EPL: Manuel Pellegrini Backs Eliaquim Mangala to Prove Critics Wrong
Manchester City paid a reported initial fee of
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes France defender Eliaquim Mangala can recover from a torrid start to his career with the Premier League champions.
City paid a reported initial fee of £32 million ($48 million) to sign Mangala from Porto last year in a bid to add defensive cover for injury-prone captain Vincent Kompany.
But Mangala, capped five times by France, has struggled to justify his hefty price tag and endured a tough afternoon in the 1-1 draw against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday, with Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku frequently getting the better of him.
Pellegrini refused to publicly analyse the defender's performance but hopes he will follow a similar path to Argentinian central defender Martin Demichelis, who also appeared a poor signing early in his City career only to come good as his new club won the English title.
"I always analyse individual performances with the players," said Pellegrini of Mangala's troubles.
"I hope there is a repeat of what Demichelis did last year. He improved and was a very important player."
City dominated the first half at Everton but failed to score and, after Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho headed them into a 74th minute lead, City could only hold it for four minutes before Steven Naismith earned the home side a deserved point.
- Pellegrini frustrated -
The glut of missed first half chances -- most notably by Stevan Jovetic -- were a concern for the City manager but at least he has Sergio Aguero, used as a substitute at Goodison Park, and Edin Dzeko back to fitness and Swansea target Wilfried Bony poised to move to his club during the current transfer window.
"We dominated the game, especially the first half, and had clear-cut chances," said Pellegrini.
"But when you don't score those chances, it's difficult to win.
"It is important for the team that Sergio is back. He just worked two or three days with the squad this week, now he has the whole week to continue working.
"I hope he will return to the same performance he had before he was injured, in a few days. Aguero and Dzeko are going to be very important players during the second half of the season.
"Every team will drop points from now until the end of the season, we never thought before the game that this was going to be easy.
"Every time you come to Goodison Park it is difficult and last year was the first time we won here in five times. Maybe it was a good draw but I cannot forget about the first 45 minutes, we had too many clear chances."
For Everton, the performance marked the second time in a week that they had trailed but battled back to secure a home draw.
"I felt the reaction and the character we showed at 1-0 down was special," said manager Roberto Martinez who saw his team also came from a goal down to draw in the midweek FA Cup tie against West Ham.
"The reaction on Tuesday and the reaction we showed today showed the character of the group and is a perfect platform to build for the second half of the season."
And, in Lukaku, Martinez is finally seeing a player, for whom he paid Chelsea £28 million last year, starting to fulfil his promise.
"Romelu needs to be at his very best physically," he said.
"The power and pace he uses in his play, he's not a player who can contribute by being half-fit.
"When he came back from the World Cup, he wanted to be involved for the team when he wasn't 100 per cent in terms of his physical abilities.
"Now he have seen him play consistently for 90 minutes. His overall performance was full of character and full of responsibility."