Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini’s time at the club may be ending sooner rather than later following yet another below par performance. James Milner’s last minute free-kick spared City’s blushes and earned them a point at home to Hull – a match that they just couldn’t afford to drop points in.
It now means they are seven points behind leaders Chelsea with the title all but slipping out of City’s hands. Pellegrini’s men are five games without a win but more worryingly have only won one of their last four home matches. When you consider three of those opponents were Sheffield Wednesday, Middlesbrough and Hull City; then there are definitely some deep-rooted issues at City.
Pellegrini’s failure to come up with a ‘plan B’ is in no small part responsible for the problems that his side have experienced this season. During recent weeks, Pellegrini has rarely been able to have a telling impact on the games that have too often slipped away from his side. Frank Lampard has been the best example of a player making an impact off the bench but deserves more game time for the amount of times he has dug City out of a hole.
Pellegrini has kept near enough the same team throughout their winless month, highlighting again his failure to come up with something to stop the rot. Players such as Martin Demichelis, Fernando and Jesus Navas have been extremely poor in recent weeks; yet have largely managed to keep their places in the team. Although there have been injuries, and the likes of Yaya Toure are away on international duty, there are still a number of players waiting on the sidelines who could do a better job for the team.
Frank Lampard might be 36 and making substitute appearances most weeks but surely could be given a starting role with the way some of the players are performing. He has still shown he has the fitness to last near enough a full match and has been excellent when given an opportunity. Then there is James Milner, who should be playing ahead of either Navas or Fernando given the work-rate and versatility he offers.
Even when City were winning games at the back end of last year they were less than convincing. Pellegrini’s lack of imagination when it comes to formation and his no holds barred attacking approach may ultimately cost City. He has hardly proved himself to be a master tactician in comparison to some of the other top managers in Europe.
This has been evident in recent weeks where for all the possession City have had – 74% on Saturday – the lack of imagination and creativity with the ball has been a worrying trend. The manager tends to stick to a simple 4-4-2 formation even when finding teams hard to break down. A simple tweak to the system, employing either Samir Nasri or David Silva in the number 10 role, could well have won City the three points at the weekend.
With the title seemingly going Chelsea’s way, City’s only saving grace is their Champions League last-16 tie with Barcelona. At the moment City would have a full complement of players against a Barcelona side that seem to be peaking at exactly the right time. As City have shown in the Champions League, they are more dangerous in a 4-2-3-1 formation, as demonstrated with victories against Bayern Munich and Roma.
This tactic is the best chance they have of beating Barcelona, as they failed to win a group game playing 4-4-2 and lacked ideas against some of Europe’s elite. Victory isn’t completely out of the question but even then, a run to the semi-finals would probably only be acceptable. Manuel Pellegrini really needs to start earning his money in his second season as boss, and what better way than defeating four-time European Champions Barcelona.