The Premier League champions are a mess right now. A victory in the Manchester derby aside, they have been hopelessly out of form in recent weeks. They are bottom of their Champions League group and now find themselves eight points behind the league leaders, Chelsea. Manuel Pellegrini and his squad need to regroup and the international break is ideally timed in this regard. In particular, the first half was a shambles at Loftus Road. They found it impossible to match the intensity of Queens Park Rangers. Fernando and Fernandinho were poor in midfield, and Elaqium Mangala was just as bad. Mangala looked the real-deal against Chelsea in his Premier League debut, but has failed to build on his great start. It is doubtful that Charlie Austin would have had as many chances if Vincent Kompany was fit. The Manchester City captain’s fitness is another reason that the break will be welcomed. Manuel Pellegrini has a huge, expensive squad, but the Belgian is irreplaceable. With their likely failure in Europe again, it is time for champions to figure it out before it is too late in the league as well.
In Austin, QPR have a player that every other team fighting to avoid relegation covet. A proven goal scorer always proves to be the most elusive addition to a squad at the top level. Of course, they cost the most money, which is why most clubs at the bottom never quite find that bit of quality needed up top. To put Austin’s value in perspective, he scored his sixth Premier League goal of the season – more than Aston Villa have managed together as a team. In the first half, Austin had his way with the City defence. He tormented Martin Demichelis and Mangala, netting the ball three times. It was third time lucky for Austin after the first two goals were disallowed. His far-post finish beat Joe Hart after he narrowly beat the offside trap. The striker was quieter in the second half when QPR’s intensity dropped. He did provide the cross for Demichelis’ own goal to put his side up 2-1. They could not hang on to a memorable victory, but QPR have improved significantly in recent weeks. A large portion of that improvement has been due to Austin providing a genuine threat up front. If Austin can maintain his form, he could be the difference between relegation and survival.
City are widely seen as the only side that can challenge Chelsea for the title. On recent evidence, it is unlikely that the champions have what it takes to keep up with Jose Mourinho’s side. In recent years, fans have been spoiled with some of the most exciting title races in memory. We all remember Sergio Aguero’s title winning goal, Steven Gerrard’s slip – memorable moments that decided the league title. Unfortunately, it appears that this season could be a bore when it comes to the very top of the table. Chelsea have ruthlessly amassed an imposing points total through 11 games. In return, the other supposed contenders have dropped points consistently. After today’s 2-2 draw, City sit eight points back. With a game in hand, Arsenal are a further four points behind City. It is already a comfortable gap and Chelsea show no indication of letting up. Outside of Sergio Aguero, no City player has shown the form of last season. Yaya Toure’s power and dominance is not on show like it was before. He appears disinterested and it is badly affecting his team. Sadly, fans may have to look away from the top of the table for excitement this season.
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