By Shikharr Chandra
Manchester City have been ruthless this season. Scoring more than 100 goals in all competitions, they have shown their dominance over the rest. Be it a relegation threatened side in Fulham, who were beaten handsomely by the Sky Blues, or the title contenders in Arsenal who were thrashed 6-3 at the Etihad, City have dealt with them all.
One can look at the game against Manchester United as well in the midweek where David Moyes decided to surprise his opposite number by altering his tactics in order to stop their midfield, Manuel Pellegrini’s team hardly broke a sweat as his players did the damage in less than a minute.
David Silva’s intelligent movement that allowed City to score first and the whole idea of Moyes looking to stop City's midfield was eroded inside the first ten minutes and that’s when the Scot altered his formation in order to avoid further embarrassment.
The presence of Yaya Toure in midfield allows them to dominate and most of the times this season it has looked a mismatch both in terms of quality and size when the Ivorian has been pitted against an opposition midfielder.
The guile of David Silva and Samir Nasri allows them to bring fluidity and panache to their game whereas the presence of Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero allows them varied options in attack.
Over the last few years, Manchester City have been one of the favourites to lift the league. However they have failed to match the expectations. Yes, they did win the league back in 2012 in dramatic fashion beating Queens Park Rangers in the final day, but should they have really taken that long? Or last season when despite having the best squad and further investments to bolster their squad, they were handsomely beaten by Manchester United.
City tend to find a way to self destruct. If last season's blame was put on poor transfer dealings, their shaky defense has been their Achilles Heel this time around. In the absence of Matija Nastasic, Vincent Kompany doesn’t have an able partner as Martin Demicheles and Joleon Lescott are error prone.
|TOUGH AT THE TOP
Man City's april fixtures
|Apr 21||West Brom (H)|
||Crystal Palace (A)|
One thing though that the former Real Madrid manager Pellegrini has learnt from his predecessor's mistake was to bring a suitable partner for Toure in the midfield. Signed from Shakhtar Donetsk at the start of the season, Fernandinho has been one of the buys of the season. His presence has allowed Toure to move further in attack which has provided City with an extra body in attack and that has paid off handsomely for them.
Fernandinho might not be as strong as his partner, but his passing and ability to break up play has helped City's defense tremendously.
The plus point for City this season though, is that they are no longer dependent on their strikers for goals. Dzeko, Negredo and Aguero have scored 34 goals in the league this season, whereas the midfield of Navas, Silva, Toure, Fernandinho and Nasri have scored the exact same number. It has been an all round contribution and not an over reliance on just one specific player to pull the strings.What could be worrying for City though in the title run in is that they face two title challengers in Arsenal and Liverpool, away from home. Pellegrini's side do not boast a great away record in the league this season and a trip to Anfield will be a daunting task especially with the Reds closing in on their first ever Premier League title. They also have a trip to Everton in the final month of the season at the Goodison Park and it’s safe to say that Pellegrini's men have the toughest schedule of all title challengers. But this is where leagues are won and lost.
City showed grit and determination in their win over Hull earlier this month, when they were down to ten men after Kompany was sent off inside the first ten minutes of the game. It was arguably their best performance this season and one would think they need to look no further than that particular game for motivation for the remainder of the season.
With the Capital Cup already in the bag, the Premier League title will be expected of Manchester City especially considering the money that has gone into rebuilding this side as per the Chilean manager’s needs.
City though would feel embarrassed that they won’t be able to add to their list of titles this season especially after a humiliating defeat against Wigan in the FA Cup quarter finals, a tournament they were expected to win after all the big guns barring Arsenal were knocked out.
The Champions League run-in could be seen as a hard task for the former Malaga manager who did manage to surpass the achievements of Roberto Mancini by taking them past the group stages after which they were overwhelmed by a Lionel Messi led Barcelona side.
City have been dominant this season but at times their weaknesses have been exposed. The defeat to Chelsea at the Etihad further showed that how vulnerable City look when Yaya Toure is not allowed to play his natural game, whereas defensive lapses against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup once again highlighted their obvious weaknesses. If City want to maintain their tag as favourites for the title, it's time they put those errors behind them and focus.
The major advantage for City now is that their sole focus lies on the league whereas closest rivals Chelsea still have one eye on the illustrious Champions League crown. The defeat to Barcelona might just be a blessing in disguise for the Chilean.
Pellegrini's main job when he took over at Manchester City was to improve the side and win trophies. They have already won one title and a Premier League trophy will make the Chilean's first year a successful one. As for improvements, there have been many ranging from their improved style of play to the transfer dealings to their decent run in the Champions League.
As rivals Manchester United are facing a hard time under new manager David Moyes, life for the blue half of Manchester has never looked better. A new manager and a favourites tag for the Premier League title, it is now in City's hands to not let this major opportunity pass by them.