Why have Manchester City failed this season?

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?

  • You can follow me on Twitter @NeilWalton89 or WordPress neilwalton089

The Manchester United conundrum

It seems that some people think solving the Manchester United conundrum is as easy as flying an anti-David Moyes banner over Old Trafford.

Others believe it to be a task that will require more than a £100m splurge in the summer transfer window to complete.

Whichever way Manchester United’s current plight is observed, you can’t help but wonder where it all went so wrong.

Perhaps the most startling difference between the 2012/13 title-winning side and the current 2013/14 squad is the defence.

Nothing has changed in terms of personnel yet it looks completely dysfunctional.

Having watched several Manchester United games this season from the comfort of a local pub, it has even appeared to be frightened, almost paralysed with fear.

This was so devastatingly demonstrated by Manchester City’s bludgeoning of their arch-rivals in the very first minute at Old Trafford on Tuesday night.

City swarmed forward and fizzed around the United defenders as if their legs had been soaked in a concrete bath. They were motionless, scared and lacked aggression.

David Silva danced around two United defenders with embarrassing ease, before Samir Nasri’s simple shuffle and shot hit the post and fell straight to Edin Dzeko who tucked the ball away with the sort of unchallenged freedom strikers can only dream about.

Who would replace this ailing defensive unit, then?

Unfortunately for David Moyes, summer signings will be hard to come by.

Not only is the World Cup a traditional obstacle in transfer dealings, but the cunning Old Trafford executives have arranged a pre-season tour of the United States just weeks after the final in Rio.

This means that not only will world-class players be recuperating on holiday and therefore be unavailable to negotiate with, but any prospective signing would not have the chance to integrate with the squad.

Manchester United’s troubles don’t end there.

In midfield they lack energy, creation and combativity. Marouane Fellaini has so far proved to be a dazzlingly questionable signing, while Juan Mata has failed to make an indelible impact since his £37m January move from Chelsea.

Tellingly, both new signings have failed to score since their arrival at the club.

Moyes has been very active on scouting missions throughout the winter and has reportedly had Sporting Lisbon’s holding midfielder William Carvalho scouted 12 times.

Carvalho would be an ideal fit at United but the English champions are not his only suitors – and there Moyes faces another problem.

It is becoming harder and harder to believe that world-class players and those of similar potential would choose United as their next club over another one such as Barcelona or Real Madrid.

Moyes could do much worse than blooding the promising Nick Powell if his pursuit of Toni Kroos is fruitless, but it would be a blow similar to the failed chases of Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas if Carvalho decided against a move to Old Trafford.

Would Manchester United’s under-fire manager then be forced to panic buy as he has apparently done with Fellaini and Mata?

All the current criticism of Moyes is not only misinformed, it is premature.

The Scot has barely had a chance to construct his own side, allowing the new recruits to gel and then getting them to play in the manner he wants.

Therefore he should be judged midway into the 2015/16 season, when it will become clear if his forthcoming transfer strategies have worked or not.

If he is to succeed he can afford no repeat of his previous transfer dealings. That said, the World Cup barricade might prove to be his maker.

Then there is the spectre of European football.

Before the home game against Aston Villa, a five-point gap separates United in seventh and Spurs in sixth. The final Europa League place is awarded to sixth place with a Champions League spot all but mathematically beyond United.

If United do miss out on European football they could struggle to attract the biggest names to the club – and that is a focusing chastisement of their deficiencies this season.

Given all his current challenges, and the ones that inevitably lie ahead, Moyes will be hoping that he is afforded the time he needs to reconstruct a side so alarmingly in decline – and with a six-year contract in hand it is logical for him to be given it.

Man City see off disappointing Chelsea in FA Cup clash

Goals in each half from Stevan Jovetic and Samir Nasri gave Manchester City a simple win over a lacklustre Chelsea in their FA Cup fifth-round clash at the Etihad Stadium.

Jovetic had already clipped the bar with a chip before he placed an effort beyond Petr Cech after 16 minutes.

Despite the introduction of Mohamed Salah and Fernando Torres, Chelsea lacked spark throughout with the threat of Eden Hazard particularly nullified by a hungry City defence.

But it was a City substitution that finished the game off, with Nasri exchanging passes with an offside David Silva before slotting home to earn City a place in the quarter-final draw.

Before the highest-profile fifth round tie there was an impeccably-observed silence for Sir Tom Finney, the England and Preston legend, and the home side made a timid start amidst an understandably subdued atmosphere.

When City eventually settled, the opening goal was not far behind. Yaya Toure was the catalyst when his fierce shot was fumbled by Petr Cech, presenting Stevan Jovetic with a chance to score but his delicate chip grazed the crossbar.

City’s Montenegrin striker would not have to wait long for a goal though, and when Edin Dzeko found him on the right flank he finished off a quick passing move with a superbly-placed shot to Cech’s right which found the net via the post.

The goal confirmed City’s growing confidence but that was undermined by a shaky Costel Pantilimon, who ignited a goalmouth scramble with a flap at Branislav Ivanovic’s cross but, luckily for the 6ft 8in Romanian, his alert defence saw off the danger.

At the other end the hosts quickly resumed their silky attacking play and after 24 minutes another flowing attack culminated in Dzeko working Cech with a low shot from outside the box.

Chelsea’s disappointing start to the game was reflected by Eden Hazard’s anonymity, with the Belgian kept quiet by the City defence until some smart footwork drew a foul from compatriot Vincent Kompany who was booked by referee Phil Dowd.

Dowd was in action again just before the break, eventually booking David Luiz for a mis-timed challenge on Jovetic, but from the resultant advantage James Milner wasted a good opportunity when his heavy cross proved too strong for Dzeko to reach six yards from goal.

Jose Mourinho, who had been playing mind games all week with his title-hungry adversaries, reacted to a passive opening half by replacing Samuel Eto’o with new signing Mohamed Salah.

Salah replaced Eto’o up front in a move which continued Mourinho’s apparent lack of faith in Fernando Torres.

Mourinho would also have been keen to see his side establish themselves in the second half, but City continued to dominate without coaxing Cech into serious action.

Manuel Pellegrini, meanwhile, would have been angry when Jovetic proceeded to blemish what had been a diligent display with an embarrassing dive – prompting Dowd to brandish a yellow card.

It was to be Jovetic’s last action of the game, but he was replaced by the returning Samir Nasri on the hour with Mourinho giving Torres the chance to impose himself on his future plans at the expense of the quiet Ramires.

Nasri’s introduction would emerge as the crucial substitution when the Frenchman doubled City’s lead with a wonderful move after 67 minutes.

The attack began with Kompany, an imposing figure throughout, drilling a low ball to Nasri who fed David Silva before collecting the Spaniard’s square pass to calmly place the ball into a vacant net.

Television replays suggested that Silva was marginally offside when he received Nasri’s pass, but the officials went some way to redeeming themselves when correctly disallowing a Joleon Lescott tap-in from an offside position.

Chelsea could only muster a brief spell of pressure late on and duly failed to test Pantilimon in what was a microcosm for the whole match.

By then it was far too little far too late as City ran out comfortable winners to avenge their league defeat just 12 days previous and advance into the quarter-finals with ease.

  • You can follow me on Twitter @NeilWalton89