Over the last month or so a noticeable change has become patently obvious when watching Manchester City play. Ever since their unfortunate defeat to Chelsea, where by all accounts they were terrific in the first half of that game, City to my mind have begun to play with fear, which in turn has culminated in their worst run of the season thus far. Their results have not been the form of champions, losing away to a Sunderland side still finding its feet under O’Neill was bad enough, but to only manage a scoreless draw with WBA, who have been leaking goals all season, must be a major concern to City supporters. While the other challengers have also slipped up during this period, for the squad available to City for these games, these slipups should simply not have happened.
Who’s to blame? For my money Mancini must take a large portion of culpability for their poor run of form. His changes to personnel for the Sunderland game defied logic, and some of his actions on the side-lines over recent games have left a sour taste. His attempts to get opposition players sent off have certainly painted a disturbing picture of the man’s understanding of British football. Confronting Steven Gerrard in the tunnel after their defeat to Liverpool, only serves to reemphasise the point that Mancini appears rattled. His demeanour over the last month, cries out of a man beginning to feel the heat. For any manager hoping to inspire and control his players this is certainly not the approach one would envision being the key ingredient to a forthcoming title success. While unquestionably still in the driving seat, City need to reassert the dominance they displayed with ease earlier on in the campaign, if they are to realise their aim of lifting the premier league trophy in May.
However, Mancini alone isn’t responsible for their dip in form, what of the players? Nasri a player touted as ‘’world class’’ prior to the campaign, has proved to be the flop of the season and has failed to illustrate his prowess he was bought to display. In my opinion his only motivation is money; he should take a leave out of Silva’s book and begin to work for the team. Their midfield has been an obvious disappointment since the departure of Toure to the African Cup of Nations. Barry has failed to show the leadership he should be brandishing for a player of his experience, while De Jong has been an embarrassment who incidentally was fortunate to stay on the pitch against Wigan. City need more players to show the desire and fight that only five or six of the current team seem to be displaying. What has happened to Dzeko? While he may have scored against Wigan, his overall play was atrocious and how he still warrants a place in the side still baffles me today.
To be champions you have to possess the belief and conviction, to play your football in the right manner. For so long this season City appeared to be the team that was ticking these boxes. To an extent they still do, however if they continue to perform as they have done recently, than United (even with a 37 and 38 year old), or Spurs will catch and overtake them. City need to show the qualities of a champion they profess so boldly to have, until then the theory that they are feeling the pressure will continue to grow and grow.