With pressure mounting on Mark Hughes after fans became restless during City’s seventh draw of the season against Hull, midfielder Nigel de Jong tried to take some of the heat off his manager by pinning the blame at the feet of the players. It has been tremendously frustrating as a City fan this season, after losing the least amount of Premier League games during the first 13 games, City find themselves already 14 points off the pace, bar a game in hand.
This incredible addiction to drawing when in winning positions has led to growing criticism of manager Mark Hughes and there can be no surprise about this after drawing at home against Burnley, Fulham and Hull. There is no doubt that City should be winning these games but there seems to be a soft centre to City that oppositions have exploited. The facts stand that the Arabs will not be the most patient owners if results continue the way they are going. Fourth place seems to be the expectation for Mark Hughes this season and although they are only three points from their desired position, another run of draws will mean the club will only be standing still rather than going forward. It is a state of affairs which was not lost on De Jong when speaking after the Hull game:
It was disappointing to play at home again and to concede in the 80th minute. It was also the seventh draw, so we don’t get any closer to the top four. Now it is up to us to take it on the chin and come out fighting on Wednesday.
Hughes insists that the owners understand that Manchester City is a long term project and it needs a long term manager to carry it out. This will no doubt hold some weight and he has a good relationship with chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak. Hughes no doubt has great experience in the English game and keeping with him this long, the owners obviously are confident that he has the knowledge and skills to carry out this long term project. However as we all know, football is a results business, and if they see that another man is available who they believe can carry out this long term project with more aplomb, than I doubt they would hesitate to move quickly. With Jose Mourinho stating his desire to move back to England sometime in the future, City may just be watching events closely.
For the immediate future though, they are backing Hughes, and De Jong has expressed that no one is to blame more than the players for the succession of draws:
We have to sort it out, we are frustrated at t he way we played, and the way we have played in the last couple of weeks at home. We have to dominate teams here, and that didn’t happen.
That failure to dominate is the big difference between City and rest of the top four clubs at the moment, unlike Chelsea who developed a “big club mentality” very quickly after Roman Abramovich’s takeover of the club, City it seems lack the confidence to shut out games. A problem also highlighted by De Jong:
Maybe there is a lack of confidence in some situations. We try to keep confidence high, especially when we play at home. We are frustrated but have to continue to build for the future, and these kinds of games are always hard to play. There are a few factors, but we have to give more in every line of our game – midfield, defence and attack. It’s a team thing and we have to work harder and harder to get where we want to be.
Of course Hughes will have to be given time, a team does not come together in six months, it is something the players are aware of and it is something that some fans and the owners will need to be patient with too. Perhaps by the turn of the year, these draws will be turned into wins, and City may just be threatening a fourth place finish.