Manchester City line-up with Paul Pogba will be an interesting watch!
Manchester City‘s chase for a crack player and a couple of world class players continues, as the Sky Blues look to reinforce their squad that finished second in the Barclays Premier League last season and lost 1-3 on aggregate to Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League R-16.
The trio of Paul Pogba, Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne have been heavily linked with moves to the Etihad Stadium, with City having already had a couple of their bids for Sterling rejected by Liverpool. They have yet to bid for Pogba and de Bruyne, though, and will know for sure that they have a monumental task on their hands to land the duo.
Talking of Pogba, the current Juventus midfielder will probably be the toughest to secure, with some of the top dogs – Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Paris St. Germain – in Europe also coveting him. It is, therefore, believed that the Cityzens might have to win a bidding war to land their top target this summer.
Recent reports suggest that Manuel Pellegrini and Txiki Begiristain, City’s sporting director, could be willing to splash around £70m, which would be a British record transfer fee, for the 22-year old, who had a decent 2014-15 season for the Old Lady, making 44 appearances – for both club and country – and scoring 12 goals and registering 7 assists. In Pogba, City will have a complete midfielder who excels in dribbling, passing, aerial duels and will also guarantee you at least 10 goals per season, which can’t be bad. Is it?
Yaya Toure, Fernandinho and Fernando Reges are the current three midfielders at City, and this trio are nowhere near good enough for a club that desires to play the ‘Blaugrana way’, win the Champions League and dominate domestically, too.
Moving on, if City secure Pogba, which would be a significant mood-lifter for everyone concerned with the Etihad outfit, which are the ways they could line-up? And will Pellegrini, then, show tactical flexibility?
How Will Manchester City Line-up with Paul Pogba?
City have predominantly lined up in the 4-4-2 system since the Chilean manager took charge of the club in 2013. Scoring goals and dominating football games have been the motives of Pellegrini, under whom you hardly ever see the 2013/14 English champions sitting deep and attempting to thwart the opposition. And although a large contingent of City fanatics have been put off by the 61-year old’s ‘tactical inflexibility’, you can hardly argue with Pellegrini sticking to 4-4-2 and, very occasionally, switching to 4-2-3-1: because he simply hasn’t had the players to employ other systems and make them work.
With the securing of Pogba, Pellegrini will instantly have more tactical options up his sleeve, and create competition for places in City’s starting XI, especially in the engine room that could then have 4 players competing for two spots, or the same number of players competing for three spots.
First and foremost,
During the Cityzens’ strong finish to the 2014/15 season, which saw them win their last six games in a row, they predominantly resembled the shape of a 4-1-4-1, with Fernandinho playing as the solitary pivot while Toure and Frank Lampard played ahead of him in advanced midfield positions. David Silva and James Milner occupied the wide positions behind Sergio Aguero, who played as the lone striker.
If and when Pogba arrives, I staunchly believe that he will take Lampard’s position and play alongside Toure in what should be a 4-3-3 system. If Pellegrini does adopt such a tactic, City will generally play 3v3 in midfield, especially in Europe, where they have been labelled ‘tactically naive’ for going with 2 central midfielders and 2 inside forwards, and failing to break the Barcelona barrier during the last two seasons.
The two Brazilian midfielders will get rotated from one competition to another, while Pogba and Toure continue as the midfield creators who will send shivers down the spine of City’s opponents.
Again, you will see the 2011 FA Cup winners playing this system in the Champions League, with Aguero, the club’s No.1 striker, leading the line in most games. Wilfried Bony will have to be content with substitute appearances, and occasionally featuring alongside the Argentine ace.
This formation will see City become a well-rounded team that can attack, as well as defend, with better fluidity. The three attackers in this formation can work in unison to press the opposition backline once possession is lost – which is nothing but defending from the front – and the three central midfielders will help in dominating possession as a result of playing close to each other and having the shape of a triangle.
If Silva and Samir Nasri play as the wide men, however, they will have to drop deep and do the dirty work when need be; this duo only won 28% and 37% of their attempted tackles, respectively, in the Premier League last season and do not have pace on their side, which could be problematic for City when they come up against sides that boast of the Eden Hazards, Alexis Sanchezs, Neymars, and Lionel Messis.
City were the Premier League’s top scoring team in the last two seasons, which saw them score 102 and 83 goals, respectively, and did so by playing in the 4-4-2 system predominantly. Although many have described this system as ‘obsolete’, it is rather safe to say that the Cityzens have thrived by lining up in the 4-4-2. And, compared to European teams, Premier League outfits have not troubled them as much while they have lined up in the traditional 4-4-2.
One of the foremost reasons why I think Pellegrini will stick to playing 4-4-2, at least domestically, is because City boast of three strikers – Aguero, Bony and Edin Dzeko, who looks set to stay put at the Etihad – capable of helping them outscore a lot of opponents. The Chilean has constantly reiterated his vision for City to be a ‘scoring team and an outfit that goes out to win football matches’; and they haven’t lost anything by exuding a positive mentality.
While the front four of Silva, Aguero, Bony, and Nasri shouldn’t have too many problems playing week in and week out, City’s central midfield pairing might change from one weekend to another. What I mean is Toure, at 32, might not feature in each one of City’s domestic assignments, and instead, might be used predominantly for the heavyweight Premier League clashes and Champions League games.
The Ivorian’s place could be taken by Fernandinho or Fernando, with Pogba playing a starring role in City’s engine room. Such a combination can only work in City’s favour, as you will have Toure fresh and hungry to perform in the big games he is picked to play.
Aguero and Bony would hope to form a good strike partnership for City, who were particularly good to watch when Alvaro Negredo was at the Etihad and linked up wonderfully well with the 27-year old Argentine while playing in a two-pronged attack for the Cityzens.
What are the other systems City could line up in if Pogba signs for them?
4-1-4-1 and 4-1-2-1-2 look likely to be the systems Manchester City could line-up with Paul Pogba at their disposal. Those two systems will involve the Brazilian duo who are more defensive minded than Toure and Pogba, and someone like Fernandinho, who has been vital to City during his time at the Etihad, cannot be cast aside upon the arrival of Pogba.
I don’t think the Sky Blues will line-up in the 4-2-3-1 formation with Toure and Pogba playing as the double pivot, which will significantly lessen the impact this duo can have in an attacking sense.
Paul Pogba is just the sort of player – young, energetic, vastly talented and with European experience already – City need, to become a better side than they are at this moment. Surely he is going to cost them massive money, but the City hierarchy, going by Khaldoon Al Mubarak’s end of season interview to CityTV, acknowledge that they need players like Pogba to take them to the next level. And I am quite confident that if Pogba arrives at the Etihad, 4-3-3 will probably be the formation which defines the Etihad outfit. 4-4-2 will not be abandoned by any means, but you will start seeing this formation used mostly in domestic competitions.