With just 8 games of the Premier League season left, and more and more managerial candidates being linked with the City job, there’s not many better times to discuss whether Manuel Pellegrini will be sacked this summer, after suffering the managerial version of ‘second season syndrome’ in England.
What has to be considered primarily is the ramifications of where we finish this season, which are likely to be the biggest factor in whether the Chilean stays or goes in a few weeks. Currently we lie second behind Chelsea, which is where many of us expected us to be this season, but we’re in a precarious position. Both of Arsenal and United are within two points of us, whilst Liverpool lie seven behind. The risk of not qualifying for the Champions League isn’t actually that big, but there is a huge risk of finishing fourth, or at the very least not finishing second.
Many will feel that if we manage to secure the runners-up spot behind Chelsea then Pellegrini’s job will probably be safe, which is probably true. It’s a step backwards from last season, but given that we’ve made poor signings last summer and for long periods of this season we simply haven’t been good enough, second place is acceptable. However, finishing below that is in the realms of unacceptability as it represents too much of a regression and it could lead to Pellegrini’s exit. However, if he ensures we qualify for the Champions League then he could well be the manager going into the new campaign.
It’s not just where we finish this season that will determine whether Pellegrini can leave this summer: it’s also who’s available. In the particularly bad patch of form since January, from which we seem to be exiting now, lots of links to various managers appeared as possible replacements for Pellegrini, should the board decide to relieve him of his position in the summer.
However, the list of potential managers that could join seems to quickly be getting smaller and smaller. Diego Simeone, strongly linked after success with Atletico, penned a new contract until 2020 this week which makes it unlikely he’ll depart for Eastlands this summer, and other managers like Pep Guardiola and Brendan Rodgers have ruled themselves out of the running. Carlo Ancelotti is now the most consistently linked, with reports saying he’s been given a deadline of the end of April to make a decision.
However, outside of the managers regularly linked there doesn’t seem to be that many options, with many of the less-reputable candidates probably not good enough. Although, a lot of people did say that about Manuel Pellegrini to begin with, and we know how that’s turned out.
Of course, how confident the board are in Manuel Pellegrini perhaps plays a bigger role than any other factor in the decision. They know how well the Chilean can perform in the hotseat after his successes last year, and if they feel confident in his ability to recover from this season’s setbacks and replicate his earlier successes in 2015-16, they have no reason to let him go. Also, his contract expires at the end of next season, and The Blues may feel they’ll have more managerial options then.
Regardless, the next eight games are huge for Pellegrini. In that time, there’s some huge fixtures including the Old Trafford derby and a visit to White Hart Lane. Those matches could turn out to be make-or-break for the 61-year-old, and he’ll be taking them one at a time, dealing with each challenge as it comes. Time will tell what happens to him at the end of the season.