There are a couple of things that Manuel Pellegrini needs to take from yesterday’s defeat to Wigan in the FA Cup.
Martin Demichelis and Samir Nasri are players he must either improve or improve upon.
There are certain flaws that a manger cannot improve in a player, for instance, the lack of pace when a defender like Demichelis gets older, but there are a lot of ageing defenders, like John Terry, who are much more efficient.
Demichelis has been making mistakes typical of a young defender still learning his role of late. Against Barcelona in the Champions League, he initially followed the ball and left too much space behind him. Lionel Messi sensed it and ran into the gap.
When Demichelis realised that Andres Iniesta has just fed Messi behind him, he panicked. He tried to compensate for his error by tackling Messi but he only made things worse for himself and his team. He got sent-off and a controversial penalty was awarded.
In the FA Cup game against Wigan Athletic, he was easily bypassed by Marc-Antoine Fortune and panicked yet again.
Fortune’s angle was too tight to easily beat Costel Pantilimon and he had no immediate support across the face of goal, so he held the ball hoping for contact. The last thing an experienced defender like Demichelis should be doing was tackling Fortune in the box.
The Argentine veteran felt he had to fix his initial error by challenging for the ball and he conceded a penalty.
This is a trend Pellegrini can stop. He needs to have a word with his centre-back to make sure he improves his positional awareness. When Demichelis gets caught, he needs to stop panicking and committing even worse secondary mistakes.
He obviously trusts the former Malaga man – after all, he bought him and continues to play him.
Another problem Pellegrini has is Samir Nasri. Against Wigan, Pellegrini initially asked him to deputise for David Silva on the left wing, then moved him to the central midfield in a new look Manchester City side after a triple substitution.
Nasri’s initial role on the left was to drift inside, try to receive the ball in the space between midfield and defensive lines then feed the two strikers. He struggled with that, partly because Chris McCann worked hard to close in on him each time he went into that hole. The Frenchman was really frustrated that he was not influencing the game.
When Nasri replaced Yaya Toure in central midfield he improved. He passed the ball well and scored a fine goal. This game just highlighted the problem Nasri has always had at Manchester City: he prefers to play in the no.10 role, yet he rarely influences the game from there.
When he plays wide he is reluctant to track back and in the middle of the park he sometimes struggles with the defensive duties there, too. Most no.10s have a clear identity: some, like Silva, are great passers, others, like Wayne Rooney, are established goal scorers and some, like Eden Hazard, are primarily dribblers. Nasri is a more complicated midfielder.
He is a talented enigma who frustrated Roberto Mancini. If he is to stay at City, Pellegrini needs to find a way to use the Frenchman better.