Football can be a cruel game at times and Manchester City of the English Premier League are finding that out. Only seven days ago, they were hoping for a highly improbable and unprecedented quadruple of trophies. Within four crazy days, that dream has turned into a near-nightmare as they went out of two competitions. How they react to that disappointment in the coming days will tell us what stuff they are made of.
After admirably coming back from behind to win the Capital One Cup against Sunderland the previous weekend, the Citizens found themselves behind again in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at home to second-division—the Championship—side Wigan Athletic who conquered them in last season’s final on their way out of the Premier League. Instead of coming back, one became two within 90 seconds of restart.
Now, you would not blame complacency because after beating them last time out, one would expect Manuel Pellegrini’s men to take the Latics seriously. What one saw, however, was a side so tame that even with the indisputable talent within their ranks, there was little chance of overturning a two-goal deficit. Yes, there were unbelievable misses along the way, but the overall performance did not merit anything else.
So lightning struck twice, if not at the same place, on the same victim and one thought the dismal performance was because there was more focus on a much bigger test four days later — a return leg in the Uefa Champions League away to the Spanish champions Barcelona with the task of overturning a two-goal margin. All pre-match talk pointed to a determination to do a good job in the Nou Camp.
Truth be told, City applied themselves as well as they could and on another day, with different opponents, they could have carried out their mission successfully, but at the end of the day, they fell short again and exited the elite trophy. They now face the task of salvaging some pride by seeking to win the league title for which they remain among the two top favourites. Will they be fired up or deflated with what has happened?
Fans would be hoping that their side has a stronger mentality than the Arsenal squads of the recent past whose season would end with this multiple disappointment. Talk of which, it must have been a week of mixed fortunes for the Gunners who went into last weekend a little anxious after doubts had crept into their league title chase. A convincing win over Everton in the FA Cup was only celebrated after City’s loss.
So excited are Arsenal fans now that, for many, ending their nine-year trophy drought is only a formality now that they are the biggest side remaining in contention for the world’s oldest football trophy. It did not even matter to most of them that they were booted out of the Champions League by defending champions Bayern Munich after a one-all draw at the Allianz Arena. The fading smiles are back with a vengeance.
Meanwhile, there is mouth-watering league action this weekend, especially tomorrow when my Liverpool travel to age-old rivals Manchester United before the Gunners visit North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. These are matches that may have a huge bearing on both the title race and the fight for next season’s European football. To be blunter, this could be the week when the picture becomes clearer on the futures of the clubs involved.