The Decider: Why It’s Crazy To Sack Manuel Pellegrini


This is the latest installment of an ongoing series looking at the decision-making process of Premier League club owners, executives, and managers

I don’t have much love for the trigger-happy tendencies of fans and owners when at the smallest drop in form – or perceived drop – there arrive angry calls for removing perfectly competent managers from their posts. It’s a troubling trait that is both emotional and irrational. In other words, completely normal.

For fans, losing is unacceptable. There are no rewards for valiant defeats. Tickets do not become any cheaper.

For owners, after large outlays of money invested in a club, in a particular squad, towards a particular project, it is infuriating. Generally speaking, most wealthy owners are used to seeing returns on their investments. Those that do not expect this are either poor businessmen or generous philanthropists.

All of which makes the current talk of Manchester City FC potentially dismissing Manuel Pellegrini utterly bizarre from my vantage point.

I. Manchester City Have Never Been Better

I get that football is a results-based business. I do. So let me lay some truth on for you: this current Manchester City squad is the best that the sky blue side of Manchester have ever seen.

As I outlined previously, this is a remarkably deep squad. Money has been well spent in assembling the primary (and supporting) pieces, under Pellegrini and his predecessor Roberto Mancini.

But money alone is not enough to win. Managerial competency is a significant factor in properly preparing and using a squad. Manuel Pellegrini – nicknamed “The Engineer” due to his educational credentials in addition to his approach to football management – is without question one of the best managers in the world.

Fig. 1 There is a marked difference in performance under Manuel Pellegrini in contrast to Roberto Mancini

In just under two seasons, Pellegrini has remarkably lifted the offensive capabilities of Manchester City, while also improving the defence. I don’t know how to say this without suggesting that he may be involved in witchcraft, but under Pellegrini, Manchester City have a goal differential of +1.43 goals per game. That’s ridiculous. It means that if you think you’re going to score a goal against City, they are probably going to score 2 or 3 against you. Mancini’s City (also very, very good) boasted a goal differential of +0.98 goals per game. I’ll let you think about how nuts that is given that Mancini had a reputation for defence and ran with a strike platoon of Aguero, Dzeko, Tevez, and Good Balotelli.

So, with that in place, we should also note that City wins much more often than they did under Mancini. I’ll give Mancini credit that he built a more competitive club and that the beginning of his tenure he lost more than he did at the end. Still, look at Pellegrini’s win percentage. My boy don’t mess around.

I’m not going to show you any other managers in Manchester City history because their numbers are sad. I just wanted to note how even in comparison to Mancini, Pellegrini stands well above.

II. No, Seriously, Manchester City Have Never Been Better

There is a weird thing that happens when you start looking for perspective for super clubs: it doesn’t really exist. Once you get up into the upper echelons of football, there is no way that you can realistically talk about things.

I don’t know how familiar people are with Elo ratings. In the past, on my blog I did some experiments playing around with Elo ratings for rugby, where I explained:

"At its very basic level, Elo tells us the relative strength of a team. Teams that consistently beat other teams have high ratings, teams that consistently lose have low ratings. Winning games against tough opponents are worth more to a team’s Elo score than beating weak opponents (and vice versa)."

Using Elo ratings in football has been around for a long time. In fact, has ratings derived from records going back decades. Currently, Manchester City is considered the seventh best club team in the world. They trail (in order): Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, and Chelsea. That’s it. Oh, and this is a new thing.

Before Mancini put them on the right path, and Pellegrini lifted them to another level, Manchester City were not a relevant power in club world football.

Fig. 2 Manchester City has risen in world rankings at an astonishing rate.

So, for all the complaints about not progressing as far as they would like in Europe, who exactly are Manchester City losing to each year? Look back at that list of the clubs listed ahead of Manchester City. It’s not like they are getting knocked out by Cluj or APOEL.

III. Five Trophies in Five Years

Does anyone remember what was said as Manchester City unveiled Manuel Pellegrini as the new manager? He has to deliver five trophies in five years.

The exact quotes from Ferran Soriano, are actually much more nuanced than that:

"“I think that next season is going to be much better. I am convinced about that,”“It doesn’t mean we are going to win one or two titles but in the grand scheme of things, if we look at the next five years and I could plan now, I would say I want to win five trophies in the next five years.”“That may mean we win no trophy one year and two in another but on average I want one title a year. That includes the Champions League, the Premier League or the FA Cup. Is it a realistic aim? I think it is, yes, but I am talking about five years.”"

So, given that Manuel Pellegrini has already brought a Premier League title and a League Cup, wouldn’t it make sense to wait it out? The average trophy count is still there, and as I demonstrated earlier, there has been significant progress in the way the team is playing, with better defence and higher scoring than under Mancini.

IV. There Is No One Else

I’ve posed this question to the editorial staff here at We Are Hooligans and to my friends in conversations: if City did fire Pellegrini, who would you hire to replace him? It’s a similar list to that provided by Graham Ruthven at

Whether it is Carlo Ancelotti or Pep Guardiola, at this point you’re either shooting for the moon or bust. That level of manager is as rare as a unicorn.

If we are to believe the writing on the wall, that Txiki and Ferran, Pep’s buddies from his time at Barcelona can convince him to come to England, great, but everything I’ve read about Guardiola (including the incredibly-revealing Pep Confidential) seems to indicate that he bounces back and forth between wanting to take on big projects, boredom, and restlessness. If you’d prefer a steady hand, well his name is Manuel, and he’s already in the building.

I also think that the options of Jurgen Klopp or Diego Simeone (ignoring that both recently signed extensions with their current clubs) are probably on the same level (if differing in style) as what City already have in Pellegrini. Your views may vary.

After that, there are no readily apparent options for a club that is the seventh best in the world, with ambitions of being first.


Give the man his five years, and let him engineer five (or more) trophies.