What has happened to Manchester City this season?
The Citizens started the season well, shadowing early pace-setters Chelsea in what looked to be a credible defence of their Premier League title.
Step forward into February and another rendezvous with Champions League nemesis Barcelona, and the picture becomes a little clearer.
Ever since City were bought by their Emirati owners there has been one major objective: To win the Champions League.
Big-name players such as Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez soon arrived at the Etihad Stadium in a bid to quench that thirst for the European Cup.
Yet City have struggled in Europe’s elite club competition, with only two appearances in the last 16 and suffering defeats to Barcelona both times – including this season.
A 2-1 home loss in February after a Luis Suarez double began a terrible run of form that has seen them lose five consecutive away games to Liverpool, Burnley, Barcelona, Crystal Palace and, worst of all, Manchester United.
During that time they have only picked up Premier League wins at home to lowly Leicester and West Brom.
Reading between the lines it seems that City’s players have effectively eased off the gas after it became clear their search for the Champions League trophy wasn’t going to end well.
Their demise would be easier to understand if they were miles behind in the league with nothing to play for, but they are the reigning champions and were second in the league before the home loss to Barcelona.
Players such as Toure have been very lacklustre this season in general, and a lack of vibrancy in their play has finally caught up with them.
Despite splashing £28m on Wilfried Bony during the January transfer window, the majority of City’s signings have failed to make an impression.
Eliaqium Mangala, the £32m central defender is the biggest disappointment so far, while Fernando (£12m) and Bacary Sagna (free) have also been ineffectual.
City’s best signing has been Frank Lampard who, with seven goals in 31 appearances this season, was a canny piece of business before he moves to New York City FC at the end of the campaign.
However, with Bony being City’s youngest signing at 26 years old there is a further problem with manager Manuel Pellegrini’s transfer policy.
A lack of new, young and exciting players has ultimately led to City’s current situation.
Their ageing team not only looks old it looks tired, it lacks pace and above all, it lacks enthusiasm.
Delving deeper into the statistics helps to flesh out the sorry detail for City fans.
City have the oldest squad in the Premier League this season, with the average age of their squad hitting 28.8 years old.
Compare this to their immediate rivals Manchester United (25.44 – 2nd youngest), Arsenal (26 – 5th youngest) and Chelsea (27.08 – 9th oldest) and it is difficult to see why City have not invested in emerging talent.
Perhaps they are pinning all their hopes on polishing up the next stars of the game from their £200m state-of-the-art training academy?
That seems unlikely, given the timescale involved.
They could easily have sprayed millions of pounds around on players like Marco Reus or Raheem Sterling, but they have chosen not to.
They have also elected to offload their existing youngsters on loan, with the likes of Scott Sinclair, John Guidetti and Karim Rekik all enjoying good spells at their respective new clubs.
Now, the time has come for Manuel Pellegrini to invest in fresh, energetic new players and ditch the deadwood such as Aleksandar Kolarov, Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri.
However, whether Manuel Pellegrini gets the chance to do so is another matter.
The trouble for City is that there are few world-class managers around to replace Pellegrini, yet with the funds made available and the promise of starting a new chapter there are many who would be tempted.
Who said money can’t buy happiness?
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