During his Friday press conference, Manuel Pellegrini declared that Manchester City’s season will only have been a disaster if they do not finish in the top four of the Premier League. He’s wrong. The Premier League season has been absolutely disastrous and no amount of positive spin will change that.
The outgoing manager told us, “You always have negative things, but we have not had a crisis or a disaster in the season. A disaster is not to qualify for next season or being eliminated in a competition.”
Apparently, failing to win consecutive league games between October and April is not a disaster or crisis. Not winning an away game in the league between September and January is not a disaster or crisis. Thrice conceding four goals in the league is not a disaster or crisis.
Give it up Manuel, you’re fooling nobody. Outlining the possibility of a potentially worst-case scenario does not make the actual reality any more palatable.
If City lose to Arsenal at The Etihad Stadium on Sunday, then finishing in the top four won’t even be in their own hands. Given that the Blues have lost every home game against top six opposition this season and have only beaten one top eight team, there is little reason to be confident ahead of this crunch game.
The season is a disaster because of how far short of their aim the team has fallen. City set out to win the Premier League every year. Clearly, there is a limit to how realistic that can be; nobody wins it every season. However, sitting 13 points shy of top spot with two games left to play is not OK. In simple terms, that means that Pellegrini’s men are four wins and a draw worse off than Leicester City – the English champions.
There’s been a clear regression from last season too. In the 2014/15 campaign, City lost seven games but still finished in second place. So far this season, they’ve lost ten. Even if they win their two remaining games, they will still end up nine points shy of last year’s total. That is regression and, in relative terms, it is a disaster.
There are no excuses. Some point to this being a weird old season, unpredictable like no other before it, as if that somehow validates City being a bit rubbish. Yet somehow, Leicester City have managed to achieve consistency to a level that has seen them lose only three games before being crowned Champions. So to suggest consistency has been impossible to achieve for anybody is incorrect. Aston Villa have been incredibly consistent too, but that’s another story.
Pellegrini and his apologists will argue that City’s cup runs mitigate the league campaign; they do not. Yes, it’s great that City won the League Cup. It’s a good trophy and it was a great day out – Pellegrini deserves credit for that success. He must also take credit for guiding City to the Champions League semi-final for the first time in our history. The fact that they ultimately went out with a whimper does not change the fact that his side made a little bit of history.
The league is the bedrock of everything that a team does. It is more important than the League Cup, The FA Cup and even the Champions League. It might not be possible to win it every year, but a squad bursting with individual talent should have got a damn sight closer than they have. They certainly shouldn’t be clinging on by the skin of their teeth as they currently are.
Pellegrini also stated, “Of course, if you don’t win and you’re not in the top four positions of the Premier League, and you win the Champions League, FA Cup and Capital One Cup, it’s a very good season, no?” He might be right, but this deflection away from the team’s failings is completely redundant. City have not done those things.
It doesn’t matter which way you spin it, City’s league campaign is a disaster. All they can do now is make the best of a very bad job. In just over a week, the manager’s delusions will no longer be our issue.
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Written by Richard Burns