Sometimes you need to stand back and take a look – take a look at how you got here, what you did right and, crucially, what you did wrong.
Manchester City did a lot of the latter last Sunday.
When Sadio Mane nodded home early in the second half any chance of a City victory had seemed to have faded into oblivion.
City were now 3-0 down and – as things stood – nine points behind Liverpool in the table; to top it off, the Sky Blue’s were sat in 4th.
Without understating it, City has a mountain to climb: the type of mountain that would make Tour de France winning cyclist Chris Froome stop in his tracks and question his own sanity.
But, that’s the Man City way – isn’t it?
Last season’s come-back from ten points down was the latest in a long line of last-minute-headline-stealing moments: there was Gabriel Jesus against Southampton to secure the centurions, there was Paul Dickov in the play-off final at Wembley, and – of course – there was Sergio Aguero to win the Premier League title.
However, this year something feels different, like a supercar yet to get out of second gear, this City side are stuttering – they’ve shown the promise of kicking on, those little magical moments where you sit back and remember this is Manchester City, but these fleeting moments have been too few and far between.
Having looked invincible last season, this City seems to have been cut down to mere mortals; it’s all because of one-side, Liverpool.
You can look back at a week Sunday; look at the VAR decisions, and dissect every second to nanoseconds: Trent Alexander-Arnold’s handball, Mo Salah’s suspected offside, and Alexander- Arnold’s handball again.
Manchester City are ranked third in terms of wage bills in 2018/19:
1. Barcelona [£438m]
2. Man United [£332m]
3. Man City [£315m]
4. Real Madrid [£312m]
5. PSG [£290m]*
6. Juventus [£281m]
7. Bayern Munich [£265m]
8. Liverpool [£263m]
— Man City Xtra (@City_Xtra) November 19, 2019
It’s all futile. The ink is now dry and the outcome would have no bearing on the Premier League table, rather only a small sense of justice that is outweighed by the bigger picture.
The harsh truth is that Bernardo Silva – albeit accidentally – handled the ball before Alexander-Arnold, and under the new FA rules that should – and would – have been penalised first and foremost.
However, the crux of the situation is that City has not been nearly clinical enough for the past month, yes, City are the top scorers in the league but if you look at where those goals game from you’ll see an interesting trend that points to the start of the season.
A run of poor form is to be expected, after all, it would be ludicrous to expect City to be on top of their game for the whole season: they’re men not machines.
What is worrying is when City hit this trend they still tend to grind out results – it’s well documented City’s defence is shaky but they can normally gather up enough valour to only leak the one goal and nick a couple at the other end. That’s not happening this year. As the defence shakes, the attack falls flat.
Furthermore, in the current Premier League climate you need to be hitting around the 100 point mark to even think about lifting the title in May: City have already dropped ten, and it’s mid- November.
It’s hard to remain optimistic when faced with this fact, and when Liverpool, Chelsea, and even Leicester have barely put a foot wrong so far this season – it reinforces it ten-fold.
However, this is the Premier League: the most competitive league in the world, if there was any stage in world football set-up for twists and turns before the conclusion: it’s the Premier League.
There will be questions – as there always are – as to why Man City, a-star-studded-squad assembled through seemingly unlimited pockets, have failed to exert their dominance over sides on a fraction of their budget; as to why Pep Guardiola has once more failed to outfox Jurgen Klopp.
However, throughout all of this, the politicing of the board and the changing room, and the scope of the media, the same chant emerges from the Colin Bell stand any given Saturday: “We’re Man City, we’ll fight until the end.”
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