City’s gifts not looking so costly
Following a promising start, the last two fixtures have resulted in a hugely disappointing one point from a hoped for six. The City manager provided the following reflection on how a Tevez miss, a Micah push and a Joe Hart wander have cost us dearly.
“The problem is we keep giving gifts away to the opposition.”
“I just hope we have finished giving gifts away until Christmas now.”
With the race for a Champions League place likely to be tight, this could have heaped the pressure on Mancini. Yet our rivals have combined to make it not look so bad.
With Chelsea, United and Arsenal still favourites for Champions League places, Tottenham and Liverpool ought to be our main rivals. Villa and Everton are the expected outsiders in the race.
Thankfully for Mancini, Spurs have also taken a single point from the last six, while Liverpool failed to take advantage of our slips and remain alongside us on five points. Of course, not all opponents are equal in the Premier League. Though once again Spurs have come up short with their single point coming against Wigan at home and newly promoted West Brom away.
Everton’s late fightback on Saturday may have felt like a victory but the reality is they remain a point behind us. Villa have the chance to capitalise against Stoke tonight, but it’s hard to see them maintaining a challenge over the season with Houllier presiding over an inherited squad.
Even United are dropping points with two draws when they were in winning positions. Sadly the downfall of Fergie’s empire has been predicted all to often and come to nothing. They remain a win ahead of us and we’ll need a distinct improvement to close the gap anytime soon.
One things for sure, with Chelsea powering on with their 100% record, any talk of City making a bid for the title has been swiftly nipped in the bud. That’s a shame as it’s great to dream of such things even if Ancelotti’s side are clear favourites.
For all the column inches spent fretting over Arsenal’s defence and goalkeeper, they remain comfortable in a Champions League position. That’s the level to which Mancini ought to be aspiring this season.
Wigan away next Sunday is already a must-win if City want to ease the pressure on themselves. It was draws against supposedly inferior teams that cost Mark Hughes his job at Eastlands and Mancini is surely aware of that.
The Italian is more used to dealing with the pressure of expectation having managed Inter. This team retains his discipline when on the field and there’s still cause to believe the results will come, particularly once the new players bed in.
The necessity for a win against Wigan is emphasized by the following week’s visit of Chelsea. We’ll need a repeat of the Liverpool performance at least in that fixture, but it’s no longer a game to be feared. Instead it should represent a chance to show that we can compete with the top sides and put these past two results behind us.
What Mancini can’t afford to do is get bogged down with the Europa League. It’s the Premier League that matters this season.