Premier League champions Manchester City are resigned to battling for a top four finish and a Champions League qualifying place after their title campaign disintegrated in a matter of weeks. Coach Manuel Pellegrini has come under increasing pressure with speculation rife that he will be departing this summer, irrespective of where City finish in the Premiership.
City had joined Chelsea at the summit in the New Year and seemed to be the more progressive of the two sides. A shock 5-3 defeat for Chelsea at Tottenham came at a time when City were grinding out results despite injuries to key players. Their exit from the Champions League at the hands of Barcelona, an early exit from the FA Cup and a poor run of league form has left them languishing in fourth place. The potentially fatal blow to Pellegrini?s tenure may have come with a 4-2 defeat to local rivals United last weekend.
Even Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has expressed his dismay at the criticism being heaped on Pellegrini and his team, even though the two have a barely cordial relationship. The impending departure of Jurgen Klopp from Borussia Dortmund has fueled speculation that he is being lined up to replace Pellegrini at the Etihad Stadium. City won the League Cup and the Premiership title last season, capitalising on a late wobble from Liverpool who dropped vital points against Chelsea and Crystal Palace.
City had retained largely the same squad as last season having been sanctioned for their spending. Wilfried Bony was the only high-profile signing in mid-season and his influence has been curtailed by his appearances in the Africa Cup of Nations and subsequent injury. Pellegrini may have felt that his hands were tied to some extent but his players have not stepped up to the mark this season.
Yaya Toure has been singled out as being a shadow of the rampaging midfield general that carried them over the finishing line last season. His agent criticized Pellegrini this week and suggested that Toure was being made a scapegoat for his failure.
City should have sufficient points in hand to repel Liverpool in the battle for a top four spot but their title hopes are long gone. Having been separated by just a single goal from going above Chelsea on New Year?s Day, City have fallen fifteen points behind the Blues. Chelsea did not win any silverware last season but Mourinho was building a side capable of winning the championship. City will need to make changes this summer if they are to challenge for honors in 2015/6.