Date: 4th December 2016 at 3:42pm
Written by:

So now we know. Before the calendars of the New Year are upon us, the Barclays Premier League title trophy will not be taking residence at the Etihad Stadium come the end of May.

This was a day when City had to prove their credentials against an organised side that concedes goals reluctantly rather than benevolently. A side that changed its priority to ensure that it gives its creative players a platform to express themselves without having to worry about what is behind them.

That said City should really have had this game well and truly in the bag before turning into Santa`s sleigh and delivering up free goals.

Guardiola sent in a couple of curve balls, forced upon him no doubt by injuries to Nolito and Sterling. This meant places for Navas and Sane in the wide positions. Once again we had to suffer Clownio Bravo in goal, today with Stones, Kolarov and Otamendi as a back three. Fernandinho behind Silva, Gundogan and De Bruyne with Aguero as the solo striker.

For the best part of the first half City clearly had the edge but with the Timperley Stretford, Anthony Taylor becoming a free man in Chelsea`s midfield, City were finding progress difficult. The Pedmachine is not known for placing blame at the feet of dodgy referees, but today I would have preferred to see the fourth official Mike Dean in the middle instead of on the periphery.

Quite how Taylor finds himself in charge of key matches deceives me. And today proved precisely why. How come when Cahill chopped down Aguero wide out in the early stages, there was no admonishment, but when Otamendi robustly won the ball cleanly and fairly, and got out of his tackle and away with the ball, play was called back for a Chelsea free kick and a yellow card for Otamendi?

How come Mr Taylor, when Aguero skinned Luiz, as last man, including trying to avoid an extending elbow, was deliberately brought down, you did not even award City a free kick let alone dismissing Luiz for denying a goalscoring opportunity, especially as you were heading to your top pocket, then chickened out waving play on? Frankly, Mr Taylor you refereed this match as if you`d had a few pints of Timothy Taylors.

Amongst all this City were actually playing some decent stuff, but as has become almost the norm, they were profligate in front of goal and didn`t really trouble Courtois. When Fernandinho smartly headed home a De Bruyne free kick, the exaltation in the grades was curtailed as he was one of three who went too early and was duly flagged offside.

As the match headed towards the break, Navas once again got clear of the full back, Alonso, and once again hit the first man. This time it was Cahill who diverted it past Courtois and into his own net. There was an element of justice here as City deserved to be in front and probably by more than this charitable donation.

This gave the sky blues even more heart as they bombarded a Chelsea side unbeaten seemingly forever and as the second half got under way, the chances arrived. Aguero twice made poor decisions to go alone with the supporting cast better placed, but the most criminal miss has to be attributed to De Bruyne alone at the far post, with all the time in the world and he contrived to toe end it over the top after a neat pass from Gundogan.

That apart, for me, neither Gundogan nor Silva were really affecting the game and Aguero was having one of those matches, so with De Bruyne letting the Chelsea off the hook, it gave them a bit of a glimpse of things to come.

And when those things did come it was so simple. Fabregas straightened things up with an over the top pass to the devastating Costa who gunned the motors, outstripped Otamendi, on an unfair yellow and unable to risk one for the team. Costa easily beat Bravo to equalise for Chelsea.

This game was now crying out for the entry of Yaya for one of Silva or Gundogan, but as usual, Guardiola makes an inexplicable replacement taking off Sane and bringing on of all people Clichy. The common sense move here, if that was really what Guardiola had in mind then why not introduce Sagna to play in the three and release Kolarov onto the wing. But no, on came Clichy and within minutes it was enter Clichy, exit the points.

This was quite a ridiculous goal to concede. It started with Gundogan wriggling free in the Chelsea box and sending a dream pass along the six yard line which was screaming for City`s ball watchers to hammer home. However, Chelsea got it away and moved it rapidly via Hazard and Costa who passed into the space vacated by Clichy and found Willian, who approached from the angle and spotted that Bravo had left the back door open. Willian drilled it past him and fired Chelsea into the lead.

This effectively ended City`s involvement in this match as the confidence seemed to physically drain away from them. Now City made the change that should have happened at least 10 minutes sooner replacing Gundogan with Yaya. Quickly after that off went defender Stones and on came Iheanacho. Another strange substitution by Guardiola.

By now there was no real time for them to make any impact on the match. Chelsea had re-grouped and got their defensive effort back on track as the City threat evaporated.

It was left to Hazard to end the scoring as the game went into to stoppage time. Cutting in from the inside left route, two touches and bingo, Bravo beaten again. That was that. Or was it?

With 6 minutes of stoppage time in the offing, City should have at least made more of an effort, but Chelsea are the masters of dark arts when in front, getting themselves cheap free kicks and then taking forever to take them. So much so that a frustrated Aguero took the opportunity, with the ball stretching out of reach, taking out Luiz just below the knee in one of the worst fouls I`ve seen since the glory days of the seventies. The Timperley Stretford had no choice but to send off Aguero who will now not appear this side of Christmas but what was to follow reminded us of the Chelsea Tottenham match at the end of last season.

First off, Chelsea sub Chalobah pushed Aguero over, which is an easy red card, but no, he got a yellow. This incensed Fernandinho who was challenged by the disgrace that is Fabregas who flicked his face with a raised hand. Needless to say this was not seen by Taylor but he did see Fernandinho schitz and grab Fabregas by the throat. The Ex-Gooner knew he had him and set him up nicely so that the next move was a slight push which saw Fabregas tumble like a tree over an advertising board. Taylor once again went into his top pocket and reduced City to 9 before finally blowing the final whistle.

This end-of-match melee could have been avoided by Taylor had he taken the correct action against Luiz in the first half. I cannot condone the actions of Fernandinho, but these things happen when there doesn`t seem to be any equalisation of decisions from the referee during the match.

So in a month when the City thoroughbreds were facing their Grand National, they fell off their Chair at the first fence. The winning post is on New Year`s Eve at Anfield but by then City could find themselves searching for fourth place.

This was not a great afternoon for City. If it could go wrong today, it did and in fairness, my tuna sandwiches, created with the loving touch of Sue`s hands were the highlight of my day.

Can anyone see what Bravo has brought to this City squad? Let`s have it right he couldn`t save money in a discount store let alone the types of shots that arrive weekly in the Barclays Premier League. There are reminscences of when City signed David Seaman around the time we moved into the City of Manchester Stadium. Here we had England`s number one who for years had played behind those amazing Arsenal defenders and rarely saw the ball. When it started flying his way when playing for City he looked perplexed, wondering what it was, so much so he left at Christmas to be replaced by David James.

Bravo will have seen similar action at Barcelona, where goal kicks apart he probably didn`t see too much of the ball from one month to the next. He is not good enough for the Premier League. He never looks as though he`s going to keep his team in the match, never looks as though he can make a telling save. I could have saved two of those goals yesterday and we know for sure that Hart wouldn`t have given Willian a free shot at half the goal. Caballero is a better bet.

Much of City`s malaise came from Otamendi`s early yellow card which only Taylor can explain. This meant he could take no more chances and couldn`t dare even to be robust.

Up front, City`s front men looked more like the bumbling doctors of Holby City rather than the surgical precision of Harley Street. Chelsea had three shots on target and all of them went in. It tells its own story.

Aguero is still not firing on any cylinders let alone all of them and there is something missing from most of the others when they can`t accept an open goal. You can get away with that if you can depend on your defence and goalkeeper. City`s defence is a nightmare and the goalkeeper is a joke and a bad one at that.

The Magician, Silva is more like an unfunny version of Tommy Cooper rather than Merlin at present with too many passes not finding sky blue shirts and no real goal threat emanating from his feet.

City are on the threshold of another empty season. Sanchez will have a field day against that defence and we all know that as Vardy hasn`t scored for a million matches he`ll be fancying one next weekend from a back line that will give him operating space and then signpost the way towards Coco between the sticks.

Frankly I don`t see any positive way forward unless these people wearing our shirt find ways of getting back among the goals rather than liberally spraying the stands when it is easier to score. With Fernandinho likely to be missing for the next three matches, the heart of the team will be absent. It will provide more work for Yaya and Fernando no doubt but that axis is not my favourite.

For their part, Chelsea are marching on, eight league matches unbeaten and with only City and Liverpool containing the players to beat them and City failing, I cannot see where they are going to drop the points when they don`t have to play midweek when the business end of the season arrives.

That said, Liverpool have just surrendered a 3-1 lead, losing 4-3 at Bournemouth. Poor old Sue can`t believe it. In fairness neither can I but it has opened the door for Arsenal to get their noses in front of City and Liverpool.

With Celtic and a reduced strength team on Tuesday`s horizon and Arsenal further ahead, if City don`t beat Watford, when will we next see a win at home?

 
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