Champs to chumps – a game of two halves! Man City 2 Burnley 2

Manchester City’s champs became chumps as complacency, sloppiness and fatigue provided an escape route for a battling Burnley to pull back two goals and gain a deserved point.

In a pathetic second half display – right up there with the CSKA Moscow debacle – City imploded with an error strewn, lack lustre offering, one that contradicted all the credit accumulated in a nine-game winning streak.

New Year honours - City players and supporters pay their pre-kick off respects to those associated with the Club who died during 2014. Courtesy@MCFC

New Year honours – City players and supporters pay their pre-kick off respects to those associated with the Club who died during 2014. Courtesy@MCFC

The ‘p’ in professional was replaced by a ‘p’ for pathetic as City’s title defence descended into an abject exhibition. They were outfought and, amazingly, outplayed for long periods by Sean Dyche’s fitter, hungrier and more powerful side.

Ex-City FA Youth Cup winners Kieran Trippier and Ben Mee must’ve thought Father Christmas had arrived three days late, as the club that deemed them not good enough, swanned around like Big Time Charlies, heading for an inevitable fall.

Silva celebration - Merlin scored his 4th goal in three games. Courtesy@MCFC

Silva celebration – Merlin scored his 4th goal in three games. Courtesy@MCFC

Striker-less once again, the majestic brilliance of David Silva (four goals in three games) and a sumptuous slice of Samba finishing from Fernandinho, had given City a deserved 2-0 half time advantage.

The Champions obviously thought they were as good as home and hosed in a criminal example of over confidence. Such crass thinking was thought to be a thing of the past – sadly not.

It was the lowly visitors who were prepared to ‘Fight ‘Till the End’ not Pellegrini’s prima donnas.

Day off - Fernando picked up a yellow card which rules him out of the Sunderland game on New Year's Day. Courtesy@MCFC

Day off – Fernando picked up a yellow card which rules him out of the Sunderland game on New Year’s Day. Courtesy@MCFC

Admittedly Burnley found a more than willing ally in the awful officiating of Kevin Friend – who produced a lopsided display of congeniality towards the visitors – one which extended to a blatantly offside goal.

Alice band-wearing, George Boyd – the scutty little Scot who spat at Joe Hart while playing for Hull City last season – was clearly beyond the last defender when his deft flick from Danny Ings’ cross, eluded a hapless Hart.

Must do better - Joe Hart should've stopped Boyd's offside goal - the second howler he's conceded in 48 hours. Courtesy@MCFC

Must do better – Joe Hart should’ve stopped Boyd’s offside goal – the second howler he’d conceded in 48 hours. Courtesy@MCFC

Offside or not, Hart was hopeless as he conceded a second howler in two days, following his mis-punch at WBA.

Having just signed up for another four-and-a-half years, Joe needs to up his game…and while he’s at it learn how to kick straight. His distribution is often worse than that of express parcel carriers, Yodel and City Link.

None of Pellegrini’s players can escape the roll call of second half dishonour, although Aleksander Kolarov had a head start on his team mates, being just as useless in both 45-minute periods.

AK47 - Kolarov misfired all day long in a woeful display. Courtesy@MCFC

AK47 – Kolarov misfired all day long in a woeful display. Courtesy@MCFC

Mangala and Demichelis had looked comfortable and effective together in the absence of Kompany, but Burnley’s rough tough strikers Ashley Barnes and Ings had the better of them all day long.

City’s midfield, previously creative, hard working and incisive was simply blown away by a Burnley team who, with approximately half of the home side’s possession, were more accomplished and direct.

James Milner laboured long and hard but to little effect as the stand-in centre forward and the chances of him departing the Etihad, either in January or next summer, seems to be increasing.

Defenceless - Demichelis and Mangala were outmuscled by Burnley's frontmen. Courtesy@MCFC

Defenceless – Demichelis and Mangala were outmuscled by Burnley’s frontmen. Courtesy@MCFC

The England utility man has cited a lack of first team opportunities as the principle reason for leaving City on a Bosman, but the prospect of a £10m payday from a new employer has surely crossed his mind.

Pellegrini stated his players were tired after playing on WBA’s heavy snow laden pitch less than 48 hours earlier, but when you consider Burnley were putting out the same starting XI for the fifth game on the bounce, it really doesn’t wash.

Grafter - James Milner worked hard as a makeshift centre forward, but will he stay at City? Courtesy@MCFC

Grafter – James Milner worked hard as a makeshift centre forward, but will he stay at City? Courtesy@MCFC

Zabaleta and Kolarov were in for Sagna and Clichy as part of City’s squad rotation policy, but Yaya Toure’s absence was more of a mystery as Fernandinho started ahead of the Ivorian.

Magnanimous Manuel said Burnley deserved their point and few could argue, but what an opportunity missed as Premier League leaders, Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw at Southampton.

Only time will tell whether this draw is significant come May 24th – could it turn out to be a point gained rather than two dropped? It certainly feels like the latter at the moment…as it did when Sunderland snatched a 2-2 draw at The Etihad, before City went on to win the PL.

Battered but not beaten - Zaba shows the scars of his unfortunate collision with team mate Mangala. Jesus listens! Courtesy@MCFC

Battered but not beaten – Zaba shows the scars of his unfortunate collision with team mate Mangala. Jesus listens! Courtesy@MCFC

As has been pointed out to me ‘You can’t win them all’ and never a truer word spoken, BUT, when you’re the Champions of England, 2-0 up at half time, on your home territory against opponents languishing in the relegation zone, it’s pretty unforgivable.

For a third consecutive game City were missing any recognised senior forward, skipper Vincent Kompany and, on this occasion, Yaya into the bargain.

Nonetheless there cannot be any adequate excuse.

Conversely, back in early November, any City fan offered a deal of nine wins and a draw to see out 2014 would surely have taken it?

Dampener - City re-group and go again after the disappointment of surrendering a two goal lead over Burnley. Courtesy@MCFC

Dampener – City re-group and go again after the disappointment of surrendering a two goal lead over Burnley. Courtesy@MCFC

When languishing eight points behind Chelsea, and knowing any stumble could see Mourinho’s synchronised diving squad go 11 points clear, what self respecting City fan would have refused a position of sitting just three points behind Chelski as the New Year dawns?

Pellegrini’s maths have improved somewhat since Bayern Munich in December 2013, and he’s quick to emphasise there are still 57 points to be plundered. A vital three of those on January 31st would go a long way to deciding the destination of the PL crown.

Samba sensation - Fernandinho struck an exquisite second goal. Courtesy@MCFC

Samba sensation – Fernandinho struck an exquisite second goal. Courtesy@MCFC

Once the anger and disappointment of a thankfully rare show of gutless football from City, subsides another ‘p’ word comes onto the radar – perspective.

Pellegrini has had to deal with players suffering a World Cup hangover, UEFA Financial Fair Play constraints which undoubtedly had an adverse impact on City’s transfer dealings last summer and a pretty horrendous spate of injuries to key players.

The fact City are second with the prospect of Kompany’s imminent return, Jovetic potentially staying fit for longer than it takes to boil an egg and Sergio and Edin back by mid-January, is cause for optimism.

Work in progress - Pellegrini still has City on course to retain the title, despite the setback against Burnley. Courtesy@MCFC

Work in progress – Pellegrini still has City on course to retain the title, despite the setback against Burnley. Courtesy@MCFC

What isn’t so clear is what leverage will City have in the January transfer window? How limited are the funds, thanks to Michel Pratini?

A new striker would seem an imperative, but high calibre strikers don’t come cheap.

How ironic that the likes of lower league forwards Barnes and Ings – costing next-to-nothing in relative terms – could wreak such havoc in City’s defence.

Could Txiki Begiristain broker a deal with a club for a prize asset in a similar fashion to Valencia’s loan signing of Alvaro Negredo? It’s a loan deal but the La Liga outfit are compelled to pay City £25m this coming summer.

Super strike - Dino hit his first goal of the season...and it was a beauty. Courtesy@MCFC

Super strike – Dino hit his first goal of the season…and it was a beauty. Courtesy@MCFC

Had that fee factored into the FFP equation, and a last minute deal to sell Matija Nastasic not have gone pear-shaped, City may well have already had a fourth striker on the books.

The out-of-favour Nastasic and the recently re-appeared ‘Invisible Man’, Scott Sinclair, along with John Guidetti, on loan at Celtic, could bring in £15m+ in transfer fees, to help fund any acquisitions.

And then of course, there’s the situation with Milner. Will he sign, will he go on a free next summer or will City be forced to try and cash in?

On yer bike - will any of City's squad be moving on and new signings coming in during January? Courtesy@MCFC

On yer bike – will any of City’s squad be moving on and new signings coming in during January? Courtesy@MCFC

City would do well to bring in at least one addition, ideally two, but January is a seller’s market and thankfully City no longer do knee-jerk, over inflated transfer deals.

They can but hope they won’t pay too heavy a price for their bungling against Burnley.

 

#TrustOurMP

By David Walker

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

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