James Milner blames City slump on away form

 

James Milner admitted Manchester City have paid for their lack of “ruthlessness” away from home in 2012 after Arsenal dealt what could be a fatal blow to their Barclays Premier League title hopes.

Yesterday's 1-0 defeat at the Emirates Stadium - further marred by another Mario Balotelli meltdown - left Roberto Mancini's men facing a barren season, with arch-rivals Manchester United going into the final six matches eight points clear at the summit.

That represents a remarkable turnaround, with City having held a five-point lead just over a month ago - admittedly having played a game more.

They were also five points clear back in October when they won the Manchester derby 6-1 at Old Trafford, having previously thrashed Tottenham 5-1 at White Hart Lane in August.

But while United have gone from strength to strength, City have self-combusted on their travels since the turn of the year, with even their victories edgy affairs.

Midfielder Milner said: "We have played well for the majority of the season, but have come unstuck for whatever reason over the past few weeks, most of the time away from home.

"We have been very strong at home, but away have not got the results we want.

"It is about having that ruthlessness on the road which we can learn from."

City never looked like winning yesterday the way Mancini set them up, with watching chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak looking far from impressed by what he saw.

Milner said: "Everyone has good days and bad days.

"We did not keep the ball as well as we can.

"We were still in the game going into the final 10 minutes, which is what the good teams do.

"When you are under pressure, it is about staying tight, restricting their chances and hoping you can nick one at the other end, but that just did not happen.

"They had more than enough chances, but the boys defended well, the centre-halves were magnificent, so were Gael Clichy and Joe Hart.

"Credit to the lads, but it was just not enough."

He added: "As a team, we have set standards throughout the season, but we have not met them.

"We knew it would be a tough game, but we did not perform how we know we can for whatever reason, loss of confidence, fatigue.

"We have given everything we can, and it was not good enough.

"But we have another game in a couple of days and have to pick ourselves up and go again."

Mancini, whose position will surely come under further scrutiny, must somehow lift his men for Wednesday's match against West Brom, which sees striker Balotelli serve the first instalment of what is currently a three-match ban following his sending off yesterday.

The Italian will learn tomorrow whether he faces missing the rest of the season when the Football Association ask the match officials whether they failed to spot his clash with Alex Song.

Replays showed Balotelli going in knee-high on the Arsenal midfielder, who was fortunate to escape serious injury.

Milner refused to answer any questions about the conduct of Balotelli, who Mancini admitted he would "probably" sell in the summer.

The City boss also refused to concede the title, sentiments echoed by England star Milner.

Admitting Mancini had set a target of seven straight wins before yesterday's game, the 26-year-old said: "From now, we will try to win the remaining six, which is all we can do and see where that takes us.

"We just have to concentrate on doing what we have to do, on our own game and, whatever happens this season, whether we win it or don't, we have to make sure we learn from the good and the poor things which have gone on."

PA

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