MANCHESTER, January 17 – Manuel Pellegrini believes the all-round strength of his squad could have a key role to play in the second half of the season after seeing his side re-ignite their Premier League title challenge with a 4-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Saturday’s match at the Etihad saw City score four goals in a game for the eighth time this season as they reinforced their position as the leading scorers at home in the league.
Sergio Aguero signalled his return to something like top form with two of those goals but Pellegrini took particular delight in securing such an emphatic victory after starting without a number of City’s key players.
“We have to play so many games in January, it is very important to have the whole squad involved in what we are doing if you want to continue being a competitive team in all the competitions,” the City manager explained.
“To make five changes and to win the way we did today I think will be very useful for the future,” added the Chilean, whose side ended the day in second place, a point behind leaders Leicester — although both clubs could end the weekend behind Arsenal depending upon the result of the Gunners’ match at Stoke on Sunday.
Pellegrini rested Yaya Toure, who came off the bench in the second half and had a hand in Aguero’s second goal which made it 3-0 to kill off any prospect of a Palace comeback.
Raheem Sterling was an unused substitute and City also again managed without the injured trio of midfielder Fernandinho, defender Vincent Kompany and striker Wilfried Bony.
– ‘Absolute trust’ –
Pellegrini, whose side also kept a third successive clean sheet in extending their unbeaten run to five league games, said: “One of the merits of this squad is to be involved in a lot of competitions without important players for an important part of the first part of the season.
“Of course if you have all your players 100 percent fit our squad would be strong.
“But if not, I trust absolutely the other players. You see today and against Everton we didn’t have any problem with (Nicolas) Otamendi and (Martin) Demichelis.
“Both of them played well, but of course we need Vincent also.”
Aguero’s double-strike against the Eagles gave him 13 goals for the season, his efforts coming between the opening goal from Fabian Delph, who also laid on the fourth for David Silva.
Pellegrini was heartened by the performance of Aguero following the ankle injury that kept the talismanic striker him out for almost a month before Christmas.
“Maybe he (Aguero) didn’t score in the last game because (Everton’s Tim) Howard made two good saves but he is making all the movements he normally does when he is 100 percent fit so I think he will continue improving in every game,” said Pellegrini, whose side were held to a goalless home draw by the Toffees in midweek.
Saturday’s result extended Palace’s winless run in the Premier League to five games, during which time the London club have failed to score.
This was a far better showing than their 5-1 loss to City in the League Cup at the Etihad in October, but Palace manager Alan Pardew accepted goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was under pressure for his place after the Wales international’s error saw him beaten by Delph’s long-range effort.
It was Hennessey’s second high-profile mistake in as many matches after his error gifted Aston Villa a 1-0 win on Tuesday.
“Wayne needed to respond today and made another mistake,” said Pardew. “I need to see a reaction from him. I will give him that chance because he deserves it.”