PLayers have LET PELLegriNiDOWN
THE great film director Alfred Hitchcock always had a ready answer if one of his highlypaid stars asked the old question ‘What is my motivation?’
The man who brought us Psycho would harrumph and reply: ‘ Your pay packet’.
It is an answer Manuel Pellegrini could start dishing out to City’s own glitterati, some of whom earn huge money and are giving very little in return.
Of course, a manager must take some of the blame when a team slides beneath expected standards – and if that slide continues, he pays with his job.
And when you have a football director – in City’s case Txiki Begiristain – he has to come under scrutiny if the players he signs are not up to scratch.
But when you look at the way City have gone off the rails since January 1, when they capped a fine comeback by hauling themselves level with Chelsea at the summit of the Premier League – the manager has been badly let down by some of his top stars.
Roberto Mancini has twice tried to take credit for the achievements of Pellegrini’s team, pointing out that the strength of the team lies largely in players signed under his stewardship – mainly Yaya Toure, David Silva, James Milner and Sergio Aguero, not ignoring the patchy contributions of Edin Dzeko, Gael Clichy, and Aleks Kolarov.
But that strength has become a weakness, and when push comes to shove at the end of the season, it is some of Mancini’s boys who are likely to be shown the exit door, with Toure, Nasri and Dzeko heading the list.
The malaise that has hit City in the last three months is down to two principle problems – at least that is how it is viewed within the club.
Firstly, certain players have not been earning their cash, and have failed to match their talent with hard work. Think Toure, Nasri and Dzeko.
Secondly, other key men have not been lacking in effort – they have simply been going through a slump in form. That applies to David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany Zabaleta.
Legitimate questions have been asked about Pellegrini’s tactical nous – and he has often been out-thought – and about Begiristain’s signings, of whom only Martin Demichelis has justified the price tag.
Begiristain will be asked to explain himself, but the club is understood to be behind Pellegrini in terms of his much-maligned 4-4-2. The top brass want a template for the whole
Pablo club, from under-eights to first team, and that means a system which presses high, dominates possession and plays attacking football, fast in thought and action.
Pellegrini believes that 4-4-2 is the best expression of what they are trying to achieve, and his superiors agree that the problem is not the system, but the personnel being asked to implement it.
He has a point, in that no-one was complaining about 4-4-2 when the Blues were smashing the English goalscoring record to smithereens, on their way to a League and cup double last season.
Fifteen months ago, former City midfielder Dietmar Hamann was lambasted by City fans – and many others – when he suggested that Yaya was a ‘defensive liability’.
The Ivorian seemed to ram those words down the German’s throat by powering City over the line in the title race – he was forgiven his defensive deficiencies while he was taking a firm grip on possession and proving such an attacking threat.
Now his cutting edge has gone. Toure cuts a disinterested figure, as does his close pal Nasri, while Dzeko has stopped scoring – and for someone who does little else, that is a fatal flaw.
City need a revamp – but whether that includes the boss, as well as his under-performing minions, will become clear over the next six games.