On the evidence of their performance at West Ham on Saturday, the chances of Man City usurping league leaders Chelsea and winning a second Premier League title on the trot are slim to none.
On a weekend in which Chelsea travelled north to face Man Utd at Old Trafford, Manuel Pellegrini must have thought an away trip to Upton Park was the perfect opportunity for his side to begin to put a dent in Jose Mourinho’s team’s significant lead. As it was, they surrendered all three points to the Hammers and now sit just one point above Sam Allardyce’s side.
This is not what is supposed to happen to champions.
Credit must be given where it’s due, and it has to be said that West Ham have been on a sparkling run of form of late, but the reality is that City’s loss in East London simply isn’t acceptable for a side with serious title pretensions.
What must be galling for City fans is that losses like this could so easily be avoided if they’d done the correct things in the summer.
Time after time last summer I wrote that City simply must strengthen significantly if they had serious ambitions to build upon their title triumph, make an impression in Europe and retain their domestic title.
Whilst they won the league last season, it is fair to say that they had more than a smattering of luck along the way, with Liverpool essentially bottling it right at the end of the season and thereby handing the Citizens the league on a plate. The City side of last year was not vintage, and everyone could see that there were a number of issues that needed ironing out if City genuinely wanted to have a real shot at the title again this season.
Most pressing was the need for defensive reinforcement.
Now, Vincent Kompany is one of the best defenders in the world, but in the last few years, City have singularly failed to find him a partner in the heart of defence, and it has proved costly a number of times. Last season, it was inescapably obvious that a genuine talent was required to play alongside Kompany, and to his credit, Pellegrini went out in the summer to buy the player required.
The trouble is, on the evidence so far, he didn’t buy the right player. Eliaquim Mangala was the man City identified as Kompany’s natural partner, but so far he is contributed very little by way of positive input in a sky blue shirt. On Saturday, he was once again directly responsible for the concession of a crucial goal; and sadly this has been a familiar theme during his short time in the Premier League.
Mangala may well turn into a world-class player who can perform well in the Premier League, but he is not yet that player. One must question the wisdom of Pellegrini opting to purchase a player with no English experience and immediately relying on him so heavily.
If we compare City’s business to Chelsea’s, we see a marked contrast. Like City, Chelsea realised that there were specific issues in their team, and like City they went out to try and rectify them last summer. The difference is that Chelsea were sensible with their purchases, buying the perfect players in Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, and the result is that they are flying.
The major mistake City made during Roberto Mancini’s reign was not rebuilding after winning the title, and one would think they may have learnt the lesson. On the evidence so far, they haven’t; and it would take a very brave man to back City to hilt for glory this season. Should they fall short, as seems likely, Pellegrini is likely to be the man held responsible.