Manuel Pellegrini has endured a difficult week as Manchester City have suffered a bombardment of insidious invective spewed forth by the pungent Portuguese snear.
I never cease to be amazed at the willing gullibility of a large section of Her Majesty’s Press and the sychophants at Sky Sports News, when the wretch Mourinho spits out his bile.
There are certain paragons of journalistic virtue such as Martin Samuel who stand tall in terms intelligent unbiased comment, but sadly he is one of the few.
Despite his tactically astute victory at the Etihad nine days ago, Jose stills fears that a fully fit and focused City will be too strong for his Chelsea side in the Premier League title stakes.
Mourinho is a huge talent – of course he is – just look at his CV, but his achievements are sullied by his acrimonious character – a thoroughly nasty, self serving piece of something we’d all rather not tread in.
One can only hope the adage of ‘nice guys coming last/second’ is not applicable to Pellegrini, who resolutely refuses to rise to Mourinho’s purile posturing.
Tonight’s game against a resurgent Sunderland gives the man from Chile the chance to once again let actions speak louder than words.
A win could take City back to the top of the PL if – and it pains me to say it – Manure manage to grab a point at the Emirates. I couldn’t sanction David Moyes gaining his first ever win over Arsenal in North London, that would be just too much, but a draw, is almost palatable.
When Pellegrini conducted his pre-match press conference the media scrum were all willing him to bite back at Mourinho’s contemptible and hypocritical utterances about Financial Fair Play, how Yaya Toure should have received a three-match ban and how City are big favourites against ‘Little Horse’ Chelsea.
When Jose speaks I don’t see a thoroughbred, I see a donkey braying, albeit it’s full of horsesh*t!
City’s recent dip – which stretches back all of two games – comes as the side have been decimated, and I use that word advisedly, by injuries.
Aguero, Fernandinho, Nasri, Garcia, Nastasic and Milner have all missed game time. Negredo and Dzeko are carrying niggling injuries and yet the media categorise the casualty list as an ‘excuse’.
Pellegrini, quite rightly, corrected the jaundiced journos by saying it wasn’t an excuse, simply a fact.
Titles and cups are not won in the depths of winter, but of course they can so easily be lost. Sunderland figure prominently in the mix as City need three points to get back on track in the league and a Wembley win in just over a fortnight to secure the League Cup.
Gus Poyet’s Black Cats have found their claws in recent weeks and are unbeaten in their last six away games. Historically, the Mackems lose in Manchester, in the way that is almost mandatory for City to capitulate at the Stadium of Light, season-after-season.
Ex-City winger Adam Johnson is bang in form with six goals and two assists since New Year’s Day, and he’d love to show that the Sky Blues were wrong to let him go.
If AJ were to inspire the visitors it would be the first time in over a year since City would have failed to win in three consecutive league games. You have to go back to February 2008 to find when City fired three successive blanks in the PL.
It’s clichéd but City have to dig in right now and just find a way to win. Forget all the blather about entertainment and free flowing goals, as nice as it is, pragmatism has to be Pellegrini’s watchword with Chelsea and Barcelona looming on the horizon in the next six days.
The much hyped quadruple simply isn’t going to happen and it may well be that the FA Cup is the first casualty, with Premier League and Champions League clearly the priorities.
City’s ‘squad’ players have to show their mettle and go toe-to-toe with less flamboyant opposition. Against Norwich it was almost as if a team led by ‘The Engineer’ was guilty of over-engineering their play.
If Negredo can battle the obvious effects of a bothersome shoulder injury and Dzeko can summon up acceptable levels of aggression and anticipation, then the goals should come.
Jovetic is gradually dusting off the cobwebs and looking lively, but City’s play from out wide needs improvement with some of Navas’ crosses and Silva’s corners leaving much to be desired.
Yaya needs to cut out the petulance – he would be doing his team mates, the club and the fans a huge disservice were he to be banned for something as innocuous as his flick out at Norwich’s Ricky Van Wolkswinkel on Saturday.
City should have won at Carrow Road, but they could so easily have lost the game in the closing moments. Surely, Joleon Lescott needs to be alongside Vincent Kompany at the back for the present time?
Lescott would be playing for an England World Cup slot as well as glory in his final games for City, and he performs so much better with Kompany as his Commander-in-Chief.
It’s not using him as a scapegoat, but Martin Demichelis is looking increasingly erratic with every passing game. Lescott is PL proven and can be a champion again.
A win tonight is imperative after WBA managed to do what City couldn’t, by grabbing a late equaliser against Chelsea.
If Arsenal stumble, but don’t fall, against the Trafford Troglodytes, Pellegrini will have weathered a mini-storm and come out on top of the league.
It’d be a satisfying conclusion to a torrid few days, but don’t expect any let up in the war of words being spat forth from Stamford Bridge.
Jose can and will undoubtedly have his say, but any sticks and stones that could potentially damage Pellegrini can be adapted as hardcore for foundations as City intensify their pursuit of trophies in the days and weeks to come.
By David Walker
The winner of two tickets in the READ BUT NEVER RED competition to see City play Sunderland tonight is Karl Vallantine. He correctly identified Dennis Tueart as the scorer of City’s winning goal in the 1976 League Cup Final against Newcastle United.
Well done to him and let’s hope for a 12th home win this evening.