After winning the Barclays Premier League for the first time in 2013 in the most dramatic of climaxes to a Premier League season. Manchester City put up a woeful defence of their title the following 2013/14 season, such poor performances and reported player unrest resulted in Roberto Mancini being relieved of his duties. Many City fans were disappointed to see Mancini sacked, Manuel Pellegrini was brought in to replace the former Italian. Pellegrini joined Manchester City with pedigree and an eye catching résumé. Pellegrini was reportedly brought in to improve City’s European record and help the Citizens grow into one of the European powerhouses, both on and off the pitch. After clinching the title in his first season, not quite in the same theatrical fashion as his predecessor, Pellegrini seems to suffering from second season syndrome. After winning the double in his first season of English football, the Chilean would have expected to kick on this season and continue to improve City’s ever growing stature. City have been eliminated from both domestic cups, the odds are stacked against City ahead of their second leg away to Barcelona in the Champions League. Pellegrini’s side are also trailing Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea by 5 points having played a game more. Back to back defeats against Liverpool and Barcelona have raised question marks over Pellegrini’s tactical naivety when the big matches arise. In order for this current crop of Manchester City players to go down as a formidable team and progress to the next level then many believe that Pellegrini’s team have to win the Barclays Premier League trophy back to back. Only Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho can boast winning the Premier League back to back, an elite list for Pellegrini to join but can he rally his troops and motivate them for a late assault on their trophy. Pellegrini was given a target of 5 trophies in 5 years, after claiming two in his first season it would be extremely harsh if Pellgerini was dismissed by the Manchester City hierarchy. However football is all about progress and if the board members at City believe that Pellegrini can no longer utilise and excel with the squad he has then the Chilean may face the axe.
Here are some factors that have played a pivotal role in City falling off the pace this year:
Form whilst Yaya Toure was at African Cup of Nations
Manchester City went four league games without a win before ending their barren spell against Stoke, City’s poor form coincided with Yaya Toure being away at the African Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast. City were also knocked out of the FA Cup at home to Championship Middlesbrough whilst Yaya was away. Toure’s physical presence and attacking prowess from deep was sorely missed, Brazilian pair Fernando and Fernandinho proved ineffective as a pair and indicated how much City rely on Toure in the centre of the park. The worry for City is a club with their resources should not have missed one man so much in the first place. There were question marks about Toure’s performance levels and commitment to the cause earlier on in the season however such murmurings seem a distant past. It’s evidently clear that opposing teams see a weakness in City’s team when Yaya Toure isn’t present. Toure turns 32 this May and the worry for City is how they go about replacing a man that has such a unique skill set. The likes of Paul Pogba and Ross Barkley have been touted as potential heirs to Yaya’s thrown.
Ageing squad which will need addressing
In terms of average age of starting XIs in the Premier League this season, Manchester City possess the oldest at nearly 29 years of age. City’s spine and key men are exactly the same as what they were when they first lifted the Premier League title back in 2013. However the form of City’s key men has started to waver and there is growing concern that an ageing squad is going to require major surgery over the coming transfer windows. Since returning to Chelsea for his second tenure, Mourinho has let go iconic figures such as Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard in order to rebuild for the future. Chelsea’s transfer business has been very shrewd in recent years, having some of the brightest talent in world football coming through the ranks and selling intelligently to ensure that they comply with the Financial Fair play regulations. Due to Financial Fair Play (FFP) City will have to gradually revamp the squad, much has been made about the ever growing facilities at Manchester City but it’s clear that a potentially ageing crop of players are crying out for an injection of youth and exuberance.
Form of Vincent Kompany
The form of club captain Vincent Kompany will be a growing concern for Manchester City fans, it was only this time last year that many labelled Kompany as the most coveted defender in European Football. However in recent weeks it has become more and more apparent that Kompany is lacking self-belief and consequently his form is suffering as a result. Kompany has suffered from multiple lower muscle injuries during his time at Manchester City. Kompany’s strengths have been his ability to outmuscle robust forwards and his tremendous recovery speed. In recent weeks Kompany has made rash decisions and it has become evidently clear that he is becoming overzealous when becoming involved in a physical battle. Pellegrini will hope that Kompany’s dip in form is only temporary. The Belgian captain turns 29 this forthcoming April and if Kompany’s slump continues and his injury concerns continue to haunt him then Manchester City will have to come to a decision. Will Kompany be regarded as past his peak and therefore surplus to requirements or can the influential captain get back to the dizzy heights he once consistently set?
Injuries to Sergio Aguero
A fit and firing Sergio Aguero is arguably one of the most fearsome sights in world football for opposing defences. Aguero clearly wasn’t fit at the World Cup and that hangover in fitness levels seemed to carry over into the start of the new Premier League season. When Aguero hit his stride he was terrorizing defenders all over the globe, Aguero single handily revitalised City’s Champions League qualification hopes with a scintillating hat trick against German giants Bayern Munich. With Aguero tormenting defences week in week out and City seemingly going toe to toe with Chelsea for the League title, the injury jinx hit Aguero once again as he picked up a knee ligament injury in December. Aguero was out of action for a month and it’s been evidently clear that when Aguero has returned from injury it takes him a substantial period of time to get back to his sensational best. Due to Aguero’s strengths being his explosive pace and power it seems that when Aguero returns from injury he is initially apprehensive due to his previous muscular injuries and takes numerous games to build up his confidence. There is no doubting that if Aguero was able to go through an entire season unscathed then he would dominate the scoring charts quite comfortably. With the business end of the season in full flow and the odds stacked against City reclaiming the title they can ill afford any more injuries to their talismanic Argentine.
Poor Transfer Business
Due to the implications of breaking the Financial Fair Play rules City were unable to flex their muscles in the summer transfer window. After winning the Premier League title for a second time last year many expected City to bring household names to the Ethiad in the summer. City’s signings in recent years have improved the squad but not necessarily the first team. Chelsea on the other hand completed their business early and signed world class talent for value, the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and Filipe Luis were all brought to Stamford Bridge. Eliaquim Mangala was City’s biggest summer signing for a fee of £32m, Mangala has had to endure a frustrating start to his Manchester City career. Chelsea’s galactico signings by contrast have hit the ground running and seemed to have provided Mourinho the final touches to his classy jigsaw. City have been heavily reliant on their core players for numerous years now (Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Toure, Silva and Aguero) City have made 18 signings at a total cost of almost £230m since winning the title for the first time , but not a single one has made a significant difference to their strongest XI. The pressure on City’s star men to perform is growing due to the lack of quality being brought in to bolster the team. The forthcoming summer transfer window presents an opportunity for City’s hierarchy to make a statement and revamp an ageing squad with world class talent.