Injury to Leroy Sane, the failure to replace Vincent Kompany and Liverpool's brilliance all contributory factors
With all football currently suspended due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it provides a good opportunity to look at City's 2019-20 campaign and assess why and where things went wrong for Pep Guardiola's men. The Blues' last league game was a disappointing 2-0 derby defeat at Old Trafford, which left them trailing leaders Liverpool by 25 points.
Jurgen Klopp's side needed just two more victories to secure a first title for 30 years, but may yet be deprived of that opportunity with no prospect of football resuming any time soon, and increasing calls for the season to be declared null and void. City, understandably, remain 64/1 long shots to somehow win the title should football resume, according to the latest premier league betting odds. Below we outline some of the factors that saw City in this position:
Injury to Leroy Sane
City spent the pre-season resisting the advances of Bayern Munich for German international Leroy Sane. The young winger was an integral part of the City side that won back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019, but is believed to have had his head turned by the German giants last summer. A fairly unsubtle campaign series of public announcements from the likes of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Lothar Matthaus was met with anger at The Etihad and stiffened City's resolve to keep the player.
Sane remained a City player as the Blues took on Liverpool at Wembley in the Community Shield, the curtain-raiser for the new season. However, just ten minutes into the game Sane went down following a relatively innocuous looking challenge by Trent Alexander-Arnold, and was forced to leave the field. Subsequent scans reveleaed knee ligament damage, and the player was ruled out for at least six months.
It was a huge blow to Guardiola's planning, and City have evidently missed the pace and direct threat that Sane poses. In 134 appearances for the club, Sane has netted 39 goals and registered 45 assists. He also developed a reputation as a "big game" player, scoring crucial goals in the last season's title run-in against Liverpool and Manchester United.
Not replacing Vincent Kompany
Vincent Kompany is the most decorated City player of all-time, with four Premier League titles, four League Cups, two FA Cups and two Community Shields won during his time at the club. The Belgian captain bid an emotional farewell after City's 6-0 victory in the FA Cup final against Watford, and returned to Anderlecht, where he had started his career twenty years earlier, in a player-manager role. His later years in Manchester had been plagued by injury, but Kompany remained an inspiration to his team mates both on and off the pitch. He was a colossal figure at the club and his departure left a sizeable gap in a squad that is perhaps devoid of natural leaders.
Much to the surprise of many fans, Guardiola didn't seek to replace the centre-half, instead opting to redeploy the ever-dependable Fernandinho in a new defensive role. The Brazilian international performed the role admirable, but his presence in midfield was sorely missed and City looked a weaker side for it.
Liverpool's league dominance
Whilst Guardiola himself would be the first to acknowledge that City have falled short of their expected standarads this season (and seven league defeats in 28 games tells its own story), it's easy to be hypercritical. This remains a side that have won seven of the last eight domestic trophies on offer, and were the favouites to add the FA Cup and Champions League to the League Cup and Community Shield already secured this season. It is difficult to legislate for Liverpool's phenomenal league record, which has seen them drop just five points from a possible 87. Should Liverpool evntually be crowned as champions it will be well deserved, but City will relish the challenge of reclaiming the league title next season, whenever that may be!