City's 1-0 defeat to Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, their fourth away reverse already this season, has further dented their title challenge and raised question marks over their ability to put a consistent run of results together in the absence of some of their best players.
Here are six talking points to emerge from a disastrous day for the Blues.
Manuel Pellegrini got the team selection wrong
The City manager made five changes from the side that beat CSKA Moscow so comfortably on Wednesday night in the Champions League. David Silva, Matija Nastasic and Fernandinho were enforced changes due to injury, making the decision to rotate both full-backs baffling. Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy were rested, and City had a disjointed look about them after changing three quarters of their back four.
With so many matches to come before the New Year, it makes sense for Pellegrini to try to keep players fresh, but sometimes too many changes upsets the rhythm of a side, and that’s exactly what happened to City here. The manager has to take huge responsibility for this defeat—he got it badly wrong.
Javi Garcia remains off the pace
With Fernandinho missing through injury, City had to alter their settled central midfield partnership. James Milner, who replaced Fernandinho in the game against CSKA Moscow and looked outstanding, was picked to play on the right, with Jesus Navas inexplicably left on the bench. Javi Garcia was the man selected to play the Fernandinho role.
It was a move that backfired massively.
Garcia was dreadful, and Milner, out of position in the eyes of many, struggled to influence the game on the wing. Pellegrini rectified it at half-time, taking Garcia off, moving Milner inside and putting Navas out wide, but the damage was already done. Milner excelled in the second-half and was one of City’s only decent players, whilst Navas was arguably their best attacking outlet.
Pellegrini must surely now realise that Milner is the man to play in the centre of the pitch if either Yaya Toure or Fernandinho isn't available, and that Garcia should be used as sparingly as possible.
City miss David Silva
David Silva has been in imperious form in recent weeks and he was badly missed at the Stadium of Light. He has a calf injury and looks to be out for three to four weeks. On the evidence provided by Sunday's performance, City will struggle to control matches in his absence.
He has the ability to dictate play with close control and superb passing and is the man that other City players look to when in possession. Without him, City appear short of ways to penetrate the opposition defence.
Aleksandar Kolarov should be sold
One can only assume that City didn’t receive an acceptable offer for Aleksandar Kolarov in the summer because, if they had, he would surely have been sold. Against Sunderland he was poor again, with his profligacy going forward and his lack of awareness defensively a big problem for City.
Kolarov has struggled to find any kind of form since his move in 2010. He failed to nail down a first-team place under former boss Roberto Mancini, and even with Clichy’s poor start to the season he looks as far away from being City’s first-choice left-back as he’s ever been.
Away form continues to hold City back
City’s away form now a major concern. Four defeats, one draw and a solitary victory is all they have to show from their first six away matches in the league. Cardiff, Villa, Chelsea and now Sunderland have all beaten City, and with more than a quarter of the season gone they can ill-afford anymore.
The problem remains a mystery. The disparity between City's home and away form is startling. They've won all five of their home league games, yet have taken just four points from six games on the road.
If it isn't sorted out immediately, City will struggle to win the Premier League.
Martin Demichelis is making a slow start
It’s difficult to criticise a player who has played only four games for his new club, but Martin Demichelis has struggled to adapt to the pace of the English game. He looks short of pace, and his distribution from the back has let him down.
He brings experience and an ability to read the game, and City will be hoping his sharpness improves soon.
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