End of Season Report: Manchester City

23May 2013

England - Premier League

 

Presently trophyless and managerless, 2012/13 was a dispiriting experience for Manchester City...

 

Season Summary - 2nd

 

2012/13 started as 2011/12 ended, with a 3-2 victory and a trophy as they beat Chelsea for the Community Shield. Their title defence began with another 3-2 against Southampton, though injury to Sergio Aguero was destabilising - he missed a month and didn't hit form until November.

 

Still, they entered the first Manchester derby on December 9 unbeaten and three points behind their neighbours. A wretched first half saw them 2-0 down yet they fought back, only to be winded by Robin van Persie's injury-time free kick.

 

Again their response was feisty, winning six of their next seven league matches but Manchester United only dropped another four points before the end of March. City couldn't rival that pace and a three-match winless stretch around the time an inactive winter transfer window shut killed their challenge.

 

The final few months weren't without highlights: another Old Trafford triumph to stall the inevitable and progress to the FA Cup final. That finished badly, a 1-0 reverse to lowly Wigan occurring in the aftermath of leaks about Roberto Mancini being replaced by Manuel Pellegrini. He was gone two days later, and the campaign concluded with a home loss to Norwich.

 

Their performance in the other two cup competitions was catastrophic and, while no tears were shed over a Capital One Cup third round shootout loss at home to Aston Villa, exiting the Champions League with no wins and three points instigated the anti-Mancini manoeuvring in the boardroom.

 

 

Talking Points

 

The season-defining moment was the strategic decision made with the players still beach-bound to merely add numbers and not quality to their title-winning squad. Only five first-teamers arrived and just one, Matija Nastasic, started over half the league games. Mancini criticised the approach at the time and was vindicated as some of their champions became complacent.

 

 

Plus and Minus Points

 

A few players enhanced their reputations. 20-year-old Nastasic settled swiftly to seize a starting spot, Pablo Zabaleta made the PFA Team of the Year and James Milner showed that, though not as gifted as Samir Nasri, he is far more reliable. Edin Dzeko's 14 goals in 16 league starts also deserves a salute, but don't bank on him being there in August.

 

On the flip side, Joe Hart's reputation took a kicking despite 18 league clean sheets due to a series of high-profile errors, Mario Balotelli was binned after one league goal before Christmas then excelled at AC Milan. Criticism of the other strikers' tallies is a tad harsh as they all bagged double figures in 28 league starts or fewer. Nastasic aside, none of the newcomers had the desired impact.

 

Achieving automatic passage to the Champions League group stage again warrants admiration if not celebration and their response to the surrender of a lengthy home unbeaten sequence was also accomplished. The final day defeat to Norwich was their first Etihad Stadium point spill to a side outside the top seven, however their away record was the worst of the top five.

 

 

What next?

 

Mancini was greeted frostily by the media upon appointment and as Pellegrini, the 1.12 favourite to succeed him, has less silverware in his satchel and a Mancini-mad crowd to woo, an even tougher transition awaits the Chilean.

 

Right now, this writer would be more inclined to lay than back them for the title at 3.4, but there is reason for optimism that he will usher them into the presently forbidden Champions League knockout rounds, having never failed in four attempts with Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga.

 

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Keywords: End of Season, Manchester City

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