Date: 12th November 2009 at 8:56am
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So what is the evidence for City’s recent slump? Let’s begin with the general consensus and the case for the defence.

Lando78 sent Vital Manchester City the following. To visit his blog click here.

Lescott, Bridge, Toure and one of Richards or Zabaleta often look lost at sea. They are continually out of position, lack cohesion and guilty of switching off at key times in games.

Players are also not doing the basics right, like clearing the ball in dangerous areas instead of letting it bounce (Kompany, Bridge and Lescott seem to have forgotten this) or marking the right players are set pieces (Mr Barry). Also going forward requires you to get back into position again (Bridge, Richards and Zabaleta).

Were we better off with HIM at the core? Early season form seems to suggest yes, as we kept more clean sheets with him in the side. Taking a look back however to last season should remind everyone of the real Richard Dunne. The one prone to own goals, making rash challenges, seeing red and unable to head in a straight line.

What’s happened to Gareth Barry?

Barry is not performing and is going through a loss of form which began at Villa and has showed no signs of stopping….is he still unfit? There is no surprise that Barry’s lack of form coincides with City’s. Can this be the reason for the slump?

Same for Ireland he is suffering from his joint fatigue and illness and probably came back too soon. Was he scared of losing his role in the team and did he make himself fit before being completely right again?

Bridge, Toure, Bellamy, Adebayor and SWP could all be guilty of the same thing. Whereas the returning Kompany, Santa Cruz, Johnson and soon to be fit Robinho might all feel the need to embellish the truth a little to win their places back in the team. Has this had a negative effect on team players?

This is not what the boss meant when he said competition for places was healthy for the team. Are the players lying to the management and making themselves available when they are not fully fit.

The management

Hughes has had his critics from the word go. After all, he is an ‘Ex-Rag’ and ‘has not won anything as a manager.’ ‘He is tactically naive’ is another favourite amongst fans in and outside of the club.

And we need only look at the last few games to find proof in these claims with Hughes making some puzzling tactical changes during the last month.

At Villa, after the Bellamy equaliser and when we had the momentum, Hughes chose the unfit Santa Cruz to the fit and itching to get on Petrov. The result was a loss of momentum and the settling of a point instead of the three on offer from a Villa on the back foot.

At Birmingham Hughes replaced Santa Cruz with Martin Petrov. Now you would think that Santa Cruz would be the ideal foil for Petrov’s crosses. After all, he has ‘outstanding strength and aerial ability’.

But Hughes, who has continually persisted in keeping Petrov and Santa Cruz away from the one another, seems to have forgotten what he said and why he brought him to the club. If there’s a better player to get on the end of Petrov’s crosses then why did we sign him for so much money?

In the last match at Burnley and 3-2 up he decided to take off Tevez and replace him with the attack minded Petrov. With Nigel De Jong sat on the bench, only Hughes and god himself know why he made that decision. To make matters worse, the left footed Petrov was then played on the right hand side completely nullifying his effectiveness at delivering the ball into the box.

When we need a goal he puts on a defender when we need to protect one he bring on an attacker. Some things just don’t make sense Mr Hughes.

Backroom staff

Who works the set piece drills? Who put Barry on marking duty on corners and free kicks? Points at Villa and United amongst other games have been thrown away due to City not actually knowing the answer to these questions.

Taking responsibility

Now don’t get me wrong here, Hughes has been praised for his integrity and calmness during interviews. Neither criticising his players publicly nor rising to another managers bating. Yet Hughes has also never been gracious in defeat and not once have we heard him come out and say we all got it wrong today; the team, the backroom staff and me, unlike some other managers (Moyes and Rednapp to name but two).

Although these reasons contribute greatly to the recent slump they cannot be the whole reason. For defensive mistakes, lapses in concentration, throwing leads away at home and starting slowly all point to a lack of focus and complacency.

Was the first phase of our season so good that the team has started to believe its own hype? Probably in my opinion for there is no other excuse for our last three performances at Fulham, Birmingham and Burnley.

The solution

So where do we go from here? The real answer to our dilemma and solution could be found at Stamford Bridge today. After all to be the best, you have to study the best.

Looking at Sunday’s top of the league clash between the main two in the Premiership it was obvious to see what was different.

Sure United and Chelsea at first glance have great technical ability and unbelievable individuals just like Arsenal. But the thing that sets them apart from the rest, including the Gunners, is that psychological strength and fierce intensity that wins titles. It is an intensity and belief that follows all successful teams around.

Forget the big team favouritism by referees, when added time and grievous bodily harm are permitted to see the game out. Yes United do get extra time and their players can assault the opposition yet go unpunished (Vidic at Wigan and Evans on Drogba today just to name two). And no hand balls don’t count if you play for the top teams just ask Mr Lampard today but don’t forget to ask De Jong and Lescott their opinions afterwards.

We could go on for another five hundred pages with examples of decisions going the top teams’ way, but that is not the point trying to be made.

Whether you believe in making your own luck or buying it, one thing is for sure. The real recipe to their success lies in their calmness of mind, intensity and the focus they maintain right up to the final whistle. Had City had that at Old Trafford they would have come away with a point at Old Trafford and beaten both Fulham and Burnley.

Add those seven points up and see where we would be in the league. Until we can match the professionalism, focus and intensity of these two teams we will continue to drop points.

If City want to be in the mix for the Champions’ League and leap-frog the likes of Spurs, Villa and Liverpool they can’t hope that Richard Dunne failed to sign his contract and is on his way back. Nor can they expect Mr Hughes to wise up any time soon with his substitutions. No they must rediscover that mental edge that was there at the start of the season.

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