Jan Molby

No more trophies for Pellegrini unless he gets flexible

Jan Molby

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When it came to the FA Cup this weekend I fully expected four home wins (even Sheffield United), and everything seemed to be going to plan when the first three came in.

However, Wigan Athletic then did it again and shocked Manchester City to continue a worrying trend for Manuel Pellegrini and his side.

When they had some questionable moments away from home earlier in the season, their unstoppable form at home protected them, but now they have lost three games at the Etihad in the space of a month and the aura of invincibility is gone.

I think the thing that made City so irresistible earlier in the season is starting to cost them. All season long they have had the attitude: "This is how we play, it is up to you to stop us."

Now, starting really with Chelsea at the Etihad, teams have found a way to play against them, and Pellegrini does not seem to have the flexibility to adapt his tactics when his team gets unstuck.

Obviously injuries to key players like Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho and Samir Nasri have come at bad times but the 4-4-2 formation they have been playing all season looks like leading to their downfall.

City had us spellbound for four months with the way they played, but it is the job of managers to adapt, and that is what the people coming up against City have done. Now it is time for Pellegrini to come up with counter moves.

For me they need to find a more sensible position for David Silva in front of Fernandinho and Yaya Toure as he can give you more options from a central position.

Pellegrini said the tempo and not his tactics was the problem against Wigan but the tempo is often dictated by the tactics – they are not independent of each other. If you can't find progressive passes during the game, then it affects the tempo, and that is the problem I see at City at the moment: there is uncertainty in the team and they are not finding those progressive, forward passes.

In many ways the Barcelona match is the perfect bounce-back game for them because there is little expectation on them in that tie and Barcelona are playing poorly themselves. There is an opportunity for them to have a go and make it a nervous night for Barca.

Pellegrini needs to realise that he can afford to be flexible. He has so much talent in his squad that he can explain away any selection to fit into a gameplan. He can leave out big-name players and say he is doing so because A-B-C will work better against certain opposition. He doesn't need to stick with one way of playing and stay married to it.

I just feel he needs to spend more time preparing from game-to-game, taking the strengths of the opposition into greater consideration.

If they do get knocked out of the Champions League, it will at least help their Premier League fixture list, but there are only 12 games to go and with City, you have to bear in mind that four of those games are Liverpool, Everton, Manchester United and Arsenal away from home. I think that almost rules them out.

It looks all set up for Chelsea now. Liverpool might be in great form too, but the problem they face is that in all likelihood they will 10 points behind Chelsea by the time they play Manchester United next weekend.

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Even with games in hand, that is massive, because it takes a psychological toll, and also gives a buffer to Chelsea which means they don't face the same level of intense pressure to win that the other teams do.

With a kind enough fixture list, there is a chance Chelsea might not ever feel that pressure until the last one or two games of the season, by which stage they might have already secured the title.

Speaking of pressure, there is now obviously huge expectation at Arsenal that they will finally end their nine-year wait for a trophy in the FA Cup now that City have been knocked out.

If you went to the bookmakers you wouldn't even put a bet on them as the odds would be so low, but it is that very pressure that makes them vulnerable. The drought is undoubtedly a burden, just look how it affected them in the League Cup final a couple of years ago against Birmingham.

You have to give them huge credit, as with games against Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton they have not had it easy in the cup, but in some ways these last two games might be trickier in their own way.

A game against Wigan, followed by a likely cup final against a Hull City side who have their two main strikers cup-tied, means it is Arsenal's to lose, but the club's recent history means it is not as clear-cut as it seems.

If Arsenal somehow mess it up, no doubt Arsene Wenger will try and defend it somehow, but there can be no more excuses: this a trophy they really have to win and it would be a huge fillip for the club given their barren spell.

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