5 Ways Manchester City Can Build Success for Next Season
Manchester City have already secured the League Cup this season and now stand on the brink of their second Premier League title in three years. Manuel Pellegrini's first season must surely be regarded as a success.
They progressed in Europe, too, moving beyond the group stage for the first time in three attempts. It remains a competition the club are desperate to make more of an impression in, and that's likely where the focus will lie this summer when preparing for the next campaign.
Here we take a look at five ways City can look to improve on Pellegrini's first year in charge.
1. Bolster Their Squad with Quality
Before the season got underway, the idea that City had the strongest squad in the Premier League was pervasive throughout the media.
It's arguably true given no side in the league has a complete squad; however, the level to which City's options were lauded now seems somewhat overdone.
They rely heavily on a core of world-class players—Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero—and when one or more is missing, City can often appear vulnerable.
For a side intent on dominating domestically and becoming one of Europe's elite, further squad strength is needed.
Take central midfield as a case in point. Fernandinho and Toure have formed the finest pairing in the league, yet beyond them City's options are somewhat limited, with Javi Garcia their only real replacement given the injury troubles of Jack Rodwell.
Garcia has improved immeasurably and has become an important player when City look to keep things tighter, but he lacks pace and speed of thought, with City in need of better as their first reserve.
Extra quality is needed to augment their group of stars if they are to push on and better cope with the rigours of four competitions, and with a number of departures in the summer, the need may well be increased.
2. Show Some Tactical Flexibility
Pellegrini's tactical mantra has been simple: We play one way and alter for no one.
For the most part, his relentless commitment to attacking football has worked. However, there are occasions when flexibility is needed, and the Chilean will surely be looking to demonstrate that more often next season.
Liverpool away and Bayern Munich at home stand out as two examples of Pellegrini's dogmatic nature stifling City. Both times, they were too open, picked apart in the early stages and making a recovery almost impossible.
Keeping things tight in certain matches and waiting for an opportunity to strike is not a sign of weakness. Pellegrini is likely to have learned that this season, and City will be better for it next time out.
3. Sign a Top-Class Centre-Back
If there's one position in City's first XI that needs sorting, it's a long-term partner for Kompany.
Martin Demichelis, the 33-year-old Argentinian signed from Atletico Madrid, has performed superbly well in recent weeks, but with his advancing years and Joleon Lescott's likely departure, a top-drawer centre-half is an absolute priority.
Porto's Eliaquim Mangala was targeted by City in January, only for the deal to suffer an 11th-hour collapse. It's likely he will be high on City's list of summer targets.
4. Establish and Develop the Etihad Campus
With City's intention to become financially self-sufficient well on course given their increased revenue, the next part of that journey is to begin producing their own homegrown, world-class stars.
The opening of the 80-acre Etihad Campus this summer is a significant step in the right direction.
And not only will it be home to all the youth teams overseen by Patrick Vieira, it will also boast training and medical facilities for the first team, as well as a team hotel to make matchday preparations as straightforward as possible.
It's an exciting project, and one that hasn't garnered nearly enough attention, with City making a bigger investment in youth development than any other side in the country.
5. Continue to Believe in Attacking Football
Pellegrini has implemented some major changes. The players seem happier, man-management is seen as crucial and attacking football is central to everything City do.
And although some tactical flexibility is required, Pellegrini's attacking philosophy has, for the most part, been a revelation. City have played some fantastic football, scored 100 league goals and swept aside a succession of teams.
It's an approach which is working, and one that should be continued to ensure the club's new attacking identity becomes ingrained in the culture of the club for years to come.