Roberto Mancini’s assertion that Manchester City have a “10% chance” of winning the Premier League title after yesterday’s defeat against Southampton is a lot more defeatist than his attitude a year ago when City also trailed rivals Manchester United.
If anything, 10% is being generous given City’s regression to the point where they are now looking over their shoulder at a possible battle for a top four spot rather than ahead to United. Truth being told, this sort of self-destruction has been brewing for a number of months with City’s performances coming nowhere near close to the dizzy heights of last season.
The warning signs have been there for months - scraping wins late on at the start of the season (Southampton at home being one example), a lacklustre showing in the Champions League, and the recent failure to score against the league’s bottom side. Some of Mancini’s decisions lately have been baffling to say the least.
The situation with Scott Sinclair has left many fans scratching their heads, and Mancini appears to have no faith in the abilities of the former Chelsea and Swansea City man. With Mario Balotelli now in Italy and Carlos Tevez absent for family reasons, Sinclair was City’s sole attacking option on the substitute bench at St. Mary’s.
Yet even at 3-1 down in a must-win game, Mancini wouldn’t turn to the 23-year-old, instead opting for a pair of full backs in Maicon and Aleksandar Kolarov as well as James Milner (more on him later).
Of course, Sinclair may not have made a big enough impact to change the result game but it does raise more questions about the merits of his signing when he can’t even get a run out against the sort of opposition he excelled against while at Swansea.
Word came through before the game that club skipper Vincent Kompany had passed a fitness test yet, with Matija Nastasic not involved after arriving back late from international duty, Mancini chose not to risk the Belgian.
Given City have no Champions League commitments and an FA Cup tie next week where Nastasic would be available, Kompany’s inclusion should have been a guarantee if he was indeed fit.
Instead Javi Garcia was again deployed as a makeshift centre half, and though he played well in that position previously; he simply doesn’t offer the same assurances that Kompany does.
One of the few consistent supporters this season, James Milner, lost his place in the team following the return of Yaya Toure. While that might be understandable, it’s the fact that Samir Nasri was also restored to the side that annoys me.
Nasri, to put it bluntly, has been absolutely awful all season and yesterday was no different. From the first five minutes you knew how his game was going to go, with an inevitable substitution around the hour mark.
Consider his stats from the game - 77% pass completion rate, zero attempts on goal, no tackles attempted, no interceptions, and one chance created in his 55 minutes. Not good enough for a midfielder when the chips are down, and that’s been the case with Nasri all season.
Compare that to Milner, who in his last five starts has a goal and two assists amongst everything else including a great work rate, and you get the point I’m trying to make.
Ultimately it was three individual mistakes that cost City their three goals against Southampton but in truth, City folded for 90 minutes when put under pressure by a side playing a high line and closing down quickly.
When the Saints put in a good showing at Old Trafford a fortnight ago, they were praised from all corners for their efforts but in the end United still managed to get three points.
City, on the other hand, looked disinterested for most of the game and showed no signs of the character that ultimately won them the league last year. As far as I’m concerned the title race is over, even with 12 games to go, simply because City don’t look like they want to win it.
And as for Gareth Barry’s own goal - well you just have to laugh sometimes.