If there is one thing that has been a constant about Manchester City’s season thus far it is that it has been inconsistent, and critically, it is that very inconsistency that threatens to undermine any sense of tangible success come the end of the season.
Yesterday’s 2-2 draw with West Ham was the latest in a long saga of disappointing twists and turns in the season. In the immediate short term, the result shows that City are the only team in the top six to have not lost any of their last six league matches. Whilst that is obviously a positive the nature of the results in that run point to a wider problem. A run of alternating between a win a draw in that period (W-D-W-D-W-D) epitomises the problems that City have had this season. If Manuel Pellegrini’s team could string together a few victories they could take the league by the scruff of the neck and prove that they are justifiably the favourites to win the league title.
The fact of the matter is, the last time City won back-to-back league games was in October when Newcastle and Bournemouth were dispatched 6-1 and 5-1 respectively. It is no coincidence that both of those games were at the Etihad stadium. It is well known that the Blues’ away form is the real problem this season which, in turn, has curtailed the potential for any run of victories. The win at Vicarage Road against Watford at the beginning of January was something of an anomaly. Prior to that you have to go back to 12th September to find City’s most recent away victory when Kelechi Iheanacho’s last minute winner beat Crystal Palace. That thrilling win was also the last in a run of five straight victories which started the season in such threatening fashion. Obviously, no run of form has since been replicated.
Strangely enough, City’s inconsistency has not truly been taken advantage of by their rivals and Pellegrini’s team are still in the mix for the title. On the one hand, there is a sense of relief that City are only three points behind current league leaders Leicester. In truth, no one can truly put their money on one team to run away with the league because as soon one team threatens to do so they fall at the next hurdle. In any other season, the Blues would most probably be well out of contention in the title race.
On the other hand, there is a sense of frustration with City’s undeniable underperformance. It is widely recognised that City have the strongest squad in the league but they have a funny way of showing it. The sense that the Blues are barely a sum of their parts is omnipresent, and that is worrying. Truthfully, I’m not sure what it takes to change that but surely accountability lies with the manager? Frankly, I do not think City deserve to win the title and I won’t lose any sleep over it if they don’t. That said, I have a feeling that the season may end with a feeling of a missed opportunity given how poor some of City’s title rivals appear to be.
The next three league games could shape the City’s destiny in the title race. After the away trip to Sunderland, Leicester and Spurs both come to the Etihad. If there was ever an opportunity to lay down a marker and kiss goodbye to inconsistency this is it. Now let’s watch the exact opposite unfold…
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Written by Rob Toole