Manchester City’s comprehensive loss at the hands of Bayern Munich can be explained away fairly easily with one of the following statements:
“It was Bayern Munich, they’re European champions”
“Pep Guardiola is their manager, and he’s like…the best”
“Bayern have got Ribery, Muller and Robben, they’re so difficult to play against”
Whilst these three statements may be true, and no doubt made life a lot more difficult for City, for me, there are no excuses that can account for such a pathetic loss. Without getting all knee-jerky about it, this is a very bad result for Man City, and there are a number of reasons why I believe that this result should result in panic stations for the Citizens, as opposed to a reaction of, “there, there, it was Bayern after all”.
1) Man City are one of the richest clubs in the world
The first and most obvious reason why the home loss to Bayern should be classed as a real failure is that Manchester City have pumped millions and millions of pounds into their squad. Since the club was taken over in 2008, City have spent around a billion pounds; approximately half of that on playing staff. A billion pounds. This mind boggling figure has aided them in winning the Premier League (only once, and by the skin of their teeth), but you would think that with that amount of money, five years should be enough time to shape a team good enough to at least compete with the best in Europe, as opposed to limply surrendering against them.
2) It showcases their inability to learn from their mistakes
City failed to progress past the group stage during their first outing in the Champions League in 2011, picking up only 7 points from a possible 18. During that first year, the Citizens were still very much finding their feet, and could just about be forgiven, despite their significant investment into the playing squad.
Fast forward a year, and City put in another dismal performance in the Champions League group stages, this time failing to win a single match, ending up with only 3 points from their 6 games. Clearly this was quite simply not good enough, and if rumours are to be believed, City’s poor Champions League performance was one of the reasons why Roberto Mancini was shown the exit door.
Since their exit last year, City have installed a new manager and spent a shedload more money on new players. You could be forgiven for thinking then, that this would result in an improved performance in Europe. Their lifeless defeat to Munich shows quite clearly that this isn’t the case.
3) Pellegrini’s European ‘ability’ was a key factor in his appointment
Speaking of the new manager, it seemed in the summer that one of the key reasons why Manuel Pellegrini was given the job at the Etihad was that he had proven European experience. Pellegrini’s Malaga side were one of the surprise packages of the Champions League last season, and it was hoped by City fans that the Chilean’s guiding hand would aid City in performing rather better in the big matches than they have done in the past.
Despite this, City were totally outclassed by a Bayern Munich side that cost a lot less than their Mancunian counterparts. The fact that Pellegrini is a new manager in a new league cannot even be used as an excuse, as of course Pep Guardiola is the newbie at Bayern, having never previously managed in the Bundesliga.
What is even more worrying for Man City fans is that it was quite obvious that Pellegrini didn’t actually have a clue what to do in order stem the Munich tide. Indeed, it was a tide in part created by Pellegrini’s curious starting line-up. The Chilean picked Edin Dzeko to start; a player of undoubted talent who is not renowned for his work rate, and this meant that when faced with Guardiola’s fluid brand of attacking football, City were often one man down. To add to this, Jesus Navas was also awarded a starting berth, another player for whom defending is a somewhat foreign concept.
Pellegrini’s men managed a touch more control once Silva and Milner were introduced, but one must wonder why the experienced manager thought that he could get away without either of their industry from the start.
The worry for Man City fans must be that Pellegrini’s tactical blunders have already cost them a chance at a possible scalp, and although City should still qualify for the next phase (although a trip to Russia to play CSKA Moscow will not be an easy fixture), it’s difficult to see them progressing much further whilst showing such tactical naivety.
4) If Pellegrini is not the right guy, what next?
Perhaps the biggest concern following the loss to Bayern is whether Pellegrini is really up to it. Despite their fantastic win against Manchester United, City have looked fairly average in the Premier League so far, and Bayern’s emphatic victory has confirmed that they are still a long way from the top table. Is Pellegrini the man to take City to the next level?
If he’s not, then City face the prospect of having to start the rebuilding process all over again. New manager, new players that the manager wants etc etc. All of this takes time, and delays yet further the time when City win the Champions League, and given their ridiculous outlay, competing for the Champions League should be a minimum requirement. Right now, they’re miles away from it.