In Toon Today: Manchester City
Who Manages Them:
Manuel Pellegrini, on the last leg of his Mancunian adventure.
His three years at City have been a relative success, a league title win, two league cups and a team that generally plays good football but that hasn’t been enough to save him from the bullet at the end of this season.
With Pellegrini’s contract up, his replacement for the 2016/17, Pep Guardiola, was announced on February the 1st this year, City’s lack of Champions League progress may have been a factor though ironically they are in the semi-finals next week but it is more likely that the availability of one of the world’s top managers was the reason behind it.
City had the choice of all three really, Guardiola, Mourinho or Ancelotti. They chose Pep, or perhaps Pep chose them. It’s all a bit hard on Pellegrini but the Chilean is big enough to know that in football there is always a bigger fish and his reputation as a coach has been enhanced by his time in the rainy city so he should have no problems finding another gig. The Premier League probably won’t miss him though, he’s boring as hell.
“The mathematical reason why we are not challenging for the title is because we lost three games in a row at the beginning of February.”
That City aren’t challenging for the title this year has been put down to three consecutive losses earlier this year by Pellegrini, probably a polite way of saying that when they publicised the capture of Guardiola, Pellegrini lost control of the team.
That may be true, we know that Bobby Robson was finished when Fat Freddy announced to the world that SBR was retiring at the end of the season, the announcement in August meant that Sir Bobby could no longer control his talented but egotistical squad.
Pellegrini too seems to have suffered that problem, City did lose to Leicester, Spurs and Liverpool as Manuel says but they didn’t pick up much after that, wins away at the Mackems and in Kiev their only wins in February, a win at home to Villa their only victory in March.
Perhaps it was the Champions League and Euro 2016 which has motivated his super-rich players to pull their fingers collective fingers out rather than anything Pellegrini said. Either way, the Sky Blues have picked up in April and as with all teams, we are playing them when they are winning games and high in confidence. We never get to play teams when they are in a slump.
Pellegrini will get a nicer reception today, him and Pardew always had a difficult relationship especially after the self-proclaimed next England manager gave him a push and called him “you old …..” well, whatever he said, it’ll sound more poetic in Spanish. Manuel and Rafa are old friends, both having been Real Madrid managers, when Rafa got the sack earlier this year Pellegrini was respectful of his jettisoned colleague:
“I am sorry about Rafa Benitez because I think he is a manager that deserves respect but it is not strange what happened at Real Madrid. At least I finished the year.”
The cheeky old ….
‘Joe Hart: Straight Outta Conditioner’
Who Have They Signed:
One possible reason for the replacement of Pellegrini is Manchester City’s rather inconsistent purchasing success though whether Pellegrini had anything to do with that is another issue entirely.
Certainly Kevin De Bruyne, a £55million signing from Wolfsburg is absolutely brilliant and someone who has to play through the middle, as City do, rather than on the wing where he was largely employed by Jose when at Chelsea. De Bruyne himself is a quiet person who seemed happy at Wolfsburg but the club couldn’t turn down the money and the player was offered a sound financial package.
Wolfsburg Sporting Director Klaus Allofs said:
“He’s had an astonishing, astonishing offer from City and we can’t compete with that. I would prefer to keep him, not to get the money. But the money now is really the issue.”
Money is always the at the heart of the issue with Manchester City. Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak even said in the summer that players wanted to sign for City because of more than money but it is difficult to see a time when City will be free from the accusation that they are buying success, Paul Pogba even called them “Qatar City” after helping Juve to a 2-1 win earlier in the CL season.
It can’t help their cause when the £150million they spent in the summer included Fabian Delph from Villa for £8million and then he hardly plays, the reason likely being that Delph just helped the Manc club hit some UEFA quota or other, not the Fair Play obviously, some £100million executive box or other takes care of that. Harsh on the ex-Villa captain though, he seems to be much more than a City nobody, helping to do Sergio Aguero’s top button up before the West Brom home game on Saturday. Now we know why they bought him, he’s Aguero’s butler.
Other massive signings who have yet to pay off are Raheem Sterling, a £49million buy from Liverpool who has underwhelmed this season and likewise Nicolas Otamendi from Valencia for touching £30million. Sterling has not had the desired impact largely because of injury, he’s undoubtedly a good player and like most of the rest of the City team, he loves the sight of us, he’s back from injury today so he’ll probably score.
Evening it up will be centre half Otamendi, the sort of fist-pumping centre half who the fans love to see waving his arms around despite not being able to defend, he probably wouldn’t even get in our team. He might not play today, Vincent Kompany is back from injury and even with a suspect calf he’s quicker than Otamendi.
‘Otamendi: slower now he’s got those new boots’
A Special Mention For:
Fernando, known as ‘the octopus’ at Porto because he kept Ronaldo and Rooney quiet, he may have a pass completion rate that is better than the likes of Silva and YaYa, but he needs a new nickname. After the quarter final first leg against PSG he needs a new backpass strategy as well but despite the City midfielder struggling early on in his City career, he has developed into a mainstay of the City team and a good all round central midfielder:
“England is very intense and I have suffered a bit because of that as I try to adapt. It is a very physical, very strong sort of football. Players here are always running.”
Not ours mate. You’ll be fine today.
Are We Going To Win:
City have upped their game recently since a lacklustre display at Norwich and a derby defeat to Manyoo. Up front Aguero is on absolute fire with De Bruyne ably assisting him, so much so that injuries to the likes of Silva and Sterling have not affected their ability to score.
Tonight, we won’t get away with presenting the opposition with chances to score like we did against Swansea, those three second half chances missed in 10 tense minutes by the Welshmen as much gave us the points as the three goals we scored.
It’s not the same at the back though, Kompany can’t seem to get through a game, Robbie Savage called a Martin Demichelis performance against Manchester United “one of the worst performances in Premier League history” and Mangala and Otamendi aren’t much better.
We did play better against Swansea though, more organised, more disciplined and virtually everyone made a contribution but we’ll need to up it again for today, despite their obvious inconsistencies at the back, they are more solid away from home than at the Etihad and we’ll need everyone from keeper to strikers to subs to play their part, everyone will need to be on top of their game for us to win. As Lascelles said earlier this week:
“They’re 11 men and just because they’ve got a blue shirt on doesn’t mean they have to win. If you have a bit of fight and get after them it doesn’t matter.”
Quite right too. Rafa backed that up with a more mature view of requirements:
“It will be a massive night and it’s going to be difficult because they are a good team. But we have to believe from the beginning until the end that we can do it.”
Win and we have a real chance of staying up, lose and it’s just about over. Just like Swansea then, just like every other week, another massive game at SJP, another ride on the NUFC rollercoaster. This is how it feels to be Newcastle. Howay The Lads.
Anita, Lascelles, Mbemba, Dummett,
Sissoko, Shelvey, Colback, Townsend