Pellegrini Deserves More Time to Turn City Around

Published: 03rd March 2015 09:29 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd March 2015 09:29 AM   |  A+A-


Pellegrini admitted that his players often show their best when the clock is ticking and the lights are about to switched off. (AP File Photo)

Before even beginning to debate the future of Manuel Pellegrini, Manchester City's dignified but increasingly disparaged manager, it needs accepting that any decision to expedite regime change is a colossal, expensive and emotive exercise not always guaranteed to bring success. Any action on Pellegrini should not be rushed.

Assessing a manager's competence should never be a process conducted immediately in the dispiriting wake of a few poor performances, some bruising headlines, a verbal battering from pundits and with vision blurred by match-day tears. Only with clear sight and ice in the veins can a true verdict be reached on a manager who has claimed two trophies in 95 games.

Pellegrini's fate should be resolved only this close season when a fuller picture emerges of whether the team is developing, of whether it could be the show's cast that needs changing, rather than the director. Summertime is the right time. That is the time when City's Abu Dhabi owners conduct their season's review with their managers, when decisions are made (barring the sudden eviction of Mark Hughes in December 2009).

Despite the waves of criticism rolling towards Pellegrini in the comments sections of the Manchester Evening News and elsewhere on Monday, the word from the Etihad was that it is "business as usual". City insist that they continue to back a manager embarrassed by Liverpool and Barcelona in the past few days, and that nobody has been sounded out as a replacement.

Pellegrini enjoys a good relationship with the chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, with the club's chief executive officer Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain. The last two were instrumental in appointing Pellegrini and their local credibility, to an extent, is entwined with his fortunes.

A low-maintenance and intelligent soul, the Chilean is respected within the building for bringing tranquility after the mood swings of Roberto Mancini.

City have noted events at Chelsea, including Jose Mourinho's mind games, conspiracy theories and occasional media blackouts and shuddered. They have seen how their man, "this charming man" to quote a fans' banner, conducts himself with more decorum, barring a bizarre, intemperate outburst at Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson.

The 61-year-old lives quietly with his wife in a Manchester suburb, close to one of their sons, and spends his spare time looking after his grandchildren, even doing the school-run duties. He likes his privacy. He would recoil at the thought of being a demonstrative public figure like Mourinho.

The problem for Pellegrini, who says little of interest to the personality-obsessed English media, is that he has few supporters to fight his corner in public. So he currently endures a pounding in the press, on social media and in television studios.

City also feel that the media gave Pellegrini insufficient praise for driving the team through some difficult periods to the title last season (as well as the League Cup). City fans were enraged and confused that Pellegrini was beaten to the two Manager of the Year awards by Tony Pulis, who kept Crystal Palace up, and Brendan Rodgers, who reinvigorated Liverpool and lifted them to second. Pellegrini's current travails need placing in a broader perspective. He won two trophies in his first season, and currently endures a tough second term.

The close scrutiny is right, however. All the "holistic" hyperbole about Pellegrini is irrelevant if there are holes in City's defence. Pellegrini has questions to answer even if the mood remains sympathetic within the corridors of powers and the stairwells leading to the terraces.

Desert sands do shift under Pellegrini. Mourinho is back winning trophies.

Rodgers revitalises Liverpool. Luis Enrique, hardly Pep II at Barcelona, outwitted him in the Champions League. Even dear old Arsene Wenger worked out how to set up a balanced team to defeat City at the Etihad. If managerial stock was floated on the FTSE, traders would currently be considering selling their shares in Pellegrini.

Pellegrini may well finish the season empty-handed yet such a disappointing eventuality is permissible signs of hope for the future accompany it.

But City do not appear to be developing. They currently look stalled, ageing, lacking dynamism. Barring the likes of Sergio Aguero, Joe Hart, James Milner and David Silva, some of their stars are falling short, comets on a downward trajectory. Yaya Toure looks a transfer waiting to happen, assuming somebody will meet his wage demands. Vincent Kompany, a true leader and usually reliable centre-half, makes too many mistakes. The holding midfielders are not good enough. Silva and Samir Nasri do not track back.

Purchases during the Pellegrini era, the likes of Fernando, Eliaquim Mangala and Wilfried Bony, have yet to impress but were these truly the choices of the Chilean or of Begiristain? Pellegrini has had to contend with Financial Fair Play sanctions. What is vexing is that he has not used these Uefa-imposed restrictions to promote youngsters, freshening up the seniors' squad with some of the starlets nurtured by Patrick Vieira at the City Football Academy. The future? Bring it on.

Tactically, Pellegrini certainly deserves censure. Naively, a coach with only positive principles fails to confront and negate the strengths of opponents. Did he not warn his defenders to show Philippe Coutinho on to his left foot? Did he seriously think he could control midfield with only Fernando and Milner, with a 4-4-2 system, against Barcelona? Why are City not playing a high pressing game? Having equalised at Anfield, why did they slacken off? Why does he not protect or realign a defence vulnerable to pace? Why does a physically imposing man not venture to the edge of the technical area, resembling a real authority figure?

Speculation about his future is legitimate only if substantial alternatives present themselves this summer. Pep Guardiola is not expected to leave Bayern Munich this summer, a year before his deal expires. Diego Simeone, such a force at Atletico Madrid, would need to learn the language.

There has been frequent talk this season of Carlo Ancelotti replacing Pellegrini. That would depend on whether Real Madrid offload a popular coach who led them to La Decima last season, whose team currently lead La Liga and can already smell the cologne of the presenters of the Champions League quarter-final draw after an away win at Schalke.

Any decision can be made only in the summer when the respective work of Pellegrini and Ancelotti can be judged. It could prove an awkward summer for Pellegrini - but let him get there first. He deserves that at least.



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