Manuel Pellegrini - Pep Guardiola linked to his Manchester City post, but the Engineer deserves better
The conclusion to Manchester City’s mauling of Queen’s Park Rangers on Sunday was a parting of two clubs heading into periods of uncertainty, albeit entering in totally different directions. QPR will head to the Championship faced with possible financial meltdown and an impending £58 million Financial Fair Play fine, but City will head to the Champions League bankrolled by the seemingly limitless fortune of their Emirate owners.
Another raft of Sheikh Mansour’s money will be used to fund a squad overhaul designed to restore City to potential title challengers as well as offering them a chance to move past their ceiling of the Champions League last-16.
They will hope fresh impetus will be injected by the likes of Paul Pogba, Ross Barkley and Kevin De Bruyne to a squad that has Yaya Toure, Stevan Jovetic, Samir Nasri, Alexander Kolarov and Eden Dzeko on hand to be offloaded if space needs to be created. It is a reaction to a limp defence of their Premier League title which they have ceded to Chelsea by a gap of 11 points and a run in Europe which was again ended by the brilliance of Barcelona. Drastic change could also extend to the dugout with the manager possibly paying with his job.
Manuel Pellegrini delivered the title in his first season in England but hasn’t managed to avoid a repeat of the same lethargy and weariness that did for Roberto Mancini a season after he delivered the club’s first title for 42 years.
Guardiola’s troubles at Bayern Munich
With City’s new-look boardroom containing Ferran Soriano and Txixi Begiristain, who were both part of Barcelona’s board during the era of Joan Laporta, the latter the man who convinced the Catalan giants and Pep Guardiola were right for each other in the summer of 2008, it has fuelled reports linking the now-Bayern Munich coach with a move to the Etihad to succeed the Chilean.
Guardiola has won two Bundesliga titles, a German cup, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA World Club Cup during his time in Bavaria but the lack of genuine competition in a league that Munich had virtually sewn up by winter has developed cracks in the Spaniard’s reign.
A complacent conclusion to his second season in charge has seen his team lose to Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal, lose successive games in the league and of course suffer a 3-0 first-leg Champions League semi-final beating at the hands of Guardiola’s former club. He still summoned an irresistible performance to demolish Porto 6-1 in the quarter-final second leg, but not before some of Bayern’s impregnability had been ebbed away with a 3-1 defeat in Portugal. It has all echoed the damaging 0-5 aggregate loss to Real Madrid in last year’s semi-final.
Bayern’s former captain Lothar Matthaus and honorary president Franz Beckenbauer have both been recent critics of the Catalan coach who was this weekend reported, by Qatari-owned global sports channel beIN Sports, to have signed an agreement with Manchester City to take charge of the club in the summer. It has all since been sternly denied by the coach who says he is determined to honour the last year of his contract in Germany but from City there has been little response or acknowledgement.
That has in turn allowed a vacuum to fester in which rumour and gossip will thrive. Pellegrini, who had to field questions about the possibility of being replaced by Guardiola just after seeing his team win 6-0, deserves better.
Reasons for City’s limp title defence
The 61 year old coach will have his performance reviewed by Chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak in the summer and question marks will be rightly asked about the Chilean’s failure to successfully revamp his squad that now has an average age of 28.9 despite the £190 million spent since his arrival. Eliaquim Mangala, Fernando and Jovetic have all been expensive failures, Alvaro Negredo served just 1 year for £20 million and although the jury is still out on the £25 million Wilfried Bony, he is not the standard of signing required to compete once again with Chelsea.
However City’s poor showing this term has been mostly down to the patchy form of Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri, all of whom have struggled to repeat their excellent displays of last season for different reasons. A lack of enthusiasm to help out with the defensive effort has undermined City’s chances and the many instances of Nasri, Toure and even David Silva cruising through important defeats to Liverpool and Manchester United have been sad epitomes of the campaign. Kompany’s previously rock-solid position as leader of the team was put into doubt when he was dropped following a dressing room altercation with Fernandinho.
Numerous factors, including consistent injuries to top-scorer Sergio Aguero and the ridiculous saga of Yaya Toure’s birthday that lit the fuse to a sorry, disinterested season from the Ivorian, have all contributed to a limp title defence but it should not constitute the sacking of a manager who has proved he can be successful with Manchester City in England.
The tally of seven league defeats has been disappointing but their 77 goals conceded is a league high while their total of 36 goals conceded has been bettered only by Southampton, Arsenal and Chelsea. The recent revival, following the dejection of successive defeats to Crystal Palace and Manchester United, of four straight wins to put them back in the frame for automatic Champions League qualification is something Pellegrini should receive credit for.
Some may point to the Chilean’s tactical inflexibility that was so brutally exposed on the European stage but no system works in the modern game without the effort of its personnel and City have so often found that absent, just like they did in the season of Mancini’s title-defence.
A squad revamp, bringing with it an influx of younger players hungry for success will go some way to solving that and it should be a truer test of Pellegrini’s qualities if he is allowed to take control of a new-look squad free of those comfortable on lucrative contracts with medals safe on their walls.
Fail once again and City will be right to turn to Guardiola, but Pellegrini deserves the chance to show that the brighter, younger, more decorated manager from Catalonia isn’t the right route to go down just yet.