan Cabaye would be a superb acquisition if City could agree a deal, and he would offer a new dimension to their midfield options. Cabaye, by far the best player at St. James' Park, possesses a wonderful range of passing and would complement City's current midfielders perfectly.
Pellegrini will no doubt have other targets in mind, but it would hardly be surprising if City were to strengthen those areas. If they did, it would be difficult to see many sides being able to compete with them.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.