Manchester City have had a strange season.
Dropping as low as ninth in November, few were tipping them to regain the title at Christmas. In the New Year, though, the narrative shifted dramatically with the Cityzens entertaining serious hopes of clinching the quadruple.
They didn’t quite manage to haul in four trophies this term, but does that mean their season should be viewed as a disappointment? We took a deeper look at the Citizens’ campaign to find out.
Premier League – 1st
A 5-2 defeat to Leicester in their second Premier League game sparked fears that, despite considerable investment, City’s defensive fragilities had not been properly addressed. This was not their only worrying performance before Christmas either. They also drew against Leeds and West Ham as well as losing to Tottenham.
However, after the Spurs defeat things seemed to click into gear. The incredible personal form of John Stones and Ruben Dias, combined with a few tactical tweaks, afforded City much more control over games and limited their opposition’s threat on the counter.
What followed was a startling run of 15 consecutive Premier League wins between 19 December and 7 March. The high point was a 4-1 dismantling of Liverpool in February – a result that all but confirmed their status as champions.
If there can be any criticism of City’s Premier League season it would be the fact that they let their foot off the gas towards the end of the campaign.
Defeats to Leeds, Chelsea and Brighton meant they went nowhere close to matching some of the incredible tallies of recent champions, finishing on 86 points overall.
Carabao Cup – winners
There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and Guardiola’s City winning the Carabao Cup. Their triumph over Tottenham in April made it four in a row and they recorded several noteworthy victories along the way.
Burnley and Arsenal were both played off the park, while they strolled to victory in a one-legged semi-final against Manchester United.
The final was another impressive display, far more comfortable than the 1-0 scoreline suggested.
FA Cup – semi-finals
Much has been written about Guardiola’s failures in Europe but the Spaniard also has a tricky relationship with the FA Cup. Despite dominating domestically, City had only won the trophy twice since their takeover prior to this season.
They did not improve this record this term either, crashing out in the semi-finals to Chelsea. They had an easy ride up until the quarter-finals, dispatching of Birmingham, Cheltenham and Swansea without any problems. Then came a solid 2-0 win over Everton.
Not for the last time during the season their dream of silverware would be dashed by Thomas Tuchel who led Chelsea to a smash and grab 1-0 win.
Champions League – Runners-up
For long spells it looked like City would finally clinch their first ever Champions League title this season. Yet again, though, their European campaign would eventually end in disappointment.
After breezing through an easy group they were handed a similarly favourable round of 16 tie against Borussia Monchengladbach, which they strolled through with minimal fuss. They faced a sterner test in the quarter-finals but despite some scares they showed resilience to dispatch Borussia Dortmund. This set up a semi-final meeting with Paris Saint-Germain. Over both legs City were superb, eventually sealing a much deserved 4-1 aggregate victory.
The final was a different story. As has often been the case in recent years, Guardiola’s obsessive tinkering did not help their cause but in the end Chelsea were good value for their 1-0 win. The wait for European glory goes on for City.
Ilkay Gundogan had an excellent season, thriving in a more advanced midfield role and finishing with a career high 16 goals – eclipsing his previous record.
Just pipping him to the prize is Ruben Dias. The defender has already scooped the FWA and PFA awards and now he has the 90min iteration to add to his collection.
Costing City £50m+ and Nicolas Otamendi as part exchange, expectations were high for Dias but he has risen to the challenge. The archetypal modern defender, he looks set to be the lynchpin of the club’s backline for years to come.
Benjamin Mendy cost City £52m in 2017 but he has struggled to piece together a decent run of form for some time. This season that feeling of underachievement continued.
City’s incredible winning run coinicided almost exactly with Oleksandr Zinchenko establishing himself as the club’s first choice left-back, with Mendy making just 20 appearances in all competitions.
He is clearly a talented player but it remains to be seen whether he has a future at the Etihad.
Prior to the Champions League final you could not move for gushing Guardiola opinion pieces. Although the Chelsea defeat has rubbed some of the gloss off City’s season, their manager is still due plenty of praise.
After a shaky start, Guardiola subtly changed his system with the addition of both full-backs moving centrally in possession one of several alterations that allowed City to dominate most games. Once again, though, his obsession with over compensating for the opposition hurt his side in Porto.
Despite being widely tipped to leave at the end of the season last summer, it looks like Guardiola will be around for a ‘rebuild’ at City over the next few campaigns. Ending his Champions League hoodoo would put him in the conversation for being one of the best managers of all time – if he isn’t already – and we cannot wait to see what he has up his sleeve for next season.
City won two trophies this season. For most teams this would be more than sufficient for an A+. However, this is one of the most expensively assembled sides in history. Their European failing means they are only getting an A. Deal with it.