Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini blamed tiredness for his side’s abject showing in their 1-0 win against Wigan Athletic on Saturday at Eastlands.
City may have all the money in the world but they struggled throughout this contest as Wigan played the more expansive and attractive football.
The win reduces the gap between City and second-placed Arsenal to four points but City manager Mancini has work to do after watching his side only win a game against relegation-haunted Wigan thanks to a huge stroke of luck.
A tame shot from David Silva after 38 minutes somehow slipped through the grasp of Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi who let the ball squirm from his grasp and that proved to be enough.
City have already played 45 games this season, just three short of how many they played in the entirety of last season alone and Mancini pointed to that statistic as the reason for his side’s disappointing efforts.
He said: “In the second half it was very hard I think we were very tired and that was the difference.
“We played three games ago with the same players and we were very tired but the win was important. Also in the first half we played well and had frequent chances to score.
“In this moment when we are paying every two days it is very difficult. For them it is not easy to be strong every game, it is hard and that is the problem at the moment. They have some days off now and the players can recover.”
The home side’s preparations for this encounter were hindered by the announcement on Thursday that defender Kolo Toure has been suspended indefinitely after failing a drugs test.
Reports suggest that his urine sample failed after the Ivorian took one of his wife’s dietary pills and the player is currently awaiting the results of a secondary sample before officials decide what sanctions to take.
“Kolo is a fantastic man and a serious professional player,” Mancini said.
“This victory is for Kolo and I think it is a moment for him.”
After 23 minutes, Carlos Tevez came closest to unlocking Wigan’s defence as he jinxed past Ben Watson and Maynor Figueroa but pushed his shot wide off the far post while Silva also went close 90 seconds later as his left-food shot also shaded wide.
City took the lead as the interval loomed when Al Habsi committed a terrible error to allow Silva’s efforts through his legs. After the interval, Wigan became the better side and Antolin Alcaraz was unfortunate to see his volley hit the upright before bouncing to safety.
James McCarthy then had his second chance of the game as he drilled a low shot goalward but City keeper Joe Hart was alert enough to superbly block the effort as Wigan continued to look the more attacking side.
City grew increasingly frustrated in the second half and Mancini completely lost his temper on the sidelines, throwing his gloves to the ground after his defence ignored his furious request to play higher up the field to try and stop the Latics from attacking.
But despite dominating the latter stages of the game, Wigan could not make it count as Hugo Rodallega, Charles N’Zogbia and Conor Sammon all missed glorious late chances which allowed City to hold on while Wigan remain rock bottom of the Premier League.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said: “Well I think the performance was really, really good. I felt we coped with their threat really well and controlled the tempo of the whole game and that is the most pleasing aspect.
“We had more possession, corners and better chances and in the end we didn’t get anything apart from a huge belief and the players deserve a lot of credit.
“If we maintain those standards until the end of the season then we will get the points.”