Talk is rife that Manuel Pellegrini, the Manchester City manager, is a dead man walking now that his team is five points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea with just ten games left.
It would be uncalled for should the club sack him at the end of the season if he wins nothing this season. Recent results such as the 2-2 draw with relegation-bound Burnley, the 0-2 FA Cup loss to Middlesborough, the 1-1 draw with struggling Hull City and the 1-2 loss to Liverpool have led many observers to question his abilities.
It doesn’t seem to matter that Pellegrini won the Carling Cup and the Premier League last season. Let us face it: no coach can win in every season. Jose Mourinho, whom I am sure many rate highly as the ‘special one’, didn’t win in the 2012/2013 season at Real Madrid and in the 2013/2014 season in Chelsea.
Winning is top of the agenda. But not the only thing to prove what a good coach one is; otherwise, Arsene Wenger should be at Nottingham Forest, probably because since 2004, he hasn’t guided Arsenal to any league title.
Granted, Pellegrini has made some mistakes this season but he deserves credit that he has kept the many egos at Man-City in check. Besides, Pellegrini past record doesn’t read badly at all especially when one is to consider that he transformed Villarreal CF between 2005 and 2007 using a shoestring budget guided the Yellow Submarines to the semi-finals of the Uefa Champions League in 2006.
Oftentimes, however, such runs can be one-offs and true to the narrative, many have been seen before. But Pellegrini moved to Malaga a few seasons later and inspired them to an impressive run to the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2013. Even as the team struggled due to the lack of finances, it remained competitive.
As fans, we are easily carried away and quick to judge. But we need to sober up as far as Pellegrini is concerned, while for the Man-City hierarchy, sensibility is of the essence. Pellegrini and Man-City are just experiencing a hangover from last season. So, they will bounce back although that will need tactical smartness from the Chilean too.
He can start at the Nou Camp on Wednesday. His decision to play a 4-4-2 in the first leg was so naïve of Pellegrini. Roma’s midfielders Seydou Keita, Miralem Pjanic, Radja Naingollan and Daniel De Rossi killed Man-City at the Etihad in the 1-1 draw because of numbers.
How then could Pellegrini pull a similar stunt against Barcelona knowing how they subjugate teams using their numbers ploy?
Now, since Yaya Toure will be returning for the second leg at the Nou Camp on Wednesday 18 March, he should play as the number ten in front of Fernandinho and Fernando as the ball winning midfielders while David Silva and Samir Nasri sandwich Kun Aguero.
That should make Pellegrini’s men more resolute. Remember also, Barcelona are unlikely to have Dani Alves and Sergio Busquets.
Inevitably, that should make them weaker; an opportunity for Pellegrini to continue his work of making Man-City a formidable side, he set out to, while shutting those calling for his head to roll at the end of this season because he doesn’t look like winning something.