Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany has come in for criticism from manager Manuel Pellegrini for his role in the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal on Sunday.
The Belgian defender was adjudged to have brought down Arsenal's Nacho Monreal in the 23rd minute, giving Santi Cazorla the chance to put the Gunners 1-0 up at the Etihad Stadium.
Cazorla didn't waste the opportunity, and City never fully recovered, going on to lose the game 2-0, falling five points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea in the process.
Replays suggested Monreal went down easily, but the attempted challenge from Kompany gave the referee a decision to make and Pellegrini was left unimpressed by his normally reliable skipper.
Kompany will perhaps put his error down to rustiness, with the Arsenal game being his first appearance since December 13th following a hamstring injury sustained against Leicester.
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In truth, Kompany looked far from his best throughout and will need to put in a much improved performance when City travel to Stamford Bridge for a crucial Premier League clash on January 31st.
Following the game, Pellegrini pinpointed Kompany's role in the awarding of the penalty, but insisted his team had been hard done by, claiming Arsenal man Monreal went down easily.
Pellegrini also told reporters that, although he thought it was the wrong decision, the penalty was not the sole reason behind his teams defeat.
"I don’t think it was a penalty, but it was unnecessary [for Kompany] to do it. The movement of Kompany allows [Monreal] to dive. I am not saying it was a bad mistake of the referee. The penalty changed the game, but it was not the reason we lost," he said.
Unsurprisingly, Arsene Wenger claimed ignorance on any potential dive, saying: "My initial reaction from the bench was a penalty. Somebody told me we were a little bit fortunate, I have to watch it again."
City must recover
Defeat left City five points behind leaders Chelsea having taken just one point from their last two fixtures.
Next up in the league is a trip to Stamford Bridge, and Pellegrini is under no illusions about what the game could mean in the title race.
The City boss said: "The game we must play at Stamford Bridge [on 31 January] is a very important game.
“We must close the gap to two points. I hope we are going to recover and play the way we are playing so far.”
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville, a Manchester United legend, would go even further, claiming results against Chelsea and the Champions League last 16 tie with Barcelona could raise question marks over City's status as a top team.
"This team has been together for three or four years and in these next few weeks I think it’s now or never for them. For the money they’ve invested, they’re going to want back-to-back titles.
"Against Chelsea and Barcelona, if you fail in those games and fail to retain the title this season, you have to ask whether this team has got it," he said
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