Following Leicester City's triumphant Premier League title, questions must be asked as to how Manchester City proved to not even be a factor in the title race despite sitting four points clear of the rest of the league after five matches this season coming after four successive seasons of finishing in the top two. The Blues sit six points behind Spurs for second position after this weekend's results also pretty much guaranteeing that City will fall out of the top two in the league for the first time since the 2010-11 season when the club finished 3rd but was level on points with second place Chelsea.
The answer is plain and simple - mismanagement. And that is not simply Manuel Pellegrini's fault as so many Blues fans want to believe but really that of Txiki Begiristain. What is worse is that the Blues seem further away from competing for a title than any point since before 2009-10 season right now despite what some might believe.
The narrative goes that Txiki Begiristain's shortcomings as Manchester City's Director of Football are tolerable because his relationship with Pep Guardiola has attracted the world's best Manager and therefore he's indispensable. It's worth noting at this time that despite having one of the most expensive squads on the planet Bayern will clinch the Bundesliga title with only one or zero match days remaining while Leicester did so in England with two matches remaining something Pep's Bayern wasn't able to do.
It is no secret that the Blues brass craves for the club to be considered one of Europe's elite powers. Guardiola potentially gives that credibility in a way that Manuel Pellegrini never will irrespective of the current performance in Europe and the opportunity to make a UEFA Champions League Final with Pellegrini as the boss.
Guardiola's relationships with Manchester City's top executives — CEO Ferran Soriano, who promoted him to head coach at Barcelona in 2008 over Mourinho, and Director of Football Txiki Begiristain, with whom he worked closely with at the Catalan club — are cited as the reason he choose to manage Manchester City.. But it is often forgotten that the Blues have a proven manager in Manuel Pellegrini, one that fits the club's philosophy while also bringing an element of calm and purpose to a dressing room full of egos. It is also often forgotten by fans who believe next season will be better than Pellegrini's difficulties this season has much to do with Begiristain buys, and given his relationship with Guardiola, those types of buys represent probably what we will continue to see.
Guardiola, who implemented Soriano's desired "holistic" approach at Barcelona, has now essentially become a mercenary whose footballing philosophy has clashed with those in power at Bayern's conservative yet established powerhouse. Pellegrini has been criticized for being hired to implement the "holistic" approach but instead going to the well time and again with veteran players and even relying on bruised warriors. He relied on Frank Lampard and James Milner last season (both were already set to leave the club at the end of the campaign), but he did so to get maximum results and finish second in the league at a time when qualification for the UEFA Champions League much like this season, seemed in doubt.
We need look no further than Jose Mourinho's end as Chelsea manager to understand that this game, especially at the highest level, is largely about psychology and interpersonal relationships. Pellegrini has been often criticized for being stubborn and not getting the most out of his teams. But time and again we have seen a rallying effect when the Blues' backs are against the wall. Both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 season saw City finish the year atop the form table, putting the drama with other clubs aside and mitigating anything internally, including Yaya Toure's frequent eruptions.
This season that rallying effect has been limited to Europe partly because of the Guardiola appointment having unsettled the playing squad. It also has been impacted by Begiristain's poor buying over the last three seasons failing to properly refresh a playing squad previously built under Garry Cook, Brian Marwood, Mark Hughes and Roberto Mancini.
For all of Guardiola's enlightenment in terms of playing style, I doubt he would craft a side that maintains possession and yet keep some needed pragmatic qualities, the way Pellegrini did prior to this season in the league. That is unless Guardiola clashes with Begiristain over buys and does not repeat his history at Barcelona and Bayern of moving useful midfielders like Yaya Toure and Luiz Gustavo out of the squad for more stylish players.
The squad needs a major refresh and it's very possible that it may not be done correctly to be competitive in the league. Manchester City also will have to contend with a stronger Liverpool next season, a possibly resurgent Manchester United and a continued solid Spurs. Throw Arsenal into the mix and the questions as to whether Leicester continue to be a force or West Ham improve in the Olympic Stadium and it is obvious the Blues are far further from where the club needs to be than any point in seven years.