Jason Schneiderman | Stoppage Time
A Blue Manchester
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 00:02
Something is rotten in the east side of Manchester. A season marked by a dismal early Champion’s League campaign, which saw Manchester City win none of its six games, is turning equally sour in league play. And now, fingers are finally being pointed.
After a series of uninspired displays, it is almost hard to believe that nine months ago Manchester City were celebrating their first Premier League title in 44 years. The reigning EPL champions are reeling after back−to−back draws and an embarrassing 3−1 defeat at the hands of newly promoted and 15th place Southampton, the final one a culmination of a stretch that all but ended City’s hopes of retaining the title.
The squad that manager Roberto Mancini has sent out the past few weeks has been merely a shell of their title−winning team of a year ago. Gone are David Silva’s moments of sheer brilliance—the Spaniard is no longer living up to his nickname, “Merlin.”
Gone are Yaya Toure’s marauding runs through the midfield, with a lack of depth and consistency in the defensive midfield forcing him to stay back. Gone is captain Vincent Kompany’s steadfast and mistake−free presence in central defense, a result of both poor form and injury.
Even Sergio Agthe, the man who delivered the title−winning goal, along with 29 others a season ago, has been less than clinical in front of net, scoring only 11 so far this season.
Much of the team has been similarly disappointing, which begs the question: why? Why is a team formed of so many world−class players performing at such a disappointing level just one season after achieving a domestic title? And how could a squad with as much supposed quality as City be bossed around the pitch for the better of 90 minutes by a team like Southampton? These are the questions that demanding owners will soon be asking Mancini, and his status as manager sure to be reevaluated when the season is over.
True, many of his players have not been playing to their standards of a year ago, but such a collective change is disturbing, especially since Mancini’s job is to get the very best out of his team. Watching the game on Saturday, the hunger that brought City its title a season ago is, simply stated, no longer there. Southampton players won nearly every 50−50 ball, looking faster, stronger and playing harder. They wanted it more.
Complacency was always to a risk for a team so new to winning. However content some players may have been with their first title, the Manchester City owners, who have invested more than $1 billion dollars since their takeover in 2008, did not spend such immense sums of money for a single Premier League title. They invested their money expecting continued and consistent excellence for decades, and to be successful, these same expectations must be passed on to the players.
With the title almost assuredly out of reach (barring an epic collapse from cross−town rivals Manchester United who currently hold a 12−point lead over City), the final 12 games of the season will be key factors in determining in what direction the club will head for the future.
A highly successful end to the season, including a positive result over United when they play in two months, may be enough for Mancini to keep his position with the club. If he can somehow kindle the fire from a season ago, he and the team may stand a chance.
However, if the downward spiral continues, and Manchester City finish outside the top two or three, I would be shocked to ever again see the well−dressed Italian walk another sideline as City manager.