Ahsan Naeem on a fanbase once more divided and a cup-wining manager being hung by some by the scarf of his predecessor.
I should probably preface this blog by confessing I didn’t like Roberto Mancini. Yes we won two trophies (no Bobby, the Charity Shield doesn’t count), and for that I will forever be grateful to him, the players, Sheikh Mansour, Garry Cook, everyone involved in building the title and FA Cup winning team. However by his final season in charge Roberto wasn’t for me. I would explain why but that’s a blog unto itself, and honestly most of the reasons are irrelevant now as the guy no longer works at City.
Two weeks ago City collected the one domestic trophy we hadn’t since the takeover, the Carling Cup. 7 days later, after being knocked out of the FA Cup by Uwe’s Wigan, I began to notice something very strange. City supporters lining up to kick ten tons of shit out of Manuel Pellegrini on forums and Twitter alike. The criticism was staggering in both it’s mindlessness and it’s aggression. . “He’s just a fucking old clueless cunt” “he’s a just a puppet for the Spaniards” “if we win the league it’s because of the players, but if we lose it it’s the clueless manager’s fault”, and my personal favourite “David Moyes is 7/10 manager, Pellegrini 3/10. If Moyes had our squad we’d be top of the league right now.” Let that soak in for a few seconds before I move on. A seasoned, season ticket holding, life long blue, expressed that opinion.
So I began scratching the surface to see if there was anything of any substance in amongst the idiotic rhetoric of the angry voices on the internet. Was there a footballing argument for why the Blues should be so angry at Pellegrini?
“He didn’t take the cup competitions seriously and what happened against Wigan could’ve happened against Watford”.
Very difficult to understand this one. City began the Wigan game with Aguero, Navas, Nasri, and Negredo as their attackers, Yaya Toure in midfield, and a back four consisting of ¾ of the title winning defence (Lescott, Richards, and Clichy). To me it seems incredibly far fetched to suggest this team showed Pellegrini didn’t care about the FA Cup, even taking into consideration the relatively poor form of Richards and Clichy this season.
This is before we even consider the need for resting players like Kompany and Zabaleta because of the sheer volume of games they’ve already played this season.
“This isn’t Spain, and he’s not taking the smaller teams seriously.”
An extension of the FA Cup gripe is that Pellegrini has consistently underestimated the teams in the lower half of the Premier League and this is due to his tenure in Spain. The point is generally illustrated by using the Cardiff and Villa defeats from earlier in the season.
In both matches our strongest XI available was played, and in both games what settled the result was unforced errors from usually incredibly reliable players (Zabaleta and Kompany), so again it seems using this as a stick to beat Pellegrini with is non sensical.
“He’s ruined the defence.” (or “we’re like Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle”)
It’s a tricky one. There’s no question we were defensively more solid under Mancini than we are under Pellegrini. However we were an infinitely more boring team to watch under Mancini than we are under Pellegrini, and more importantly we’re a much better attacking side under Pellegrini than we were under Mancini.
It’s a subjective thing in my eyes. And in this case the person who gets to decide what they want is Sheikh Mansour. It’s apparent from the public comments of Ferran Soriano, Txiki Begiristain, and Pellegrini himself, that City and Sheikh Mansour wanted a manager with an attacking philosophy rather than a more pragmatic one. To implement this new philosophy was always going to come with drawbacks, one of which is that we concede more goals than in previous seasons and games would feel more open.
Since this problem though hasn’t really stopped teams like Barcelona, Madrid, and United from winning countless trophies, it’s not something I think any Blues should be losing any sleep over.
“442 doesn’t work” (or “Dzeko and Negredo can’t play together)
Probably the one criticism of Pellegrini which I can relate to even if I don’t entirely agree. I would agree his penchant for playing two forwards whenever he’s had two fit forwards is frustrating at times. Personally though this isn’t because I don’t think it works or because Dzeko and Negredo can’t play together, but simply because it shows a tactical rigidity which is predictable.
I would definitely prefer a more balanced use of 442/4222 and a variation on 433/4231 to ensure opposition managers are never quite sure of which way we’ll set up. However it’d be churlish of me to use this as a stick to beat the manager with when we have simply annihilated so many PL teams playing this way.
To be honest at this point the footballing arguments begin to dry up. Or at least they enter the realms of idiocy and angry fan rhetoric which doesn’t deserve any kind of response or rebuttal.
It is however painful to see a group of supporters so strongly take against a manager for no apparent reason. This situation isn’t without precedent. In recent memory there are two sackings/successions in the PL which have felt like the Mancini/Pellegrini change. Benitez at Liverpool and Mourinho at Chelsea. Not so much in the reasons behind the sackings or the position of the clubs at the time, but because of the anger amongst the supporters at the sacking and the reactions to the replacement. What’s interesting as I’ve begun asking friends who support either Chelsea or Liverpool, is that they acknowledge the next man could’ve been a footballing Messiah and it would’ve made little difference. The anger was not at the incumbent, but at the sacking of his predecessor.
Coming back to City, the writing I suppose was on the wall. The “you can stick your Pellegrini up your arse” chants prior to the FA Cup Final last season were a decent pointer as to how the vocal minority were going to express their dissatisfaction at the removal of Mancini. A summer of hand wringing at “Txiki the Underminer” and “the guy who bankrupted SpanAir” set the tone, even if it pointedly ignored the reality that both Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon at the very least acquiesced with the decision to dispense with the Italian. Neither man deserves to have their judgment questioned after what they have put into City in the last five years.
As we look to the final stretch of the season, with the title in our own hands still, and a trophy in the cabinet, I can’t help but be a bit depressed by the ungrateful and disrespectful abuse which Pellegrini is currently being subjected to. You can in fact love Mancini and respect Pellegrini, it isn’t a popularity contest. When those Blues who are railing against the manager come up for air, I hope they aren’t too saddened by their own actions and words, but I suspect if they reflect upon how they felt about those who criticized Mancini unnecessarily, they will begin to realize the immaturity in mindlessly taking against one manager because they loved the previous one so much.
I not only hope, but believe we will win the title. Sadly those who don’t believe in Pellegrini have already decreed his successes will have nothing to do with him. What a strange way of supporting a football club.