Goal gluttons Manchester City have sent most of their opponents into a spin this season as Manuel Pellegrini’s astute rotation policy has provided a resilient and resourceful platform for the club’s record-breaking run.
With the games and goals ratio in almost perfect synch – matches every three days and approximately three goals per outing – City remain in the trophy hunt on four fronts.
Pellegrini’s deft handling of key players, providing the rationale as to why they’re not playing every game and effectively keeping them onside, is in stark contrast with the disharmony of last season.
The media have been quoting ex-City boss Roberto Mancini, now in Turkey with Galatasaray, and cherry picking sound bites that portray the Italian as seeking to take the credit for the club’s present success.
Mancini and Pellegrini appear polar opposites in their style of man-management. The fiery Roberto always seemed to be at loggerheads with a number of his players, whereas Pellegrini appears more easy going and approachable.
It’s horses for courses and, whilst never deriding the massive achievements of Bobby Manc, it’s clear the Chilean ‘Engineer’ subscribes to a different philosophy.
His team appears to be playing with a flair and vitality that was missing when City chronically underachieved as defending champions in 2012/13.
Only a blindman could fail to see the huge impact that signings of the quality of Negredo, Fernandinho and Navas have brought this term. The best is still very much to come from Jovetic, but there’s time enough if he stays fit and weighs in with quality performances and goals.
Even Demichelis – admittedly a far more short-term signing, born of last minute necessity – has played his part.
Mancini is quoted as saying: “The players that score the goals are players that I bought – Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Samir Nasri…”
It’s a true to an extent – albeit a heavily sky blue tinted way of viewing Pellegrini’s success. The phrase being economical with the truth springs readily to mind.
The Beast – a £16.4m bargain – is City’s top scorer, Navas is king of the assists and Fernandinho is the largely unsung hero, the glue that helps bond everything from front to back and back again!
The most equitable view is that Roberto Mancini earned the respect and profound gratitude of City fans – a fiercely loyal support – who were rewarded with success after 35 barren years and, ultimately, a Champions of England title after 44 years.
He was right for City at the time, in the same way Pellegrini is the man for the present and immediate future. Who’s to say that in three years time the mantle won’t have passed to Pep Guardiola or even City’s own Patrick Vieira, presently cutting his managerial teeth with the Elite Development squad.
In a not dissimilar way to the way Pellegrini optimises his playing resources to best effect, so to do Ferran Soriano, Txiki Begiristian when it comes to the leadership of the team.
As things stand Pellegrini is doing a superb job and, if, as and when, he chooses to head back to South America to be reunited with his family on a permanent basis, he could be leaving as City’s most successful ever manager.
City’s ‘friends’ in the media keep banging on about an unprecedented quadruple, but the calm and collected man from Santiago, just goes about his daily and weekly tasks, never playing up to the notion, nor downplaying the prospect.
Despite warming to City’s electrifying style of play – if you’re a true fan of football, why wouldn’t you – there’s a school of thought that any talk of a quadruple is just a pre-cursor for media factions to portray it as failure if City have to ‘settle’ for a treble, a double, God forbid, a single trophy this season.
Paranoia doesn’t mean they’re not out to get us!
With a Capital One Cup Final date with Sunderland in the diary, City turn their attentions to a second trip down Wembley Way, as Watford visit the Etihad in the FA Cup for a second consecutive season.
The Hornets were suitably stung 3-0 in the 3rd Round last January, as goals from Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry and a prodigious young Portuguese talent, Marcos Lopes, saw City safely through.
Just over a year on and Lopes is the man of the moment after a Man of the Match performance in another 3-0 victory, this time against West Ham in the midweek Capital One Cup Semi Final 2nd leg.
He has every chance of starting the match as Pellegrini looks to keep some of his more experienced campaigners fresh for a demanding trip to Tottenham on Wednesday night.
The Watford game could also be an ideal opportunity for Jovetic and Rodwell – used as substitutes against the Hammers – to come in as starters. It’s a ready made stage for Jovetic, with Negredo out recovering from a shoulder injury.
David Silva will be another absentee as he rests a hamstring niggle, but Pellegrini is hoping both key Spaniards will be available for the Londoner double header.
Watford – with newly appointed manager, the relatively unknown Beppe Sannino – are a much changed side from the Championship promotion chasers of last season. Strikers Troy Deeney and Fernando Forestieri – who did appear at the Etihad – are likely to prove the main threat, as City must guard against complacency.
Anything other than a home win – not necessarily by four, five or even six goals – would constitute a shock.
If the media are still banging on about the quadruple come Sunday afternoon it’ll mean job done and move onto the next element – the infinitely more important six Premier League points on offer against a resurgent Spurs and a dangerous Chelsea.
But it’ll be a cold day in hell before Manuel circles the wagon – one look at City’s PL goal difference of +38 tells you the best form of defence is attack.
By David Walker