The Pellegrini Paradox

Manuel Pellegrini could yet scale new Champions League peaks in Italy, just four days after Manchester City left their supporters feeling as flat as a mountaineering holiday in Holland.

Pained MP - Pellegrini needs to swap anguish and anxiety for ecstacy and victory in Turin.

Pained MP – Pellegrini needs to swap anguish and anxiety for ecstacy and victory in Turin.

Already qualified for the knockout stages, a win in Turin would guarantee City top slot in Group D, but any repeat of Saturday night’s lily-livered lethargy against Liverpool would see City hard pressed to beat Fray Bentos never mind Juventus.

Abject, inept, gutless and witless, City ticked just about every box in the negativity stakes, with an appalling performance in the 1-4 defeat to the Scousers.

Shell shocked - City's players seem dazed after Liverpool blew them away 4-1.

Shell shocked – City’s players seem dazed after Liverpool blew them away 4-1.

City’s Chilean boss was a contradiction in terms in the aftermath of the humiliation, describing his mood as ‘more than angry’, his team ‘a complete disaster’, but insisting he would choose the same starting XI again, given similar circumstances.

Refusing to elaborate or seek to justify his non-selection of the outstanding Nicolas Otamendi or in-form Fernandinho, Pellegrini had one thing just about right when he blamed City’s shameful showing as a ‘collective’ failure.

Down but not out - Sergio scored a great goal in his comeback but couldn't prevent City slippiing to a 4-1 loss.

Down but not out – Sergio scored a great goal in his comeback but couldn’t prevent City slippiing to a 4-1 loss.

Even then, he wasn’t entirely correct, as Sergio Aguero scored a superb goal on his prematurely enforced comeback from injury, whereas Joe Hart had little chance with the four goals and was the sole reason the Scousers didn’t score six.

Substitutes Fernandinho and Fabian Delph added some bite and purpose in the second half, but the rest of the team may as well not have been there in the worst Premier League reversal inflicted on City at the Etihad.

Sniper fire - Joe Hart was left exposed to Liverpool's firepower thanks to shambolic City defending throughout the game.

Sniper fire – Joe Hart was left exposed to Liverpool’s firepower thanks to shambolic City defending throughout the game.

With Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Wilfried Bony, Samir Nasri, Pablo Zabaleta, Eliaquim Mangala and Kelechi Iheanacho either injured or ineligible, Pellegrini has some options, albeit limited, to rejuvenate the team against Juve.

City were lame and never at the races. They made Jurgen ‘Klipperty’ Klopp’s team look like thoroughbreds, rather than the carthorses which lost 3-1 at home to Crystal Palace before the international break.

Klopp that - The new Liverpool is annoyingly likeable - unlike his idiotic predecessor, Brenda.

Klopp that – The new Liverpool is annoyingly likeable – unlike his idiotic predecessor, Brenda.

In typical Klopp style, his team pressed relentlessly, denying City time and space, forcing errors and capitalising on a myriad of mistakes.

Outplayed, out thought but, worst of all, outfought – the manner of the crushing loss was utterly inexcusable.

Pellegrini has to shoulder some of the blame with his puzzling team selection.

Lack of Kompany - Vincent will be missing in Turin through injury. Courtesy@MCFC

Lack of Kompany – Vincent will be missing in Turin through injury. Courtesy@MCFC

With Kompany once again ruled out by injury (if it’s the recurring calf problem City weren’t saying) it was nonsensical to have Otamendi languishing on the bench.

Equally, the absence of Fernandinho a major influence in a hitherto successful campaign, left a gaping hole in a midfield, strangely devoid of energy and creativity.

Missing - Fernandinho was a non-starter against Liverpool. Courtesy@MCFC

Missing – Fernandinho was a non-starter against Liverpool. Courtesy@MCFC

If Manuel was seeking to keep both of the South American stars fresh for the midweek Italian Job, City paid a very heavy price for his indulgence and mismanagement.

Centre backs Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis regressed back to the wayward form displayed at the outset of their respective City careers, in a porous defence.

Mangala mare - City's French centre back had a torrid time against Liverpool.

Mangala mare – City’s French centre back had a torrid time against Liverpool.

Still reeling from the appalling atrocities in Paris, Bacary Sagna admitted after the game that the terrorist attacks in his homeland had affected his focus and form.

One cannot but empathise with the Frenchman’s emotional turmoil, but with Zabaleta on the bench, perhaps Sagna shouldn’t have started. Hindsight is indeed, a wonderful thing.

Solidarity - City and Liverpool players link arms as the French national anthem played at the Etihad in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist atrocities.

Solidarity – City and Liverpool players link arms as the French national anthem played at the Etihad in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist atrocities.

Captain for the day Yaya Toure was taken off at half time after another anonymous display. It was the ninth occasion this season that the Ivorian has been pulled from play, more often than not for poor form and tactical reasons.

Since joining City in 2010 Yaya had become almost immune from being subbed, first under Roberto Mancini and then Pellegrini. It’s indicative of his present malaise that a player of his size and stature could justifiably lay claim to being City’s fabled ‘Invisible Man’.

Subbed again - Yaya Toure was taken off at both Aston Villa and against Liverpool after failing to have a positive impact. Courtesy@MCFC

Subbed again – Yaya Toure was taken off at both Aston Villa and against Liverpool after failing to have a positive impact. Courtesy@MCFC

In fairness he was one of many on a wretched Saturday evening.

Nothing went right for record buy Kevin De Bruyne, whereas the desperately disappointing Raheem Sterling had the Scousers laughing all the way to the bank.

Kolarov, Fernando and Navas played to the lowly standard of the majority in sky blue and, with Christmas around the corner, one wonders if the whole team might consider donating their week’s ill-gotten gains (wages – without the win bonus) to a worthy cause?

Happy return - James Milner came back to the Etihad as Liverpool's victorious skipper.

Happy return – James Milner came back to the Etihad as Liverpool’s victorious skipper.

The score line flattered City.

It spelled delight for a returning James Milner – back for the first time since swapping the Etihad for Anfield – and despair for Sterling, baited incessantly by the travelling fans, as the 20-year old failed to make anything happen.

So close - Raheem Sterling was within a whisker of grabbing a winner at Villa Park.

So close – Raheem Sterling was within a whisker of grabbing a winner at Villa Park.

Tumbling from first to third place in the Premier League – a fourth loss in 19 games in all competitions this season – isn’t the end of the world.

It can’t justify knee-jerk reactions calling for Pellegrini to be sacked, or extinguish hopes of a third title in five years and progressing deeper than ever before into the latter stages of the Champions League.

Sorely missed - Flying Argentine Nicolas Otamendi must start for City against Juventus.

Sorely missed – Flying Argentine Nicolas Otamendi must start for City against Juventus.

It does however raise concerns on Pellegrini’s team selection, game management and tactical nous and, even more worryingly, the attitude and application of the players, many of whom appeared nonchalant and downright lazy against Liverpool.

That’s five out of six PL points dropped following the disappointing 0-0 draw at Villa Park, immediately before the international break. The sweet 3-1 success in Seville seems light years ago.

As defending Premier League Champions, City have twice been found wanting when it came to possessing the hunger and desire to retain their title.

Starter for 10 - Fabian Delph could be in Pellegrini's First XI in Turin as he shakes up his team after the Liverpool debacle. Courtesy@MCFC

Starter for 10 – Fabian Delph could be in Pellegrini’s First XI in Turin as he shakes up his team after the Liverpool debacle. Courtesy@MCFC

Has someone forgotten to tell them 2015/16 is the ‘win one’ option in the ‘win one, lose one, win one, lose one’ pattern that’s prevailed since the 2011/12 season?

Perhaps it’s stating the obvious, but Pellegrini has often been quoted as saying he wants to win every competition his team enters, but if this is to be his third and final season at City, one wonders if the Champions League is the priority of priorities?

Top priority - Champions League glory appears to be top of Sheikh Mansour's City wishlist, but did it influence Pellegrini's team selection against Liverpool?

Top priority – Champions League glory appears to be top of Sheikh Mansour’s City wishlist, but did it influence Pellegrini’s team selection against Liverpool?

It’s certainly the football Holy Grail of Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon Al Mubarak, but it’s a poor show if the owners and management at City think losing to Liverpool is a price worth paying for jubilation against Juventus.

Maybe Manuel is hoping for some divine intervention, as he seeks to resurrect his team’s fortunes in the city which is home to the Shroud of Turin at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.

Divine intervention - Manuel will be hoping City's Jesus can help bury Juventus and win Group D.

Divine intervention – Manuel will be hoping City’s Jesus can help bury Juventus and win Group D.

The authenticity of the length of linen cloth – reputed to be the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth – has long been the subject of intense debate among theologians, historians and researchers.

All Pellegrini wants to do is bury Juventus – maybe with the help of a ‘reborn’ Jesus of Navas – and nail City’s status as Champions League Group winners for the first time.

Can Jesus and City's MP get the season back on track against Juventus?

Can Jesus and City’s MP get the season back on track against Juventus?

A win in Turin would live long in the memory, but as things stand, the lamentable loss to Liverpool is seared painfully into the psyche of every City supporter.

#TrustOurMP

By David Walker

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

 

 

 

16 Comments

  1. November 24, 2015  6:22 pm by Richard Cooper Reply

    The really isn't anything to add after that torrid early evening.
    In hindsight I would rather "get stuffed" by the likeable Jurgen than po-faced Brenda but that is little compensation for that flaccid (Just trying to think of a different adjective David) display
    On Radio Manchester Paul Lake intimated that Otamendi and Fernandinho got back from international duty late and he mentioned some sporting science expressions (beyond my knowledge) for their non -start.
    In the doom and gloom Delph had a very good second half and the Aguero goal was probably the best of the night.
    As for the lemmings and the mass exodus - believe me, I felt just as bad as you did even if I got home 20 minutes later and at least it was dead easy getting off our car park
    It can't be that bad in Turin tomorrow.

    • November 24, 2015  6:47 pm by David Walker Reply

      It had better not be that bad in Turin otherwise it could be spaghetti BOLLOCK-NAISE for our trusted MP.In fairness to Manuel the players on the pitch let him down. How could he have envisaged they would all, bar Sergio and Joe, make such a hash of EVERYTHING. Great strike by Sergio, Dino looked lively in the second half and Delph showed purpose and aggression...and still has his hamstring intact (well he did at the time of writing). All is by no means lost but we cannot make a habit of that type of performance. Cheers RC.

  2. November 24, 2015  7:49 pm by Ed Reply

    I am trying to write off Saturday as a bad day at the office but we only have 5 points out of the last possible 12.
    Can't quite put my finger on what it is but something isn't right at the moment. We have injuries but the fit players should be good enough to get more points.
    Just need to get another good run going.....

    • November 24, 2015  8:28 pm by David Walker Reply

      I was relatively happy with league form up until Saturday. Yes, Villa was a disappointment but we could so easily have won 3-0. The Scum away was a pragmatic draw but Liverpool was truly shocking. It wasn't just the defeat, but more the manner of the loss. Complete capitulation. We are, and have been, riddled with injuries - many occuring in training which is a worry - but you're right our squad should be able to step up. Liverpool were missing Henderson, Sturridge and Benteke, plus others, so we don't have any excuse whatsoever.

  3. November 24, 2015  7:50 pm by SkyBlueAndyB Reply

    We older City fans are fairly immune to losing football matches, but even now I am still fuming at the way we lost on Saturday. From the moment I saw the team sheet I knew we were in trouble, and even said to my wife that "a draw would be a good result".
    You've already covered all adjectives that can be used for the game so I'll leave commenting on the performance.
    The one thing I will say is that Klopp has now shown all the other teams how to beat us. Because we like to play out from the back the high press is our Achilles heel. With no height in attack the long ball is never an option, so we just get penned in.

    • November 24, 2015  8:29 pm by David Walker Reply

      Agreed, Great observations. The only tiny consolation was that it was Klopp - a very likeable character - and not poisonous Brenda, who presided over our demise.

  4. November 24, 2015  7:57 pm by Doug Henshaw Reply

    Hi Dave, great article as always mate. In all my years following city i have never left early but this one pushed me to the edge. As soon as the team was announced i wasn't happy our two best players in the last few months benched. 10 min in to the game everybody could see that we getting over run, well everyone but MP it seems he sat or stood motionless couldn't believe he didn't change anything. Half time & we go in 3-1 down & lucky to be only that. Second half the two subs made a difference but too late to make any difference looking at the managers you would of thought Herr Klopp was losing as he was animated while MP was i think asleep. The players & manager should be ashamed of there efforts, but for me most of the blame must lie with MP poor selection, poor tactics & either to stubborn or god knows why about making subs. As for Yaya i feel maybe he is coming to the end of his city career, i really hope he proves me wrong but for me Delph should be in front of him now. On a brighter note nice to see Kun back lets hope he can keep free of injury, cant believe the injury's we have had this season. Lets hope we can pull of a win on Wednesday.

    • November 24, 2015  8:38 pm by David Walker Reply

      All good stuff Doug. As you know I am, by and large, a big fan of the old MP but that was indefensible. He hasn't explained his selection. If there were sound medical reasons not to play Otamendi and Dino, he'd do himself a big favour by telling us. If it was squad rotation or resting players before Juventus he screwed up big time. Players of course have to take individual and collective responsibility and too many passengers. They were truly shameful.

      I don't mind admitting I DID leave in the 85th minute as I had a potential 3-4 hour drive back and I didn't owe my team an extra five minutes of my life on this occasion. I have only ever left early twice in my life in all City games home and away.

      I can see Yaya going off to NYCFC next summer in a nice bit of cash recycling within the City Group - maybe a fee and offload his wages to the MLS. That is unless he can somehow get his act together. The tables have turned - he needs City more than we need him, especially on his £200k a week.

  5. November 24, 2015  7:58 pm by Dave Potts Reply

    Evening Dave.
    Must admit, I rocked up to the game feeling confident. After all, how hard was it going to be, beating Liverpool? However, as soon as I heard the team news, I was concerned. Everyone knows how Klopp likes to play (Stoke-ish?) and here was Pellegrini giving up midfield. There was no way Fernando and Yaya would be able to match the 4 or 5 they were lined up against. In addition, Mangala and Demichelis are better against the likes of Drogba and Costa. Not the likes of Coutinho (who loves scoring against us). I know it was a poor performance from the players but, imo, Manny holds more culpability for the loss... loss? No, embarrassment.

    Football365 had this to say, "Pellegrini must shun this naivety, and quickly. His team are still favourites for the title, but their performance in the biggest games threatens to curb their
    ambitions. Twenty-one goals conceded in eight defeats to Liverpool (twice), Barcelona (twice), Manchester United, Tottenham, Juventus and
    Arsenal in 2015 again". In other words, is this
    stubborness/naivety holding us back now. What infuriated me in particular, was the refusal to explain the thinking behind the selection. If
    players came back from their internationals, late
    or hobbling, then tell us. We can handle it. We are not stupid. Pellegrini has damaged his reputation with this game and for no good reason, as I see it.

    • November 24, 2015  8:40 pm by David Walker Reply

      Well put Mr Potts. Hard to disagree with any of that. On such occasions it does make the case for Pep arriving next summer so much easier to understand.

  6. November 24, 2015  8:03 pm by Andy Bird Reply

    Great summary as usual. Interesting topic to throw out there on leadership on the pitch. When Kompany is out none of our replacement captains are true leaders - yes perhaps good footballers but not the type of captain to be the voice on the pitch. Perhaps the inclusion of Demi was meant to help but his lack of recent matches gave himself other problems in addition of being asked to organise Mangala! If Delph stays injury free maybe (as ex captain of villa) he has a role to play in someone to organise us in the middle of the park. Thoughts?

    • November 24, 2015  8:45 pm by David Walker Reply

      With you 100%. We've spent big money on players with good technical skills - obviously essential - but a lack of personal awareness and as you rightly say, any form of man management or leadership. I wonder if City are paying enough attention to the mental make up of signings? Delph may be less technically gifted than some of those around him at the Etihad, but attitude - even a nasty/gritty streak - doesn't go amiss when it comes to winning trophies.

      It's a pathetic situation if we go to mush without Vincent. One thing's for sure Yaya is no leader of men.

  7. November 24, 2015  8:08 pm by Andy Bird Reply

    And don't even get me started on Mangala. I am happy to give all signings their chance at City and never one to get on their back during a game. I am sorry though, IMO time is up with Mangala. You don't pay £30+M for a player to still be unsure in the middle of their 2nd season. I think we have to accept that EPL is not the Portugese league and cut our losses now. We should amend the loan of Denayer in Jan and send him to Turkey as a swap!

    • November 24, 2015  8:50 pm by David Walker Reply

      Turkeys to Turkey and the hell with Christmas? Regrettably I agree - the word is we invested £42m in Mangala which is bloody ridiculous based on his lack of development and acclimatisation to the PL thus far. I haven't quite given up on him just yet but the jury is out, maybe not for much longer. I'm not sure if Denayer is the answer but he may as well be given a shot. On Saturday's showing he couldn't do any worse. There again, neither could you or I.

  8. November 25, 2015  12:09 pm by Neal Everett Reply

    Good read David. Agree with all the comments posted here. A dismal performance by the players but the major blame has to lie with the manager for such a baffling team selection. While I'm no tactical genius, it looked to me as though MP was basically playing a 4-2-4 formation on Saturday, the defense instructed to press high (as usual) protected by an ineffective midfield screen in front. Suicide tactics with such an immobile central defender as MDM. Again, I just wonder does Pellegrini do any actual preparation and planning into how the opposition might play against us? And how we can best exploit their weaknesses - which there are many in this current Liverpool side. A more pragmatic approach is often required when key personnel are missing through injury and the formation should have reflected this last Saturday. I'd rather have witnessed a bore-draw than the debacle that followed. Furthermore, why no substitutions immediately after going 2-0 down?

    Anyway, let's hope things get back on track against Juventus, but I see a troubling pattern emerging this season.

    • November 25, 2015  4:57 pm by David Walker Reply

      It's perplexing to say the least. Talk about hot and cold - superb in Seville, tepid against Villa and stone cold with rigor mortis against Liverpool. I'm not feeling too optimistic about tonight - we're decimated by injury - I'd take a draw and then hopefully beat Borussia to take top slot. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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