Manchester City have only themselves to blame for what, a Capital One Cup triumph aside, has been a poor domestic season. The Premier League title race was wide open until Leicester started to pull away in April, and a run of wins would have seen anyone come storming through to take it.
Let the record show that City astonishingly failed to win consecutive league games between mid-October and early April when, finally, a 4-0 win over Bournemouth was backed up by a scrappy and arguably undeserved victory against West Brom.
It was a total run of 21 games - more than half the season where they did themselves out of 33 additional points in that stretch alone. Collecting just 15 points from those would have put them level with Leicester going into the final game.
During that time, Manuel Pellegrini's team lost against Stoke, drew against Aston Villa, were beaten heavily by Liverpool, twice, lost against Arsenal, were destroyed at home by Leicester, succumbed to Tottenham and slipped up against Everton and West Ham among others.
Pellegrini has taken a lot of stick for failing to prepare his team tactically. City defender Bacary Sagna suggested this week that the players should be to blame, commenting that they didn't step up and perform to the best of their ability often enough. The early announcement of Pep Guardiola's arrival has also been pinned as a negative distraction, although City were having problems long before that occurred in February.
Those are all likely contributory factors, but it's too easy to simply blame the players, the manager or a potential outside distraction when there is something much bigger in play that continues to be overlooked. Above anything else, what has really hampered the club this season is bad recruitment over the last couple of years, with the people at board level responsible.
We were consistently told by anyone and everyone in the summer and at the start of the season that City had assembled by the far the best squad in the Premier League. That, to put it bluntly, could not be further from the truth. They may have had a small collection of the best few players, but anyone suggesting their overall squad was top drawer was blinded by the individual brilliance of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.
City's squad was, and is, not good enough to meet expectations. Playing very well in one off games, as they have done at times this season, offers no proof of a squad's general quality and ability to handle the demands of a full campaign. With regard to exactly that, City have fallen way, way short.
De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, who can only get better after taking a while to settle in, aside, the club has consistently recruited poorly since they last won the Premier League title in 2014. It's no wonder they find themselves in the situation they're now in, with Guardiola needing to perform a complete overhaul of the squad and spend up £300m just to have a chance of competing next season. Nobody should be surprised.
First of all, not enough recruitment has been done. The squad is just too small for the number of games across the various competitions that City are required to play. As soon as injuries struck mid-season, something which any top club should always be prepared for, Pellegrini was forced to turn to teenagers for an FA Cup game against Chelsea as he also had one eye on a crucial Champions League game in Kyiv a few days later. City's junior class were comprehensively battered at Stamford Bridge as a result and the chances of winning a trophy went up in smoke.
Equally as important, most of the players that have been brought in to address key needs are not up to the standard required and it smacks of lazy scouting and poor planning.
Nicolas Otamendi has been nothing short of a joke for a £30m centre-back. He's reckless, lacks awareness and defensive intelligence and has been at fault so many times over the last nine months. At £32m, Eliaquim Mangala has had a year longer to settle and has been no better. Fabian Delph hasn't improved the squad at all. In 2014, the arrival of Bacary Sagna papered over cracks at best, Fernando plays well once in a blue moon, pun intended, while Wilfried Bony is a good Premier League striker, but not an elite Premier League striker. One for whom City vastly overpaid.
Sub-standard recruitment above anything else has handed Manchester City the array of problems they currently find themselves with. Top recruitment is now the only way out, but it's ridiculous that it's come to this, while spending big sums is nothing more than a shot in the dark ahead of 2016/17 if they merely employ the same flawed methods again.
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