On the first day of February this year, Manchester City confirmed the worst-kept secret in football – Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola is to take over from Manuel Pellegrini at the Etihad this summer.
Since then, City have narrowly beaten Sunderland, lost two crucial title clashes at home to Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur, and been thrashed 5-1 in the FA Cup by a resurgent Chelsea.
Things are not going well.
It’s hard to look at City’s results this February and not attribute at least some of the responsibility to the fact that the team has been unsettled by the confirmation of Pellegrini’s exit.
After all, generally speaking, January was a pretty healthy month for the Citizens.
Wins away at Norwich and Watford were added to by thrashings of Crystal Palace and Aston Villa, and Pellegrini’s side very much looked to be the team that would eventually topple Leicester after whatever luck or magic driving the unlikely league leaders ran out.
But February has been a different month entirely. And some of the blame must surely be laid out the club’s boardroom door following the feverish speculation regarding Guardiola.
It seems likely both Pellegrini and the club felt that the news had to be announced once the media got wind of it – and they may well have a point.
But one must question how news of this magnitude was allowed to spread like wildfire across column inches both online and in print. Who’s letting secrets like this escape from Manchester City?
Whether or not you believe that it is sensible for City to dispense with the services of Pellegrini and bring in Guardiola or not is something of a moot point; we can all agree that it is not sensible for everyone to know that such a shuffle is going to take place.
In that instant, when all was confirmed, Pellegrini lost all of his power.
All of a sudden, City’s players know that the Chilean is no longer the man with whom their future successes rest, and the effect of that can be pretty powerful.
— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) February 21, 2016
I liken it to the substitute teacher at school. When he or she walked timidly into the classroom, you knew that there was no real authority there. They’d be gone the next day and you could behave as you wanted. Fear wasn’t present, and the result was anarchy.
Whilst it may not be happening to the same extent at City, what is clear is that the Guardiola announcement has sawn off Pellegrini’s relationship with his players – he’s no longer the long-term captain of the ship, and performances show that power shift.
Guardiola might be the best thing since sliced bread (although I have a few misgivings about that point of view), but what is clear is that should City fail to win anything this season, it will be a wasted year, and one that the board must take full responsibility for.