Manchester City are in a crisis – at least that is what manager Manuel Pellegrini will tell you.
After winning the league and Capital One Cup in his first season in charge the Citizens have made a stuttering start to the Chilean’s second year at the helm.
Off the pace in the Premier League and having suffered their latest Champions League disappointment to CSKA Moscow, Pellegrini took the unusual step of admitting City are in a crisis.
The 61-year-old’s admission is all the more surprising considering a crisis in modern football usually means only one thing – the manager’s time is up.
Odds on the Chilean, nicknamed the Engineer, being the next Premier League boss to be shown the door have tumbled to as little as 6/1.
Certainly, if City’s fortunes don’t improve before the end of the season it would be a surprise to see Pellegrini sat in the home dugout at the Etihad next August.
After all a managerial overhaul dragged City out of their last malaise under Roberto Mancini; however, a repeat dose may not cure their current plight.
For one, City’s ambition would be to appoint a truly world class manager and they are a rare, and currently unavailable, breed.
Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho have settled well into long term contracts at Bayern Munich and Chelsea.
And unless Real Madrid suffer a spectacular collapse – unlikely given their blistering form of late – Carlo Ancelotti should keep his place at the Bernabéu.
Instead, City would probably be trying to tempt the likes of Jurgen Klopp or Diego Simeone into a maiden berth in English management.
Both have performed miracles with Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid respectively in recent years but whether they would be a significant enough upgrade to justify sacking Pellegrini is debatable.
One need only look at the difficulties experienced by Louis van Gaal, who is still coming to terms with the intricacies of English football, to see that City’s problems may be easier to solve.
Sticking with a 4-2-3-1 system would be a start, providing a balance which is currently lacking with Stevan Jovetic alongside Sergio Aguero in a 4-4-2.
A consistent formation would go some way to improving the form of this summer’s major acquisitions, Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando, who, like Van Gaal, are struggling to adjust to the Premier League.
Players enjoy the security provided by a system they know well and the form shown by Martin Demichelis in the second half of last season is testimony to that.
A six point gap to Chelsea, whose quality may have been exaggerated, is not insurmountable, and a run of two or three results can make a huge difference at this stage of the season.
The shroud of self-doubt that seems to envelope City in the Champions League is a more complicated issue, but one that pre-dates Pellegrini’s tenure.
A knee-jerk sacking would be unlikely to help City’s cause and, unless they fall foul of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play restrictions again, Pellegrini will have far greater freedom to improve his squad next summer.
We should not forget it is a matter of months since we were lauding the attacking brilliance of a City side that pipped Brendan Rodgers free-flowing Liverpool side to the title.
The revolution that has happened at Manchester City since the Abu Dhabi United Group took over in 2008 has been spectacular by anyone’s standards.
The Etihad expects silverware, and a trophyless season will leave Pellegrini feeling the strains of expectation like never before.
However, progress from here on in requires – as the owners have recognised themselves – a more gradual approach, even if they endure a few hiccups along the way.
Image courtesy of Carl Recine and Stern Action Images, with thanks