Zabaleta: Lay off Pellegrini

Speculation over the Chilean’s future has been mounting after City’s bid to retain their Premier League crown faltered, but the Argentina right-back believes the criticism of the manager is unfair.

While Zabaleta also admits the season has been a “disappointing one”, he disputes whether it has been the disaster that some have claimed.

He said: “The manager deserves more respect from everyone. He came here last season, he won the league and the Capital One Cup. We cannot blame just the manager for this moment. Individual players have also not been great in the whole season.

“Everyone is responsible – when you don’t win titles it can be a little bit frustrating for everyone. Now is not the time to be thinking about what went wrong this season, it’s just the time to finish as good as we can. Then we’ll see what happens.

“It’s not for me to say what should and should not happen. For the players, the owners, the manager and the staff, we are 100 per cent focused on what we are doing now.

“Then at the end of the season the right people will analyse what went wrong. The people responsible in every part of the club will decide what is best for the future.”

The 30-year-old believes fatigue after last summer’s World Cup in Brazil, where he reached the final with Argentina, may have had a direct effect on City’s fortunes this season.

He said: “From my point of view it has been hard after the World Cup – we only had 20 days’ holiday. Mentally and physically it’s been really tough, the Premier League is one of the most competitive in the world in terms of the physical demands.

“It seems for a lot of players who were at the World Cup this season has been very tough – not just in England. But when you look at the team, with the players we’ve got you expect to play much better football. We must be honest with ourselves and recognise that it was not our best season.

“Sometimes football is like that but at City it seems one disappointing season is like a disaster. Maybe it’s because we’ve won the Premier League twice, the FA Cup, the Capital One. Now it seems like because we have not won something it’s a disaster and we have to change seven or eight players, the manager. That’s what people say.”