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Pellegrini's steps to success

June 14, 2013
By Richard Jolly
(Archive)

Manuel Pellegrini's appointment as Roberto Mancini's successor at Manchester City has been one of football's worst-kept secrets. Mancini was sacked a month ago but the Chilean's representatives had met with City even before then. In short, he has had time to think about the priorities when he arrives in Manchester. These should be the ten things on his to-do list:

Manuel Pellegrini
GettyImagesCan Manuel Pellegrini point Manchester City in the right direction?

1. Win over the players

This should be one of Pellegrini's easier tasks. For many players, he will start out with the automatic advantage of not being Mancini, who appeared not to care if his charges liked him. Without naming Pellegrini, chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak said man-management skills would be vital for Mancini's replacement. The aim is to replace conflict with consensus but one test is to placate the footballers who, in a sizeable squad, do not start often enough for their liking.

2. Win over everyone at the club

In the final analysis, Mancini had too many enemies and too few allies. Behind the scenes, there are many people who will not miss the Italian at all. If some are comparatively unimportant, it is crucial Pellegrini establishes excellent relationships with director of football Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano. Mancini believed he was only answerable to Al Mubarak and owner Sheikh Mansour, but the shift in the balance of power at Etihad Stadium shows otherwise. The two Spaniards have appointed Pellegrini but he has to retain their faith.

3. Win over the fans

This is the toughest task. The supporters idolised Mancini, remembering he won their first major trophy for 35 years and their first league title for 44 years and beat Manchester United 6-1 at Old Trafford. The final two league games of the season were notable for chants and banners celebrating the sacked Mancini. Pellegrini must ensure he does not become City's answer to Rafa Benitez, an unpopular replacement for a cherished manager, who only won over some of the supporters when it was too late.

Karim Rekik is a Netherlands Under-19 international signed from Feyenoord
GettyImagesYoungsters like Karim Rekik will need to make the next step at City.

4. Be holistic

City were mocked for saying they needed to develop a "holistic approach" as they attempted to explain Mancini's sacking. What that means for Pellegrini is he has to introduce more of the young players his predecessor sometimes put on the bench but rarely used. If John Guidetti, Denis Suarez, Marcos Lopes, Abdul Razak and Karim Rekik can prove useful squad members, it will be a feather in Pellegrini's cap as well as, potentially, saving City millions in the transfer market.

5. Change the system

The edict from above appears to be that City have to play a Barcelona-esque 4-3-3 instead of the 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 hybrid Mancini favoured, even if a manager ought to be free to pick his own formation. The shift in system poses questions as to who makes way and how, and where, existing personnel such as Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Samir Nasri fit into the new shape.

6. Strengthen the side

As Mancini was fond of saying, City missed out on all their major transfer targets last summer. This year, once again, their sights are set high with Edinson Cavani and Isco among those targeted and Jesus Navas and Fernandinho already signed. Pellegrini's remit is to be more of a head coach than a manager so Soriano and Begiristain share the responsibility for identifying and signing players. Nonetheless, Pellegrini will play a part - as the presence of his Malaga playmaker Isco on City's shortlist show - and they also have to find better alternatives if their preferred recruits elude them. Cavani, in particular, looks a man in demand.

7. Sell well

City cannot ignore Financial Fair Play. Therefore, they don't just need to get misfits like Scott Sinclair out of the club. They also have to secure significant fees, especially if they want to sign Cavani and co. Edin Dzeko, a target for Borussia Dortmund, is one who could command a high price. Carlos Tevez and Joleon Lescott, who only have one year left on their current deals, are other possible departures. City have signed Aguero, Silva, Yaya Toure and Gael Clichy to new long-term contracts while Pablo Zabaleta and Micah Richards are next, so there is a core of players Pellegrini is keeping. He has decisions to make about others.

Edinson Cavani
GettyImagesEdinson Cavani: On Chelsea's radar

8. Find more goals

Another problem Mancini both noticed and complained about regularly. City scored 93 league goals in 2011-12 and just 66 this season. It is too few to win the title. Yet if either Dzeko, Tevez or both leave, Pellegrini's task of making City more prolific may grow harder. If he plays 4-3-3, there is also the question of whether a second striker can be accommodated as a nominal winger or if City are looking to score 20 or 30 more goals with one fewer out-and-out attacker.

9. Improve in Europe

Mancini's greatest failing was on the continent. He twice failed to get City out of their Champions League group. Last year, they only took three points from six games. In contrast, Pellegrini has a record of overachievement in the competition, taking Villarreal to the semi-finals and Malaga to within a minute of the last four. Mancini's City could be too attack-minded in Europe. Possession and patience could form part of Pellegrini's gameplan but, as Al Mubarak's recent comments show, it is imperative for the board that City go some way into the knockout stages.

10. Win

Never a bad plan, of course, but when Al Mubarak set City the challenge of winning every competition they enter, it increased the pressure on Pellegrini. Like David Moyes at Manchester United, he needs silverware as soon as possible. His record in Europe, while admirable in many ways, shows a distinct lack of trophies. Only at Real Madrid, where he secured 96 league points in a season, has he really had the resources to win honours. Yet the longer the wait for success, the more the comparisons with Mancini, who has won four league titles and five domestic cups as a manager.

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