Group therapy or flagrant masochism? You decide! Here’s @markbooth_mcfc with six conclusions/talking points/things we learned (delete as applicable) from our 3-1 defeat to Leicester City.
If there were doubts about the legitimacy of Leicester’s title credentials, they dissipated three minutes into Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off when Robert Huth reacted quickest to Riyad Mahrez’s smartly-taken free-kick.
The Foxes were arguably the best team to have visited the Etihad Stadium this season and it’s no exaggeration to say that their winning margin could have been even wider.
Twice, Joe Hart came to City’s rescue when Jamie Vardy was through on goal and the league’s top scorer also hit the sidenetting with a chance you’d normally expect him to bury.
It was a sobering day to be a City supporter as the home side waited until the 85th minute to exert any meaningful pressure on a Leicester back four who showed just why they’ve conceded so few goals of late.
Schmeichel’s wonder save…
The real frustration was that the visitors showed signs of buckling when City finally began to work through the gears.
Danny Simpson’s suicidal backpass immediately after Aguero’s late goal was symptomatic of Leicester's nerves in the final five minutes but it was much too late to affect the scoreline.
Momentum in team sports is everything – it can forge a near-telepathic connection between teammates and create an iron collective will.
Leicester’s defence had no reason to feel anything but invincible up until that late stage – a goal earlier on in the match and who knows what the result would have been?
So then, credit must go to former City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who, incredibly, was playing at the Etihad Stadium for the first time since he left in 2007.
The Academy graduate’s wonder save from Fernando’s header drew gasps in the press box as the Dane somehow clawed out what looked to be a certain goal.
If that had gone in, it could have all been so different… alas.
Forcing the issue…
Einstein once famously said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same action multiple times and expecting different results.
Sadly, that’s what some of City’s approach play felt like for stretches of Saturday’s game as time and again the ball was hammered in low across the face of goal only to be turned away at the near post.
Leicester’s pressing game made it difficult for us, no question, but Pellegrini’s men were architects of their own downfall too, giving the ball away cheaply in good positions, showing a tendency to force the killer pass rather than waiting for it to emerge or teasing it out, which is what we do when we’re at our very best.
At half-time, we'd only had one shot on target - a comfortable save for Schmeichel from Aguero. How many times has that been the case at the Etihad Stadium in recent years?
Injury crisis goes on…
“No excuses” said Pellegrini following the game but we’ll suggest one for him anyway…
City have been utterly besieged by injuries this season, enduring lengthy spells without six/seven/eight first-teamers.
Manuel had just 14 senior players to choose from on Saturday and potentially lost another as David Silva succumbed to a recurrence of his troublesome ankle injury.
El Mago faces a race to be fit for Spurs now and, with Bony and Mangala still yet to return to full training and Kevin De Bruyne and Samir Nasri out with long-term injuries, there’s no sign of things getting much better any time soon.
The only real bright spot on an otherwise miserable day was the Premier League debut of Bersant Celina.
Bersant came on and made an immediate impact, producing a brilliant cross for Sergio Aguero’s goal and claiming his first City assist in the process.
Lost the battle but not the war…
13 games remain. 39 points to fight for. Leicester face Arsenal next week.
In our previous two title wins in 2012 and 2014 we’ve made it difficult for ourselves at around this time of year but we have a squad packed full of players who know what it is to go on a run at the business end of the season.
If City have one advantage over the team six points ahead of them, it's this nous - surely, surely, surely, the up-to-now dauntless Leicester City will show some evidence that the pressure is getting to them at some stage?