It almost goes without saying, but last year’s champions are not in a good place.
After losing 2-1 to West Ham at the weekend, Manuel Pellegrini’s side went down again on Wednesday night; an insipid and uninspiring performance resulted in an emphatic 2-0 loss at the hands of Newcastle United.
Not exactly the form you’d want when you’re due to face your closest rivals in the league at the weekend.
In a previous article I’ve talked about the folly of City not recruiting appropriately following their triumph in May, but the loss at home to the Magpies indicated that this is a problem that runs even deeper.
My point was that if City were to remain ahead of the chasing pack, they needed to strengthen in the way that Chelsea have done; with Jose Mourinho’s side making certain that all Achilles Heels were healed with the purchase of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas. This point still remains. No side can afford to stand still in football.
This was brought home powerfully by the way in which Sir Alex Ferguson constantly built new sides at Old Trafford. The wily old Scot did not fall into the trap of constantly relying on the players who had previously brought him glory; he consistently evolved and adapted his side to meet the challenges of his competitors – and this approach brought him consistent success.
City failed to do this following their title triumph in 2012; refusing to make the necessary investments required to stay ahead of the game, and they paid for it. And yet they haven’t learnt their lesson, failing to strengthen again in the summer just gone after fortuitously winning the league.
The trouble is, now that the confidence has gone, the issues are much deeper than ones that can be solved by recruiting a handful of new players. Regardless of last summer’s recruitment, City should have beaten Newcastle. They should have beaten West Ham.
The fact that they haven’t indicates that all is not well at Manchester City. The reality is that Manuel Pellegrini must take responsibility for this.
One of the biggest problems at the Etihad appears to be the Chilean’s decision to continually deploy a 4-4-2 formation. You might question this statement; after all, it worked well last season, but the key difference is that Yaya Toure is not currently at the level of last season. This lack of midfield presence is leaving City very exposed.
Pellegrini has a decision to make ahead of Sunday’s fixture with Man Utd. Should he stick with the same team that has brought him two losses on the bounce, or should he switch things up and come up with a newer, more robust system?
Given the preeminence that City have enjoyed over their rivals in the last year, nothing but a positive result will be accepted on Sunday. A loss at the hands of Louis van Gaal’s side will make it clear that the Citizens are going backwards, and heap more pressure on the Chilean and his charges.