Pellegrini on thin ice as Man City struggles
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND — Proof of the struggles at Manchester City this season arrived when the Premier League’s team of the year was announced on Sunday.
Chelsea had six players included. Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham all had representatives. City? Not one player. Before the end of this season, the manager is under severe pressure and speculation is mounting that the best player could leave. Even the atmosphere inside the stadium is flat.
Just what has gone wrong at the soon-to-be-usurped English champions?
For the first time in five years, City is heading into May without any silverware to play for in the final month of the season. While Chelsea is preparing to hoist the Premier League trophy and Arsenal has an FA Cup final looming, all City has ahead is an off-season of major rebuilding work.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini finished last season by being thrown up in the air by his jubilant players after winning the Premier League title. Twelve months later and Pellegrini could be thrown out the door at Etihad Stadium.
Second — at best — in the league and the last 16 of the Champions League sounds like a pretty good season to City fans of a certain vintage, who recall the club’s slide to the third division in the mid1990s. Not, though, to Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family who has invested more than $1.5 billion since his 2008 takeover.
“It is impossible for any club to progress always,” Pellegrini said after a last-gasp 3-2 win over relegation-threatened Aston Villa on Saturday. “We cannot win trophies every year.”
These comments are unlikely to go down well in Abu Dhabi, where Pellegrini faces a post-season debrief when his future will be decided.
In 2012-13, City endured a slump in the season after winning the league title and it cost then-manager Roberto Mancini his job. The same has happened under Pellegrini.
City’s signings last year were strategic, intending to bolster areas of the squad that appeared light — like at goalkeeper, right back, centre half and defensive midfield.
As Chelsea was signing Diego Costa, Arsenal was bringing in Alexis Sanchez and Manchester United was spending $250 million, Willy Caballero, Bacary Sagna, Eliaquim Mangala, Fernando and an aging Frank Lampard were arriving at City. Hardly names to set the pulse racing.
The average age of City’s squad is nearly 29, which reportedly is the highest in the Premier League and one of the highest in Europe. There is a general feeling it could do with an injection of youth.