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Pellegrini getting the most out of his broken Man City squad


Escaping narratives is difficult. They’re ever-present and often times inescapable. So is the case with Manchester City’s 2015-16 campaign, and particularly their departing manager Manuel Pellegrini. He won the League Cup and Premier League in his first campaign, dropped quite a bit in form last season, and will be exiting stage right after this season with some City fans and onlookers wanting more. But should they? After City’s impressive two-legged win over PSG, should Pellegrini be given more credit than he is?

City’s Premier League campaign has been bad, there’s no denying that. In the power vacuum that Chelsea left vacated, City were the logical choice to fill the void. Injuries and poor transfer business has played a large role in that fall, but Pellegrini has been getting slighted too. First, it was his insistence on 4-4-2, which left City’s midfield exposed when Yaya Toure regressed even slightly. He adjusted to a 4-2-3-1, but the litany of injuries City have had to deal with this season derailed whatever title challenge they had. Now, they are trying to stay afloat in the league while they run deeper into the Champions League than they ever have before. And, both fronts are looking up.

Most of that recent upturn in form has to do with the return of Kevin De Bruyne, who might have been the PFA Player of the Year if he stayed healthy. His impact on the PSG tie beyond his two goals cannot be understated, and he papers over quite a few of the cracks that exist in the squad. Sure Pellegrini can’t be given all of the credit for simply giving De Bruyne the keys to the Ferrari, but his ability to keep his team afloat while he was out, even though his squad should be deeper than it is cannot be understated either.

SEE MORE: Manchester City’s problems go way beyond Manuel Pellegrini

While the expectations are always going to be title or bust at the Etihad, in the absence of that, Pellegrini has steered an aging, broken and miscast squad to a League Cup win as well as the Champions League semifinals, which no English team has been even close to sniffing the last pair of seasons. And it says something about Pellegrini the manager that while the narrative of his last season is total disaster, the on-pitch results show something a little bit different. This is not to say that this campaign has been a runaway success because it clearly hasn’t, but he’s picked up the pieces of what could have been a disaster and turned it into something more palatable.

At the very least, he’s won another trophy, steered City into Champions League qualification for next season and pushed City into the Champions League semis this year, all while the broken transfer policies above him are pushed further into the light. There is still a chance City finish above Arsenal (albeit quite small) and go further in the Champions League, by which Pellegrini’s legacy would grow even more complicated. How could such a disaster of a season end with positives like a trophy and a Champions League semifinal appearance? Chelsea won the Champions League when they finished sixth. Anything is possible.

SEE MORE: Schedule of Premier League games on US TV and live streaming

Manuel Pellegrini holds a reputation of sometimes being tactically aloof, reluctant to play youngsters and not doing quite as much as he could have or possibly should have with the resources at his disposal. But he’ll leave City with three trophies in three seasons, the basis for which any future City success will be built on, and having taken City progressively further in the Champions League every year. While it’s not what Pep might do, or what anyone may have expected he’d do, Pellegrini deserves some credit for preventing outright disaster this season, and turning what would have been a terrible negative into a marginal positive on his way out the door.

All things considered, what he’s done as a lame duck is quite impressive.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Alien Carraz

    April 14, 2016 at 9:00 am

    Although the distance by train between Santiago and Rancagua was just 86.6 kilometers, the head of Manuel Pellegrini traveling on a much larger way. It was 1992, addressed O’Higgings, his third team coaching, and life would not stop. Being a civil engineer and football coach while I was stressing and in an oversight, the car waiting almost run over. When he heard this, his friend Arturo Salah, current president of the ANFP, called him and told him he could no longer be two things at once. Twenty-four years later, after handling the bench twelve teams, including Real Madrid, the technician will try to take Manchester City to win the Champions League no doubt that it was a great decision.

    To say that Salah was his friend is short: in those years, Pellegrini, who led Universidad de Chile in the 89/90 season, was an aide of the current president of the Chilean Football Federation Chile national team, where he was assistant to the Copa America 1991 and 1993. Manuel, as it is called and as they say those who know him, he already standed out for his intellectuality. But for studing engineering does not mean that he was a mathematician and meticulous brain. And to graph it, on their way through Argentina, where he led San Lorenzo and River, leaving champion with both teams, the coach had a hallmark: some journalists with whom he got along very well, he gave them or recommending them the book The Fountainhead , a bestseller of Ayn Rand that speaks precisely about the power of creativity to get out of oppression.

    To choose between being an engineer and coaching was not the only hard crossroads of Pellegrini. In 1999, he was called to lead Liga de Quito. His father told him: “Don’t go. They won’t pay you there”. But. he went anyway. Became champion and his career exploded. He was called from Argentina, landed in San Lorenzo, won the regular championship and the first International Cup in club history. Later, was hired by River Plateand did not stop growing wining his third championshp. Then, Europe: Villarreal, a small team of Spain with some link with Argentina. He was hired as manager and he assembled a formidable team of the hand of Juan Roman Riquelme, Juan Pablo Sorin and Diego Forlan, reaching semifinals of the Champions League (loosing the chance to pass to the final just because of a lost penalty kick), something never imagined in that institution to which he changed its life by making the club a regular in the european cups.
    One day the phone rang and he received the biggest deal of his career: Jorge Valdano, at that time Real Madrid sporting director, offered him to become the merengue’s DT. The arrangement was settled.

    But what happened in the white house, still, it is impossible to explain. It is that if someone had told that Pellegrini would draw in the league 96 points out of 114 possible, without doubt, Florentino Perez, as president at the time, had previously offered a higher contract. What happens is that someone, too, should have warned something more: Pep Guardiola had come to Barcelona to make history, to still get more points in the league, marring the tremendous achievement of the chilean, and which led to his dismissal and the decision to carry Mourinho.

    Pellegrini was beaten. It was very difficult to solve this panorma after extraordinary campaign fizzled. But Abdullah ben Nasser Al Thani, Qatari member of a family owning a fortune, buys the club Malaga and puts 70 million for signings plus the hiring of Pellegrini as its coach. For the logic of many, it was a step down for him. But, that was just a figuration: the Chilean became an idol in that little and beautiful mediterranean city, ranking the team twice in the Champions League (loosing its pass to semifinals with a flawed goal against with 2 strikers in offside) and gaining momentum to call him from another challenge. Manchester City, now led by those skilled in football, the same ones that in Barcelona had decided to give the first team to then unknown Guardiola, and that now wanted the engineer to fight well above.

    After passing the Italian Roberto Mancini for the club, Manchester City did not look like a team from the English league: rather, it was little showy, like the Italians. Pellegrini, more like a sculptor than an engineer, came to change that. He bet the good game, the short touch and put together a team that work to supply its star striker Sergio Aguero. These days, the coach of 63 years is on its last great feat, after defeating PSG in the Champions and putting the City in semifinals. Like with Real Madrid, again, he is under the shadow of Guardiola, who midyear will come City’s coach. Although, this time, Pellegrini has the possibility of putting up the stick very high: to become champion out of the Champions League would be to leave an impressive mark.
    To think that Pellegrini does not have the height and the ability to drive any of the biggest clubs in the world to win it all, is a big mistake.

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