Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini denied that his side are unable to win without Yaya Toure despite losing further ground on Chelsea by failing to beat Hull City at home.
The champions, who have now won just one of their last five league games, were facing a 1-0 defeat until a stoppage-time James Milner free kick rescued a point.
But despite their poor form, City’s manager was quick not to blame the absence of talismanic Toure, who won the Africa Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast on Sunday.
“People say about how we have missed Yaya and, as I’ve said many times, he is a very important player for us,” said the 61-year-old Pellegrini.
“But we have enough creative players in the team to be able to win games like this – they just weren’t at their best today and we need those players to find their best form again.”
The manager was also keen to point out that rarely have his side been genuinely outplayed at the Etihad this season, but have struggled to pick apart compact defences.
“We had problems creating space but it is difficult when we face teams who put every man behind the ball,” said the Chilean.
“I would be more disappointed if we came off the pitch having failed to create chances or if we’d not had spirit or had not been running and trying.
“We are not thinking about the gap at the top – just how we can recover our normal performance – this is more important because everything else will fall into places when we are playing well again.”
However, the City squad may find it hard to ignore the gap to Chelsea, who sit seven points ahead at the top of the Premier League table, with just 14 games remaining.
One of the biggest reasons for that gap has been the Citizen’s home form, where they have dropped points against rivals Arsenal and Chelsea, and three perceived smaller sides in the form of Burnley, Stoke, and now Hull City.
Midfielder James Milner said: “For whatever reason we’ve struggled at home this year and dropped far too many points.
“It’s a flip from last year when our away form was poor, but this year it’s the other way around so it’s disappointing but we need to regroup and come back and try and put a run of results together.
“Success in recent seasons has been based on solid home form, last year, I think we drew one game at home.
“That shows that we have to make the difference away from home now and can’t really afford too many more slip ups if any.
“I’m sure Chelsea will have a big lead now but it’s down to us to concentrate on our game and see how many points we can get.”
His England and Man City teammate Joe Hart issued a similar rallying cry after the defeat, looking to secure his third Premier League title.
“We’ll never give up,” said the goalkeeper. “Unfortunately, we’ve put ourselves in a position where we’re going to have to come through really strongly.
“We’d have liked to be in a position where we don’t have to rely on that – but we do.
“Our fans are still behind us which we appreciate and we’ll go to Stoke now on Wednesday ready for a rumble.”
Main image courtesy of Manchester City FC via YouTube, with thanks.