El Centrocampista

The (multi) million dollar question – Will fourth be enough to save Manuel Pellegrini?


Just a month ago Manuel Pelligrini’s days as head coach of Malaga seemed numbered. His team had been comprehensively outplayed by Athletic Club, one of their main rivals for a Champions League place, and just two wins in the preceding eight games suggested that a change was imminent.

Fast forward just four Primera Liga fixtures, and the picture is very different. Malaga remain out of the top four, but only on goal difference. Three successive victories have been followed by the biggest morale booster of all, a deserved draw at the Bernabeu on Sunday evening. When one bears in mind that only Barcelona have avoided defeat there this season, the significance of this result cannot be underestimated. So why are there so many fans who remain unconvinced by the man in charge?

The Chilean has maintained throughout the campaign that it will take time for the team to gel, and that as long as they are still in the hunt for a top four finish going into the last third of the season, there is no need to be concerned. Certainly Sunday’s performance was good enough to suggest that the fluidity which has so often been lacking has finally been established, albeit that only a sublime free kick in injury time saved them from the same fate as so many other sides.

Pelligrini also benefited from an unexpectedly assured performance from Martin Demichelis in the holding role normally reserved for the injured Jeremy Toulalan, and the flexibility of several other key signings is also beginning to bear fruit. The likes of Isco, Cazorla and even Joaquin have shown in recent weeks that they can be deployed in various different roles within the team, although the main problem remains the lack of goals from the forwards.

The return of Julio Baptista from injury may well be as fundamentally important to their chances of reaching the promised land as his arrival last January ultimately proved to their bid to avoid relegation from the top flight.

However such is the nature of the expectations that come with such a huge cash injection at any club that there are a sizeable contingent of Malaga supporters still seem very reluctant to back Pelligrini. Many prefer to point out that their team might well have had two penalties awarded against them on Sunday, and that the league leaders missed a number of chances to put the result beyond doubt.

Even those prepared to accept the 1-1 draw as a significant turning point seem happy to draw unfavourable comparisons between him and Diego Simeone, who they argue has taken a lot less time to stamp his authority on an Atletico side going nowhere under Gregorio Manzano.

There can be no denying that for much of this season, Malaga have failed to provide the champagne brand of exciting, attacking football which so many neutrals , let alone their own fans, had expected of them back in August. Nevertheless with just eleven games remaining, they are within six points of third place, the highest that anyone could realistically expected them to have finished this year.

After a couple of tricky looking fixtures against Rayo and Espanyol, they then play four of the bottom seven in La Liga, three of them at home where they have picked up 29 of their 41 points so far this season. Yet the desire to win in style, a notion to which Pelligrini is well accustomed from his short time at Madrid, may yet end up ensuring that his time on the Costa del Sol is similarly brief, especially if fourth place is not secured.

It is to be hoped that having displayed an admirable degree of patience so far, the club’s Middle Eastern owners do not divert from what they proclaimed initially was a long term vision last summer.


  1. Cameron

    21 March, 2012 at 10:49

    I have no idea what Malaga fans you have been in contact with because I don’t know any who want Pellegrini out. Malaga fans would have been happy with a top 6 finish at the start of the season, they are very satisfied with the season so far. Athletic outplayed Malaga? Although the score line suggests that, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Athletic scored with their only 3 attacks all game. Although Malaga away form has been awful, they outplayed athletic that game.

    You cannot compare Simone to Pelegrini. Simone has made Athletico hard to beat, but they haven’t improved that much considering the players at their disposal.

    One last thing, Levante are 4th because of the head to head rule, not because of goal difference.

    This article does not reflect the mood of Malaga fans in the slightest.

  2. Heath Chesters

    21 March, 2012 at 16:23

    Aside from when they visited Granada, many fans I spoke to claimed their performance was a “vergüenza”, or weren’t happy with overall form, I suppose it depends which fans you speak to.

    Dare I say that more pressing than any fans opinions, will be the opinions of the owners, who have injected so much money into the club. Will their expectations include patience in Pelegrini to shape his side over a couple of season, or expect instant success?

    I think the Málaga team should secure a top six finish, top four if they can manage to eliminate some of the inconsistencies that have beset them at times this season. I also would expect Pelegrini’s job to be safe, so long at they qualify for Europe, come the end of the season. Be that Champions League or Europa League.

  3. Malagaficionado

    25 March, 2012 at 17:05

    Well, well, well. How quickly things change in 4 days. With Malaga tied for 3rd in points with Valencia, Champions league is getting closer and closer. In next two outings, Valencia to play CL contenders Levante and RMadrid, Malaga get bottom dwellers Betis and Racing. Looks like things will get interesting in the next few weeks. Simeone’s Atletico Madrid sitting in 8th 8 points below.

    Something tells me Pelle will be getting bonused this summer. Hopefully Malaga also pick up a forward or two over the summer. Tevez? David Villa? Or Maybe even Edinson Cavani.

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