Guardiola, Ancelotti or Simeone? Man City Weigh Up Their Options As Pellegrini Falters


It’s already so familiar, so seemingly fated. The Manchester City hierarchy have grown disgruntled with their manager, and are looking at change.

If Manuel Pellegrini get sacked, Pep Guardiola would be the main target, ahead of Carlo Ancelotti and Diego Simeone.

Of course, should the Catalan actually become available, it becomes much less of a debate. Guardiola is the closest thing to a guarantee of success in the managerial game along with Jose Mourinho, and is really the kind of coach that should warrant all clubs doing what Southampton did with Nigel Adkins. They should instantly trade up.

If they can get Guardiola, City should do it.

If they can’t, though, it does get a little bit more complicated.

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This is the big dilemma for City, and to some extent clubs like Paris Saint-Germain too. They have the cash and the ambition to aim for a true peak coach, but the problem is that there aren’t that many around.

As it is, they have to go to the rung below, which is where managers like Pellegrini reside; and where there is nothing close to such guarantees.

It also makes every single appointment from that rung feel like a stop-gap - and this is especially relevant with Ancelotti - until they can get the type of grand long-term figure they really want.

That raises questions about how defining any failure should be for their managers, and what City actually want right now.

This is not to say that Pellegrini’s season has been acceptable. It might even be said that it ended on 1 March, as they lost 2-1 away to Liverpool to make the title look an even more distant prospect.

Their all-round defence of the trophy has been so abject, almost as bad as the last time in 2012-13 under Roberto Mancini.

That was so deeply compounded by the nature of the Champions League first-leg defeat to Barcelona, which felt like one of those nights when the truth about someone at that kind of level was finally and fully revealed.

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It was not just that Barca so convincingly beat them, illustrating such a huge difference in standard in the first half especially. It was that Pellegrini so naively and clumsily played into the feet of the Catalans, with the kind of baffling formation that only added to so many questions about his tactical acumen.

It was damning and, given what the competition has come to represent for City's hierarchy, it might even be put forth as a reason to sack him on its own. But should it be?

Even with both of these failures there are caveats.

Pellegrini is actually among a pretty ample group to fail to retain the title, and to fail badly. It says much that only six managers have achieved that feat since the second world war, indicating how difficult a challenge it is.

The Barca result meanwhile seemed all the worst because City had been so desperate to make a stride, to prove their credentials in Europe. It is possible that in itself played into Pellegrini’s ludicrously open formation, and should not be forgotten that represented a regression from the previous season, when City set up much more cleverly against Barca until they were undone by a red card.

As such, it’s also possible the Champions League defeat was exaggerated by circumstance; that it doesn’t necessarily indicate Pellegrini is a lost cause in such vaunted ties.

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This may just be a bad season, and even a master at retaining the title like Sir Alex Ferguson suffered those. Look at 2004-05.

Ultimately, has Pellegrini really become a worse manager than the man City appointed in summer 2013?

It was known then that his technical approach was good at facilitating entertaining attacking football from talented forwards, and that he had a respectable record in knock-outs, but that he lacked the truly competitive hard edge of a Mourinho or Simeone.

This is as true now as it was then, and he would still seem more suited to the club’s famous “holistic” attitude than an abrasive coach like the brilliant Simeone.

City might argue they need to freshen something up, but that is likely to happen with the pending overhaul of the first team, especially given its high average age.

Again, this is not to say that City should not sack Pellegrini. It is that there is cause for thought, that it should be hugely dependent on the type of replacement they can get.

There is a danger of the club endlessly repeating this scenario over and over, fating themselves to the same familiar situation over and over again.

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