It’s at times like today having a manager like Manuel Pellegrini becomes incredibly valuable. City face the toughest week imaginable, with a run of fixtures against three of Europe’s best sides. Saturday’s trip to Arsenal is quickly followed by a game against Bayern Munich, before next weekend’s match with title-favourites Chelsea.
Pellegrini would have been forgiven for looking tentative when he faced the press at Carrington today, but, as ever, he exuded calm. That calmness surely transmits to the players and this week that’s exactly what’s needed.
Inevitably, the opening questions were concerned with the sale of Alvaro Negredo, this being the first time the media had had the opportunity to ask the Chilean anything about the recent transfer window. For many City fans, the sale was a disappointment, a 20-goal striker gone without a replacement in place. For others, taking perhaps a more pragmatic stance, the deal was a necessity given Negredo’s injury, apparent unhappiness and status as a non home-grown player, sentiments Pellegrini himself echoed:
The decision for Alvaro Negredo to go was two very important reasons: the first was that we have the restriction for the number of the players we can use in the Champions League. We have one player more, we cannot use in this case Alvaro, who was injured, so that was the player who was not going to be on the list. For him, it was very important because he wanted to go back to Spain so I thought it was the best decision for the club but it all starts from the restriction about the number of players. We have restrictions about the amount of players and the money we can spend.
But, even with the £23m City are set to receive in the summer when the Spaniard moves permanently, is it a risk?
It is one striker less so, yes, it is important but we have Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and Stevan Jovetic, and we have other players that we can use behind the striker, so we have other solutions.
The other solutions look likely to be Yaya Toure or David Silva, playing in the No. 10 role. In Silva’s case, it’s arguable that’s his best position, and it could well turn out that by playing him there more often City benefit.
There were one or two bits of worrying injury news, most notably Fernando, who will be missing for a couple of weeks, and Stevan Jovetic, who suffered a hamstring problem (yes, another one) whilst on international duty.
We have injured Fernando, he has a muscle problem, maybe a couple of weeks more and also Stevan Jovetic, he came back from his national team with a problem in his hamstring. All the rest of the players are fit. Vincent played 90 minutes for his national team and he works normally with the squad during the week here so he doesn’t have any problems.
The Fernando injury is particularly problematic since his arrival was partly to add some extra defensive solidity in big games. A midfield three of Fernando-Fernandinho-Yaya Toure looks formidable, capable of nullifying the best attacking sides in the world or closing out games against lesser sides when City have established a lead. That option is now unavailable to Pellegrini in a week crying out for it. Eliaquim Mangala, though, is ready to make his debut.
Looking ahead to Arsenal, Pellegrini says he respects the quality at Arsene Wenger’s disposal:
It is a very strong team. Every year it is a strong competition to all the other teams that are fighting for the title and this will be the same. It is a strong team with Alexis Sanchez, a very important player, now with Welbeck. They always have a very good team but this year they have more players.
Alexis is a top player that is why he’s played in Italy and in Spain. I am sure that here in England he will have the same success in England as he had in all the other countries.
There’s little doubt this is the best Arsenal side in years, and City often struggle at the Emirates, but with Bayern and Chelsea to follow – arguably two tougher games – a win on Saturday is vital. Whether Welbeck starts or not will be key. Without him, and with Oliver Giroud injured, Arsenal would start the match without a proper striker, with Sanchez the most likely to occupy the role. That, I feel, would suit City. Arsenal’s side is packed full of midfielders comfortable in possession who like to feed off a No. 9 capable of playing with his back to goal. Without one, they can sometimes look lost.
Pellegrini was keen to point out his side had taken six points from their two opening matches, despite a difficult preseason.
It is a difficult game, a difficult fixture because we have a difficult week. We started better than I thought against Newcastle and Liverpool with so many players with just a few days to prepare those games. After that it was a surprise maybe to lose against Stoke but I don’t think we played bad. Now we have this week with two difficult games in the PL and a difficult game in the CL but other games motivate all the players.
We must always try to win especially when you didn’t win the last game.
Hopefully, City will be as assured as their manager over the coming days.
written by Rob Pollard