It was a little surprising to see so few pundits tip Man City for the league this season.
Man United, as defending champions, are favoured by many to land yet another title – despite the departure of Alex Ferguson. And of those who feel that David Moyes won’t mark a first season at the Old Trafford helm with Premiership silverware, the return of Jose Mourinho to Stamford Bridge is enough for Chelsea to be considered firm favourites.
Whether because of a weak defence of their title last season, or a new manager with no experience in the English league, Man City have had much less of the attention over the pre-season.
It’s a situation which may be quite refreshing to be in for the club’s players and fans alike, after being under a constant spotlight during Roberto Mancini’s tenure – for both positive and negative reasons.
With the departure of two of the Italian’s most controversial squad members since January, and a man in charge who’s less likely to lose control of his players there’s every chance that last season’s runners-up will finally enjoy some stability.
Pellegrini may not be well-known in England and arrives with no prior experience of the Premier League, but his record in Spain commands plenty of respect. A single season at Real Madrid won’t be mentioned amongst the highlights, mainly due to the fact that even a record 96-point tally wasn’t good enough to topple Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.
The ability of the Chilean to achieve such a high standard of league performance with a host of big name signings brought in during the summer leading up to his 11 months at the club was nonetheless impressive, and no doubt laid the foundations for Madrid success under Jose Mourinho. Such was the standard of opposition that even Mourinho required time – and addition heavy investment – in order to achieve some measure of success.
If Pellegrini’s reign at the Santiago Bernabeu won’t be viewed as a big success, the years during which he was as Villarreal and Malaga most definitely will. That’s where Pellegrini proved himself as a top coach, not only by leading both sides into the Champions League for the first time, but also in guiding them into the latter stages of the competition.
Villarreal were semi-finalists in 2006, where they lost 1-0 on aggregate to Arsenal. And last season, Pellegrini’s Malaga side were on the brink of matching the achievement of his former club, until two injury-time goals by Borussia Dortmund turned the quarter final tie on its head and saw the Bundesliga team progress to the last four.
At Man City, Pellegrini is with a club who have prior Champions League experience, although he won’t have to do much in order to improve on two seasons of huge underachievement in the competition.
With so much focus on Man United and Chelsea, there is perhaps less pressure on Man City to live up to the huge things that have been expected of their expensively assembled squad. And with that reduced pressure, Pellegrini may be able to quietly get on with building a team which will compete for the the silverware craved by the club’s owners.
Of course, should Pellegrini begin his reign in England strongly, then the media focus would be firmly back on his side. But based on the last decade, the new man has every chance of succeeding where Mancini failed, and of bringing some calm to a club which has grown used to almost non-stop drama.