With only nine Premier League games gone Manchester City’s defence are subject to individual errors that are already costing Pellegrini’s team valuable points to stay in touch with the top of the table.
Arsenal are top with a six point advantage and although they will face tough opposition in the coming weeks with Manchester United away and Southampton at home they are a side in great form.
Pellegrini’s side have faced Cardiff, Aston Villa, Stoke, and West Ham away from home and managed a total of four points from a possible twelve. The 3-2 defeats at Cardiff and Aston Villa respectively were disappointing and are considered places where you must pick up points to challenge for the title and they were lucky to pick up a point at Stoke.
The win at West Ham was to be the start of city’s revival on the road but once again individual errors cost what would have been a valuable point at Chelsea. Joe Hart has been singled out for the cause of city’s poor form on the road but is he the sole reason for the poor defensive record or has others escaped the wrath of the media?
To start at Cardiff, City were cruising at 1-0 with an excellent strike from Edin Dzeko but were caught out by two set pieces. From two corners Fraizer Campbell was allowed time and space in the city defence to finish city off when Joe Hart should have come to collect or punch both corners away.
Aston Villa away was a strange game and I don’t think anyone who watched the game could believe city lost this. Again city looked in control with Yaya Toure putting city in front before half time. Villa equalised through a goal from El Ahmadi that was clearly offside after Bacuna’s through ball, however city’s defence was all over the place with three players surrounding Bacuna and not one keeping an eye on El Ahmadi. Nastasic would have to take the blame on this as Bacuna had two city players on him already and he did not keep track of El Ahmadi.
Villa’s second goal came from a free kick from Bacuna and although it was a fantastic strike from distance, Hart did not even blink as the ball sailed past him. Villa’s third from Weimann was most certainly an individual error, a similar error to that occurring only a few days ago. A long ball through city’s defence encouraged Hart to rush out of his area, completely miss the ball and Weimann stroked the ball home with little effort.
The second time Hart will make this mistake is of course at Chelsea. The anguish on Hart’s face as Torres tapped the ball home was clear to see and he appeared to vent his anger towards Nastasic who headed the ball past the advancing Hart. It was without a doubt Hart’s fault as Nastasic was in complete control of the situation and it should have been a simple routine header back to the keeper. What Joe Hart was thinking rushing out in the dying minutes of the game is something only he can answer.
There are five goals mentioned above that could be down to the fault of Joe Hart, costing his team a total of five points. This is based on the assumption city would have won at Cardiff, a point at Villa and the same at Chelsea. These extra five points would see city sitting in second place only a point behind Arsenal.
In addition to Hart’s performance in the league, the two goals conceded against Bayern Munich at home in the Champions League were questionable as he let a long shot from Ribery past him and failed to deal with a near post shot from Robben that sealed the game. To be fair city were outplayed and outclassed in this game and if it was not for Hart’s league form he may not have received such criticism.
In defence of Hart, Vincent Kompany has been missing and there is no question the captain has a massive influence in defence although he was present in the side at Aston Villa. Pellegrini’s decision to play central midfielder Javi Garcia in the hart of the defence could not have helped as he looks out of sorts in that position. A finger could also be pointed at Nastasic positioning in the goals conceded and he looks a player low on confidence. The defence as a whole has looked weak and would not have helped Joe Hart’s cause.
Pellegrini should also face criticism for his selection in defence. He has consistently picked Garcia in central defence when Micah Richards is no stranger to that position having played a large proportion of his career at city in that position. Pellegrini also had Lescott to choose from but opted for Garcia. Demichelis started his first game of the season at Chelsea and it showed. He completely lost Schurrle for the first goal although Gael Clichy allowing Torres to pass him with ease did not help.
There is also a new system at city where they play with a high back line which the players must still be getting to grips with but again this is down to Pellegrini and his staff to get this right in training.
It appears that some of Hart’s criticism is justified and the mistakes he is making is not what you would expect from England’s number one. The question now is can Pellegrini afford to continue backing Joe Hart and keeping his place as city’s number one?
After the Chelsea defeat Pellegrini stated on mcfc.co.uk that “we are loosing stupid points. In the three defeats we have had away we did not deserve to loose one of them. I don’t think now is the time to discuss who is responsible. We will look at this in the week and analyse it then.”
Rumours are that back up keeper Costel Pantilimon will start against Newcastle in the League Cup and if he performs well he could keep his place. Maybe a break could do Hart the world of good and he will come back stronger and rediscover the form that won him deserved applause during city’s Premier League winning season which cemented him as England’s number one. However there is the risk that he may not recover quickly if he looses his place which will not only affect city, but also England as they prepare for the World Cup in Brazil.