With 10 games to go Manchester City are 10 points off the top of the Premier League in a far from Perfect 10 scenario.
But – and it’s a big but – if Manuel Pellegrini’s team can finish how they started and start how they finished, City could yet win a second title in three years.
An 11 game winning streak saw City close out last season in style and boast a perfect record after the opening five fixtures of 2015-16.
Having brushed aside an abject Aston Villa last weekend, Pellegrini knows that a similar record of 11 straight wins might still not be enough to win the league, but it shouldn’t be for the want of trying.
City’s soon to depart manager said: “We cannot have the same points as Tottenham and Leicester if they win all their games.
“But if they win the title, we need to make sure it’s because they win all their games, not because we couldn’t win ours.”
City’s storming start to the campaign had prompted daft – and mathematically unsound – talk of the title even being won by Christmas.
Any thoughts of a straightforward dash to a third Premier League crown in five years, showed a wanton disregard for the ‘Typical City’ default setting.
The ‘Manchester City Way’ is more structurally challenged than a sinkhole-infested ‘Mancunian Way’, with a bumpy ride virtually guaranteed.
There’s more than a sense of déjà vu as City seek to shift through the gears, changing Mission Impossible to Mission Improbable, cranking Mission Possible up to Mission Probable, before accelerating to Mission Accomplished, doing what the Sky Blue romantics would have us all believe and ‘Fight ‘Till The End.’
As every City fan will testify, dafter things can, and have, happened.
With a game in hand over Arsenal, Spurs and Leicester, City can eclipse the Gunners by winning at relegation-threatened Norwich and edge to within two points of Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
A seven point chasm to Claudio Ranieri’s league leaders would still remain, but if any team is capable of hunting down the Foxes it has to be City.
That would pre-suppose City finding something that has eluded them since August – consistency – and that’d be consistently good, not consistently inconsistent!
The extensive injury list that has wreaked havoc all season is finally, finally, showing signs of clearing up with Kevin De Bruyne, Fabian Delph and Samir Nasri nearing returns in early April.
Yaya Toure will be missing at Carrow Road today, but hopefully available for the Manchester derby next Sunday.
Of course, every team suffers injuries but City have been down to the bare bones at times, despite the media misrepresentations that City somehow have a ‘bigger’ squad than anyone else.
A lack of available senior players and ridiculous TV scheduling, saw City’s FA Cup ambitions sacrificed on an altar of Pellegrini pragmatism and principles.
The Chilean revolted against the FA and BBC’s decision to force City to play Chelsea, just 24 hours before City’s threadbare squad were flying out to the Ukraine for the Champions League knockout stages.
Chelsea’s 5-1 defeat of a City side featuring six teenagers was almost inevitable, but the youngsters emerged with credit, unlike a much maligned Willy Caballero, deputising in goal for Joe Hart.
With the likes of Aguero, Silva and Yaya restored to the side in Kiev, Pellegrini’s reward was a stunning 3-1 win which, barring a calamitous 2nd leg on Tuesday night, will see City progress to the quarter final stages of the Champions League for the first time.
Four days later Manuel, once again proved himself to be a man of honour when, against a crescendo of criticism, he stuck by the calamitous Caballero, keeping his word to play him as the ‘domestic cups’ keeper, this time in the Capital One Cup Final.
The veteran Argentine epitomized City’s season, going from zero to hero in the space of a week, saving three penalties in the League Cup shootout and handing Pellegrini his third trophy in his time at the Etihad.
Having dominated Liverpool at Wembley and deservedly winning the Cup, City rolled up at Anfield in the league fixture three days later and inexplicably ‘rolled over’ to a gutless 3-0 defeat.
Once again, it symbolized the flakiness that has all too often been City’s unpalatable match day offering – a signature dish that sticks in the throat.
It cannot be allowed to happen again if Pellegrini is going to add to his haul of silverware, in his now time-limited stay at the Etihad.
City fans don’t want to be spitting feathers after the lunchtime date with Delia Smith’s Canaries today. Anything short of victory will be a recipe for chronic Premier League indigestion.
By David Walker
Dedicated to Nick Spalding, one of a rare breed – a Spurs fan who is a really great guy! Happy Birthday for today, but hoping against hope you have a rotten Sunday and Villa win tomorrow…cue Flying Pigs 😉
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