Manchester City's misery continues. They fell victim to irresistible local rivals Manchester United on Sunday afternoon, but concerns should now be running much deeper than rectifying one embarrassing derby defeat.
City took the lead at Old Trafford, deserving their early goal. But there was an alarming change in attitude once the home side started making a fist of it. United powered past their forlorn rivals and ended up taking the bragging rights and a four-point advantage in the Premier League table. City's hopes of finishing in the top four are at serious risk of going up in smoke if something doesn't change.
In the aftermath of the 4-2 loss, the talk surrounding City has been purely of personnel. They've become their own worst enemy. And while it's justified to point the finger at manager Manuel Pellegrini, this Manchester City squad cycle has started on an irreversible downward spiral.
Gary Neville has been all too keen to tell us that the Premier League champions have the oldest average squad age in the division. That's 29.7 years. And while brother Phil thinks the criticism is unfair, it just has to be 31-year-old midfielder Yaya Toure who the first victim of a major reshuffle of the pack.
He'll be 32 before the season ends and causes more problems than he solves on current form. He's a liability. Manchester City have been overrun in central midfield far too many times in big matches in recent years and it's cost them. It did so again on Sunday.
Wayne Rooney spoke after the game of United's intention to make the reigning champions pay for certain players' lack of desire to fight for the ball. It was Toure he was referring to, make no bones about it. Ashley Young even named and shamed.
While Toure is a problem that has long been getting worse, his goalscoring form from their title winning term last season covered over the cracks. He mustered 20 league goals and fired City to the title, but since then, he's moaned about birthday cakes and noticeably not pulled his weight.
Pellegrini hasn't shown the foresight to deal with it. That's a problem in itself. Repeatedly Toure is played in a central midfield two, but neglects the responsibilities of winning the ball back. Which is exactly what a central midfielder should be doing.
Such an ignorance to responsibility should have meant one of two things when his cons began to outweigh the pros. Either shift his position to a place where it'll do less damage, or take him out of the team altogether. Pellegrini has done neither and in all likelihood it'll contribute to him losing his job.
That's one of the biggest criticisms of the Chilean. He's worlds behind Europe's best managers tactically. Jose Mourinho has outwitted him before and Louis van Gaal proved his superiority at the weekend. But he'll always feel Toure has to be in the team - so the best way to address the problem is to get rid of him altogether. Heck, both of them need to go.
The valuation of Toure's head is tumbling at a rapid pace. The time was right to let him go to Paris Saint Germain last summer, but given his advancing years and minimal positive influence there's some doubt the French champions now see him as a viable option. Inter Milan and Roberto Mancini have though admitted they'll do their utmost to bring the player to Italy.
If they can put up a worthwhile fee, it's a no brainer for Manchester City.
Inter are no direct threat. They may be looking to build a squad to ascend back to the top of the European game, but they're not going to do that for a number of years yet and it's unlikely they'll even be in Europe next season. If Toure wants to link up with his former manager, they should be flying him there themselves.
City are going to need to take a leaf out of Chelsea's Financial Fair Play bible and this summer offload a number of players, in order to bring in younger and fresher stars. The obvious choice for a replacement is Juventus' Paul Pogba, but there's no way this club is big enough for the both of them.
Manchester City have been far too naive in the transfer market since building their first Premier League title winning squad. It's a team which still remains, has reached its peak and gone far past it. So much so that it's become a problem. Serious work needs to be done.
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