Their title hopes are hanging by a fraying thread. The fighting spirit of this squad has never been in doubt, but whereas their other recent title successes saw them come from behind and reel in one side, they are chasing three, relying on Leicester City, Spurs and Arsenal to drop points at the same time as their own form improves.
It isn’t impossible, but it’s looking increasingly unlikely to happen.
At the root of the problem is their inability to impose their quality on the other top sides in the division. They have taken six points from a possible 30 against the league’s top eight teams—an appalling record and one undeserving of title recognition.
City's record against the top 8 in the PL so far this season - 6 points from a possible 30. Dismal stuff #mcfc— James Ducker (@DuckerTheTimes) February 14, 2016
They haven’t won back-to-back Premier League matches since mid-October. The next time they can do so is if they can beat Liverpool at Anfield on March 2 and Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium on March 5.
What started as a season full of promise is descending into huge disappointment.
City spent over £150 million on new players this summer, addressing a number of holes and weaknesses in their squad. They began the season with five straight wins and didn’t concede a single goal. Some experts were ready to hand them the Premier League trophy there and then.
But that was the last time they gathered any kind of momentum. Since then, it's been one setback after another as they've allowed sides with less quality to move ahead of them. It would be fascinating to hear what those inside the Etihad boardroom have made of it.
The hammerings they’ve received at the hands of Tottenham, Liverpool, Stoke City and Leicester have been embarrassing—seeing City completely outplayed from start to finish.
Quite how a side with as much quality as City can conspire to have a season as limp as this one is a mystery. Manuel Pellegrini, who will leave the club in the summer, knows his side is underachieving badly but appears unable to solve the problems.
What makes things even more frustrating is the nature of the league. There is no standout side, no squad of players undoubtedly full of quality. This league is lacking and was there for the taking. City, with their resources and quality, should be walking it.
Of course, there are some mitigating factors. The club has suffered a raft of injuries. The game against Spurs on Sunday was the first time Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero had all started together since the first four games of the season. In total, City had seven injured first-team players on Sunday, a story that’s been familiar for much of the campaign.
But there can be no excuse for their results. They have 47 points from 26 games. That simply isn’t good enough and in most other seasons would have seen them well outside the top four.
The defeat to Spurs had an air of inevitability about it. Mark Clattenburg's decision to award Tottenham a penalty was absurd, and Pellegrini has every right to feel hard done to, but at the same time, his side is too chaotic and lacking organisation to moan about external forces.
It's something Pellegrini himself recognises. "The first problem is our team," he said after the match, clearly annoyed by the performance of his players.
"We need to improve in a lot of things. All the teams will lose points from now until the end of the season. It is very important to trust in what you are doing and improve in what you are not doing well."
The Chilean remains hopeful of winning his second title in three years. That's more positive than most City fans feel in the aftermath of yet another desperately disappointing day.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2015/16 season. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @RobPollard_.
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