We’re all well aware that the reactionary ways of soccer fans — particularly at the very, very top level — is over the top and more than a bit ridiculous these days.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]
For instance, a manager who won both the Premier League and the League Cup can be assumed with near 100 percent certainty to be fired less than 12 months later, at the end of a season in which his team still has a very realistic chance of finishing in second place.
That man is, of course, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini. It really is astounding how quickly Pellegrini went from being “the right man with the right plan,” to “a man without a clue” in such a short period of time. It’s not as if Pellegrini suddenly forgot everything he’s ever known about the game since Man City lifted the Premier League trophy last May.
More likely, instead, is the idea that Pellegrini’s players, the ones on massive, disgusting amounts of money — we’re talking $300,000 and $400,000 a week — haven’t put in the same types of performances or shown the same kind of hunger and desire to repeat as champions, now that they’ve already reach the Premier League’s mountain top.
If you ask Pablo Zabaleta, one of City’s longest-tenured players (2008-09 season), that’s exactly the case. His message to everyone, seemingly both inside and outside the club, is that the entirety of the blame for City’s “failure” of a season shouldn’t be laid at the feet of Pellegrini, but the players who fail to perform week in and week out.
Zabaleta, from the Guardian:
“The manager deserves more respect from everyone. He came here last season, he won the league and the Capital One Cup. We cannot blame just the manager for this moment. Individual players have also not been great in the whole season. Everyone is responsible. When you don’t win titles it can be a little bit frustrating for everyone.”
“But when you look at the team, with the players we’ve got you expect to play much better football. We must be honest with ourselves and recognize that it was not our best season.
“Sometimes football is like that but at City it seems one disappointing season is like a disaster. Maybe it’s because we’ve won the Premier League twice, the FA Cup, the Capital One.
“Now it seems like because we have not won something it’s a disaster and we have to change seven or eight players, the manager. That’s what people say.”
Zabaleta also puts a lot of blame on the short period of recovery that a number of City’s players following the 2014 World Cup, but if you look at a team like Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal, it was no different for their top players before the season began.
Whether Pellegrini is or isn’t the right man for the job — he very well might not be, though his body of work last season would suggest he’s got something “right” about him — there’s plenty of other issues at City than the man who managed the team to two trophies in his first season in England.