The Premier League title race is now down to three teams, and of those three Manchester City has emerged as the favorite heading into the weekend. The team currently sits in third place -- four points behind Liverpool, and two behind Chelsea -- but still has seven Premier League games to play as a result of the team’s deep run in the Capital One Cup earlier this season.
The extra two games that City has on both Liverpool and Chelsea mean that City is assured the title if it wins all of its games, and is even conceivably afforded a slight cushion if it drops points somewhere along the way. This explains why our ESPN Stats & Information group currently gives City a 64 percent chance of winning the Premier League, a percentage that will significantly jump if City manages to defeat Liverpool over the weekend.
But even though City does have an advantage in terms of remaining games, there is no guarantee that the team will take full advantage. And while there is little doubt about the team’s talent level, a decline in defensive numbers combined with an inability to maintain leads and a lack of consistency in away matches all raise questions about City’s true championship mettle.
Here are a few key reasons I believe City will fall short of the Premier League title.
Defensive gaps created by City’s attack
City manager Manuel Pellegrini is fortunate to have an extraordinary amount of attacking talent to work with, and he does a good job of changing his tactics to accommodate the strengths of his attacking players. However, there are defensive doubts about City that are cause for concern in their final stretch of games. Even though the team has conceded only 29 goals this season (second fewest in the Prem), City are conceding more shots and shots on target per game than they did last season, and City’s prolific attack is impacting the team’s defensive vulnerabilities.
This season, opponents are averaging 11.5 take-ons per...