This weekend featured a title dust-up that promised to shake things up in the title race, either with a new league leader or solidifying who was in charge. What nobody expected to happen was former league favorites, Manchester City, falling even farther behind. With the most expensive team in the league and everybody struggling so much this season, you would expect them to be at the top, if not running away with the league. Unfortunately for Manchester City, they’ve been woefully inconsistent and now sit in 4th, four points off 3rd and six points behind Leicester City. What is going on in Manchester?
First, we have to discuss the Catalan elephant in the room. With the confirmation of Pep Guardiola taking over the manager’s position after this season, this season is left feeling a bit transitional. Think about it, there’s a reason why you generally don’t announce a manager change in the middle of a season unless it’s taking immediate effect. Since the rumors surrounding Guardiola and Pellegrini’s futures became concrete, Manchester City’s Premier League form has been a poor 18 out of a possible 36. That’s 1.5 points per game, which is midtable form.
The media frenzy surrounding who would be leading the club clearly was getting in the way of things. No matter how admirably Pellegrini may have struggled to reign things in, he was fighting a losing battle.
First, why should the players listen too much to him? There’s a new man in charge next season, so there is no reason to invest too much time learning this system since it will change next season. After that, we also have the players that might feel that don’t have a future with the club. Players like Yaya Toure, who has been shipped out by Guardiola before, have little reason for concern given there’s a chance they’ll be replaced in the summer.
This doesn’t even take into account the players that sit in positions that will be taken by the players Guardiola seems certain to try to bring into the club. This uncertainty has definitely been weighing down on the minds of the players. Again, this is why you don’t announce a manager change midseason unless it’s happening immediately. You don’t want to create a lame duck manager (which isn’t fair to Pellegrini, who has always been a classy manager).
Another factor that can’t be overlooked is the effect that losing Vincent Kompany to injury for so long has had. Manchester City has spent the about the average GDP of a small country on defenders since bringing Kompany in. All the same, they have yet to find somebody to properly partner or replace him. He is a talisman and a rock in defense. Just look at the comparable stats from when he’s in and when he’s hurt.
The difference is staggering. If Kompany had stayed healthy, they would probably be leading the Premier League, or at least have the best defense in the league. This weekend’s match again Spurs was the first loss that Manchester City have had with Kompany in the lineup, and that was after a lengthy injury layover.
Finally, one of the most overlooked issues for Manchester City this season is that they always hit a slump midseason. Seriously, go back and look. Manchester City almost always hit a patch of bad form in the winter months. Whether this is down to the fixture congestion, the impact of losing players due to the Africa Cup of Nations every other year, injuries stacking up, or some player enjoying the holiday Season a bit too much, is unknown. There is probably a ton of factors that cause this, but an article similar to this almost always is written around this time of year for Manchester City.
While this season’s slump in form many be worse than usual, they rarely fall out of the Top 3, we should expect them to turn it around. They just need to wake up from their winter hibernation. At least, they better hope that’s what happens. This team is too talented to continue looking as flat as they have in the last few weeks. Especially if they don’t want to be replaced in the summer by Guardiola.