Manchester City started the ongoing 2015/16 season with the target of at least winning the Barclays Premier League title, and progressing beyond the R-16 stage in Europe. They made an emphatic start, winning their first quintet of league games and looking absolutely solid as a unit. Manuel Pellegrini’s side was irresistible to watch, both defensively and offensively. In Europe, they started off with a defeat to Juventus at the Etihad Stadium, but won four of their remaining five games to top Group D.
Things have gone a bit downhill, however, over the last couple of months, when victories have been hard to come by. City, mind you, are still involved in all four competitions. They are third in the league, trailing leaders Arsenal by only three points; trail Everton 1-2 heading into the second-leg in the Capital One Cup semifinal; and have progressed to R-16 and fourth round, respectively, of the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup. The question is: what will it take City to win silverware this season, which is at its midway point?
The key to winning championships is to be consistent. City, though, have been drastically inconsistent over the last couple of months, a period during which their away form in particular, has been extremely poor.
Of their last 10 away games in all competitions, City have won just three, drawn three (all ending 0-0) and lost four. Two of those victories – against Watford in the Premier League and Norwich in the FA Cup – have come in the first 10 days of the New Year. If they want to bag a silverware or two this season, City’s away form has to pick up, and pick up soon.
The reason for the poor away form has been the tempo at which they have operated, time and again. City’s lack of intensity when out of possession has allowed their opponents plenty of time on the ball. Teams like Stoke City and Arsenal exploited City’s sluggishness remorselessly, with the Blues taking just one out of a possible nine away points in the league during December.
The month of January is important from City’s point-of-view, as their main title challengers, Arsenal, have crucial away games coming up and the potential, therefore, of dropping a few points. City, who are just three points adrift of the Gunners, can take advantage of any slip-ups the North Londoners experience. Upcoming home games against Everton and Crystal Palace are really crucial to City, who should look to garner six points from those two fixtures. A good month of January can help City massively in their pursuit of a third Premier League title in five years.
Pellegrini strongly believes that City can overcome the Toffees, despite the Cityzens being 2-1 down before the second-leg of the league cup semifinal on the 27th of January. They have lost just three home games so far this season, and are a formidable outfit at the Etihad Stadium. A strong performance should get them over the line and against Roberto Martinez’s side that beat City in the first-leg by exuding more energy and purpose than their opponents.
City have been drawn against Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League R-16, and will be playing the first-leg away from home. Having finished top of Group D, City deserve the slightly easier draw they have got this time around. But now the onus is on them to go out and win the two-legged tie, first of which will be played on the 25th of February. Reaching the quarter-finals would mean progress for City, who are still learning how to be successful in this great competition.
Under Pellegrini, City have not done well in the FA Cup, and reaching the quarter-finals in 2014 has been their best performance in the competition in the last two seasons. They produced a clinical display to beat Norwich City in the third round yesterday. If they have high ambitions, City can do well in the FA Cup and potentially, win it in May.
City have suffered the most number of injuries (44!) of all the top-flight clubs since the beginning of this season, and that has definitely been a hindrance to them. Sergio Aguero came back from his heel injury only recently, and Vincent Kompany’s troublesome calf continues to keep him away from action. Kompany’s expected return to action can be known here.
With City involved in all four competitions still, they need their entire squad, or at least most of the players, to remain fit and healthy from here on. I say that because, in my opinion, injuries and away form will be the crucial determinants in City’s quest for a silverware or two this season.