Pellegrini: No need to panic
Manuel Pellegrini has admitted it would be a disaster should Manchester City end up in the Europa League next season. The Chilean remains confident he will be at the club for the third year of his contract regardless of the fact that no trophies have arrived this season, but accepts missing out on the Champions League would change the picture entirely.
City are currently in fourth place, four points ahead of Liverpool, but have lost their last two league games.
Pellegrini’s designation of his side’s run-in as eight cup finals does not seem to have worked in his favour, and it remains to be seen whether he can motivate his players sufficiently to retain the top-four place City have held all season. His future employment could hinge on the outcome.
Pellegrini believes the club’s owners trust him as the right man for next season even if the title goes to Chelsea, but doubts they would be as relaxed should City suffer the embarrassment of having to compete in the Europa League.
“Not to play in the Champions League would be a disaster,” Pellegrini said. “People are wrong to think that the owners of this club say: ‘Win the title or you’re out’, because they don’t. I don’t think that is the way they think. They have a project and that means a lot of things. They think about young players, about the training ground. It is a mistake to think they are only interested in winning the title. But if we don’t finish in the top four then the analysis of the season will be different. I think playing in the Europa League would be a disaster.”
The simplest solution would be for City to begin winning again, starting with the visit of West Ham this afternoon.
Finishing fourth would involve a qualifier, and that is ignominious enough for such a lavishly founded club who won the title last season, but the Europa League almost by definition is a tournament for also-rans. For a club with serious designs on winning the Champions League, or at least working towards that objective, competing in the Europa League would represent all too visible failure.
Pellegrini is right to point out that even the biggest teams sometimes miss out on the Champions League, with Manchester United his chosen example, yet that is a comparison he ought to be wary of pushing too far. David Moyes lost his job, United were generally held to be in crisis and this season’s apparent salvation has been brought about only by an abrupt change of policy and a considerable amount of spending. City are supposed to have a plan, one that involves bringing in even more top players and eventually becoming such an attractive proposition that Pep Guardiola will be unable to say no, and there is no place in that dreamy vision of the future for the ugliness of Thursday night football.
“At this moment, we are not getting the results we need, but we want to continue in the right way,” Pellegrini said. “You cannot say we are doing perfectly, but it is very important the way you manage the group when you are winning and when you are not winning. There is no need to panic. I will not start to play with eight defenders and hope for a draw because that is the way to lose games.
“I will not change my way of thinking, and the team will continue to play in the way that brought us the title last year. We were right at the top of the table until the end of December, then without any reason we started losing points. We were the best team away from home, now suddenly we have lost four games in a row. We didn’t deserve to lose those games, with the amount of chances we made, but we did. So many small things can change results, so you must stay very calm and use all your experience to get out of this moment.”