How Pellegrini made Man City the champions elect

Paul Parker

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Manchester City look to on their way to winning the title after their 4-0 victory over Aston Villa last night.

For 60 minutes they looked quite nervy and Aston Villa were making things difficult for them with a professional performance that they were able to produce because they were relaxed after securing their Premier League survival.


For me it was natural to see City play with an element of nerves at this stage of the season regardless of the fact that they have experienced players in their squad who have won the Premier League before.

It is like being a poker player – you can know you have got the right two cards in your hand, but if there is a million dollars on the table and still one card to go, you are going to be a little bit worried about what your opponent has and if some surprise is going to pop up and knock you cold.

Once they got the first goal though you knew the floodgates would open.

The West Ham game on Sunday will be a similar situation. The Hammers will probably play with a little less flair than Villa but might be a bit more stubborn as they are a workaholic, regimental side, which they have to be under Big Sam.

It certainly won’t be one for the purists unless City score early and put on a show – West Ham will make it as ugly as possible.

West Ham have a couple of ex-Liverpool players at the club in Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll, and Kevin Nolan has come out and said he is a big Liverpool fan, but if Liverpool supporters think this makes it more likely that the Hammers will get a result I'd tell them to forget about that right now.

Players are professionals and any talk of players having allegiances to other clubs is just boring and I don’t want to read about it at this stage of the season.

Kevin Nolan might be from Liverpool and wants to do something for the city but that makes no difference if you ask me. As for Downing and Carroll, they have about as much affiliation with Liverpool as I do with Newcastle United and as many friends there as I have in the Ku Klux Klan.

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And the end of the day, it is the last day of the season, and West Ham will perform as a team for pride, professionalism and doing justice to themselves. That's all that has to be said on the matter – forget all this rubbish about club allegiances.

If City do win the title, I think you have to reflect on them as worthy winners in what has been a poor season in terms of quality. It has been great entertainment because you have had different teams at the top juggling positions, but that has been because they've all had weaknesses.

We will probably look back on the season as time when Liverpool missed their big chance, because you can expect all the big sides to improve in the summer. However their lack of experience and their poor defence caught them out in the end and perhaps they were jumping around thinking they had it in the bag a little too early.

City have been the best team this season. I tipped them at the start of the season, and while it looked like it had slipped away from them at one stage, their experience of having won it before has proved invaluable coming into the final stretch.

I think Manuel Pellegrini will be a better manager next season after all he has learned during this campaign and I think you can already see him improving. His recent decisions have helped City to take the title initiative.

He is already a much better man-manager than Roberto Mancini – the team has gone about their business with more style and confidence than they did under the Italian, and I have no doubt City wouldn't have won the league if Mancini was still in charge.

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At the start of the season Pellegrini was still learning about the Premier League and that is why they were losing so many away games. But he has figured things out and if you notice in their run-in, who has been playing more regularly? James Milner!

He is English, understands what needs to be done, and has a bit of quality about him too. When you are playing away from home in the less glamorous games, a good old fashioned British player like James Milner can come to your aid.

As good as all the gloss that comes with foreign imports can be, sometimes you need a little bit of British steel. And I think Milner was a key player in those wins at Crystal Palace and Everton. The gloss is great but you don’t always wear your best Boss suit out in the rain, you stick with your British mack.

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Pellegrini has proved himself adaptable over the course of the season. Dzeko has become the main man up front when Negredo dropped off, and Javi Garcia has come in for Fernandinho. Compare that to Jose Mourinho who is never willing to eat humble pie. Oscar has dipped massively for Chelsea and how much could they have done with Juan Mata now? But they couldn't bring him in as a replacement as Mourinho kicked him out the club because he didn't like him.

I'm sure Pellegrini doesn't like all his players either, but you don’t have to be their best mate to pick them in your team. At the end of the day it is about what they can do for your team, and if they are playing well, then they are going to win games for you, help you win titles and, ultimately, keep you in your job.

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