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Manchester City - Pellegrini back in the spotlight

Manuel Pellegrini

A week on from masterminding Manchester City's thumping 4-1 win over local rivals Manchester United, City manager Manuel Pellegrini is back in the spotlight after his side threw away a 2-1 lead at struggling Aston Villa.

Pellegrini's appointment wasn't necessarily a popular one with either the media nor City fans. The media frowned upon Pellegrini's lack of success in winning trophies in Europe, whilst Roberto Mancini's departure was the cause of much upset for some Blues fans.

The latest setback for Pellegrini will only serve to intensify the doubts surrounding the Chilean's credentials to regain the Premier League title, though City are only five points behind leaders Arsenal with the season just six games old.

With expectations high at the Etihad Stadium, much is expected of Pellegrini's debut season in English football – but 'The Engineer' is manufacturing a new Manchester City, embracing a philosophy driven, in part, by chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain, and their spells as influential cogs in the Barcelona operation in the mid-2000's.

Pellegrini's time in Spain forms the basis of his managerial make-up. Continental success with Villarreal led to just one year in charge of Real Madrid. The English media were quick to point out how Ronaldo, Kaka, Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema were bought during Pellegrini's tenure, yet he failed to lead them to a league title. However, those purchases were primarily driven by president Florentino Perez, who was on a one-man conquest to create “The Galacticos II”, whilst Madrid's points total was a record – only for Barcelona to pip them to the title by just three points.

A ruthless sacking followed, and Pellegrini found himself as the face of the Malaga project. Funded by Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani, Malaga went on a spending spree and saw themselves as the team to break the Barcelona-Real Madrid domination of La Liga, only for financing to go missing and a complete fire sale taking place. Pellegrini persisted through the adversity, drawing plaudits throughout his time in Andalusia.

Which brings him to the present day, and his appointment at Manchester City. A patchy start has prompted suggestions of a “crisis” for the 60 year old, which is ludicrous at this stage of the season. The owners of the club appear to be firmly behind the project, which will see Manchester City move away from the sometimes stubborn, conservative tactics under Mancini, and develop a more expansive style under Pellegrini.

This transition will take time to perfect, but the likes of David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Jesus Navas are perfectly suited to that style of football, whilst Alvaro Negredo offers a more direct option should they need it. There is work to do defensively, with Matija Nastasic still developing and showing the odd lapse in concentration, but Pellegrini has brought in the right calibre of players to make City title challengers this season.

Results like the one against Aston Villa show that the “new Manchester City” are still a work in progress, but Pellegrini has the tactical nous – and the support of the board – to make the alteration a success in the long term.

image: © Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

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