The last time we played Manchester City, it was a game that looked like a defining moment of the title race. We had been consistent until then and, with Chelsea’s collapse, taking on the title favourites at home with a squad decimated by injuries. We claimed a fantastic victory but the title challenge that so looked like happening that night just fell apart over the next few months. We got spanked 4-0 the very next game at Southampton which in hindsight is proof enough that we were never going to win the title. Congratulations are due to Leicester for their incredible achievement and also for ensuring that I didn’t have to endure a Spurs title win.
No matter how incredible Leicester’s title win is, and they’ve been brilliant all season, it’s hard not to look back at this season as a huge missed opportunity. I am pretty sure that frustration is the one big reason behind the recent spate of protests from the Arsenal fans against Arsene Wenger and the club. It’s been the most painful of seasons in many ways and I’ve been literally sleepwalking through our games these past few weeks and the end of the season couldn’t come quicker for me.
Unfortunately, no matter how much I try to convince myself that our season is over, we’ve still got a job to do. Ending the season fighting for third again is a bitter pill to swallow but with a huge summer of international football coming up, it’s vital we avoid fourth place and the qualifying games at the start of next season in the Champions League. Ironic that we play Manchester City who themselves are fighting to ensure the incoming Pep Guardiola doesn’t end up preparing for Spursday football. What a difference 5 months can make! The Betting Experts make City marginal favourites at home but let’s see what a City supporter makes of it after their disappointing week.
Ahead of the game at the Etihad stadium, we welcome back Ric Turner of Bluemoon who took some time out to answer a few questions. Read below for his thoughts on City’s Champions League campaign, Pellegrini’s legacy at the Etihad, Arsene Wenger and much more.
- How would you rate City’s season overall?
It’s been a very disappointing season overall. Obviously winning the Capital One Cup and getting to the semi-final of the Champions League was nice, but we’ve badly under-performed in the league, to the extent that we may well miss out on a top four finish.
- I’ve seen a lot of harsh reviews of City’s performances in the knock-out games. How do you view City’s CL campaign this season?
It’s not been pretty to watch at times, and we’ve had some favourable draws, but you’d still have to say that it represents progress. No complaints on that front.
- Five months after City announced Guardiola’s arrival, how do you think it has influenced the club, especially the players and Pellegrini in the ensuing period?
Our decline started well before the Guardiola announcement, so I don’t think the timing of it has had a particularly negative impact. There are clearly some players, however, who realise that their time at the club is up, and have almost downed tools.
- Going into his final two games, what’s the fans’ opinion on Pellegrini’s tenure?
His first season, when he won a domestic double, was incredibly entertaining. City scored goals for fun and were always on the front foot. Since then, though, we’ve regressed pretty alarmingly and he has been unable to arrest it. I’ll always be grateful for the three trophies he won, but it’s fair to say that he won’t be missed by the majority of our support.
- How do you see the summer unfolding at City? Which players look likely to get the boot from Pep and which areas will he be looking to strengthen?
Laughably, some accused Guardiola of taking the “easy” option by managing City, but it’s clear now that he has a fairly major rebuilding job on his hands. The team has come to the end of its natural cycle, and I think we could see as many as 7 or 8 players leave this summer. Our defence and midfield are in desperate need of strengthening.
- How do you see Sunday’s game unfolding? Where will the game be won and lost?
We’ve only won one game out of a possible 13 so far against teams in the top 8, so I suspect we’ll struggle again on Sunday. Morale is low, and we have a number of injuries. Fatigue could also be an issue after the run around that Madrid gave us on Wednesday. I think you’ll over run us in the midfield, and we’ll struggle to cope with the pace of Welbeck and Sanchez.
- Your opinion on Arsenal this season.
A bit like us really, in that you’ve stagnated and under-performed this season. On your day you’re capable of beating anyone, but seem to lack the mental fortitude to win the title.
- Many fans look resigned to the fact that Arsene Wenger just hasn’t got it in him to take us to a title. Do you think Arsenal will be challengers next season?
I’m sure you’ll be in contention, but I’d be surprised if you were capable of winning the league again under Wenger. A change of direction is needed.
- Your take on Leicester’s title win.
Fair play to them – I’d much rather they won it than Spurs. It’s great for the league that an underdog was able to win the title.
- One Arsenal player you think would fit right into a Pep Guardiola team?
Alexis Sanchez would be a perfect signing for us. Sadly there is virtually no chance of that happening.
- Predictions for the game.
I’ve got a bad feeling that we’ll lose. 2-1 to Arsenal.