Pragmatic Manuel Pellegrini had already put the kibosh on any ‘quadruple’ codswallop, long before Manchester City were outfought, outplayed and obviously outfoxed, by an irresistible Leicester City.
City’s abject capitulation at the hands of Claudio Ranieri’s hungry, crafty troop, meant the pre-match title favourites were never on the scent, leaving even the most optimistic fan wondering if Pellegrini would capture one trophy, let alone four, before he departs in June.
All the ‘Pep-talk’ and a wave of Sky Blue euphoria, was dampened on a rain sodden day, eclipsed only by a sorrowfully soggy showing from City, one that left supporters drowning in a sea of bewilderment, as any title aspirations looked to be swept away.
If Spurs inflict a fourth home league defeat on City – an unprecedented prospect in recent years – it could be the perfect storm and one that ensures Pellegrini’s legacy is heading down the plughole.
The fire that burned so brightly in ripping Everton apart in the 3-1 League Cup semi final win, the composure displayed in annihilating Villa 4-0 in the FA Cup, and the grit to see out a 1-0 victory at The Stadium of Light will all need to be back this Sunday.
Lacklustre City – a team with the energy of a 15-watt bulb against Leicester – must illuminate the Etihad and out-dazzle Mauricio Pochettino’s fellow title contenders.
Given that City have rarely shone bright this season, it’s incredible that they are still competing on four fronts.
For the most part, they’ve underwhelmed and under achieved, albeit half the team has been ‘under the doctor’ at any given time.
Shorn of the creativity of De Bruyne and Nasri, the lightning pace of Navas and industry of Delph, City’s midfield corp is increasingly threadbare ahead of Tottenham’s arrival.
The loss of Sagna, arguably City’s most consistent player of the season, is another blow to an injury riddled squad, while Mangala and Bony remain sidelined.
But for all the doom and gloom in the aftermath of the 1-3 Leicester reversal, City are still credible prospective ‘double winners’ for a second time in Pellegrini’s three-year stint.
Is the cavalry on the horizon in the shape of Captain Vincent Kompany? The skipper could be thrust straight into the frontline – bolstering City’s vulnerable backline, such is the parlous state of the defending.
The sad and rapid decline of Martin Demichelis in recent times, Nicolas Otamendi’s impetuosity and irritating propensity for going to ground too frequently, plus Eliaquim Mangala’s erraticity and injuries, means the centre of defence has been an open door invitation to opponents.
Who could have foreseen the centre back roles would be City Achilles heel as the season progressed?
Granted, dodgy hamstrings, knees and calves, have also crippled City’s playing abilities…but you get the drift.
Such was the perceived strength in depth at centre back, Jason Denayer was allowed to go out on a season loan to Galatasaray, a decision that now seems intrinsically flawed.
Against Leicester, Otamendi and Demichelis did a passable impersonation of the Argentine air force during the Falklands War – never getting off the ground to any positive effect.
Battle scarred as they are, City are not beaten.
It behoves every player in sky blue to match and surpass the high intensity of a Spurs side inspired by Pochettino – one Argentinian who is presently flying high.
Kompany’s influence cannot be over emphasised, particularly during this campaign. He undoubtedly brings out the best in whoever plays alongside him – even Mangala looked impressive as City started with five clean sheets.
If a fit and able Kompany can help stem the flow of goals (City still have the fifth best defence in the Premier League) there’s every chance Sergio Aguero can help outscore the opposition.
Super Sergio is a phenomenon with 92 goals in 138 league appearances (14 in 18 this season) and 125 goals in 189 games in all competitions with City.
He’s netted 10 league goals in eight games against Spurs, but this season Tottenham boast the best defence having conceded just 19.
Nonetheless, an on song City are more than capable of avenging the 4-1 debacle at White Hart Lane last September.
Mark Clattenburg officiates tomorrow, as he did in the first game. He and his assistants allowed two blatantly offside Spurs goals, but City were the architects of their own downfall, surrendering their first half superiority in a pathetic second 45 minutes.
With Aguero, Silva, Sterling and Iheanacho available, City are still well served in the goals department, whereas Kompany could and should stiffen the City rearguard.
The problem lies in midfield and a four letter word – work. Fernandinho will put a shift in, but what of Yaya and the often ineffective Fernando?
City’s players have expressed regret at Pellegrini’s imminent ‘passing’, so it’s high time they let actions speak louder than sound-bites or tweets about ‘fighting till the end…’ or ‘going again…’
Whereas City sides of the recent past have overhauled 8 point and 7 point deficits to win titles with just a handful of games to go, this team still has the luxury of 13 matches and 39 points to turn it around.
Anything akin to the performance against Leicester, in what is another ‘six pointer’ at the Etihad, will render any rallying social media or after match utterances shallow and worthless.
It doesn’t have to be so.
For God’s sake City dig in, dig deep and dig out three precious points.
By David Walker
Dedicated to a trio of wonderful City supporters.
Firstly, Lee Welland as he confronts the biggest challenge of his life with courage and determination, supported with the love of his wonderful family. You’re a winner fella so there’s no reason to change winning habits.
Secondly, David Hughes a battle-hardened blue who has been absent from City games as he battles the ‘Big C’, but he’ll be back to savour the Pep Guardiola years.
Finally, Susan Bookbinder, a lovely Lady Blue, who celebrates her birthday today – Happy Birthday Suzy.
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu