It's the enigma that no one, not even manager Roberto Mancini, can work out. Although they currently sit in second position, the Citizens are seven points behind their fierce rivals Manchester United, and they've been far from their formidable best. So where did it go wrong for English Premier League champions Manchester City?
Last season they were unbeatable. Joe Hart was outstanding between the posts, Vincent Kompany was the rock at the heart of the defence. Yaya Toure and David Silva well and truly commanded their hefty transfer fees. And you definitely won't forget the Argentinian magicians up front, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez.
Which makes it more confusing to think that exactly the same Manchester City side are seemingly struggling for goals, with a 92nd-minute winner needed to overcome strugglers Reading at the Etihad Stadium, a place viewed as nothing less than a fortress only a few months ago.
How the situation has changed...
As a result of Manchester City's profligacy in front of goal this season, reports have recently linked Barcelona striker David Villa with a move to Eastlands after he has fallen down the pecking order at the Camp Nou, with Lionel Messi, Pedro and Alexis Sanchez the preferred trio in attack for the Catalans.
Even at the tender age of 31, Villa would be a magnificent signing for any side, and if wantaway striker Mario Balotelli was to leave Eastlands, Villa would be significantly more than just a replacement. The only question is: where would Villa fit in the team? Find out here...
There's no question really about the back four for manager Roberto Mancini, which is a bit of problem for fringe players such as Costel Pantilimon and Joleon Lescott.
The Italian seems to have finally settled on a back four setup that works for his side, after admitting defeat with his audacious 3-4-1-2 formation. And one of the first names on the team sheet these days is England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who is widely regarded as one of the best shot stoppers in Europe, and rightly so, for the 25-year-old's form in the past two years has been nothing short of sensational.
On his day, he's right up there with the modern day greats; Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon, Manuel Neuer...you name it. Hart has them in his sights. It's hard to believe that a goalkeeper at such a young age could already have matured into a world-class stopper, but Hart is exactly that. He may have had some slip ups this season, but generally, the former Shrewsbury trainee is a player Mancini can rely on.
Of all of the riches and millions of pounds spent on players since Manchester City were first taken over back in 2008 by Sheikh Mansour, Pablo Zabaleta is one of the dark horses who has quietly seen his stock rise at the Etihad Stadium to become a key player for Roberto Mancini.
Joining the club from La Liga outfit Espanyol for around £6 million, Zabaleta bizarrely joined the Citizens a day before the club were overhauled by the Abu Dhabi Group led by Mansour. And although several managers and players have come and gone in those four years, Zabaleta is a player who has survived.
If you were to compare him to any player in the modern era, Javier Zanetti would be a fitting description of how the 27-year-old operates. A tireless full-back, he can also play in midfield, and from time to time, you'll see the Argentinian racing down the touchline, eager to help out his teammates in attack.
To keep summer signing Maicon out of the team, who was once hailed as the best right-back in the world, is a testament of the progress Zabaleta has made at Eastlands.
Is there a faster-maturing 19-year-old in the world right now other than Matija Nastasic? He only made his professional debut for Partizan Belgrade back in 2010, but since then, he's gone on to play for Fiorentina and the Serbian national team, and finally, Manchester City.
He's reminiscent of a young Nemanja Vidic, challenging for aerial duels and looking to pass from the back. His reading of the game makes him a genuinely talented player, and with him turning 20 in March, Nastasic has many successful years ahead of him.
Of course, his young age means that mistakes are bound to happen occasionally, but with that being said, the nurturing provided by Mancini and leadership shown by defensive partner Vincent Kompany will see him develop into a fantastic player. There's no doubt about that.
Along with Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany is another signing from the 2008/09 season who has benefited Manchester City greatly in the long-term, with Kompany captaining both club and country, giving you a brief insight as to how important the 26-year-old is to his footballing institutions.
Joining the club from German side Hamburg four years ago, Kompany has gone from strength to strength at the Blues, especially under Roberto Mancini, and captained the team to their first Premier League title in 44 years. His ability to read the game in between the lines, intercept vital balls and make last-ditch challenges underlines the importance of having him in the side.
After being handed a six-year contract in July, it's clear that the Manchester City hierarchy see Kompany as the man around whom they can build their success. They've conquered the Premier League, next up: Europe.
Despite Aleksandar Kolarov's decent start to the season in the left-back position, France international Gael Clichy has managed to force his way back in the starting 11 this season after some impressive performances.
Kolarov was injured last month and needed a few weeks' rest and, with the luxury of options in depth for Roberto Mancini, in came Clichy to deputise. The 27-year-old had previously struggled to hold down a regular starting spot in the Citizens' lineup, but his experience—he's played in over 200 Premier League games—means he's a decent asset to the side.
His blistering pace and infinite energy allow him to burst down the left-hand side at will, although he's sometimes prone to being caught out. Nevertheless, City could do a lot worse than have Clichy and Kolarov fighting for a first-team spot at present.
A few eyebrows were raised when Manchester City signed Yaya Toure in a £25 million deal from Barcelona two seasons ago. A Champions League winner with the Catalan club, it was a signal of intent from the club's owners that they wanted to win trophies. And signing the Ivorian powerhouse has allowed them to do just that.
Even though he's 29 years old, you get the sense that Toure's career only really began in 2007, when he joined Barcelona from Monaco. And since then, his natural ability has shone through.
Just like Vincent Kompany, Toure leads by example on the pitch, working tirelessly in midfield and working from box-to-box.
He scores goals, creates goals; he even prevents goals for his side. His trademark 50-yard runs have allowed him to rightly become one of the Premier League's most feared players, and despite not hitting top form for the club this season, he is a key part of the team. Link him up with former teammate David Villa, and there could be goals flying in from everywhere.
A signing that all but confirmed Manchester City's status as one of the top clubs in English football, Samir Nasri has gone on to become a key figure at the Etihad Stadium after his controversial £24 million switch from Arsenal.
His creativity and vision gives his teammates an extra slice of magic that, when David Silva is having an poor game, can be vital in grabbing a victory. Sometimes he's prone to sulking when substituted, but that's an exhibition of Nasri's desire to win games and silverware as opposed to throwing his toys out of the pram.
At 25 years old, the former Marseille man is an essential part of any success that the club may endure, and as a result, it's imperative to keep winning at the top level to keep the star players like Nasri content at Eastlands.
The golden generation of "smaller" players is now upon us, with the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi ruling the footballing world at present despite their lack of physicality in their play. And Spanish playmaker David Silva is no different, showing how, even in the Premier League, having physical attributes isn't necessarily everything in English football.
There's no doubt he was a special player at his former club Valencia—hence Manchester City's parting with a cool £26 million for his services—but in his two years under Roberto Mancini, Silva has grown as a player. His creativity is second to none, with his execution of passes matching his incredible vision. He chips in with a goal now and then having got six last season in the league, but his main role is to create for the strikers.
A record of 15 assists in 33 Premier League appearances last season isn't a bad return for the playmaker, and City will be hoping he will honour his recent five-year deal with some more excellent performances. The prospect of him being reunited with his former Los Che teammate David Villa would be enough to keep him out of Real Madrid's clutches, at least for now...
Football is largely a game of irony, isn't it? The striker Manchester City signed for £38 million—a club record—as a replacement for Carlos Tevez is now probably regarded as more of a key player than Tevez himself.
With 30 goals in 48 Premier League games, Sergio "Kun" Aguero is one of the most feared strikers in the world, and his general style of play is reminiscent of his father-in-law, Diego Maradona. With a stocky frame but tremendous pace and close control, Aguero and Tevez in attack is a formidable partnership. In fact, until their 1-0 defeat against Sunderland on Boxing Day, the Citizens had won all 14 of the games the duo had started together.
He'll always be remembered for his last-gasp strike that won Manchester City their first league title in 44 years, but Aguero will be hoping that with Tevez and Villa up front with him, it'll be an easier task to win the title in the years to come.
The career of Carlos Tevez is often likened to a rollercoaster ride. Moments of brilliance, but with several ups and downs. Yet the 28-year-old striker is a class act with the ball at his feet, and for once in a long time, Tevez has focused purely on his football.
Falling out with Mancini on a number of occasions, Tevez seems to have turned a corner at the Etihad Stadium, and it was his return to the side in the second half of the season that helped Manchester City pip their fierce city rivals Manchester United to the Premier League crown. As a former Red Devil himself, it made victory all the more sweeter for Tevez.
Six goals in 12 Premier League appearances show that the Argentinian international is well into his stride in 2012/13, especially when you consider his six-month absence last year for his refusal to play against Bayern Munich. Combine his total for the season so far with Sergio Aguero's and you can see why so many football pundits are desperate for Mancini to play the two together. Add David Villa into the equation, and you have probably the deadliest strikeforce in the world.
What we're seeing as David Villa graces the beautiful world of football is one of the most instinctive goal scorers in European history. Or at least, in Spanish history.
With a tremendous record of scoring 53 goals in 85 games for Spain since making his debut back in 2006, Villa is an essential part of the Spain setup.
Trusted by Vicente Del Bosque as one of his main strikers along with Fernando Torres and Pedro, Villa was joint-top scorer at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with five goals as La Roja went on to become world champions.
By that point, he'd already sealed a £34 million switch from Valencia, where he'd scored 108 goals in 166 La Liga games, to La Liga champions Barcelona. However, after an impressive debut season for Los Cules, injuries have blighted his progress since, and with Pep Guardiola promoting youth players such as Isaac Cuenca and Cristian Tello to the senior squad, Villa is seemingly surplus to requirements.
Talk of a January move, loan or permanent, has been strongly speculated in the English and Spanish media, with the Daily Mail claiming Villa could move to Chelsea, with Arsenal, Manchester City and even Swansea mooted as other destinations. Wherever Villa decides to go, there's no doubt that he will score goals, providing he steers clear of injury. But if he's paired up with Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez, the inevitable Spanish-speaking connection will fall into place.
Make room for El Guaje, Roberto. Do it. Do it now.