If Manchester City have any sense of ambition about them then their 2-0 defeat to Arsenal would have sent shockwaves down their spines. Their lifeless performance against Arsenal was reminiscent of many of their recent failings in the Champions League and that spells disaster for their tie with Barcelona.
Against the Gunners, City were allowed to have the lionshare of possession yet rarely looked capable of breaking down a stubborn side comfortable with sitting deep. Furthermore, whenever Arsenal did spring into attack City looked vulnerable and likely to concede at any given moment.
During last season's 4-1 aggregate loss against Barcelona, the La Liga side enjoyed 68% of possession in the first leg and 58% in second leg and will be very likely to report a similar figures the next time they meet. In conjunction with Sunday's loss to Arsenal, it implies City struggle against high calibre opponents regardless of what tactics they adopt.
Since City's first Champions League campaign in the 2010/11 season they have consistently made excuses for their shortcomings; they have been particularly fond of blaming their seeding and subsequently being placed in tough groups. The best City have managed was last season's 4-1 defeat by Barcelona in the last 16, beforehand they continually failed to qualify for the knockout stages.
Throughout the aforementioned years the makeup of City has been rather consistent, yet continuity has not helped them. If anything, it is arguable that the current crop of players have plateaued. Their five best players: Yaya Toure, Pablo Zabaleta, David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero are 31, 30, 29, 28 and 26 respectively. Meanwhile, other key members such as Martin Demichelis, Pablo Zabaleta, James Milner, Gael Clichy, Jesus Navas and Fernandinho are of 34 and 29 years of age.
Taking into account age and the City's current trajectory, it is quite clear time is against them achieving their ambitions before they physical abilities regress. Therefore, should City lose to Barcelona when the Champions League resumes, it should spark the beginning of wholesale changes within the squad.