Manuel Pellegrini Must Answer Major Questions If Manchester City Are To Win The Premier League


In one of the corridors of the Boleyn Ground, after his Manchester City team had been asked a series of questions by West Ham United, Manuel Pellegrini was asked a series of questions about the title race and his team in his Monday press briefing.

Would winning the League Cup help propel his side to the Premier League, just as it did in 2014?

How necessary is it to stop this trend of not winning back-to-back games, given City haven’t done so since 17 October?

Could their big home games prove the key, since Pellegrini’s side host all of Leicester City, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur over the final 15 games.

And, finally, the most obvious: what difference will it make to get his core of stars back regularly? After all, Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and the peerless Sergio Aguero have not started a game together in the league yet.

Pellegrini, however, wouldn’t give the media what they wanted. He refused to create an issue out of any of those questions.

His obstinance, in fact, was almost admirable.

At one point, he was almost smiling as he gave another variation of the same answer to a different question on how this engagingly open league will finally be decided:

“It will be a team that can win more points from now until the end,” Pellegrini dead-panned. “It does not matter in the way you win it or where you win it.”

The key point, however, is that you can’t really go from A to B like that.

You do have to find a way to win, and all these questions are relevant to getting there.

Something has to ultimately distinguish the eventual champions.

Right now, though, there’s nothing to really distinguish any of the leading teams from the champions of the last few years.

What is one of the key qualities you associate with any title winner? It tends to be a sense of intimidation, of ominous power that psychologically wins many games before they’re won on the pitch.

Leicester City are obviously a fantastic story, while City and Arsenal are good teams, but you don’t really get that feeling about any of these teams.

There’s still the lingering anticipation that Leicester are a little too good to be true, and will at the last drop to third or fourth by March or April.

City can’t get that momentum, and Arsenal still can’t grasp it.

There was a disappointing softness to Wenger’s side in the oh-so-familiar 1-0 defeat to Chelsea on Sunday.

They were supposed to have evolved this season, and the recent 2-1 win over Manchester City seemed to have been the big sign of that but a return of just eight points from 18 since then suggests a regression.

Worse, if that City win was a psychological step, they couldn’t follow it with another.

Instead, the stats suggest they are merely following the trends of recent campaigns after all. Arsenal are right now on course for a return of 73 points.

The wonder is whether that might just be enough in a season where the threshold is so low?

Or, will someone eventually raise this campaign? If any player is to do that, it is probably the man that also prevented City losing another away game at the weekend.

There is another argument that titles are ultimately decided by the best player in the league and, good as Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez have been, it’s still hard to put them ahead - or arguably close - to a fully fit and on-form Sergio Aguero.

If he stays injury-free, and is finally bolstered by the rest of City’s injury-free core for any spell of games, they might finally be able to put the consistent run together to decide this championship.

The thing about the league right now is that, while we’ve possibly seen Leicester and Arsenal’s peak levels, Pellegrini’s side still look like they’ve been held back, that they can go higher.

Their manager just won’t say how. He must just figure it out.