Fans and pundits have dissected the Chilean boss’ formation choices against his past two opponents, with most agreeing the 61-year-old manager got his tactics wrong during both contests.
Manchester City now face the daunting task of reversing a 2-1 deficit to Barcelona at the Camp Nou in order to maintain their Champions League hopes. While finding a way to reduce a five-point gap with league-leading Chelsea with eleven matches to play (twelve for Chelsea).
After winning the League Cup and a Premier League title during Pellegrini’s first year in charge, the odds are City will end this season trophyless.
For the past few months, rumors have been ramped up by the British tabloids speculating on the manager’s imminent future at the club. Manchester City’s owners are very demanding and reportedly made their expectations clear to Pellegrini before his hiring, and once again before the start of this season.
With the manager facing the prospects of a trophyless season, the rumors have once again intensified with Pellegrini believed to be on his way out of Manchester at the conclusion of the Premier League campaign.
While the owners can’t be faulted for sacking a manager if he fails to meet the goals set forth to him, the criticism of Pellegrini this week from fans and the media has been unfair.
The loss to Barcelona was disappointing, but not many expected City to beat what most considered to be Europe’s in-form team. The La Liga giants entered the game winning eleven out of twelve matches in all competitions, with a rejuvenated Lionel Messi spearheading the Catalan club’s title charge in Spain.
While the defeat to Liverpool may have surprised, truth be told, Brendan Rodger’s side have been gaining strength and winning matches after the manager tinkered with his formation and had key players return from injury.
It also took two wonder-strikes from Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho to beat City at Anfield.
It can be argued that Pellegrini’s refusal to alter his attack-minded philosophy and formations have cost his side against both Barcelona and Liverpool. But the reason he was hired from Malaga to replace Roberto Mancini in 2013 was to bring order to City’s dressing room while providing a more entertaining style of football to fans at the Etihad
Mancini’s reign in England was dotted by player dust-ups and “unattractive” football. Pellegrini was brought in to provide a new direction and his hiring immediately paid off.
Are there times when the manager should consider playing a more defensive approach? Or playing with one striker instead of two? Yes.
But City officials knew who they were hiring before Pellegrini put pen to paper on his deal to take over a boss at Manchester City.
Prior to his arrival in England, the Chilean was asked to define his coaching style, to which he replied: “My teams always treat the ball as the priority, with plenty of mobility, blending South American with European.”
“My philosophy is based on having players with a good technical ability. Efficient and creative. My teams think more about building than destroying and I don’t like those who prioritize destruction through constant man-marking and fouling. It bores me, I’d never go to see that kind of football.”
That doesn’t sound like a manager who will line his team up with everyone behind the ball.
Pellegrini is going to try to beat teams playing to his strengths as a manager – attack.
He’s the same man Manchester City officials hired in 2013, and supporters raved about all last season. His stubbornness and one-track mind is what made City champions.
Fans and media can continue to question his decision making. But Pellegrini is what he is.
You can’t teach this old dog a new trick.
Programming note: Manchester City vs. Leicester City will be shown LIVE on Wednesday starting at 2:45pm EST on NBC Sports Live Extra.
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