A home match against a team in the relegation zone who had lost three matches in a row. Sounds like a recipe for an easy three points for Manchester City, right? If you answered yes, you haven't been watching City over the last month, as they limped to a 1-1 draw and dropped more crucial points in the title race.
City once again dominated the ball, but failed to do anything meaningful with it against an inferior opponent, and needed a James Milner free kick in second half stoppage time just to salvage a point. So what did we learn from today's draw with Hull?
1. Teams have figured out how to defend City
It seems as if more and more teams are content to let City possess the ball for 70% of a match, and limit what they like to do by packing the box to cut out the crosses from City's players on the wings. Hull did just that today, letting City roll the ball around the outside of the penalty area all day long, then snuffing out crosses or taking the ball away when City tried to attack through the middle of the field.
While City were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when David Silva was taken down in the second half, and were even less lucky when a beautiful Sergio Aguero run resulted in a shot hitting a post, Hull followed the blueprint to frustrate City to the letter and deserve all the credit for doing so.
2. City fully lack finishing prowess
In Jay-Z's '99 Problems,' Jay-Z raps about someone trying to start an altercation with him. He describes his loud mouthed adversary with the following:
You know the type, loud as a motor bike, but wouldn't bust a grape in a fruit fight.
And while watching City's attack spin its wheels against a Hull side that has conceded 34 goals this season, I couldn't help but think that City's performance in the last month has been eerily similar to the subject of that Jay-Z line.
Sure, City have threatened and had a ton of the ball but, at the end of the day, it has resulted in nothing. Sergio Aguero hasn't scored since going off with an injury against Everton in early December. Edin Dzeko has looked too slow for long stretches of time. The crosses of Samir Nasri, David Silva, and Jesus Navas have been cut out by defenders far too often. While some of that can be attributed to teams doing a better job of defending them, City hold their fair share of the blame as well.
While City's attacking style looks menacing, and causes teams to retreat into a defensive shell, City haven't done well enough to do any damage. With Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony soon to be infused into the team, City will need to be more offensively efficient to bust some grapes in this fruit fight, so to speak.
3. Martin Demichelis may need to take a seat
During one passage of play in today's match, Martin Demichelis and Joe Hart seemed to be out of sync. The first play resulted in Hart not coming out to get a ball he should have, forcing Demichelis to pass back to him. The second resulted in Hart coming out to get a ball he couldn't get to, putting him out of position for Hull's goal.
Put simply, things like that can't happen between your center backs and goalkeeper if you want to win titles. City haven't kept a clean sheet since before Boxing Day. And with Mangala back from injury (and Nastasic possibly waiting in the wings after his loan spell), maybe it's time to try something new at the back before it's too late.