Just under two weeks ago, before the return leg in the Champions League and the fixture against Norwich City, I had written that Manchester City could certainly still win the title. I outlined exactly how the blues could do that, based mostly on having the Capital One Cup victory as a springboard to better play and better results. Yes, it would also require a little loss of form from the leaders, Leicester and, to a lesser extend Spurs and the Gunners, but as a City fan you have to expect the unexpected.
Three games later, in all competitions, and it is the twice Premier League Champions who face a fight for fourth, never mind a title shot. City struggled to score at Norwich and, despite having more possession and attempts on goal, it was the Canaries who had the better chance of a goal late on. Next up was Kiev, and yes we didn't need to score, but then why play our two better central defenders when we knew the Manchester derby was coming up? Hindsight is a wonderful thing but did Pellegrini really not trust two of his signings, Demichelis and Mangala, to be able to handle the pressure of the Dynamo front line? The injuries picked up by Nico Otamendi and captain Vincent Kompany in that game meant the two not trusted to play against Dynamo were then forced to face Manchester United.
Demichelis, in particular, will be pinpointed as the weakest link in that City defense and that was highlighted with the goal. Worse was to come though and I think the Argentinian defender was lucky to not have conceded a penalty at the end of the first half. Watching the game the most frustrating thing for me was the fact a ball out from Joe Hart would be held onto by Demichelis until he felt pressure from the opposition before passing back to Hart, who would launch it up field. What happened to us being able to play out from the back? It was a particularly lazy ball back to Hart which required the English stopper to rush out and clear, causing him to get injured, and probably be out a month or so.
Blame runs deeper than just Martin though. Manchester City had twenty six shots today, with only three actually being on target. Meanwhile Manchester United had a fifth of those shots and got 80% on target, converting one. So three games without a goal, Kompany, Otamendi, Sterling and Joe Hart injured. We might have Otamendi back for the PSG game, but the other three are looking doubtful so is the blame firmly at Pellegrini's door?
Tactically he makes me wonder if he knows what he is doing and, taking the United game as an example, City were being dominated in the midfield early on. I could see that, the fans could see that and yet, it was only an injury to Raheem Sterling which made him address the situation. Obviously Willy has to come on for Joe but why on earth, with just under 40 minutes left to play do you bring on Bony for Demichelis? Yes Martin should have gone off, and I have no problem with a defensive midfield player slipping back into the back four, but why Wilfried Bony and not Iheanacho? One cost us $40 million and is less than convincing up front while the other is young and full of confidence.
I am sure Pellegrini put all his eggs in the Champions League basket, and I understand why. It is a big competition and the one the ownership eye above everything else, but thanks to the unwillingness to strengthen in the transfer windows, and inability to rotate a squad, you'd have to say our European journey will probably end with PSG. I highly doubt Mangala and Demichelis could handle Zlatan and Cavani when they struggled today. Meanwhile you look at Bayern midweek with the side two goals down, on the sidelines you see passion from the manager and substitutions which make sense.