City’s title chase seemed to die with a whimper last night as they escaped with a lucky draw against Sunderland. The visitors were excellent throughout and could easily have won with room to spare. Here are some thoughts on City’s latest failure…
Done and Dusted?
Technically, no, the title race is not over as far as City are concerned. Win the game in hand against a dreadful Aston Villa and the gap is three points with four games to play. There will be much harking back to two years ago and the implausible hauling in of Manchester United to give us hope over the next few weeks, but is that realistic?
Honestly? Not really. The circumstances are entirely different and we are unlikely to see another Aguero last second title winning strike. Firstly, there are two teams above us, rather than one, who are unlikely to slip up in the way City have. Chelsea have a solidity and a feeling of permanence under Mourinho that does not exist with us. This kind of title run in is Mourinho’s bread and butter. Liverpool have a team in the form of their lives, a sense of historical destiny, and a ground full of fans who are far, far superior on match days than the average Etihad crowd. As Howard Hockin says here:
“the crowd didn’t seem arsed by the match, many not even bothering to turn up,[...] it cannot help to have such apathy flowing down from the stands. We just expect to see the team win then go home happy it seems.”
We get shirty about “Emptihad” stuff and when we are told the Etihad has no atmosphere, but we don’t help ourselves. The frustration is understandable, but we must be better.
The Blame Game
Really though, the blame must mostly be apportioned to the players and management. There is always talk of our Sunderland “curse”, but these are highly paid professionals who should realistically not be bothered by that. Put quite simply, the players were not good enough last night. Not good enough at all.
Milner wasted a chance to put his mark on the team, constantly running into blind alleys and misplacing passes. Javi Garcia regressed dramatically over the course of 90 minutes. He has been improving a lot lately but last night the Sunderland midfield overran him time and again. Our great early season hope Negredo had another night to forget. His early dummy which opened up the goal for Fernandinho boded well, but that was the sum of his meaningful contribution. Hart could have done better with the second goal which escaped him at his near post.
It is all very well saying that we missed Silva, Toure and a fully fit Aguero (who wouldn’t?) but the second stringers should really have been capable of putting away the bottom of the league team, especially with so much to play for to motivate them.
Pellegrini said after the game that the players were “mentally tired” after the Liverpool game, which is all very well, but at some point “mentally tired” starts skirting quite closely to “mentally weak”. At what point does continuing failure in important games begin to represent a pattern of endemic weakness? And is this mental tiredness not something that should be taken into account by the management? This can’t have come as a surprise.
Last But Far From Least
Lets not forget that Sunderland did themselves an awful lot of credit last night. Apart from the second minute goal and a Vito Mannone horrorshow for Nasri’s equaliser, they should have won the game. Truthfully the visitors should have been 2-1 up in the first half an hour and would have had a deserved lead if not for John O’Shea missing two clear cut chances in the way that only he can. Borini threatened to score a couple of times, Wickham was a danger throughout, eventually underlined by two goals, and the midfield had the beating of City far too often for comfort.
They still look like getting relegated but they can be proud of that one.
Hopefully City can get back in the saddle sooner rather than later or we will have an unhappy summer ahead of us.
Written by Alex Timperley who is on Twitter