Manuel Pellegrini's first season in charge of City can not be considered a success, even if they end up topping the Premier League
As Fernando Torres squared the ball for Willian to tap in for Chelsea’s second at Anfield on Saturday, it didn’t just spark celebrations in the away end at Liverpool’s home ground.
At Selhurst Park, a clutch of Manchester City fans were also sent into delirium as Jose Mourinho’s men put the title back into their hands ahead of their match against Crystal Palace.
City will now be champions if they win their remaining three fixtures; away to Everton and two home games against West Ham and Aston Villa. Yet Manuel Pellegrini’s first season in English football can hardly be considered a success, even if it is one that yields two trophies.
That sentence in itself sounds ludicrous, but this wasn’t just a campaign where City could have won the Premier League title. This was a season were they should have made a statement and stamped their authority on English football for years to come.
With perennial contenders Manchester United falling to unprecedented depths in the Premier League era, as they struggle to make the transition after Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, City’s main threat has come from Chelsea and Liverpool.
These are two teams that, although capable, should not have posed a challenge to City’s uber-talented squad.
Liverpool are a side that are still learning Brendan Rodgers’ style of play. Although they have played some scintillating football this season, this is still only his second season in charge and even he wouldn’t have expected them to be genuine title contenders this early into his tenure.
There are deficiencies in their squad, particularly defensively, that still need to be worked on and for City to come to Anfield and play and open, expansive game that allowed Liverpool the freedom the play their game showed Pellegrini’s naivety.
He should have set his side up to stifle Liverpool’s play, much like Jose Mourinho did with his Chelsea team, but even they have their flaws. Mourinho insists that his squad isn’t ready to win the title and it is a statement that has a hint of truth, even if he doesn’t necessarily believe it. Their three main strikers; Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba would all likely be fifth choice at Manchester City, such is the wealth of talent at Pellegrini’s disposal.
Away from the Premier League, too, City have found the going tough. Although they won the League Cup, despite playing way below their maximum potential in the final against Sunderland, they should have added to this by winning the FA Cup, too.
In that competition they were dumped out, and thoroughly outplayed, by Championship play-off hopefuls Wigan Athletic, a team that City have now lost to two seasons running, when both times they should never have even been considering that prospect.
In Europe, they were exposed again. Under Roberto Mancini City failed to make it out of the group-stages and although they achieved that feat this time around, Pellegrini’s error when playing away against Bayern Munich and their poor performance against Barcelona ended their hopes.
It shouldn’t have done. Barcelona are not the side they once were and could feasibly finish third in La Liga, yet they comprehensively beat City and highlighted their deficiencies on the big European stage once again.
And if City don’t start to demand more they may never achieve what they should with their current squad, and their huge investment. This season may add another couple of trophies to their quickly filling cabinet, but it should have been a far more impressive one if Pellegrini had managed to get them playing to their optimum potential.