What could well have literally been Capital One Cup final hangover resulted in Manchester City’s 3-0 loss at Liverpool.
The defeat came just three days after the Citizens beat the Reds in the final of said competition and enabled neighbouring Manchester United to move level on points with Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
With Man City chronically short of form, the Red Devils’ encroachment provides a major concern at the Etihad, but what’s more alarming is their record against top-half teams.
The Liverpool loss was their eighth of the campaign against sides based in the Premier League’s upper echelons and their points-per-game average versus these outfits, which currently stands at 0.71, is superior only to the efforts mustered by Aston Villa (0.27) and Sunderland (0.53).
It’s a laughable state of affairs but, fortunately for them, fewer than half their remaining 11 fixtures come against teams stationed below the divisional waistline.
However, with Man Utd priced up at 17/10 to finish fourth or better, the news.bwin number crunchers got to wondering if a team had ever made it into the Champions League qualification places with a record as bad as City’s against their top-ten brethren.
Looking at the previous ten campaigns, no team has finished inside the top four with a points-per-game mean as pitiful as the Citizens’.
The lowest on record across this period is Arsenal’s 1.11 in 2005/06, yet even then the Gunners’ seasonal loss count stood at eight, the same as City’s at this point.
With five top-ten opponents still to face, it seems logical their tally will worsen.
Evidently, a notable improvement is required if they are to match Arsenal’s record-low, but even if they do meet this watermark, they’ll still be somewhere lower than the average for the past ten seasons.
Currently, top-four finishers require a mean of at least 1.37 points per game against the sides based above the equator.
To meet this average, City require two wins and a draw against their remaining quintet of foes currently stationed in the top ten, who are United (h), Chelsea (a), Stoke (h), Southampton (a) and Arsenal (a).
It sounds doable for a side stocked with such talent, but remember Pellegrini’s men have picked up just three points from the last 18 available against teams based in the top half of the table, while they were also spanked 5-1 at Chelsea in the FA Cup across this spell too.
Unless City make drastic improvements, back United to overhaul their cross-town rivals in the intensifying battle for a Champions League berth.