Manchester City returned to winning ways last Saturday — beating West Ham United at Etihad Stadium — but that could hardly paper over the cracks of what is turning into a very underwhelming defense of their English Premier League title, and a summer of change appears to be in the offing.
A week earlier, Manchester City had suffered an embarrassing 4-2 defeat at neighbours Manchester United — a defeat that left them seating 4th on the table, 4 points behind their conquerors. and raised questions about the tenure of Manchester City manager, Manuel Pellegrini.
That defeat wasn’t a one-off, either. It was Manchester City’s 4th in their last 7 games, capping a 10 match run that had seen the champions win just 5 times, and drop from title contenders — Manchester City was level on points with leaders Chelsea on New Year’s Day — to a team in danger of dropping out of Champions League contention.
Their early exit from the Champions League — Manchester City lost home and away to Barcelona in the 2nd round — had already put a dent in the season for a team supposedly built and bankrolled to compete for the Champions League.
Things were quite different 12 months ago. Manchester City romped to a second championship in three years, winning their last six games convincingly. This time, with 6 games left, thoughts are already shifting to the summer and the questions that Manchester City will have to address.
The primary one concerns the stewardship of Pellegrini. The man whose first season ended with Manchester City winning both the League Cup and the title has had a tougher time of it this year, and has consistently faced questions about his tactical acumen and man management, as his team of highly paid stars have struggled both at home and abroad. Potential replacements are already being touted in the media, the biggest names being the German Jurgen Klopp — who recently announced he’ll be leaving Dortmund in the summer — and current Napoli boss, Rafa Benitez. Former Manchester City player Patrick Vieira has also been mentioned.
It’s also likely that the Manchester City squad undergoes some major personnel changes in the summer. With many key players around the 30-year-old mark, Manchester City have one of the oldest squads in the Premier League, and some of those aging stars would have to be shipped out to make way for a younger generation. There’s already talk of Yaya Toure, one of Manchester City’s biggest stars, seeking “new challenges” elsewhere. That could well be the prelude to a summer of transfer speculation.
There’ll be no shortage of speculation on the other side, either. The number of young players linked to Manchester City grows on a daily basis, with the likes of Belgian star Kevin de Bruyne (now with Wolfsburg), Ross Barkley (Everton), and Jay Rodriguez (Southampton) being thrown around. Raheem Sterling’s stalled contract negotiations at Liverpool have also fueled rumors of a possible big money move to Manchester City.
The last time Manchester City failed to defend the league title — they finished 2nd in 2013 under Roberto Mancini — the manager lost his job. There might be a few more upheavals at the Etihad this time.
All eyes will be on Manchester City.