On Wednesday night against Spanish giants Barcelona, City proved that, although they may be the current Champions of England, their title holds little weight in Europe. City had the unenviable task of overturning a 2-1 defeat in Spain, and considering those two Barca goals were away goals, the North West club would have had to score twice without reply if they were to make it through to the Champions League quarter-finals.
Now Barca tend not to concede many goals anyway but when you add on the fact that just one goal from any of the highly capable players they have – which include, arguably, world’s best player Lionel Messi and last year’s Premier League top scorer Luis Suarez – would effectively kill off the game, then the task was pretty futile. Not to mention them pressure of having to overturn the deficit away from home in front 90k+ watching in Barcelona’s iconic Camp Nou stadium.
A goal from Ivan Rakitic in the 31st minute all but sealed the Sky Blues’ fate. But that was expected. No one truly thought City would get the best of Barcelona but they did expect Pellegrini’s men to show themselves as equals. The differences between the two sides were vast and embarrassing. City never stood a chance. And although 1-0 on the night doesn’t sound so bad, it is only by the grace of keeper Joe Hart, who made 10 super stops, that kept Barca from completely humiliating the travelling team.
So who does the blame sit with? The squad or the manager? Unfortunately in this industry the manager will always have to take responsibility, even though he never steps foot on the pitch. Since the ex-Real Madrid man arrived to big fanfare in 2013 City have won the Premier League and the League Cup, but their displays in Europe have failed to improve. For the last two seasons City have been knocked out in the last 16, despite having spent huge amounts on acquiring talent to strengthen the team for these big moments.
European glory has evaded English teams since Chelsea’s unexpected win back in 2012. Since then the Premier League’s finest have all failed to make it to the last eight for the second time in three years, so City are actually in good company.
When top teams fail to win the trophies or make the impact they had hoped for it is the managers head that is usually on the block. So are City really about to chop Pellegrini this summer in favour of a manager who has had better recent success in the Champions League?
Well if rumours are to be believed then current Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone may be swapping sunny Spain for rainy Manchester next season. Simeone won Spain’s La Liga and led his team to the Champions League Final last May. Derby rivals Real Madrid came out on top but Simeone still cemented his place as one of Europe’s most talented managers.
It is well known that the Manchester City board handle all transfers, so whether Simone would be happy having no say in these matters is yet to be seen. No manager wants to have to take responsibility for a player he has no faith in and yet can’t get rid of. A manager’s job rests on the success of his squad.
As the other English clubs have shown, progressing in the Champions League has become harder than it was a few years ago when three of our top four were always making headway. Pellegrini may not have found the formula yet but chopping and changing managers surely won’t help the situation at Manchester City either.