Their comeback from 2-0 down complete unexpectedly early,Manchester City still had 28 minutes plus injury time to go for the fourth goal against Bayern Munich,and the 4-2 scoreline that would help them top Group D.
Inexplicably,City coach Manuel Pelligrini,brought off his striker for a midfielder and ended up leaving Sergio Aguero,his side’s top scorer in both England and Europe this season,idling away on the bench until the final whistle. It turned out Pelligrini had miscalculated the goal-difference required to finish ahead of Munich,and had his team preparing and playing with the idea that they needed to beat the European champions,away,with a near-impossible three-goal difference instead of two.
So,instead of running the risk of conceding a goal in the pursuit of scoring one,Pelligrini settled for what was surely a creditable 3-2 win and a remarkable turnout against Bayern,arguably the best team in Europe right now. In the opinion of Dietmar Hamann,who had spent reasonably good seasons with both sides during his career,Pelligrini’s oversight was a “cock-up” that would cost the side several million dollars.
City’s big spending ways always leaves them flirting with getting sanctioned for flouting the financial fair play regulations. Now,Pelligrini’s mistake leaves them in danger of exiting the lucrative Champions League at an early stage for the third season in a row.
As bizzare as it was for a top coach to go so obviously wrong,it is equally puzzling that none from the bevy of assistants,coaches and players that are within the Pelligrini’s vicinity,either did not notice anything amiss or refrained from approaching him if they did. Perhaps the lack of communication was down to a manager’s aspiration to be the unchallenged figure within his club. Perhaps even due to the kind of deconstruction that sees his role as that of an omniscient (“Arsene knows”) tactical orchestrator who probably is doing what is best,even if the methods do not immediately convince the fans or media.
Maybe it takes a while to develop the kind of working relationship with a coach which allows one to offer up a suggestion. Pelligrini,afterall,is in his first year at City. Still,if City are to exit Europe early and finish outside the top two in England,it could well be his last.
Raakesh is a principal correspondent based in New Delhi