When City fans at last year’s FA Cup final loudly told the management exactly where they could put their new manager, little did anyone think that a year from then they would be cheering him on as he got the ‘bumps’ from his domestic-double-winning players.
Pellegrini’s City this season have been mesmerising and powerful, potentially devastating at times; and with their 156 goals over the course of the campaign obliterating all kinds of records, a lot of credit must go to the quiet Chilean, ‘The Charming Man’ if you will. Here we take a look at three players who looked well on their way out of the Etihad last summer but have been brought back from the dark side over the year, and put in arguably their best performances in sky blue this season: Edin Dzeko, Samir Nasri, and Aleks Kolarov.
The Bosnian Diamond
One of the first calls Pellegrini made when he started with the club was to assure Dzeko that he remained City’s first choice striker with Aguero even though they had signed expensive competition in the form of Alvaro Negredo and Jovetic. Dzeko started the first few games but saw less time come his way later on because of the unbreakable partnership formed between Aguero and Negredo. However, he proved his value when Aguero was injured and Negredo’s form dipped drastically after January, and this can be seen in how he’s played more minutes this season than the last (1991 to 1815) while making 7 more starts than the last campaign with 23.
He’s scored 16 goals this season, which is his highest ever season total for the club; his tally in all competitions of 26 goals eclipses last year’s total of 15 as well. His clear-cut conversion has improved from 37% to 50%, his chance conversion improved by 1%. Dzeko’s shooting accuracy dipped from 53% to 46% however I don’t think Manchester City minded at all with him converting more of his shots and especially the clear chances.
Le Petit Prince
Nasri’s difference in playing time is more pronounce than either of the other two. He’s played 2498 minutes with 29 starts this season, as compared to 23 starts amounting to 1803 minutes in the 12/13 season. He was also injured for a period of 8 weeks which makes this statistic even more significant. His link-up play with Silva this season has been a joy to watch, and he’s passed the ball 2134 times this season (Accuracy 85.85%) as compared to last season’s meager 1304. He’s also created more chances from Open Play (50 vs 33) and Set Plays (35 vs 14) but has only created 4 clear cut chances this season (compared to 16 last year).
This is partly because of his tendency to cut in from the flanks, with either Navas/Milner or one of the fullbacks taking the ball off of him on the overlap; also, with Silva in the middle, the play usually flowed through him and Yaya Toure. Indeed, Nasri’s goal output increased significantly this season (7 this year as opposed to 2 last season) and he attempted more shots, meaning he flourished as a finisher with the creative midfield talent around him.
The Serbian Roberto Carlos
Given that name for his tendency to try his luck from long range, Kolarov certainly didn’t disappoint this season, taking 42 shots on goal (as compared to only 12 last year) which demonstrates how often he found himself in the attacking zones of the pitch in the Pellegrini regime. Once again, we see a massive difference in playing time, with 21 starts amounting to 1969 minutes this term (vs 11 starts and 1050 minutes last season). He’s had 21 successful dribbles this year, which dwarfs last season’s grand total of 3 and he’s also set up 7 goals this time around.
Defensively, he has been slightly worse off than last season; he’s made 2 defensive errors this term (0 last time) and attempted fewer tackles (one every 39 minutes), ground & aerial 50-50s than under Mancini. However, Pellegrini’s width on the left hand side is entirely dependent on the LB playing on a given matchday because of Silva or Nasri’s tendency to cut inside, which is why his attacking stats show more significant improvement than his defensive lapses.
As important as any new signings Pellegrini made last summer was arguably how he handled who were considered on the edge at City. By maintaining a certain level of calm back then and indeed throughout the year, he has kept almost everyone happy and managed to focus everyone’s attention on football and football alone. And although there are certain areas which each player could improve upon, it is no doubt that they each enjoyed fantastic first seasons under their Chilean boss, and they have something concrete to build upon next season.