The last time a manager went trophy less at Manchester City Football Club, he was shown the door. Even though just 12 months ago Roberto Mancini had landed Citya s first title in 44 years, there was no room for forgiveness. With the never ending managerial merry-go-round that the Premier League is nowadays, a certain Chilean must be feeling the heat after a trophy less campaign in 2014-15.
It probably tells a lot about a cluba s season when a 36-year-old becomes the cluba s biggest impact signing of the season. Frank Lampard had hoped to jet across the Atlantic to play in the MLS, but contractual loopholes meant that he only drove north-west to end up at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. Him along with Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando made the major chunk of the summer signings in 2014, already adding to a strong squad full of confidence.
There was obviously huge optimism going into the season and they had no reason otherwise. Even though they had failed to bring a big name to the club in the summer, they already had the likes of Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and David Silva to bank on. Some of the biggest names in football, one of the biggest transfer kitties and spendthrift owners meant that City were going to have another fantastic year. Or at least, they should have had.
Early signs of trouble
City ended August with a shock 1-0 defeat at home to Stoke City. The visitors stole the points from the champions with a solitary strike in the 57th minute of the game. It was a pattern to be repeated later by sides visiting the Etihad as City suffered from unlikely points dropped at home or even relatively easy matches away.
Lampard’s goal against Chelsea one of the moments of the Premier League season
Surely one of the moments of the season came when the to-be champions Chelsea came into town. The Blues came with four wins out of four and were sitting pretty at the top. They even took a 1-0 lead through German world cup winner Andre Schurrle. But when ex-Chelsea legend Frank Lampard came on, the whole stadium rose in applause. The away section was silenced a few minutes later, when a typical Lampard run into the box ended up in a goal to snatch 2 points away from his beloved Chelsea. All was forgiven at the end though, as a teary-eyed Lampard applauded the away section who were serenading with him a Super Franka .
Till the end of October, City had already lost ground on Chelsea by losing 10 points in their 9 matches. It was looking like a lost cause for the Citizens with teams like Southampton and West Ham running them close for the Champions League spots. But champions that they were, they would not go down without a fight. That is exactly what happened in the coming months as they began to gain momentum to launch a fresh salvo on the Blue army.
Strong winter months
The time after October is when a bunch of fixtures come and go without much time. During November and December, City played a total of 10 league games, drew only 2 of them and won 8. Their efforts during this time meant that, with Chelsea dropping crucial points at Southampton and Tottenham, they came to within 3 points of Chelsea at the half-way point of the season.
It is no coincidence that their good form coincided with the return to goal-scoring exploits of Sergio Aguero. In the season so far, and even in the matches to come, the Argentine looked a class apart. His single-handed demolition of Bayern Munich was perhaps the high point of Citya s season. Even against Barcelona at home, later in the season, he looked like the only City player who could make the Barcelona starting eleven. The to-be Golden Boot winner was back to his best, and in the coming months of January and February, he was to be Citya s best bet to win the championship. Even though he missed the majority of December through injury, his absence did not affect the momentum they had gained.
Sergio Aguero was the star player of City’s campaign
Many pundits believe that January is where titles are won and lost, and judging by Citya s failings and Chelseaa s pick-up in form, it proved to be true this time around. Only 1 win out of their 4 matches in the month, followed by a home defeat to Middlesbrough in the FA Cup, which meant they were left chasing the tails of Chelsea for their only hope of silverware. The Blues, however, were in no mood to let up.
That, along with Agueroa s slow return to form post his injury lay-off meant that City were also in danger of losing their chase for European glory too.
Cup woes for the Citizens
Apart from the busy schedule of the Premier League, all teams in the top-tier are eligible to compete in the two local cup competitions, the FA Cup and the League Cup (named the Capital One Cup for sponsorship reasons). The aforementioned loss to Middlesbrough meant that they were out of the FA Cup in the 4th round itself, while it took only 2 matches for them to lose their place in the League Cup.
Perhaps the most important cup of them all, even bigger than the Premier League for some teams and fans, the UEFA Champions League has always proved to be Citya s undoing. Even this year, they were handed the worst draw possible when they picked up Barcelona in the round-of-16 itself. Two matches of tiki-taka and Lionel Messi master classes later, the Citizens again found themselves out of Europe and the way things were headed elsewhere, trophy less.
Strong end to a disappointing season
After they were knocked out of the European cup by Barcelona, City backed it up by two further losses in the Premier League, which all but evaporated their chances of defending the title. A strong end to April and May were not enough for the former champions as the team from west London comfortably bagged the title with 3 games to go.
Questions have been raised about Pellegrini’s job security
Their two star players from the 2013/14 campaign, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure had ordinary seasons, their signings did not work as they were expected to and even the stop-gap measure of playing Lampard did not seem to work. It just did not seem right for them this time around.
It does not mean they wona t bounce back. Wilfried Bony has had time to settle now and will be a force in the upcoming season. Toure will be difficult to keep hold of, but if they do pull it off, it will be like a new signing for them. Some key positions such as the centre-back, a back up full back and a back-up striker are the areas that need strengthening. With the unlimited cash resources at hand, it will be difficult to keep a good side like Manchester City down for the count. While the players enjoy their time off, the fans cannot wait for the start of the new season, and as always it will be full of optimism.