Can Hughes Lead City To A Top 4 Finish?
Sinbad sent us the following.
The big question for City this season is whether we can break into the Top 4. Okay, the avowed target is a Top 6, Europa qualification - but the aspiration is to reach the Champions' League with a determined campaign for some domestic silverware as well.
Certainly, six games and an eternity ago I thought Top 4 was within our grasp. The team was displaying a winning spirit. We had just notched an away draw at Villa and other than the 4-3 almost-draw at the Swamp we had beaten Fulham, Arsenal, Portsmouth, Palace, Wolves and Celtic in straight games.
Even this draw felt like a victory… It was the sort of draw that Champions would be cool with. It showed stability. City weren't going to throw this chance away, were they?
Things have changed since then. We have seen an unprecedented run of draws emerge and City's momentum has all but disappeared. We are now crawling forward and the Premiership form in this clutch of games is that of mid-table obscurity.
Six games ago, City looked like an odds-on favourite for Top 4. It was all under control. Hughes's plan (to the surprise of many, including myself) was working. A run of eminently winnable games was about to start. There was no fear, only expectation.
What have we lost since that Villa draw signalled a new future for City fans? Well for one, City have lost control of their own destiny. Now we have to look at the other challengers and hope for weaknesses to appear and bite into their expectations too. Liverpool are very reliant on Gerrard and Torres and losing Alonso has hit Gerrard hard. I forecasted this would happen; also that Arsenal would be the major threat to Chelsea for the title. I forecast City could get ahead of Liverpool and in the mix too. United have a team which is fundamentally weaker than last season. They are missing Owen Hargreaves and Scholes has become a liability. Ferdinand is past his best and his pace hasn't come back from the Summer holiday. There is a big opportunity here for City. Where are we going wrong?
What else have we lost since that 1-1 draw with Villa, six games ago? Well certainly I think we fans are now much more knowledgeable about how difficult it will be to break into the Top 4. We have lost some naivety. The weaknesses in the squad may well, as Hughes says, be symptomatic of a new team that is struggling to grow together, but they are also blatantly obvious.
City have a defence which has been tasked to achieve so much more than defending...so much more that they have become a soft touch for teams who should be totally shut out. Defence is what they should concentrate on, and only when City have imposed their authority should Bridge and Zabaleta be expected to form a third wave of attack. One weakness in my view is defence. However many times Hughes calls this a 'collective' challenge - these words sound empty to me. Given and the back 4 have to shut out the Burnley's of this world or City will fail.
Another weakness is goals. We aren't scoring enough goals - plain and simple. And this is actually becoming the most serious weakness in City`s Premiership campaign. Arsenal has conceded 14 goals this season - the same as City - but the Gunners have scored 36 Premiership goals this season. City have scored 21.
Am I off the mark? Tell me what you think by leaving your thoughts in the comments section directly below this article.