When Manchester City announced that Pep Guardiola would be taking over at the end of the season, an uneventful transfer deadline day seemed to be the ideal time for it.
The statement covered up the fact that they made minimal investment during the window and was intended to give the team impetus for the final stretch of their season, as they aim to win the quadruple.
Yet since football’s worst kept secret was made official, they have scraped past Sunderland before losing crucial home games against fellow title-challengers Leicester and Tottenham to sit fourth in the Barclays Premier League.
SIGN UP NOW
Want to become a GMS writer? Sign up now and submit a 250 word test article: http://gms.to/haveyoursay4
Article continues below
Manchester United experienced a similar situation in the 2001-02 campaign when Sir Alex Ferguson announced mid-season that he would be retiring and as a result, the teams’ form slumped. He later went back on his decision and resurrected their season, and City are now facing a battle to save theirs.
Despite the rise of Leicester and Tottenham this season, as well as Arsenal’s new-found consistency, many still saw City as the title favourites at the turn of the year. But with the Etihad not currently the fortress that it once was, City have been blown away by their nearest rivals in the last two weeks.
Article continues below
It seems more than a coincidence that this dip in form has come about during the fortnight since the Guardiola announcement. Though those within the club would have known about the news for a while now, public knowledge of it brings different pressures, both on Manuel Pellegrini and his players.
For Pellegrini himself, it would be easy to feel let down by a club that he has brought great stability to after Roberto Mancini’s rocky tenure. Despite winning the league in his debut season and keeping City in contention for four trophies this season, it would be understandable that constant speculation about his future could be draining.
For the players too, the news seems to have only distracted them from the task at hand for the rest of the season. Knowing that Guardiola is arriving in the summer should have spurred them on to fight for their place in the team, but they have now lost two big home games that in years gone by, they would have won.
With people now beginning to assess whether or not they are still even in the title race, they face a huge week in two other competitions; meeting Chelsea in the FA Cup at the weekend before facing Dynamo Kiev in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie next week.
Those fixtures will give us some indication of whether or not City can get their season back on track.