It may have been a season of success for Manchester City during the 2013-14 campaign, having clinched both the Premier League title and lifted the English Capital One Cup at Wembley, but their inconsistent form during recent weeks has raised questions as to whether they can win any silverware in the coming months. A 2-1 league defeat at West Ham and a 2-0 Capital One Cup exit when beaten by Newcastle, all inside five days, merely strengthens the case that they may have lost that winning mentality.
Although City occupy third position in the Premier League table, they are already six points adrift of leaders Chelsea having lost two games. They have yet to win a Champions League fixture after two draws and a 1-0 defeat at Bayern Munich and their loss to a youthful Newcastle team will be a further concern for manager Manuel Pellegrini.
Visiting teams no longer appear to have that air of resignation when stepping onto the pitch as Stoke City proved when beating City at the Etihad Stadium in just the third match of the Premier League season. 11 league matches were played at home last season before a single point was dropped with Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal beaten 6-0, 4-1 and 6-2 respectively while Norwich were overwhelmed 7-0.
It may be unfair to criticise individual players for the decrease in standards during recent weeks but there is no doubting that midfielder Yaya Toure has not yet produced the influential performances of last season when he netted 20 league goals and created many more. The Ivorian has found the net on just two occasions this term but his displays may have been affected by the personal grief suffered when he lost his younger brother Ibrahim in June after a short term battle with cancer.
Toure has been criticised in the media for some of his lack-lustre performances but such events as in the summer do take time from which to recover.
Manchester City have also attracted the wrath of UEFA for failing to comply with the Financial Fair Play rules with a fine being imposed and a squad limit of 21 enforced for the Champions League. The latter penalty had inhibited Pellegrini from strengthening the squad during the summer when the promise of playing in Europe’s top club competition could not be guaranteed for potential new signings.
The past couple of defeats do not yet constitute a crisis of Manchester City but they can ill-afford any further defeats in the coming weeks. A home tie with CSKA Moscow on Wednesday is game from which City must collect three points if they are to harbour ambitions of Champions League success this season. However, the Manchester derby on Sunday is equally important.
City comfortably won both derbies against Manchester United last season but a poor result against their neighbours at the Etihad will further increase the pressure on Pellegrini and strengthen the notion that the squad is longer as awesome as in previous campaigns.