It wasn’t the best idea – not really.
Only a couple of weeks ago, Manuel Pellegrini announced that he was leaving at the end of the season, only for the club to announce moments later that Pep Guardiola was arriving in the summer.
Poor, poor poor. That’s not how you do these things. Following that announcement, Guardiola has upset his current bosses at Bayern with his decision and timing, while Pellegrini is now only half-heartedly carrying on with his job. Well, wouldn’t you?
Currently in fourth place and six points behind leaders Leicester City, they haven’t been a team in form for much of the season, although they did qualify as winners of their group games in the Champions League. A tie against Dynamo Kiev is going to be tricky, but not un-winnable. They have the quality, the depth and the class, but they miss Vincent Kompany, and the stats show that they are better with him than they are without him. The player is now hoping that his persistent calf problem is behind him, as the Citizens try and put a decent winning streak together.
There are still 12 games until the end of the season and City must start picking up points if they are to maintain a challenge and win the title. Something which is not beyond the realms of possibility. However, consecutive losses against Leicester and Tottenham haven’t helped. Winning all the remaining games would give them 83 points, more than is sometimes required to win the league.
There are still some notable absences from the first team, and City will miss Kevin De Bruyne, Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri, who bar the Spaniard, are are potentially long term absentees. You have to bear in mind that City are still chasing four trophies under Pellegrini this season. While the players will welcome the respite this week, this team needs to start gathering some momentum. The squad have stated how much they want to send Pellegrini off in style but it is now two defeats in three games since the news of Guardiola was announced.
Pellegrini’s bid to win his second title and become the club’s most successful ever manager is still on, but it’s looking likely to be messy this year. Last season they were runners-up and then spent more than £140m on De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Otamendi. One thing that Pellegrini’s side does do well is fight back. When they won the title in 2013/14 they were behind Liverpool, caught them up, slammed into top gear and won their last five matches.
Roberto Mancini once declared ‘the title race is over’ with Manchester City eight points behind United and with just six games remaining. What happened? They won all six and became the Premier League champions on the very last, but memorable, day of the season. Backs to the wall – that’s City.
With the spine of the team still oozing sheer quality, when fit, Joe Hart, Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva, De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero can still turn the season around for one last show of magnificence for the departing Pellegrini. This season has been about missing Kompany some say, others will point to a dysfunctional Premier League, where everyone beats everyone else.
With such an inconsistent season for all of the Premier League teams this year, it really is any of the top four’s crown to win or lose. City have everything they need to become Champions again and no one would deny their ambitions or their capability. Regression? Maybe. Just a nap maybe?
Wait until April – then the story really will unfold.