Maunel Pellegrini's 'tired' excuse dismissed by Manchester City star Sami Nasri

Frenchman rejects idea that fatigue was to blame for Burnley draw

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The Independent Online

Manchester City's Samir Nasri has rejected his manager Manuel Pellegrini’s claim that fatigue – rather than complacency – caused them to throw away the chance to move to within a point of leaders Chelsea in the Premier League table at New Year.

Pellegrini claimed after Sunday’s shocking turnaround against Burnley that heavy Christmas pitches in their previous games, at West Bromwich Albion and the Etihad, had contributed to City’s second-half malaise and a 2-0 lead ending in a  2-2 draw. But Nasri dismissed that notion. “It’s not an excuse that we were tired,” he said.

“Look at their [Burnley’s] team. They played exactly the same XI as played against Liverpool. Both teams didn’t have many changes. There is no lesson to learn because we are playing for Manchester City against Burnley at home. So it’s not a lesson – we just have to be clinical.”

Nasri also said that the side must carry the memory of their disastrous attempt to defend their Premier League title two years ago into the second half of the season. The club’s attempt to retain their crown then was dismal, with an inspired and wounded Manchester United winning the subsequent title and City’s players collapsing into a state of open warfare with a divisive manager, Roberto Mancini.

“Yes, we all know what happened and it’s an example for us,” Nasri said. “We know what we need to do. What not to do, as well. We learn from our mistakes. I don’t know how many points we were behind United at this stage – we finished 11 or 12 behind them. I know this will not happen. All we want is to win the league again – and we’ll do everything possible to do it again.”

City were already seven points behind United on this day two years ago, a lead Sir Alex Ferguson’s side extended to 11 points by the finish. Chelsea’s lead over City is three points, though Sunday’s second-half comeback by Burnley – the division’s most cheaply assembled team – denied Pellegrini the chance to be right on Jose Mourinho’s tail at the season’s halfway point.

Ashley Barnes stunned City with a brilliant equaliser

In the aftermath of Sunday’s fixtures Mourinho departed significantly from the quiet choreography he has adopted this season and purposefully used the press conference arena for the first time in the campaign to foster a sense of victimhood in his players that he will believe they can profit from. His claim that Cesc Fabregas’s booking for what should have been a penalty at Southampton belonged to an orchestrated anti-Chelsea campaign confirms the belief of his back-room team that he would depart from his persona as “The Quiet One” when the title chase intensified and it served his side.

Pellegrini evidently chose to display no anger, publicly or privately, after what was a far more disquieting result than Mourinho’s 1-1 draw at Southampton. Nasri claimed that there had been no dressing-room inquisition after Burnley’s Ashley Barnes led a second-half turnaround. “No, [there was no hairdryer]. He was just disappointed,” Nasri said. “At half-time he said that we must not concede an easy goal. They are a team who play, try to press, won’t let us play. He said after that it would be a difficult game.”

The problem for Pellegrini is that his demands for solid defending must be tempered with a realisation of his powerlessness to legislate for the technical vulnerabilities in his back four – and particularly £40m Eliaquim Mangala. Even Nasri admitted that the side needed to establish an emphatic lead to kill off games, because of the vulnerability at the other end of the field. “We have to score – kill the game sometimes – because we can make mistakes,” Nasri said.

The absence of a recognised striker is another reason why City can only rank as second favourites. David Silva certainly faded after a magisterial first-half performance on Sunday in which the division’s 19th-placed side could not touch him. Edin Dzeko expects to be back for the fixture at Everton on 10 January.

City are expected to announce this week that Frank Lampard’s loan contract from New York City FC, which runs until the end of this month, is to be extended at least until February, allowing him to remain and deputise for Yaya Touré, who will miss much of next month at the African Cup of Nations. “We are hoping he will stay,” Nasri said of Lampard.