Prior to his much-praised tactical last season conversion, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini was often bemoaned by fans for his unwavering dedication to what many saw as an archaic 4-4-2 system.
The Citizens’ manager has since constructed a more fluid 4-2-3-1 system for his City team, allowing the club’s plethora of attacking midfielders to cause damage from wider areas and prompting the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva to contribute more to the team in the way of goals.
But with the club’s – and perhaps the league’s – two best players, Silva and Sergio Agüero still absent from the first-team through injury, hard times may dictate a tactical reversal.
The promising acumen on show from the Wilfried Bony and Kelechi Iheanacho pairing against Crystal Palace on Wednesday gives credence to the potential for Pellegrini to deploy the two strikers in tandem against Norwich on Saturday, as well as in the Champions League against Unai Emery’s Sevilla side at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán come Tuesday.
Speaking to the club’s website, Pellegrini revealed his surviving penchant for having two strikers on the pitch as he lauded the pair for their performance.
“They can play both together as they did tonight,” said the Chilean.
“I think this moment it’s important for the team to have Kelechi and Bony as options without Kun.
“Kun is impossible to replace but we know we have another option in attack.”
Often dropping deeper into an auxiliary strikers role in what was effectively a 4-4-1-1, the young Nigerian, Iheanacho, 19, proved why he is so highly regarded at the City Football Academy with a man-of-the-match performance including a goal and two assists.
Irresistible in the moderately withdrawn role behind Bony, the 2013 FIFA U17 World Cup winner was instrumental, as he drew Damien Delaney and Scott Dann out of the usually compact Palace back-line, allowing Bony, De Bruyne, and Jesús Navas to find gaps in Alan Pardew’s defence.
And the blossoming youngster was evidently pleased with the performance, saying: “I’m enjoying scoring. I did very well in the game, happy with my teammates: working together with them and scoring a great goal so I’m happy.”
Iheanacho also went on to credit his good personal relationship with his strike-partner as a reason for their success, insisting: “Wilfried – he helps me a lot, he talks to me every time.
“Wilfried, Yaya, Sagna, Silva, Samir: they talk to me every time, [tell me to] work hard everyday, so I’m happy training with them.”
More creatively industrious than Sergio Agüero with regards to his link-up play in the less immediately threatening midfield third, Iheanacho is far from averse to conjuring up chances with the mercurial likes of De Bruyne, as he did to great effect against Palace, when a scything City attack saw the 19-year-old lay the ball on for the Belgian to score.
Pellegrini, too, was visibly impressed by his young striker – who has two goals and two assists in seven games for the first-team, saying: “It was very important for Kelechi to demonstrate once again that he’s a very good player.
“I had no doubt in him – I see how he works every day and his personality is important and it’s important for him to play with important players.”
Image courtesy of MCFC via YouTube, with thanks.