City attended St James’s Park last night in the knowledge that for the first time in recent weeks the fixture list had placed them ahead of title rivals Liverpool. Victory would have sent them to within a point of the Scouse Challengers and heaped pressure on Liverpen when Leicester visit tonight.
So the stage was set, but City failed the audition. Despite scoring after only 24 seconds when Sergigol made his usual Tyneside presence known, City slipped down through the gears with copious amount of uncharacteristic football. Or is it uncharacteristic. More like unprofessional.
Around Christmas we saw City lose against bottom feeders Crystal Palace and mid- table bogey team Leicester City to leave themselves teetering on the brink of failing to retain the Premier League title. Defeating Liverpen effectively put city back in contention and every time the Scousers have won first, City have responded. But defeat away to Newcastle, traditionally a happy hunting ground for the Blues, if followed up by a home win at Shamfield tonight could reasonably be a final nail in the City coffin for this season.
Yes loyal blues like myself will point to the “Slippery Steve” season but against the background that the Scousers have dropped only 9 league points this season, 5 of which were to City, who really sees them losing to the kind of team to which City have gifted points? Not me. They may shed a couple at Stretford, possibly home to Chelsea and as an outsider at Goodison, but as things stand they need to drop 5 more to finish the season with 100 points and they could therefore be on target to emulate or better City’s 2017/2018 haul. How disappointing would that be?
Last night’s performance was almost criminal. The assured Danilo had a nightmare. Stalwarts such as De Bruyne didn’t look particularly at the races and without Bernardo Silva there was a shortage of energy about the place.
City succumbed to a volley from dangerman Rondon who somehow scored with 3 defenders in attendance. Then, a sloppy pass by of all people Fernandinho left him cutting down Longstaff enabling Ritchie to score from the spot.
Even more disappointing was the fact that City could only get one shot on target in the whole of the second half. Possession might be nine-tenths of the law, but in football only effective possession is of any use.
The Blues now move on to three games in a week at a time when their contenders are playing only 3 times a month. Bernardo might love the congested fixture list, but it is up to Guardiola to play him.