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Five Thoughts: Manchester City 1-2 CSKA Moscow

So much went so very wrong. But what in blue moon is wrong?

Laurence Griffiths

Thought the First: Players playing badly

Let's start with Mr. Controversy himself, #42. In an otherwise fine match, he made two awful mistakes which is kind of like the old joke which ends with the line, "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?" Yaya Toure didn't mark Doumbia in the 2nd minute and he inexplicably and stupidly picked up a straight read to put City two men down. He's been consistently inconsistent all season and he's hardly alone. The entire team hasn't been executing at nearly the same level as they did last season. Think of the players who are playing well: Silva, who's hurt; Aguero, who can't buy a call; Milner, who's a nice piece of the puzzle but not a guy who'll win you a title (though you need a guy like him, if that makes sense) and Kompany and Hart. That's it, right? Everyone else is struggling. It does not help that exactly none of the new signings over the last two season is contributing all that much:

  • Fernandinho--so good last season, mediocre this season.
  • Jovetic--has yet to gel and he's healthy now so that's disconcerting.
  • Jesus Navas--gets an A for effort but might be our most limited player--no strength, no finishing, can't play anywhere other than the right side... he's fast and he can cross and that appears to be it (not much of a dribbler).
  • Negredo--is gone and, man, do we miss those chips over the top.
  • Fernando--uneven in the extreme.
  • Mangala--Can't be trusted right now.
  • Caballero--will always be behind Joe Hart, not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • Lampard--played well before getting hurt. That happens to 36-year old athletes.

One is tempted to blame the abhorrently named FFP for saddling City financially. One could argue that we could have had better players than the above group if the powers that run the sport hadn't made yet another awful decision and created a system designed to keep the traditional big powers big. But even without opening that can of worms (and let's not), City has the talent to do better than they are currently doing. It may just be the players are playing badly. Or it may be the directions their getting.

Thought the Second: Manager managing badly

A Manuel Pellegrini team has never failed to make it out of group play in the Champions League. Barring a Lazarus-like resurgence, he's going to endure a new experience. It can be argued that he'll fail to make for the very first time in spite of managing more talent than he has ever enjoyed in his managerial life. Tactically, he's taking a beating online and elsewhere: Bayern and Roma dominated City in the midfield by sheer force of numbers. He's curiously enamored with Navas (hell, so was I but I got over it) and Jovetic. He'll play the 4-4-2 when he's ahead, when he's behind, or against any formation any opponent comes up with. These are just a few of the criticisms hurled his way and those critiques intensified ten-fold after the ref blew the final whistle yesterday. For the first time, his job appears to be in real jeopardy. I'll leave it to better tactical minds than myself (like Zac, Sonics, Danny, kmoney and damn near every commenter I have) to analyze Pelle's decisions. What is clear is that the team is not playing anywhere near its best football, hasn't for quite some time and Pellegrini has to take some responsibility for that.

Thought the Third: The Damn Refs

The refs can also take some responsibility. Let's say CSKA doesn't get that ridiculous gift of a PK late in the second half last Tuesday. Let's say City gets two of the PK's against the rags or we get the PK calls yesterday against CSKA (I won't miss that team, I swear). I could go on. City fans are actually pretty sane when it comes to the refs but every fan base has their limits and I've about reached mine. Every City match is evidence of yet another outrage from the men with the whistles. It's very possible that City's record would be better-and it certainly would be in the CL-if the refs just had the sense that the good lord give most rabbits. In short, we've been getting screwed by the refs and one would hope that evens out. Maybe we'll get lucky. Speaking of which...

Thought the Fourth: Bad Luck

We are having a hard time scoring goals, especially in open play (just two in the last nine halves of football). But watching the replays, we seem to be getting chances; it's just the ball is not finding the back of the net. It's possible the luck will change-we'll get some PK calls we should have been getting (sorry to harp on that one but, man, those are frustrating), the relatively good looks we're getting will result in goals rather than great saves, shots just off the mark or misfires. A few of the smartest and most experienced City fans I know truly believe that City's best football is ahead of them, not least because the luck they've been suffering through is bound to change.

Thought the Fifth: Poll: So what is wrong?

You tell me. Seriously, let me know because I'm at a loss.