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Manchester City problems threaten to derail good work

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We may only be 11 games into the Premier League season, and Manchester City may sit third in the table, but their form this campaign must surely be cause for concern for fans of the reigning champions.

Already this season Stoke and West Ham have claimed victory over Manuel Pellegrini's side, while a draw with QPR on Saturday evening left City eight points behind leaders Chelsea.

And it's not just on home soil where Pellegrini's men have suffered, they currently sit bottom of their Champions League group having amassed just two points from four games, having surrendered leads against both Roma and CSKA Moscow.

City's struggles haven't come as a result of losing a host of star-studded names; the only big name departure was striker Alvaro Negredo, who was in and out of the starting line-up last season.

Despite a summer spending spree that totaled near £50million, the champions look a shadow of last season's team, but why?

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Pressure

Could it be that, like in 2012/2013, City are finding it tough to live up to the billing of Premier League champions?

When playing their supposed top four rivals they've looked comfortable, claiming a highly respectable 11 points from games against Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Spurs.

However, it's against the smaller teams who see victory over City as a huge scalp that they've struggled.

Against West Ham, Stoke and QPR, Pellegrini's men have taken just one point. That's eight points dropped, eight points that would see them level with Chelsea had they coped with smaller teams raising their game against the champions of England.

Defence

With fringe players like Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott desperate for regular football, Pellegrini knew he had to bring in defensive reinforcements, and that lead to the free signing of Bacary Sagna and the £32million arrival of Eliaquim Mangala.

On debut, Mangala looked like he was born to dominate the Premier League, as he became the first defender to give as good as he got when coming up against the colossal Diego Costa.

However, since his first taste of Premier League football his performances have been on the decline, and Pellegrini has alternated between him and the much-maligned Martin Demichelis when deciding who to play alongside captain Vincent Kompany.

The City skipper has not looked comfortable with either man by his side this season, and his lack of confidence in his partners has had a negative impact on his usually dependable performances.

Dependance

Kompany is not the only star man to under-perform this season, with Yaya Toure being the biggest culprit in the Etihad dressing room.

The Ivorian has produced the odd moment of magic, his opening goal against Aston Villa and his through ball for Sergio Aguero's second goal on Saturday proved his ability.

However, the midfielder has been a shadow of the player who regularly won games on his own last season, and City's dependance on him has been frighteningly obvious during his slump in form.

With Fernandinho and Fernando failing to impose themselves in central midfield, it's been left to veteran Frank Lampard to do the damage from the middle of the park, ably supported by a much-improved James Milner.

Tactics

While it's easy to lay the blame at a number of under-performing players, Pellegrini himself must also take responsibility for the club's recent form, City have won just one of their last six games in all competitions.

On Saturday City should have lined-up against QPR expecting to win the game. Harry Redknapp's team were always going to get in their illustrious opponent's faces, but the visitors should have had enough firepower to blow the hosts away.

Instead, Pellegrini opted to play Aguero up front on his own with a five-man midfield behind him.

Although Aguero is the league's standout striker, proved by his 12 goals this campaign, he's not suited to playing alone.

On the bench for the entire 90 minutes sat Stevan Jovetic, a man who's clever movement and trickery would have caused the static pair of Richard Dunne and Steven Caulker all kinds of issues.

And it wasn't just the forward line where Pellegrini's selection left us confused. With Kompany injured, City had just Pablo Zabaleta as a natural leader at the back, though he too would watch from the stands as Sagna was given a rare start in his place.

Improvement

The reasons for City's current form are debatable, and with another 27 Premier League games to play, they're still well on course to compete for the title.

However, what is clear is that they must start taking maximum points, even when not playing well.

That must start in just under two weeks time, when City host an impressive Swansea side before traveling to this season's surprise package - second-placed Southampton.

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Topics:
Manchester City
Premier League
Football

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