Manchester City may have failed in their Premier League title bid but Derek Bilton believes Manuel Pelegrini can still leave the Etihad on a high.
The recent international break has probably come at a decent time for beleaguered Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini, whose side have endured a horror run in recent weeks.
The Citizens have picked up just four points from a possible 18 and privately will probably have already conceded the title. Pep Guardiola is of course waiting ominously in the shadows ready to take over this summer, and reports in some circles suggest Pellegrini may have lost the dressing room. The mild-mannered South American flat out denied this in the wake of their 1-0 defeat to Manchester United, but it’s clear that this team have lost their way a bit in recent weeks.
Mid-season breaks often feel like a hindrance to sides on a roll who fear losing momentum. Yet from Pellegrini’s perspective this international break will probably feel well timed.
The imminent return of injured trio Kevin De Bruyne, Samir Nasri and Fabian Delph can only help their cause as they bid to finish the campaign with a flourish. De Bruyne in particular has been a huge miss. The Belgian has 12 goals and 12 assists to his name already this season and his creative spark has been sorely missed.
It’s hard to judge Pellegrini’s tenure at Manchester City. They have clearly under-performed in the league this term but have already bagged a trophy in the shape of the Capital One Cup and are in the last eight of the Champions League. PSG await them there and while that looks a tough tie on paper it would not surprise me if they got through. The French champions have already wrapped up their domestic league and star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic will almost certainly be moving on in the summer, so they are not the certainties to progress to the last four some have them down as. If City can pull it off, You would then have to ask yourself whether a League Cup success and significant run into the latter stages of the Champions League (for the first time in the club’s history) can be seen as a ‘failed’ season or not?
It’s not ideal that they will be forced to endure a late season scramble to try and secure Champions League football, and it would be demoralising should Pep be forced to lead his side into Europa League action next season.
But you can’t lay the blame squarely at the door of the manager. This is a team of winners yet this season you could argue that only Joe Hart and Sergio Aguero have performed consistently well. Their recruitment policy has also been shambolic. It has been clear for a while now they need a centre half to support Vincent Kompany. Big money buys Eliaquim Malanga and Nicolas Otamendi have bombed, while Marcus Rashford showed at Old Trafford recently why Martin Demechelis should not be anywhere near this team. With all this in mind, the decision to allow to top defensive prospect Jason Denayer to go out to Turkey on loan is also a bit of a ‘head’s gone’.
Also the decision to announce mid-season that Guardiola would be their new manager at the end of the season seems to have backfired in spectacular fashion. The team have picked up just seven points from seven league matches since the announcement and it’s clearly been counterproductive. Pellegrini must be commended for how well he has handled the situation, but the same can’t be said of his side. Pellegrini has achieved a lot at the club, and he certainly deserves more credit than he has been given. The Chilean is aware that if the club no longer want him there is precious little he can do about it. But he will have hoped to go out in a triumphant blaze of glory.
Yet there is still time for this side to put things right, starting at Bournemouth on Saturday. If the amiable Pellegrini can finish in the top four, and make further inroads in the Champions League, he will be able to leave the club this summer with his head held high.