After the draw at The Etihad Stadium with the Italians left City with one point from two games in their latest attempt to leave their mark on the Champions League, there was a distinct feeling that we’ve been here before.
In two of City’s previous three outings in this competition they’ve exited at the group phase. In both of those, they had one point from two games – supporters could be forgiven for fearing another repeat.
What Went Wrong Then?
Well, where to start? I really don’t want to write the words ‘City lacked tempo’ again because, sadly, it’s starting to sound a bit like an easy cop out and obvious criticism. However, City lacked tempo. That’s been the case against Stoke City and for one half against Sheffield Wednesday and it’s starting to get a bit annoying.
We have to get used to the fact that City are established as a creative team capable of playing fast and deadly football, so opposition teams are going to try and nullify that. It is for City to find a way around it, though that appears to be a stumbling block right now.
City certainly lacked a ‘Plan B’ on Tuesday. They rarely looked like finding a way through Roma all night. What became increasingly frustrating was that they were so short of ideas and continued to try the same thing over and over again. I lost count of how many times the Blues had the ball 20-30 yards from goal and tried a chipped pass over the top of the defence. It happened so often I am inclined to believe it was a direct instruction and that Pellegrini had thought Roma were susceptible to such an attack. Despite it becoming clear that that wasn’t the way to unlock them, City persisted.
Pellegrini’s decision to substitute Edin Džeko early in the second half looked an odd one as the Bosnian was one of City’s better players. His hold up play was fine and he was certainly looking more likely to produce something that his strike partner Agüero, who was not having one of his best nights.
I’m not a fan of knee-jerk reactions or hyperbolic statements but I’m struggling to find the positives in this result. My initial reaction is that this draw is little short of a disaster. We know that ten points is usually considered the safe figure for getting out of a Champions League group, so where can City pick them up? Even if they garner the maximum six points from the CSKA Moscow double-header, they’ll require a minimum of three points from the return games against Bayern Munich and Roma.
Clearly, nothing is settled at this stage but the Blues face a serious uphill struggle in progressing to the last 16. The unfortunate truth is that in this, their fourth attempt at the Champions League, City look as far away from real success as they did when they had that first underwhelming crack at it.
written by Richard Burns