There were more than a few raised eyebrows when Manchester City’s teamsheet was confirmed prior to kick-off. Facing three games in a week, including a derby against Manchester United on Sunday and a crucial Champions League match with CSKA Moscow on Wednesday, many felt ManuelPellegrini would rest his most valuable players for this League Cup match with Newcastle.
Very few expected David Silva, arguably City’s best player this season, or Yaya Toure to start, but both did, despite much more important matters lying in wait. Pellegrini, who won this trophy last season—his first major piece of silverware as a manager in Europe—clearly values the competition and wanted to reclaim it, but his decision to start two of his most important players backfired spectacularly as City were beaten 2-0, with Silva taken off inside the opening 10 minutes with an injury.
Just six wins from their opening 14 matches in all competitions represents a seriously poor start to the season, with echoes of City’s last title defence, which was over before it ever really began, now reverberating around the Etihad. City’s play is lethargic and disjointed, with a lack of quality and confidence running through the squad. They need to pick their form up, and fast, if they want to build on last season’s success.
Out of the League Cup, six points off the top of the Premier League and with their Champions League hopes somewhat in the balance, City are now desperate for a big performance against their local rivals on Sunday to kick-start a stuttering campaign.
This display against Newcastle was so unfathomably poor, it’s difficult to pinpoint one particular reason for the defeat. Not one single player left the pitch with their reputation in any way enhanced, and that will surely be a big worry for Pellegrini.
Aside from Edin Dzeko and Jesus Navas’ misses late on, City barely created any clear-cut chances. Their play was too often nervous and stifled, leaving their fans pondering a much more difficult derby than the two which were offered up last season.
But credit to Newcastle, they were superb and deserve to take their place in the quarter-final after their first win away at City in 14 attempts. Ryan Taylor, who has spent over two years on the treatment table with a series of horrendous injuries, epitomised their approach to the game with an inspired display.
hey are now unbeaten in four—winning three—in what has been a remarkable turnaround for Alan Pardew who looked doomed to the sack just a few weeks ago. He can take great pride in weathering what, at times, has been a vicious storm and steering his side back to calmer waters.
Rolando Aarons opened the scoring after just six minutes, showing a wonderful turn of pace before beating Willy Caballero from a tight angle. The Argentine, desperate to usurp Joe Hart as City’s No. 1, will be disappointed with allowing a tame shot through his legs.
And Moussa Sissoko wrapped it up in the 75th minute after a wonderful solo run and impudent finish. He breezed past Fernandinhoand Eliaquim Mangala, both of whom struggled throughout, before beating Caballero from close range.
Afterwards, Pellegrini, normally guarded and protective of his players, admitted his side are suffering from a lack of confidence. “We are not playing well,” he said. “We are in a difficult moment with a lack of trust. We are conceding easy goals and we are not scoring the chances we had to score.
“[There’s a] Lack of confidence that we must arrange as soon as possible.”
Asked whether it was a risk to play Silva from the start given his side face two huge games in the space of a few days, he said: “There was no reason David cannot play. We play on Saturday, we have four days to recover.
“David was prepared to play. Maybe he was not going to play the whole game.
“For our team, it was an important competition and we tried to play with the best players.”
He will certainly need his best players on Sunday. With Chelsea playingQPR on the day before, City face the prospect of going into the Manchester Derby nine points adrift of the leaders and with their season in serious danger of drifting, much like it did in the ill-fated 2012-13 campaign.