Will it be Jurgen Klopp? Pep Guardiola? Patrick Vieira? Rafael Benitez?
The names linked with the Manchester City manager’s job are many and varied.
The formula for predicting who the next manager will be seems quite simply to be picking names of current managers out of a hat.
Maybe Diego Simeone? Alejandro Sabella?
Roy Hodgson? Sir Alex Ferguson? SIR MATT BUSBY?? Well, you can see how it could all get a bit ridiculous.
Manchester City are like the belle of the ball. Everyone wants to pair her off with some good-looking eligible bachelor, and most if not all of the potential suitors would be tempted by her considerable assets. Ahem, financial assets that is.
But the problem is, this belle already has a beau.
The matchmakers are circling like vultures, so you’d think that there was a job opening. There isn’t.
At least for now, Manuel Pellegrini is Manchester City’s manager. And will they really get rid of him?
Last season – his first in English football – he managed to win the League and League Cup double. A simple, modest title challenge and the League Cup would probably have sufficed. Pundits would have said, ‘good job, not a bad debut season’. But would have expected a title return in his second year. In reality, Pellegrini has sort of reversed the order.
But is a trophyless season this time, after a double last season, really enough to warrant the sack?
The problem that Pellegrini has is that his team is almost too strong. He has a world class player in every position, right from front to back. He simply can’t justify resting players like Aguero, Silva, Kompany, Toure.
As a result, City have found it almost impossible to strengthen their team.
They’ve been able to strengthen their bench, add depth to the squad. Mangala has essentially been a hideously expensive third choice defender this season – though I still expect him to be a wonderful defender in the seasons to come. Fernando has added depth to the central midfield roster, but hasn’t been able to oust Toure and Fernandinho as first choice in Pellegrini’s dynamic duo of midfielders in his rigid, unflinching 4-4-2.
At the start of last season, Alvaro Negredo, Fernandinho and Martin Demichelis came into the team. And although Negredo is gone now, he chipped in with goals, Fernandinho and Demichelis have been full-on starters ever since they joined.
So the summer before last, City strengthened well, last summer they didn’t. They still didn’t improve dramatically on what they had, but it was enough to add spice to a stale squad.
That’s been Pellegrini’s problem – how do you add to a title winning squad? There’s nothing you can add to make it better. But when you don’t add anything, your players are tired. And tired players make for stale teams.
City’s men are so good that they can’t be dropped, and that means playing for two full years at the top level. Two title chases – last season they had to come from behind, and this year they just couldn’t muster up the strength once again – and most played in the World Cup finals in Brazil too. That’s almost two full years without a break. At the highest level. And with few rests in the season.
It’s no wonder the squad is stale.
And that might be Pellegrini’s fault for his failure to strengthen effectively. But then again, how do you strengthen on what City already had? And how do you do it within Financial Fair Play regulations? You’d need to bring in quality equal to the likes of Toure and Kompany so that those two could get a rest. If not, then you have to be prepared for a below par season.
Given money for next season Pellegrini can build a squad capable of doing much better next time around. But he’ll have to recoup lots of money with sales too. FFP will stifle a dramatic overhaul, so these jaded players may not get the rest they need.
And so that’s the reason why the matchmakers are suggesting suitors name after name. The belle of the ball won’t be stuck for a date, but what’s wrong with holding onto her Latin Lover, the hunky Manuel? After all, can a new man really provide any more than her old one?