PLay­ers have LET PELLe­griNiDOWN

Wilmslow Express - - SPORT -

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.

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