Why Manchester City's current away form will cost them the PL title

Manchester City Etihad 2

Manchester City stuttered to a 1-1 draw against Southampton at St Mary’s on Saturday to slip to fourth place in the Premier League.

Manuel Pellegrini’s men now sit five points adrift of leaders Arsenal with the Gunners still to play Everton on Sunday and stand a chance of falling a significant way off of the pace for the title.

The stalemate with the Saints marks the sixth time the Citizens have dropped points on the road this season, with all four of their losses and two draws having come away from the Etihad Stadium in stark contrast to a perfect record at home.

It’s an overplayed maxim that a club must make their turf a fortress and succeed amidst the fires of their opponents’ grounds to navigate the choppy waters to a title, but such an observation is based on simple truth and plain wisdom can nonetheless be extracted from it.

Whilst City’s result on Saturday afternoon was neither a tragedy nor a complete debacle the likes of the loss to Sunderland in mid-October, the quality of the performance was the most worrying sign going forward.

After taking the lead early through the ravenous Sergio Aguero, Pellegrini’s charges were unable to press home their advantage and were comprehensively outplayed by their counterparts, who looked fearless and unfazed in the face of a terrifically monstrous adversary.

Maintaining the utmost brilliance of displays at home isn’t necessarily realistic considering the generally detrimental effect of playing on the road, yet is it beyond reasonable expectation that a squad as talented as City’s run out with better outcomes than seen under such conditions?

The answer is, quite bluntly, no.

Out of 24 points on offer outside of the Etihad’s confines, the Manchester outfit have claimed just eight, a figure that would be good for just tenth place in a Premier League table based solely on away fixtures. And through the eight games contested in this mode, the Citizens have scored 12 times and conceded on 13 occasions.

Compare this to seven matches played at Eastlands, in which Pellegrini’s men have struck 29 goals and allowed opponents to ripple the net just twice, and the full picture of a massive disparity in performance comes to light.

In each of the previous two seasons, the club that finished top of the table earned upwards of 40 of the 57 points (70%) available in road fixtures, with City themselves claiming 42 in 2011-12 and Manchester United snatching 41 en route to the most recent championship.

Frankly, there’s just no place for such muted efforts away from home if City have aspirations of taking back the league crown after watching it slip back into the clutches of their now-sputtering crosstown rivals last term.

And the most frustrating part for Pellegrini must be knowing what his side are fully capable of, having seen it against the auditory backdrop of Blues Moon Rising, yet repeatedly watching the same mistakes be made whenever it has been time to travel.

The fact is that the field has become only stronger, despite the drop off from Sir Alex Ferguson’s former side, as Arsenal and Liverpool have reemerged as factors whilst Chelsea reinforced over the summer. Not to mention, City are already at a deficit and could be eight points off the summit come Sunday night.

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And so, there’s no time to waste. If City are to realise aspirations of lifting the title for a second time in three seasons, their brilliant home form must persist and translate to showings away from the Etihad commensurate with those of a squad of their stature.

Little room for error remains as a hole has already been dug and the Citizens are due to play five of the current top seven in the back half of the campaign, with a trip to Old Trafford also scheduled for March 1, and the nouveau-riche outfit will end up costing themselves a shot at silverware without a quick turnaround in form on the road.

Can City change their fortunes on the road to claim the league title?

image: © geetarchurchy

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