Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Man City: Contenders or Flip Floppers

Manchester City's 1-0 loss to Sunderland in round 11 of the premiership season, was not just the usual turning of the tables on a high profile team by one in relegation quagmire. It was more of an embarrassment for all connected with last season's runners up. It's the third of such kind, following earlier reversals to Cardiff and Aston Villa. Meaning of the four defeats suffered in the league, three have come from teams in the bottom half of the table.

If I were Sheikh Mansour, Manchester City owner, I'll be mad - really mad!! . Here we have one of the biggest spenders in the close season transfer window, investing in a £100 million worth of talent, humbled by a side whose transfer budget was one-tenth that of his Club.  I would be calling the director of football  Tixi Berguristan and chief executive Ferran Sorriano for an explanation. It was the machinations of the pair that led to the dismissal of ex manager, Roberto Mancini.

READ: Mancini takes the bait in City's smoke and mirrors

 It was interesting to read Jan Verthogen's recent comments ahead of Spurs' clash with Man City. The Belgian International spoke in that universal innuendo- of Man City being the strongest side in the league. That idea has been such a fallacy, I wonder if Verthogen is using it as flattery here, or he sees it as fact.

 Sorry, I am not sold on Man City's title chances. They have undoubtedly a galaxy of gifted players, but the core of the team is not as powerful as people may want to believe. Even after the £100 million investment on new players and a trainer, it's tentative at best, if these additions enhance Man City's core - It's what gives a team the calibre to be champions.

 Four defeats in the first eleven games by mid November: you' be hard pressed to find a side that won the premier league on that statistic. 

 New Manager, Chilean, Manuel Pellegrini is experienced enough to know from his Real Madrid flame-out, 3 years ago, that lofty goals, and hastily assembled super stars are not a guaranteed recipe for laurels. His championship credentials in Europe is not particularly attractive, and he needs time to get to grips with the nature of the Premier league, then weave a collection of stars into a proper fighting force to deal with the terrain in the real world of football matches. He asserts that "individual mistakes" rather than "tactical" matters are responsible for city's curious away form.

Here's the deal, their schizophrenic performances and results undermines their credibility to win any of the prizes commensurate with their billing. There are latent, as well as obvious causes to their flip-flop season so far: 

Try this for size: Man city do not have a reliable cover at centre back if especially Captain Vincent Kompany is unavailable. It's been a long standing issue, and the Club have been oblivious to it. Riches in attack, paupers in defence. That malaise is an indirect consequence on Joe Hart's recent unassured goalkeeping.

City have a habit ( or tactic ) of being pensive in their build up to an attack. There is a lack of crispness and quickness. I personally attribute that to Yaya Toure and David Silva who are the brains in attack. Yes, they scored seven against Norwich, and winger Navas has twinkle toes, but they lack that tactical incision, and lethal finishing to terrorise teams constantly. This has been carried over from last season.  Aguero has the potential, but does the pass arrive early?

The team also lacks  that street savvy, like Diego Simone has engendered at Atletico Madrid recently. Amid their opulence, there has been an under-investment in a player(s) of the defensive midfield genre. Nigel de Jong was effective at that in the title winning team. A position that Yaya Toure has to be encouraged to fill like he did in his Barcelona days, freeing up space for a more conventional attacking midfielder.

There is no doubt City will have their moments this season. They've shown that with their demolishing job of Newcatle, Man Utd, Everton, and the fact they are on the verge of qualifying for the champions league knock out stages, but I see their season as being one where there will be more questions than answers. 

The seeds of failure have been sown by frivolous expenditure and expectations. There is a need to coalesce, and solidify the core of the team. It's the hub on which championships are won. Dzeko, Aguero, Negredo, Jovetic: Multi million pound strikers, but the team badly need a rugged centre half. City are a  disparate, rather than homogenous outfit. Those banging on about their potential are misguided and exuberant.  Their means shall not be justified at the end of the season. Sheikh Mansour might well have paid expensively for a bunch of flip floppers, rather than title contenders.