Yaya Toure absence leaves Manchester City title hopes in the balance
When Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini carries out his post-season analysis, he will quickly be able to pinpoint that the wheels came off their campaign when Yaya Toure left for the African Nations Cup.
London: When Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini carries out his post-season analysis, he will quickly be able to pinpoint that the wheels came off their campaign when Yaya Toure left for the African Nations Cup.
City are without a victory since Toure departed at the start of January and their 1-1 draw at home to Hull City on Saturday was their fourth consecutive winless Premier League game, leaving them seven points adrift of Chelsea at the top.
It is not an irretrievable margin, but they look incapable of making inroads into that deficit at present, although Ivorian Toure is back from the Nations Cup soon.
"It is frustrating because I think the team worked a lot in the game and had good possession. We did all we could to win but we are not in high performance in the attacking zone," Pellegrini told the BBC.
"Maybe players coming back from injury -- important players will help. We need to try and find other ways to play. It is difficult to know what the reason is for the spark going."
The absence of powerhouse midfielder Toure is the obvious reason.
This is the first time since 2009 that City have gone four league games without victory, a throwback to the days when their financial might had yet to cement their place at football’s top table.
If they fail to buck up their ideas soon, they could find themselves dragged back into the increasingly congested battle for the top four, rather than staying on the coattails of Chelsea at the summit.
They are now only six points clear of Tottenham Hotspur in fifth.
If it were not for a stoppage-time equaliser from James Milner, who curled home a free kick from 25 metres, Pellegrini would have had to explain how his side had lost at home to a side fighting relegation who had taken only three points from their last five games.
It was a familiar feeling for City, who looked defensively suspect in the first half before David Meyler gave Hull the lead.
In Toure’s absence, a midfield pairing of Fernandinho and Fernando offers energy in abundance but little in the way of ingenuity and the goals have duly dried up.
Toure will return to City after Ivory Coast play the final of the Nations Cup on Sunday, but it could be too late to prevent them ceding their league title to Mourinho`s Chelsea.