As the season draws to a close, many things are yet to be decided, but the winner of the title looks to be all but certain after Chelsea beat Man Utd last weekend in one of the EPL’s most crucial fixtures. A lot of things have gone the way of the Blues since Christmas, perhaps most notable amongst them is the drop off in form of their biggest rivals, Manchester City.
After New Year’s Day, City and Chelsea were tied at the top of the table on points, goal difference, and goals scored. The lighter blues have won just five games in the fourteen since, a run that is likely to see Manuel Pellegrini lose his job, but where has it all gone wrong for the defending champions?
If you ask most Man City fans, they would cite the negative tactics of the Chilean as the primary reason for their team’s decline in 2015, and that bears out. When assessing their recent away defeats to Crystal Palace and Burnley, as well a home draw against Hull in which James Milner scored an injury time equaliser, Pellegrini set his team up with two holding midfielders.
Between Fernandinho, James Milner, and Yaya Toure, not enough chances are being created, with the latter’s form particularly drawing the ire of City fans. Toure, the star man at Eastlands for the past couple of campaigns, has not performed to the high expectations this season, and his chance creation drop off is just one aspect of the Ivorian’s decline, who has registered just one assist this season, as opposed to his nine in 2013-14.
Moreover, Milner’s key pass tally has cratered since a good run of form early on, and his problems are symptomatic of the team’s woe. With these problems stemming from Pellegrini’s tactical issues, it is no wonder he doesn’t appear to change game to game. Given City’s firepower, they should rarely come a cropper against opposition that a staving off relegation, yet their aforementioned dropped points against Burnley and Hull come down mainly to conservative play thanks to a defensive set-up.
Their decline in attacking play is shown up in no stronger manner than in the goals column, that currently stands at 67, whereas they stood at 88 this time last season. The two time Premier League winners finished the 2013/14 campaign with 102 goals, but with only five games left until the end of this season, they look sure to fall short of even 75% of that tally.
Of course, the defensive tactics can’t be wholly to blame, especially given Sergio Aguero’s injury around Christmas, a crucial time of the season for any team with realistic aspirations of a league title. The Argentine striker heads the race for the Golden Boot with Harry Kane, yet his accuracy in front of goal is down this year as compared to other seasons, hitting the target with just 53% of his efforts. Of course, netting 20 goals is a sign of his composure and talents, yet his shot accuracy rating could definitely be improved, given Kane’s 61% and Diego Costa’s 60%.
Away from their offensive issues, City’s summer signings leave a lot to be desired. Elaquim Mangala has regularly failed to live up to the standards required to fit into a regular spot in the line-up, whilst Fernando has started his career in Manchester well, but is yet to set the world alight. Given that City have the spending power they have, it is a surprise that they are not securing signings that can give a more immediate impact, and even when such transfers are made, like that of Wilfried Bony, the player isn’t given a run in the team.
After a season of glory, Man City have faltered throughout the latter half of this campaign, and have paid the price given that they will not be lifting the Premier League trophy for a third time next month. Will next season herald a new start? Only time will tell.