Manchester City have spent big money to build a squad which has top-quality cover in every position, but Manuel Pellegrini has operated a two-tier approach this season, barely resting the likes of Yaya Toure, Fernandinho and Pablo Zabaleta at the same time as overlooking Joleon Lescott, Jack Rodwell and Micah Richards.
1. TOO MANY OVERWORKED PLAYERS
Injuries have tied Pellegrini's hands at times, but his failure to rotate his squad sufficiently has left some players on the brink of exhaustion as they approach the final month of the campaign.
James Milner has been under-employed, starting just nine league games, with Toure and Fernandinho starting 31 and 28 respectively. Meanwhile, Lescott, Rodwell and Richards have mustered just 11 league starts between them all season.
Even in the cup competitions, Pellegrini has rarely rested key players and, with City contesting 13 more fixtures than Liverpool this season, the draining effects of fighting on four fronts are beginning to tell.
2. PELLEGRINI CANNOT SHED NEARLY-MAN TAG
In the global game, there are some managers whose track record comes with a virtual guarantee of success. Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti win trophies wherever they go and they have acquired the knack of getting their teams to cross the line.
City knew Ancelotti and Mourinho would be on the market last summer, but just like Manchester United with David Moyes, they chose a different solution and selected Manuel Pellegrini in order to embrace a holistic approach.
But while Pellegrini forged a reputation in Spain for building teams at unfashionable clubs, he arrived at City with a gaping hole in his CV when it comes to winning big prizes. And with the finishing line looming in the Premier League, Pellegrini has failed to motivate his players and drive them on at the crucial time.
He was derided as a 'Nearly Man' in Spain and winning the League Cup will not be enough to change that perception.
3. FAILURE TO AVOID MUSCLE INJURIES
Everton boss Roberto Martinez claimed recently that a a mistake has been made if a player suffers a soft tissue muscle injury, yet the reality for Manchester City this season is that they have been plagued by such problems.
Sergio Aguero and Kompany have been in and out of the treatment room all season with calf, thigh and hamstring problems, while Toure is now facing at least a fortnight out with a groin injury sustained early in the 3-2 defeat at Liverpool. Muscle strains are often attributed to a failure to warm up properly or a player being asked to play when a previous injury has not repaired sufficiently.
Aguero has missed over 20 games this season, with Kompany also being sidelined for a similar number of fixtures. When two crucial players miss large chunks of a season with muscle injuries, it should be a reason for alarm.
4. BIG MISTAKES IN BIG GAMES
Top clubs employ analytical experts to break seasons down into key moments and one common view is that a campaign of 60 games is decided by six games and two or three defining incidents within those fixtures.
For City, the dice has rolled against them in the most crucial encounters, with costly errors leading to match-winning goals for their opponents in defeats at Chelsea and Liverpool.
At Stamford Bridge, Joe Hart's rush of blood when he raced out of his penalty area in stoppage-time led to Fernando Torres scoring to seal a 2-1 Chelsea win.
And at Anfield last Sunday, Kompany's misclearance fell to Philippe Coutinho 12 yards out and resulted in the Brazilian scoring the winner for Liverpool.
Those two mistakes alone may ultimately cost City the title because they were committed at the worst possible time – against direct rivals.
5. LOST POINTS AGAINST THE BOTTOM FOUR
In eight games so far this season against the current bottom four, City have dropped a staggering 10 points, including defeats at Sunderland and Cardiff.
It is not difficult to see where City have blown their title ambitions.
Liverpool have a 100pc record against the bottom four. Chelsea had a similarly flawless record until they fell to an unexpected defeat against Sunderland on Saturday. The key to any title success is about beating the also-rans. City have failed in this department. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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