Typical City are back. Never mind your first goal since September, have your first hat-trick since non league football on us, Jamie Vardy. Two thumpings into December, the Blues are now firmly passing themselves to death with no end product in don’t know where the next win is coming from territory. What began with a frenetic draw in Glasgow in September has now developed into an indisputable full-blown slide of form which has garnered only 4 wins from 15 matches in all competitions, shipping 5 defeats in an excruciatingly frustrating process. Worse still, having tactically reversed out of the League Cup, a squad which is supposed to be now concentrating on the Premier League has cobbled together 12 points from the last 27 available.
Note the use of the word squad as opposed to the word side. Pep Guardiola has rotated his team in the league to the tune of a whopping 50 changes to his starting XI inside 15 matches. It is unprecedented and the type of tales of the unexpected prophesied by seasoned Pep watchers, but the obvious assumption currently being played out that teams without a settled core, especially at the back, can win top flight titles in England smacks of ignorance, at worst arrogance. Furthermore, tactically City have begun to resemble The Manchester Experimentals. In sync with an increasingly apprehensive support, each apparent laboratory formation that has taken the field in the league since the Champions League campaign intensified has been playing “getting to know you” in the first half of each game, not only in terms of personal capability, but also in the need to rapidly familiarise themselves with the game plan. City’s beleaguered defence, which all seasoned Premier League campaigners know must form the bedrock of a title campaign have been reduced to a laughing stock. They were quintessential paper kites in a wind tunnel blown away at Leicester. In nets, the over-exposed and visibly shrinking Claudio Bravo now cuts a tragically forlorn and incapable figure. He is being sent out there to back up a lost in space defence which is lacking confidence, leadership and communication against financially boosted Premier League clubs loaded with savvy, pacy and powerful strikers who will hit you hard at any opportunity, especially when afforded the acres of space City granted a more than grateful Leicester during what amounted to an exercise in footballing rehabilitation. Fielding the lumbering likes of a shocking Aleks Kolarov in a high three man defensive line in this context was suicidal.
It was an undeniably painful spectacle, but what took place at the King Power Stadium has proved an object lesson in identifying precisely where City are at right now, 25 matches into Guardiola’s reign. Numerous foaming hacks and pundits, especially the likes of BT Bitters Steve McTrafficCop and Turncoat Trevor whilst drooling over Leicester’s gifted goals completely overlooked just how much City saw of the ball against a side in wretched form and did nothing with it. Frighteningly, The Blues had 78% of the possession and amassed 703 passes to Leicester’s 208, yet they could only get a shot away on target 3 times. Recent history continues to repeat. City, despite regularly bossing the midfield have not managed more than 8 shots on target in any game since the win over Bournemouth in September where an opposition keeper found himself worked 11 times outside of 4 goals. City were shorn of a suspended Kun Aguero that day too, but look a million miles away from that type of verve and endeavour heading deeper into an intensive run of tough fixtures and as thing stand, deeper into trouble. Nobody saw this coming, let alone such an evaporation of intensity, urgency and pressing.
Numerous scribes have had difficulty trying to find the words to describe City’s performances but canny Ken in the VMC Forum found them last night in amongst the fall out. He likened watching City to the classic clip in Raiders of The Lost Ark whereby a masked would be assailant swashbuckles about with a massive sword menacingly only to be gunned down by Indiana Jones once it was realised that he carried no threat!
Where do we go from here? Well, the club mantra pumped out through social media in the summer was “It Begins.” Failure to beat a limited Watford on Wednesday night and we can start talking about the need for “It Reboots.’
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