Manuel Pellegrini blames Manchester City stalemate on injury
Norwich, United Kingdom: Manuel Pellegrini insists Manchester City’s failure to regain first place in the Premier League is hardly surprising after his squad was ravaged by injuries to several key players.
City would have finished the weekend in first place had they beaten Norwich at Carrow Road on Saturday but instead dropped to third after settling for a point from a frustrating 0-0 draw.
That meant they failed to overtake Arsenal, who had lost 5-1 at Liverpool earlier in the day, and were passed by new leaders Chelsea, who beat Newcastle 3-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea had won 1-0 at City on Monday and the Norwich stalemate meant that a side that had rattled in 68 goals in the previous 23 Premier League fixtures had now completed two more without adding any more to the tally.
It was also the first time City had failed to find the net in successive games in just over two years, but Pellegrini is adamant that was mainly the result of injuries to his prolific strikers.
Sergio Aguero is sidelined with a hamstring injury and Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo are both playing through the pain barrier.
“Everybody has been talking about how many goals we score, and how we concede them when we defend, but the most difficult thing is scoring goals,” Pellegrini said.
“In the last two games, with our strikers not being fit, we couldn’t do it and without a goal you can’t win a game.
“Dzeko has an ankle in a very bad condition, which is why he played just 30 minutes and Negredo has a problem with a shoulder but they had to play in that condition.
“I was concerned about this match and it was exactly the same when we played Chelsea because we have a lot of players who are not 100 per cent fit.
“Maybe it was a good opportunity but we are still two points behind the leaders.”
It was a similar situation in midfield, with Javi Garcia and Fernandinho both sidelined through injury, forcing Yaya Toure to adopt a defensive role.
The Ivory Coast international had a limited impact but Pellegrini said: “Yaya had to play today a little bit back because we did not have another man who could play in that position.”
Pellegrini insisted he had not seen an incident involving Toure in which the City midfielder appeared to kick Norwich substitute Ricky van Wolfswinkel off the ball late in the game.
Chris Hughton, the Norwich manager, said he had not seen the incident either, but was understandably more interested in praising his players for their efforts in the game, especially as they had been beaten 7-0 by City in Manchester in November.
“It says a lot about what we have got in the squad,” he said. “It’s a smaller squad than Manchester City’s but it’s a tighter squad.
“It says a fair bit about the competition that we have got. I thought we did most things right.”
Norwich remain part of the relegation equation and are only two points ahead of the bottom three clubs. Yet they were applauded off the pitch by their supporters, who had been critical after previous games.
“We have a support here who know the game,” Hughton said. “Going through a game with Man City and not conceding a goal is a big ask.
“They saw a team trying to win a game in the last 10 minutes and that’s why we got the reception we did.”