When February began, Manchester City were flying high. Coming off a 5-1 thrashing of Tottenham at White Hart Lane, the Blues sat atop the Barclays Premier League table and some pundits were predicting that City was close to running away with the title.
However, things abruptly changed on February 3rd when Manuel Pellegrini’s side was beaten at home by Chelsea 1-0. Despite some positive moments including beating Jose Mourinho’s side in a FA Cup clash and lifting the League Cup at Wembley, it can be argued that the Citizens have still not recovered fully from that defeat.
Including that February 3rd match, the Blues has scored one goal or less in five of the last seven matches in all competitions. This is a far cry from the side that was so mouthwatering going forward for many months that they appeared poised to break many of the English top-flight’s goal scoring records.
Realistically it would have been nearly impossible for the side to continue playing as well as they did in December and January. However, other factors have impacted the play of the team. Fernandinho’s injury and then his absence based on squad selection in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Wigan Athletic have been painfully apparent.
We knew when he was signed that Fernandinho was an adept passer from a deep-lying midfield spot and had the athleticism and pace to get forward and join the attack when needed. But the player has also been the key cover for defensive breakdowns and the player who keeps the shape in the middle of the pitch. Without him in the side, the Blues are rudderless.
Manchester City have also recently endured injuries to Sergio Aguero, Stevan Jovetic and Samir Nasri. Still these injuries have been less critical than Fernandinho’s in overall trajectory of the side. Jesus Navas’ work rate continues to be decent on the flank but his final product is becoming woefully reminiscent of Adam Johnson and Shaun Wright-Phillips towards the end of their City careers. Alvaro Negredo, whose contribution to link-up play and goal scoring was invaluable during City’s best spells this season, seems to have worn down completely as time has gone on. This is unfortunate, but Negredo had to carry the burden of the club’s attack for months as players he paired with were consistently getting injured. This seems to have taken a toll on the Spaniard’s game and match-fitness.
The lack of playing time for Englishman James Milner is galling to many Blues supporters. No player applies himself more and is as versatile as the Leeds-born player. Yet his chances have become so limited of late that his World Cup spot on Roy Hodgson’s side is now reportedly in jeopardy.