Manchester City are currently 15 points behind Manchester United in the league and it is fair to say that this season’s title race is over. So where it go wrong for them?

Manchester City newsWith Manchester United establishing a 15-point lead at the summit of the Premier League, it is probably fair to say that the title race is over for another season. The chances of another collapse from United akin to last seasonai??i??s is negligible, and even the most optimistic of City fans would admit there is no way back from here. With that in mind, what were the reasons for City failing to defend their Premier League crown? Here are some of the decisive factors:

Injuries

Every club has them, so it is not an excuse, but City certainly appear to have been hit by more injuries than last season, when they had an excellent record in this area. Sergio Aguero injured himself within minutes of the season opening, and has since suffered two further injuries, which links in with Cityai??i??s failure to score goals. Vincent Kompany is currently injured, and has been for many weeks now, whilst the glut of new signings last summer managed to damage themselves within weeks, Jack Rodwell not surprisingly repeating this process ever since. The near-season-long loss of Micah Richards has been less problematic, with Pablo Zabeleta more than adequately filling the right-back position.

Failure To Strengthen Last Summer

If you asked Roberto Mancini (in private) where City had gone wrong this season, you can almost guarantee he would cite this as a reason. Mancini was adamant that City had to strengthen the squad to build on their success. He wanted Robin Van Persie, Javi Martinez, Eden Hazard and Danielle De Rossi. He got none of them, and there was an element of panic-buying when the succession of 2nd choice signings arrived towards the end of the summer transfer window. He has been proved right to an extent, but it not a foolproof excuse for failure. After all, he still had a title-winning squad at his disposal, a squad that have not hit the heights of last season (departees Adam Johnson and Nigel De Jong were not first-team regulars last season). City appear to have gone backwards, but many players have not been at their peak.

Fewer Goals

Manchester United have had a consistent goal-scorer all season. For the first half of the season, Robin Van Persieai??i??s goals fired United onwards. Now that his goals have dried up, Wayne Rooney has stepped up and weighed in with quite a few of his own. City on the other hand have not had a consistent goal scorer all season, and it has cost them dear. Itai??i??s strange to think how under-strength Cityai??i??s attacking options might be as the summer progresses. Mario Balotelli has of course gone, and repeatedly the press link Sergio Aguero, unhappy at the break-up of his marriage, with a move back to Madrid, where his son now resides. Edin Dzeko is also thought to be on his way, as is Carlos Tevez, unless he lets his contract run down next summer. As for this season, the aforementioned injuries to Aguero have partially contributed to his poorer season (compared to his explosive debut last year), Edin Dzeko has only sparkled occasionally from the bench, and although Carlos Tevez is now running at full speed, even he went almost three months with barely a goal to his name.

The lack of goals has not just been down to misfiring forwards though. The fact is, there have been fewer chances for the strikers to seize upon. Many a disappointing away performance has been characterised by a paucity of chances created. The free-scoring side of last season has at times seemed like a very distant memory.

With City once more having the meanest defence, and Joe Hart, despite his criticism, on course for another ai???Golden Glovesai??? award (for most clean sheets in the Premier League) for the third season in succession, it is clear where the problems lie. Last season City scored 93 goals in the league. This season, they are 42 goals short of that total, with nine games to play.

Away Form

When it looked like City had blown last seasonai??i??s title race, their away form was presented as a key factor in their expected failure, as the goals dried up in crucial away games in the later winter/spring months, a 1-0 defeat to Swansea immediately springing to mind. Likewise, City have failed to perform away form home at a crucial stage of this season, though there have been similar performances throughout the season. Quite simply. City have put in some poor displays on the road. The defeat to Southampton was the nadir, the performance against Everton little better. Add to that dropped points at the likes of West Ham and QPR (failing to score in both), and Cityai??i??s surrender of the title becomes easier to comprehend. City have only lost four league games all season, so it could be argued that it is the draws that have hit them hardest.

Samir Nasriai??i??s Failure To Help Form A Wall

With the title race close, and the scores tied at the Etihad just a couple of months ago, Samir Nasri hid behind the rest of Cityai??i??s defensive wall as Robin Van Persie took a 90th minute free-kick, then feebly stuck out a boot and helped the ball deflect over Joe Hartai??i??s grasp and into the back of the net. Victory for United, and the title race took a major swing.

Uncertainty Over The Managerai??i??s Future

This is unlikely to be a major factor in shaping Cityai??i??s season, as uncertainty has followed Mancini around since day one. Last seasonai??i??s run-in had the same narrative, as Cityai??i??s seemingly unsuccessful title-push had the nationai??i??s journalists predicting a summer exit, and as it turned out, Roberto Mancini was speaking to Monaco to cover his back should the axe fall. Even though he signed a new five-year deal last summer, the same rumours plague Mancini once more, and have only intensified over the past few weeks. It canai??i??t help matters having such uncertainty over the manager, but it a normal state of affairs for many clubs nowadays.

Ruthless Manchester United

The thing with league tables is that it is not just about how well one team does. It is of course about how well the team does compared to their competitors. So a team can get 40 points and get relegated, and a team the following season can get 35 points and stay up. Manchester City could match last seasonai??i??s impressive 89-point total, and theyai??i??d still almost certainly finish 2nd in the league. United are on target for a points total in the high 90ai??i??s, and sometime sit is just best to accept that the better team won. They have not sparkled for much of the season, but they have been relentless in picking up points, on course for the 2nd highest points total of all time, a squad that Joe Hart this week called a ai???killing machineai???. As for City, even if they win all their remaining nine games, they will still be three points shy of last seasonai??i??s points total.

The Managerai??i??s Tinkering

Which leads to the oft-criticised 3-5-2 formation that Roberto Mancini has failed to successfully impose on his players this season. Its failures have been somewhat exaggerated, as the formation has been used successfully a couple of times, but the minuses have far outweighed the plusses. Mancini has stressed that top players should be able to adjust to new formations and ideas, and they should, but fail they most certainly have so far. The formation is not fatefully flawed, but the struggles to implement it at City this season have led to some difficult periods on the pitch.

Defending A Title

Logic suggests that winning your first title in 44 years is harder than then retaining it, but many an ai???expertai??? has commented on the difficulty of retaining a Premier League title, and it has proved a big stumbling block for City.

Conclusion

As with any failed title push, there will always be multiple reasons for falling short. For City it has been a mixture of failing to strengthen last summer, the relentless strength of the main competition, a failure to score enough goals, and variable away form. The result is a manager under pressure, and perhaps nearing the end of his tenure at the Etihad, but also perhaps this seasonai??i??s failures will lead to a desire to be stronger in the next transfer window. Either way, this seasonai??i??s premier league title race has been a damp squib compared to last seasonai??i??s, but then nothing will ever live up to that. The question is how strongly will City come back at United next season? That remains to be seen, with the managerai??i??s and many of the playersai??i?? futures up in the air.

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