At the start of the season, Manchester City were most people’s favourites to win the Premier League title.
A well-known manager coming in, a bunch of world-class player hungry for success and a more positive environment all combined to make the Citizens the early frontrunners for the championship.
However, with just four or so weeks of the 2013-14 campaign remaining, the 2012 English champions are on the brink of completing a disappointing season. Manager Manuel Pellegrini, who arrived in England with a strong reputation, is staring at a season in which he would be winning only the League Cup.
City head into this weekend’s rounds of matches placed third in the league table with 71 points from 33 matches, six points behind leaders Liverpool with a game in hand. The title is now out of their hands; if Brendan Rodgers’ side win all of their last four matches, then they will be proclaimed as the champions of England.
The scripts are already starting to be written on how City’s millions are going to go down the drain. After all, for all a club’s wealth, it is trophies that symbolise success. Former Manchester United and Wales international midfielder Robbie Savage has come down harshly on the Citizens and claims that Pellegrini has to shoulder the blame if they indeed fail to win the league title.
‘For me, if City don’t win this title, Pellegrini has come up miles short’, the 39-year-old wrote in The Mirror. ‘I accept they have to pay top dollar to attract big names because their heritage - or at least their history before Sheikh Mansour poured so much investment into the club - would not be enough on its own.
‘But if you are blowing everyone else out of the water financially, the fans should have been entitled to see a fired-up team against Sunderland; a team desperate to atone for what happened at Liverpool. What they got was a half-baked performance, and the buck stops with Pellegrini’.
In his column, Savage continues to question Pellegrini’s policy of squad rotation, asking why the Chilean jumps from Gael Clichy to Aleksandar Kolarov from game to game, and criticises the expensive signings of Javi Garcia, Jesus Navas and Stefan Jovetic.
The footballer-turned-pundit’s arguments do have weight. However, things would have looked vastly different if the Citizens had accompliced their comeback against Liverpool last weekend and then not slipped up against Sunderland on Wednesday.
It just shows how things can change in the Premier League in the space of four days. What could, and probably should, have been a successful season for Pellegrini and his City players is now on the verge of being a massive failure.