THOUGHT THE FIRST: Pellegrini's Most Important Contribution
If ever I am asked how Manuel Pellegrini became the first non-European manager to lift the English league trophy, I would use one sentence: he got use out of everybody. Remember the word we heard after Mancini's sacking? We need a more holistic approach, a more holistic attitude. It was a nice way of saying people had had it up to their eyeballs with Mancini's cantankerous personality. Think about the players who were thought to be all but out the door at the end of last season. Nasri was thought to be gone, Dzeko seemed to have one foot out the door, Garcia was thought to be next to useless, and Kolarov was thought to be absolutely useless. Four more criticized players by fans and press would be difficult to find. All four of those players started the last few crucial games down the stretch and all four were on the pitch in the title-clinching match. Most importantly, all four played extremely well. I've written before about Pellegrini's ability to get the best out of the talent he has, about his ability to keep players genuinely happy (Nasri especially has seemed borderline ecstatic this season). I've also written that I'm not entirely sure how he does it. I'm sure it has to do with his preference for attacking play and for letting players know they are wanted-I'm recalling his labeling Dzeko the number one striker before a game was played. There is also this: he never criticizes players in the press, in stark contrast to his predecessor. Additionally, his press conferences were about looking forward rather than dwelling on mistakes.
Looking back, it's clear to me now that Man City was on a precipice before that desultory FA Cup Final against Wigan; the decision to fire Mancini had been already been made and Mancini rightly argued at the time his uncertain job status undermined his authority in that match. Thereafter, Mancini cut a sympathetic figure. Without picking the right successor, Man City could've been as badly waylaid as their Manchester neighbors. Thankfully, the powers that be at the Etihad made exactly the right call and the result was a two-trophy season. I can't imagine more hardware won't be forthcoming.
THOUGHT THE SECOND: Settling a Gripe
This is old business but I'm going to get this off my chest regardless.
Look, I respect the PFA and writers who cover our great and glorious sport but, jeebus help me, what's it going to take to recognize Yaya Toure as the best midfielder in England? What would he have to do? I'm not begrudging all the pretty little pieces of trophy Luis Suarez is bringing in on a weekly basis (I'd still rather have Yaya but never mind). But the PFA's choice of Eden Hazard over Yaya and the writer's choice of Gerrard over Yaya just defies common sense. Let's go over the qualities we like in a player and compare all three, shall we? We shall.
- Leadership. Yaya played his best football in the most crucial games of the season, Gerrard slipped up (sorry, had to) and Hazard disappeared from the headlines entirely. Advantage Yaya.
- Scoring goals. Big edge, Yaya. ‘Nuff said.
- Passing. I'll take Yaya and Gerrard here above Hazard. My preference is Yaya but I can see others staking the claim Gerrard is best in this area. I'll just say it's arguable.
- Pace. I'll take Yaya and Hazard here above Gerrard. My preference is Yaya but I can see others staking the claim Hazard is best in this area. I'll just say it's arguable.
- Strength. Please.
- Defense. Gerrard, in my not so humble opinion, got way too much credit for anchoring a defense that was frankly mediocre more than once this season. Again, I'll take Yaya here without apology.
- Intangibles. And here the great debate begins between Toure and Gerrard. As you are all no doubt aware from the gallons of print stating as much, Steven Gerrard is the greatest intangible player on the planet unless you count the numerous United legends who were always better than their numbers showed because... well, just because. Gerrard's mere presence is what elevates teammates to heights unknown. This is the argument Gerrard's supporters make with such a passion and it is, of course, all my balls. No one doubts Gerrard is a great leader. But Toure is at least his equal and considering the laudatory comments directed toward the Ivorian by any and all who have played with him or managed him, I'd say Toure might just have an advantage in the intangible department (not least because Toure's trophy cabinet is more than a match for Gerrard's).
- Conclusion. No one is denying Gerrard and Hazard aren't fine players. They're two of the best midfielders in England, probably one of the five best who played in the league this season. It's just that the title of the best midfielder in England belongs with Yaya Toure and that's been true for a few seasons now at least. End of rant.
THOUGHT THE THIRD: Never Too Early for Next Season
Any thoughts on what we need for next season, folks? Feel free to share in the comments. It sure seems like a Center Back is coming. In a perfect world, I'd love to see Mats Hummels come on over and pair up with Vincent Kompany but considering the dark lords who capriciously implement FFP so as to discourage rapid organizational development (wouldn't want smaller sides to get too big for their britches, now would we?) I'll settle for a young'un who played as well as Nastasic did last season. And a healthy Nastasic wouldn't be bad, either.
THOUGHT THE FOURTH: Going to Miss These Guys
We might be better without them but it ain't going be as fun. Great attitudes, endlessly entertaining and I really wish they were better players for us. I can't imagine anyone not wishing them the best. Good luck to them both.
THOUGHT THE FIFTH: Poll!
You know what to do.