LONDON, February 8 – Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini refused to blame the continued absence of Yaya Toure for his team’s collapse in 2015 following their 1-1 home draw with relegation-threatened Hull City.
The defending Premier League champions are now seven points behind leaders Chelsea, have exited the FA Cup at home to Championship side Middlesbrough, and have gone four games without a league win — their worst such run in over five years.
All this has happened while the inspirational Toure has been at the Africa Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast, who face Ghana in Sunday’s final.
The hulking 31-year-old midfielder is not expected to be available for Wednesday’s trip to Stoke City, but Pellegrini is adamant that City can prosper without him.
“I always have the same answer — you can’t have any doubt how important Yaya Toure is for us,” he said. “But we feel that every game without Yaya we could win. It is not just about one player.
“We must be a creative team and we must play faster in the last 25 metres against teams who defend with men behind the ball. I think there is more of a problem than one individual player.”
David Meyler gave Hull a deserved, if surprise, first-half lead on Saturday and the visitors, who defended stoutly, would have won had it not been for a fine injury-time free kick by James Milner.
“Yes, of course, before the game, if you’d said we were going to draw against Hull, I wouldn’t have liked it,” admitted Pellegrini. “But the way we did it was not so bad with a goal in the last minute.
“In the 90 minutes, we had all the possession and attacked and attacked. We only created one chance, so it’s very clear — we must work and try to improve in that sense.”
On Chelsea’s advantage, he added: “We’re not thinking about it. We’re not concerned about the gap.
“We’re thinking about how we can return to our normal performance. How we can score again; how we can resolve the problems other teams are presenting us. That’s more important than the gap to other teams.”
– ‘Crazy and difficult’ –
Milner was the unlikely saviour for City after coming off the bench in the second half, raising questions as to why the England international had not been in the line-up from the start.
“I think James Milner has played 24 or 25 games this season,” said Pellegrini.
“But for different reasons, I need to make changes because the last few games we didn’t score and the last two home games we didn’t score.
“He scored a beautiful goal with the free kick, but it is not about one name. That is not the problem. It is not just about one individual player.”
For Hull manager Steve Bruce, the only frustration — apart from conceding a late equaliser — was the fact that his team have failed to show this sort of form all season.
Last season’s beaten FA Cup finalists had failed to find the net in 11 of their previous 15 league games and Bruce said: “It shows how crazy and difficult the Premier League is.
“We’ve been awful for 10 or 12 weeks, but hopefully that will galvanise the squad and bring the confidence and belief that has ebbed away a bit.
“If we keep playing like that we will come back here next year and that’s the aim of the club.”
The draw lifted Hull out of the relegation zone, but they will fall back into the bottom three if Burnley avoid defeat at home to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.