Pressure off as City strive to fight back in title battle

Posted by David Mooney

Man CityGettyImagesManuel Pellegrini has seen his Manchester City side slip from favourites to title outsiders.

Manchester City hosting a relegation-threatened side at the Etihad and looking to bounce back after a result that may have had serious consequences in the title race -- there’s a sense of déjà vu ahead of Monday's fixture against West Brom, wouldn’t you say?

With the dust settled on disappointing results against Liverpool and Sunderland, the reality is that the Blues are unlikely to win the Premier League title. I’ve not really done the situation justice there, given they need favours on two clubs: Even if both Liverpool and Chelsea drop points when they play each other by the fixture finishing in a draw, City still would need another helping hand in one of their three other remaining matches of the season and to win all of their five. Continue Reading...

City's stellar season now feels underwhelming

Posted by Simon Curtis

Toure_Yaya 140411 [576x324] - CurtisAllsportGoals were easy to come by mid-season for Yaya Toure and his Man City teammates.

Manchester City, deep into Phase 3 of a strangely serpentine season, must now hope that there might just be an obtuse, jarring, exhilarating and extremely short Phase 4 before the season’s curtain drops on us all in less than a month’s time.

Phase 1 traversed under the glaring light of August’s flashbulbs, with a new regime in place and new recruits gently stretching their hamstrings for the slog ahead. It turned quickly into a festival of high-profile mistakes that allowed the great and good of the press to lampoon Manuel Pellegrini as a Chilean never-has-been, lost little Fernandinho as a complete waste of funds and pre-beast Alvaro Negredo as a poor second option to Tottenham’s stunning capture of Valenican goal-god Roberto Soldado. Continue Reading...

Time for Pellegrini to face the music

Posted by Simon Curtis

Manuel Pellegrini failed to find an answer to Sunderland's late surge.GettyImagesManuel Pellegrini failed to find an answer to Sunderland's late surge.

As Manchester City’s mentally tired players stumbled to a desperate, season-defining draw at home to basement dwellers Sunderland, manager Manuel Pellegrini wore the expression of an old lady being introduced to the Internet after 35 years of studious knitting and cake-making. That slightly empty look of puzzlement gripped the Chilean’s wizened features as, not for the first time this season, his City players had few answers to the basic questions a poor but willing Sunderland side had posed. Continue Reading...

City doing a good job of losing the league

Posted by David Mooney

It's the type of week that happens all too often on your average Football Manager season; a tough fixture followed by a potential banana-skin tie the following mid-week, all as part of a tight title run in -- and an error from a usually reliable player, followed by a poor team performance messes it all up. How Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini must wish he could quit without saving right now and have a second crack at the games with Liverpool and Sunderland.

- Report: Manchester City 2-2 Sunderland

Two swings of two boots look to have left the Blues with very little chance of winning the league -- indeed, if they do go on to clinch the title from this position, it will surely have to go down as mistakes from their rivals rather than good play of their own. Continue Reading...

Sunderland must fear history repeating itself

Posted by Simon Curtis

Approaching the end of a season with a game affecting the possible relegation of Sunderland will remind many of the tumultuous struggle enacted at Maine Road on May 11, 1991. This was the penultimate season before the onset of the all-dancing, all-prancing Premier League and it seemed awfully bad timing to be leaving the top division at such a moment. History tells us it was much more serious than that.

City fans themselves were -- and indeed still are -- deeply uncomfortable with the thought of end-of-season games that everything hinges upon; having watched in awestruck stupefaction as Luton, Gillingham, Liverpool, Blackburn, Charlton, West Ham, Bradford and QPR stamped themselves into the collective psyche as last-day matches carrying varying degrees of horror and relief. Continue Reading...

Echoes of City's title-winning season? Not quite.

Posted by David Mooney

Manchester CityGettyImagesJoe Hart shows his relief after David Silva's goal, but Manchester City could not halt Liverpool's charge on Sunday.

The dust has settled on a largely disappointing trip to Anfield for Manuel Pellegrini and his Manchester City side, and in the cold light of day, things aren’t looking as rosy as many Blues fans would have hoped this time last week. The possibility remains now that even if City win all of their remaining fixtures that might not be enough to take their second-ever Premier League title.

Though, should that happen, it would mean Liverpool have won a record 14 Premier League games in a row and in that instance, City fans would probably just have to hold their hands up and say that a 42-point haul in the final four months of the season is deserving of victory. Continue Reading...

Pivotal moments in title race

Posted by Simon Curtis

There are many moments that occur in a football match, and over the course of a season, that can be described as pivotal, so to single out Vincent Kompany's awful attempted defensive clearance in the 78th minute of a bona fide Anfield classic might be cruel.

Indeed, one could be persuaded to say that this match had several pivotal moments, starting with the arrival of a team sheet lacking the original metronome James Milner -- who would later show that this was a match made for him by taking the game by the scruff of the neck and making serious inroads down an ineffective right side in the second half -- and instead announcing the featherweight Jesus Navas. Continue Reading...

In the history books: City and Liverpool's rivalry

Posted by Simon Curtis

Manuel PellegriniGettyImagesManuel Pellegrini and Brendan Rodgers will go head to head again this Sunday.

Manchester City’s exploits in recent years contrast vividly with Liverpool’s modern-day fall from grace. Heading back a generation, however, there was a time when both clubs were struggling to come to terms with the prospective dawn of the Premier League age.

The 1991-92 season found City under Peter Reid, and a swift departure from the blocks had the Blues top of the table after three games. For those with short memories or those who happen to be newcomers to the windswept poem that is Manchester City FC, the Blues used to specialise in strong starts before fading away at Christmas and embroiling themselves in relegation fights in the spring sunshine. Continue Reading...

Defence closing deals for high-scoring Man City

Posted by David Mooney

Kompany_Vincent Man CityAllsportVincent Kompany and the Man City defence are closing deals for Pellegrini's high-powered offence.

When Roberto Mancini replaced Mark Hughes as Manchester City manager in December 2009, one of the biggest influences he had on the team was to immediately secure the defence. Hughes took charge of 17 Premier League fixtures that season and the team managed to keep just four clean sheets -- when the Italian replaced him, they’d matched that number of shut-outs by his seventh game. He built from the back and his defence was always solid in the years his City side progressed, deteriorating only in his final season -- when the team’s performance deteriorated, too. Continue Reading...

Liverpool and Manchester: It's personal

Posted by Simon Curtis

Vincent KompanyGettyImagesVincent Kompany celebrates after opening the scoring against Liverpool last December.

Liverpool-Manchester dynamics are special things. In the good old days (let’s call them the 1980s), the relationship between Manchester and Merseyside was one borne of social strife and a feeling of growing inequality, growing hopelessness and growing restlessness. While both of these great northern cities had fallen on grim times -- eased down the chute by Margaret Thatcher’s simplistic governmental rules of dividing the haves and have-nots by drawing a straight line across the map at Watford Junction -- in a footballing sense, there was much more to it than that. Continue Reading...

Stand and deliver

Posted by David Mooney

Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty ImagesMan City fans can carry their team toward the finish line.

There is one aspect of football that I will never understand -- and it was something that was prevalent in Manchester City’s 4-1 home win over Southampton on Saturday at lunchtime. Why, having paid a large amount of money for admission at a time when ticket prices are regularly in the news for their rising costs, would fans choose to leave the stadium early?

There are always some fans who have genuine reasons to leave before the referee calls time on a match, and that is understandable, but there are those who habitually leave each week before the final whistle to beat the traffic, or because the game is over, or because City haven’t been playing too well and don’t look like scoring. Continue Reading...

The curious case of Alvaro Negredo: The Beast that became a lamb

Posted by Simon Curtis

Alvaro Negredo kiss celeb third hat trick City v West HamPA PhotosAlvaro Negredo has recently struggled to find the back of the net for Manchester City.

It may be a little impertinent to ask in this 2013-14 season of almost unremitting positivity from Manchester City, a period of coruscating goal-strewn wins, delicious football and half-melon smiles, a season that has seen Manuel Pellegrini's introduction to English football resurrect the slightly flagging careers of Samir Nasri, Aleksander Kolarov, Martin Demichelis, Javi Garcia and Edin Dzeko, but it is nevertheless a question that begs to be answered.

What on earth has happened to Alvaro Negredo? Continue Reading...