West Brom vs Manchester City: 'It's too early to talk of sacking Manuel Pellegrini,' defends Frank Lampard

City 'are not stupid' says midfielder as his team pick up title-chasing victory

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The Independent Football

“No questions about the sack please,” said Manuel Pellegrini with a smile as the Manchester City manager waited for journalists in one of the corridors of the Etihad Stadium after a 3-0 stroll in the spring sunshine against West Bromwich Albion.

At first glance it seems  outrageous that a man who won the league in his first season in English football and added the League Cup for good measure should have his future questioned  three-quarters of the way through the second.

When the men from Abu Dhabi took over Manchester City they were at pains to point out that they would not behave like certain oligarchs they could mention and fire their manager every other season.

They were referring to Chelsea. Frank Lampard, who might have scored more than once in a game in which City aimed  43 shots at the West Brom goal and scored from three, knows the pattern.

He was at Stamford Bridge when Jose Mourinho was sacked a few months after winning his fourth trophy in three seasons. When Carlo Ancelotti was dismissed the season after delivering the club’s first Double. When Roberto di Matteo’s reward for the European Cup was a few months’ grace and then the sack.

 

“We are not stupid,” said Lampard. “A club like  Manchester City is the same as Chelsea when you have a desire to be fighting at the top of the league year in and year out. Managers and players are under pressure at all times.

“I don’t think there is much difference there. I was certainly not caught up in what might happen to a manager; it’s irrelevant, you have to look after what you do yourself.

“Football is funny. The year we won the Double at Chelsea we were beaten by Inter Milan in the Champions League, we were struggling in the Premier League and everyone was talking about Carlo Ancelotti getting the sack. We went and won the Double. It shows you what can happen in football.

“I don’t think you can make too many calls or judgments at this stage of the season. It’s not time to ask whether this player or that manager will be here next year. It is too early for that talk.”

City’s two Premier League titles, largely won by the same group of players, were won at the death. Roberto  Mancini’s side won their final six matches in 2012;  Pellegrini’s their last five.

If they are to have any chance of overhauling  Chelsea, a club that Lampard knows are full of “people who have done it”, they may have to win their last eight.

“Chelsea, admittedly, have a clear advantage,” said  Lampard. “When you are in the position we are in, there is only one thing to do – try to win games and see what happens around you.”

None will put up less resistance than West Brom, although the defeat was disfigured by the dismissal of Gareth McAuley after 90 seconds, when it appeared obvious it should have been Craig Dawson.

The red card will be transferred from one to the other, although it will not lessen football’s embarrassment.

The match referee, Neil Swarbrick, would have arrived back to his home in Preston from the Etihad Stadium in time to watch coverage of England’s astonishing tussle with France at Twickenham.

He would have noticed that when Courtney Lawes drove into Jules Plisson the referee, Nigel Owens, had the benefit of being miked up to a television match official, Ben Skeen, who asked for and got replays from each and every angle. Swarbrick had only his eyes and, as so often happens in Europe’s wealthiest league, they were not enough.

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