Opinion: Is Pellegrini naive, or is there a lack of fight in the Manchester City squad?
Manuel Pellegrini came under immense scrutiny after Liverpool ran riot at the Etihad. Photo credit: The Guardian

At the beginning of the season, uf you wanted to go back to the last two league games in which Manchester City conceded four goals, you'd find yourself going as far back as September 2009.

Now however, you only go back a few weeks. The second 4-1 defeat this season has raised many an eyebrow about Manuel Pellegrini's tactics and whether he's the man to take City forward or not. Questions have also been asked about the fight and hunger in the squad after an especially poor performance all round.

Is Pellegrini tactically naïve?

Even last season this question was being asked. Allowing Chelsea to pull so far ahead and win the league at a canter after dropping points you'd expect City to win, Pellegrini came under fire. However, after a game which the manager himself admitted was the worst ever under his management, the critics have grown in number and become even more fierce.

The tactics for the Liverpool game couldn't really have been much worse. A two-man holding midfield of Yaya Toure and Fernando against a six-man midfield from Liverpool, which pressed relentlessly all game. There was no pace in there which everyone seemed to realise, except the man who matters.

Almost everyone knows that a player like Toure is wasted when given defensive duties. We all saw how effective it was with Fernando and Fernandinho behind him at Sevilla, so why not use the same system again? Even if Fernandinho wasn't match fit to start, Fabian Delph was. Either of the two would have given the team some energy and urgency in the midfield which is what you need against pressing teams.

Even then, when things are going wrong, you have to make a change. Only seven minutes had gone in this game when Eliaquim Mangala put the ball past his own goalkeeper, but everyone in the stands and on social media could see everything was wrong. Pellegrini needs to have the authority to make a change at the first sign of trouble rather than waiting until 1-3 when the game is effectively over.

The players didn't look up for it

There appeared to be a shocking lack of effort. It was as if there was a totally different squad than the one which started the season so well. The passing was sluggish and whilst more difficult to do when you're being pressed, there seemed to be no real intent to get out of the defensive half.

The leadership and presence attributed to Vincent Kompany is not replicated in vice-captain Toure who did nothing to motivate or encourage the team. The captain has to take on the responsibility of encouraging players or even giving them a kick up the backside when needed, which just didn't happen.

As Pellegrini said, City could not have attacked or defended worse and that is ultimately down to the players. No matter what the manager says, it's up to the players to execute the game plan and they looked far away from ever doing so.

Has anything changed since?

For want of not comparing the Premier League to the Champions League, let's focus on the game against Southampton. It wasn't the greatest game, but it was a relatively comfortable win.

The first goal came from Raheem Sterling taking the ball off Maya Yoshida, showing some of the hunger that was clearly lacking the weekend before. The second was largely down to the lucky deflection, but as they say, if you don't buy a ticket, you won't win the raffle. The third was purely some great football, demonstrating the attacking prowess that City missed - Liverpool.

Whilst questions still remain about the defence in Kompany's absence, there were signs of improvement. Another win without a clean sheet after the five in a row at the start of the season is disappointing, but you feel that once the strongest team is back, everything will fall into place.

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