By Joe Harker
Something is rotten in the state of Manchester City.
That is to say something is rotten besides the dodgy owners using the club as a distraction from horrendous human rights abuses.
It's just not quite the same for Pep Guardiola's side as it was in previous seasons, they are lacking a spark that once set the pitch alight almost every time they played.
After the 1-1 draw with Shakhtar Donetsk some comments from City goalscorer and midfielder Ilkay Gundogan made The Independent think there was a problem.
Gundogan said "with all the injuries we are having, all the changes in the squad, sometimes it's not easy" and admitted the team "have dropped unnecessary points in a few games already".
A club aiming to be at the high level Man City aspire to can't be making those mistakes. The injuries are a concern for the club, particularly the loss of centre back Aymeric Laporte, but there have been other concerning errors.
One of the new arrivals in the summer was defensive midfielder Rodri, signed from Atletico Madrid. He also suggested there were problems in need of fixing at the club as City have won just one of their last four games.
They need to find a solution soon as they go into a very busy period of games over December and into the new year. If they don't find a quick fix then they could enter 2020 with their Premier League prospects dashed.
The Counter Claim:
However, Guardiola said the problems were only "little" and preferred to focus on the more successful elements of recent performances.
City's form isn't abysmal. They still have one foot in the title race and have progressed to the next round of the Champions League, albeit from an easy group.
There are plenty of reasons for Guardiola's lot to think most of their problems are down to a few highly disruptive injuries and a bit of bad luck. They've got one of the best squads in the game but even they would miss a defender like Laporte.
City need to find a higher gear to shift up to, however, if they intend to catch up to Liverpool and take advantage of any points Jurgen Klopp's side might drop.
Closing the gap assumes you're not going to slip up yourself, right now City look more likely to drop points than Liverpool and that needs to change for them to retain their title.
This City side has taken 198 points from the last two Premier League campaigns, lifting the trophy both times. They were one of the most dazzling teams in Europe, despite tripping up in the Champions League after being tipped as potential favourites.
They set the bar sky high and are now struggling to clear it. A few seasons ago it wouldn't have been a bad start but the threshold is much higher now in no small part because City raised it to that level.