"Why don't we score goals any more?"
"That's the problem with our society these days," I said to my son in the car this week. "Whenever anything goes wrong, people immediately look for someone or something to blame."
My son had asked me why the National Basketball Association's Philadelphia 76ers had made that stupid (his word) trade for Andrew Bynum, who looks more and more like he will never play a game for the Sixers, per USA Today.
My point to him was that Bynum's inability to play was ultimately no one's fault. The 76ers took a risk trading for an injured player because they thought he would be healthy enough to play.
They gambled, they lost, as told to NBC Sports. End of story.
Ultimately, the same can be said for Manchester City's ill-fated defense of its Premier League crown.
Except in Manchester City's case, the gamble they made was not the acquisition of an injured player. Rather, it was the decision to invest its summer transfer money in several players (Jack Rodwell, Matija Nastasic, Javi Garcia, Scott Sinclair and Maicon) rather than one—Robin van Persie.
That error is the main reason why the Sky Blues have gone backwards this season.
He's telling everybody.
And, as usual, even when Mancini is grating and annoying, he has a point.
Here's the part where we go to the statistics.
Through 28 Premier League games played, City has the stingiest defense in the league, having conceded only 24 goals. Chelsea is next best at 30. League-leading Manchester United has yielded 31 goals so far, which is not exactly special.
But see, you can afford to give a few extra tallies up here and there when you pump them in like United does.
Only Liverpool's Luis Suarez has scored more goals than van Persie's 19 this season. Wayne Rooney has 11. United as a side has scored 68(!) times in Premier League play this season. City has scored 51 times this season, only fifth-best (behind United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool) in league play.
And that, in large part, is why for all its defensive earnestness and grit, City is a dozen points back of United with 10 games to play.
Last year at this same point, United had 67 points and City had 66. United had scored 68 and conceded 27, City had scored 69 and conceded 20 (h/t Statto.com.) You see clearly, then, that while United is a bit better this season than last, City is appreciably worse.
Mancini is right that losing van Persie to United was a crippling blow. There have been others, though.
Vincent Kompany hobbled off early in the derby, and so was not around to see van Persie notch the game-winner in extra time. That was sadly a harbinger of things to come, as Kompany has missed eight games outright and left others early.
Sergio Aguero has been limited by injury for much of the year. And at this point, no one can say exactly what the deal is with Rodwell, per The Sun. But having him appear in only eight games was not the plan.
In the final analysis, then, there are reasons why the Sky Blues have taken steps backward this season, but there is no reason for blame, per se.
City reasoned that adding van Persie to a team that already had four world-class strikers (they still had Mario Balotelli then) without addressing its weaknesses in the midfield and back line would be a misappropriation of resources.
Now, certainly, City would gladly give up its five summer transfer acquisitions (even Nastasic, who has been very good and could be for a long time) if it meant adding van Persie.
City gambled. They lost.
End of story.