Roberto Mancini has been on record for weeks as saying he does not expect Manchester City to win this season's Premier League. On that front at least, he looks a sound judge. What is taxing him considerably more is turning some £140m worth of his own signings into a cohesive enough unit to deliver even the minimum requirement – a place in the Champions League – after it emerged yesterday that one, Yaya Touré, drove away from Eastlands the previous weekend after being substituted at half-time during the defeat to Arsenal and that Touré and James Milner had a row in the tunnel.
Amazingly, a club official said leaving the ground early was common policy: "[Touré] left before the end to miss the traffic. It's normal procedure."
Presumably it is not normal procedure for the players to be at loggerheads with each other so often as, in addition to Milner and Touré, the club's highest earner on £220,000 a week, clashing previously, Emmanuel Adebayor and Vincent Kompany were arguing on the pitch during Wolverhampton Wanderers' fully deserved victory on Saturday.
There is also some confusion over why Carlos Tevez has been allowed to return to Argentina where his family live while he is trying to recover from a "dead" leg. It seems some players want to be anywhere but with their team-mates.
City now have the vultures pecking at what already appears to be the carcass of their challenge for Chelsea's crown and it's debatable how long the club's owner, Sheikh Mansour, will stand for hearing that his team have been beaten in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton and that they are attracting unsavoury headlines relating to excessive drinking and infighting.
The statistical knowledge that Mark Hughes' City had taken two more points from the first 10 games last season than the present crop have – and were still in the Carling Cup – does not help.
At the very core of a looming Eastlands crisis is the painful failure of this extravagantly assembled collection of stars and egos to evolve as a convincing title-chasing team. Their response to falling behind with more than half an hour left was thoroughly inadequate.
What City would give for some of the home-spun unity their former centre-half Mick McCarthy has instilled at Molineux; virtues that saw Wolves to their first League victory since the season's opening afternoon.
While the 19th-placed club thrillingly pulled themselves together and struck with first League goals of 2010 by Nenad Milijas and David Edwards, City, on top of all those bust-up and booze-up stories, displayed more of their increasingly seen match-day snarling and shrugging at each other with Adebayor and Kompany the chief culprits.
So hot under the collar did Mancini become that his blue-and-white scarf, which came out of mothballs for the first time this season, behaved just as his team's performance did. It unravelled and ended in a heap.
"It's impossible for us to play like that," he said, adding that City had to learn to win without Tevez. "It was the worst we have played. We played very badly in the second half and it is important to understand why."
If Mancini doesn't come up with quick answers he will be in trouble. He failed to offer any immediate explanations for the capitulation but will by now have rewatched a game in which his defenders found no more of an answer to the menace of Matt Jarvis than Manchester United's full-backs had four nights earlier. The winger was outstanding and is timing to perfection his run at a place in England's squad for the friendly against France. "Their bench was probably worth three times what our entire squad cost but I think we wanted it more than them," Edwards said, tellingly.
Man of the match Jarvis. Match rating 8/10.
Possession Wolves 45% Man City 55%.
Shots on target Wolves 6 Man City 9.
Referee M Dean (Wirral). Attendance 25,971.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies