I’ll begin with a sensational statement: this may well be Manuel Pellegrini’s last week as Man City manager. Should the Chilean fail to steer his side into the next stage of the Champions League – something that looks a near-impossible charge – City will have precious little left to play for, and precious little reason to declare trust in a man who has taken his side backwards in the league and failed to take them forward in Europe.
Saturday’s loss at Turf Moor really has sounded the death knell on City’s title race, and with only the Champions League left as a viable option for silverware, the chances of Pellegrini sticking around in Manchester until May are becoming increasingly unlikely.
In all probability, City will be dumped out of Europe this week, and whilst the powers that be at the Etihad may grant Pellegrini a stay of execution, most of us would agree that he is unlikely to retain his position should he fail deliver the league or the Champions League. The question is, could Pellegrini have prevented this?
My argument is that he almost certainly could have done.
Of course, we never really know what budget restraints have been placed on managers and what goes on behind the scenes; but looking at City objectively without that knowledge, I’m forced to conclude that Pellegrini has performed his role poorly this year.
The scintillating attacking football that was on display during his first season in charge appears to have evaporated; whilst an overreliance on Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero has been horribly exposed. With all three of those players missing or out of form for vast swathes of the season, Pellegrini has demonstrated with depressing clarity that he has not cultivated a Plan B for his side this season; and the fault for that lies squarely at the manager’s door.
The Chilean could well point to not recruiting effectively enough last summer, but lack of recruitment does not excuse losses to teams significantly weaker than the Citizens. In reality the sky blues spent well over £50 million last summer, in addition to nearly £100 million the previous off-season. For them to be languishing six points behind Chelsea having played a game more is simply not acceptable. And this is likely to be a conversation Pellegrini has with the board as his tenure draws to a close.
The Chilean does have a lifeline, but a frayed one. Beat Barcelona, progress in the Champions League and all might be forgiven. Good luck Manuel, you’ll need it.