Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini dismissed the notion Pep Guardiola’s forthcoming arrival as his replacement had any impact on Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat to Premier League title rivals Leicester City.
On Monday, Pellegrini confirmed he would step down from his post at the Etihad Stadium at the end of this season, with the club following up by announcing Bayern Munich boss Guardiola would be in situ for the 2016-17 campaign.
The prospect of the acclaimed former Barcelona coach taking the reins at City appears to have done little to focus the minds of a playing staff enduring a patchy seaon, despite their hunt for honours across four competitions.
Following Tuesday’s attritional 1-0 win at struggling Sunderland, the hosts were caught cold by Robert Huth in the third minute – the towering German defender adding his second with an hour played after Riyad Mahrez’s solo strike early in the second half.
Leicester threatened further humiliation for their opponents, who now trail them at the Premier League summit by six points, before Sergio Aguero headed a late consolation .
Pellegrini credited Leicester’s superiority during his post-match news conference and rejected a suggestion that Guardiola’s impending arrival had anything to do with the ineffective showing.
“I think that I talked too much about last week, focusing on that thing, and I don’t think it is fair to try and have excuses,” he said.
“I have finished talking about those things. I do not want to answer any questions more about that.
“It would be very easy for me to say ‘yes’ [it has affected the players], but that is not the truth.”
Yaya Toure, so often a focal point for City in their trophy successes over recent seasons, was substituted after 52 minutes having been rendered impotent by Leicester’s swarming midfield duo of N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater.
Guardiola sold Toure to City from Barcelona in 2010 and this, along with the Ivory Coast international’s advancing years, is seen as a reason to expect his time at the Etihad Stadium to come to a close under the new manager.
Nevertheless, Pellegrini refused to criticise the 32-year-old’s display or expand upon the reasons for sending the more defensively minded Fernando on in his place.
“I don’t talk about the performance of individual players,” the Chilean added.
“I talk about the team – the team defended badly and the team attacked badly.”