On a personal level, I’ve been fairly critical of Manuel Pellegrini this season – not as critical as some have been, not by a long way, but still quite a bit more than a fair few other people I’ve seen. That criticism from me mainly came in the run of poor games (most of which I had to write match reports on, and you can imagine how fun that was) from January onwards, where our tactics were less than exciting and our season seemed to be petering out to the point where we might not even get Champions League.
Now though, I’ve done almost a complete u-turn on that thinking, and I reckon Pellegrini should be given the final year of his contract to redeem himself for this average campaign, as I’m sure he can do. Whether he leaves in 2016 is still up for debate, but I feel like he should still be here past this summer.
For starters, we know for a fact that he isn’t a bad manager. I haven’t used the argument that “he used to manage Real Madrid” for several months, but let’s not forget that he did that, and that he had some pretty impressive Champions League exploits with Malaga, especially in the season prior to coming to Eastlands. Even looking at his time here, we were all raving about him last summer, after the sheer amount of goals we scored, and the fact we won a trophy double – our first double since 1970, and the first league and cup double in our history.
One of the main criticisms of City’s squad – not Pellegrini – this season is that they’re too old, something which has failed to be rectified in recent years. This can be chalked up to poor transfers of ageing players – for example, Bacary Sagna, Martin Demichelis, and so on – but also perhaps due to a lack of attention paid to the age of the squad. Even I wasn’t really aware of the extent of the damage until this season, having vehemently denied it on Twitter on more than one occasion.
Were Pellegrini to be given a number of younger players to work with next season – either from the academy or from signings, it doesn’t really matter – we could see a marked improvement next year, due to an increased amount of energy in the side. Bringing those players in next season can also have a sustained impact on Manchester City, for players like Paul Pogba (while expensive) could be here for years and years. Giving them a chance to bed in under an experienced manager like Pellegrini could do them wonders, which has perhaps been the case with Eliaquim Mangala this season – Pellegrini going as far as to reiterate that himself this week.
Of course, were Pellegrini to go then the questions would have to be asked as to his replacement. The general opinion is that City want Pep Guardiola to be the next manager, and despite rumours recently that he’d signed a pre-contract with City for next season, the former Barcelona manager and current Bayern Munich man Guardiola has repeatedly denied that he’ll be leaving Germany this summer.
This has led many (including myself) to believe City will wait until next summer to approach Guardiola, which would mean that in the meantime Pellegrini stays, or someone is appointed for a year, with them most likely knowing they won’t be here long. Names that have been mentioned, such as Carlo Ancelotti probably wouldn’t be pleased with being in that situation, and thus the most efficient choice would be to keep Pellegrini on for another year.
It’s safe to say we’re all expecting a large number of signings this summer (or at least, we’re all hoping that) and keeping Pellegrini would ensure an added level of stability during that process. If the manager were to leave (with a new one coming in almost immediately) as well as several first-team players being signed, then that would mean the existing players would not only have to get comfortable with their new teammates, but also a new manager as well. I could be wrong, but that may have an adverse effect on relationships within the City camp going into what is a hugely important campaign next season. Pellegrini staying can help the current first-team stars adjust to having a fair few new players around them, as well as some of their current colleagues departing.
Of course, the club know more than I could ever do, and they need to be confident that Pellegrini will be able to improve on this season’s performance, or it could be a risk sticking with him going into the 2015-16 season. I’m not the only one who wants to keep him, but there will always be a risk factor after the season he and Manchester City have had this season – a risk factor City probably tried to avoid with Roberto Mancini in 2013. Although, the Chilean seems to be more roundly-popular than the Italian was (at least in his final year) which could tip the scales in Pellegrini’s favour in terms of whether he should stay or he should go.