Manchester City will go into their fierce derby against city rivals Manchester United on Sunday on the back of some bad form, after their League Cup exit to Newcastle, Premier League defeat to West Ham and a mediocre Champions League draw against CSKA Moscow. But why has this dip in form caused so much chaos?
When Newcastle deservedly achieved something that they had yet to achieve at the Etihad Stadium ever before, securing victory and progress in the League Cup, newspapers and sports websites seemed to collapse over City’s dip in form. It is highly understandable that the media picks up on top teams when they begin to suffer a poor run of form, but the reaction to City’s last few games has been largely exaggerated, similarly to that of their rivals United over the past 12 months, which typifies just how much of an impact the media can have over the sporting world.
But one thing is for sure, there is no current issue at the Etihad.
League Cup holders City failed to defend their trophy after falling to a surprising 2-0 defeat against a solid Magpies side, as Alan Pardew seemed to have revamped his squad after, it appeared, he was destined for the ‘manager’s axe’. Looking back, the Toon Army’s 2-2 draw with North-East rivals Hull City back in September signalled the beginning of a positive run, after winning four of their last six in all competitions.
Last weekend saw City fall 2-1 to current high-flyers West Ham United, who up until mid-August had managerial issues of their own, but under-fire boss Sam Allardyce has recently claimed this current Hammers side is ‘the best he’s ever managed’, and they currently sit in fourth place in the Premier League table.
The Blues also continued their annual poor form in the Champions League, as they let a 2-0 lead slip, as CSKA Moscow claimed a vital point. These three results have initiated a heap full of unfair criticism on City manager Manuel pellegrini, who lead the Manchester side to a Premier League and League Cup double last term. But if anyone is to blame, does it lay on the players’ doorstep, rather than the managers?
I will point out that if there is a preferable time to suffer bad form, then it is now, rather than in March or April when the title race flames rise highest.
Rodney Marsh, who played 118 league games for City, scoring 36 goals, has expressed a belief that Pellegrini will face the sack if he fails to retain the Premier League crown or make the Champions League final this season.
He said, “If Pellegrini carries on like this, and Man City don’t win the league or get to the final at least of the Champions League, which is looking dodgy as well, I think Pellegrini is sacked. He could go earlier.”
An unofficial online poll asked readers whether they thought this would be the Chilean’s last season at the Etihad; 65% said yes.
Long way to go
There is no bigger platform to hush the critics than the Manchester derby, which for the first time in decades sees neither team as favourites to clinch the Premier League title, with Chelsea being odds-on to take the crown back to London.
Both teams will be desperate to get a victory, with City looking to sweep away their slight dip and Manchester United looking to win their first Manchester derby since December 2012. United will be looking to impress after a torrid year at Old Trafford.
The Blues, who will be without the injured David Silva, who is reportedly out for three weeks, face CSKA Moscow at the Etihad on Wednesday, and have the perfect opportunity to gain their first three points in this year’s Champions League – a victory they desperately need in order to keep up with favourites Bayern Munich and AS Roma.
Recently, City’s squad have been unable to avoid ruthless criticism. Players such as Yaya Toure, Fernandinho and new signing Eliaquim Mangala have all been faced with negative assessments concerning under-performance. There’s no question the two former players in particular have not been at their best, but when you subtract Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart, are the rest of the squad, who aren’t as highly rated, evading judgement through scapegoats like Toure and Fernandinho?
The Blues are yet to really get out of the blocks as we enter November, but prior to their dip, a convincing 4-1 victory over Tottenham proved that the free-scoring City are still present, even if Aguero grabbed all four goals.
If City lose to United on Sunday in front of an expectant home crowd, and, or, fail to win against CSKA Moscow, then critique of the Blues’ form is to be expected, but right now it feels too early to question whether City can retain their crown, win a cup, or even whether Pellegrini will be at the helm next summer.
Do you feel that the recent criticism of Manchester City is deserved? Leave a comment below.