Instant success for Manuel
Manchester City’s failure to land any significant silverware in the 2012-2013 season led to a change in management towards the end of that campaign. Roberto Mancini was relieved of his duties and replaced by the Chilean, Manuel Pellegrini. Pellegrini had managed Real Madrid previously and just guided Malaga to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals in their debut campaign at that level.
There were four major summer investments in terms of squad personnel and the Citizens were keen to reclaim the title they’d won so brilliantly in 2012. Home form was stunning and Chelsea ended up being the only side to win all season at The Etihad. There were some early season wobbles on their travels but City settled down from November onwards. Yaya Toure was the driving force with 20 Premier League goals. Ably backed up by Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo, Pellegrini’s side overhauled Liverpool FC in the closing weeks to win the Premier League title for the second time in three seasons.
Squad: Joe Hart, Costel Pantilimon, Pablo Zabaleta, Aleksandar Kolarov, Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis, Gael Clichy, Matija Nastasic, Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards, Dedryck Boyata, Jack Rodwell, Javi Garcia, David Silva, Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, James Milner, Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure, Alvaro Negredo, Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Stevan Jovetic
Five in but Tevez leaves
Manchester City were the biggest spenders in the 2013 summer transfer window, spending nearly £90 million on new talent. Manuel Pellegrini’s mission was to make them champions again after their meek title defence of the previous campaign. More importantly, all business was largely conducted by mid-July, giving Pellegrini a full month to work with the players he wanted to be part of the championship challenge.
The biggest investment was in Brazilian holding midfielder Fernandinho, with £30 million being paid to Shakhtar Donetsk for his services. The Sevilla pair, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo were acquired for a combined fee of £34.9 million whilst Fiorentina received £22 million for Stevan Jovetic. On transfer deadline day, Pellegrini added the experienced Martin Demichelis to his defensive ranks from Atletico Madrid. Demichelis had worked with the boss at Malaga and was someone Pellegrini could turn to in a defensive crisis.
The big exit was that of Carlos Tevez. Juventus agreed a £12 million fee with City for Tevez to move to Serie A. The tempestuous Argentine scored 74 goals in 148 appearances for the club. He had his moments though, especially when he went on strike in 2011 after falling out with Mancini for failing to come on as a substitute in a Champions League match against Bayern Munich.
Manchester City began their Premier League campaign on the first Monday Night Football of the season and they made an early statement of intent to their rivals. Newcastle United were no match for the home side, losing 4-0 with Yaya Toure scoring the pick of the goals with a well-placed free-kick.
Pellegrini got an early warning though that life in English football wasn’t going to be straightforward. Newly-promoted Cardiff City stunned them in the Bluebirds first home game at this level. Despite leading through an Edin Dzeko strike, Cardiff exposed City’s weaknesses from corners. Joe Hart had a poor game, making a couple of indecisive decisions which allowed Fraizer Campbell to score twice. Cardiff held on for a famous 3-2 victory which still remains one of their finest-ever Premier League results.
Away day blues
On home soil, Manchester City were becoming the hottest ticket in town. In September, Pellegrini got his first taste of a Manchester Derby and it was one to remember for the experienced boss. Against David Moyes’ Manchester United side, City bossed the game from start to finish. Sergio Aguero scored twice and the 4-1 final scoreline was a true reflection of the contest.
In November, Norwich City fared even worse on their visit to Eastlands. The Canaries were torn apart and suffered the biggest defeat of the Premier League campaign. Manchester City won the match 7-0 with five different goalscorers and a couple of own goals that helped them out. By the start of November, the Citizens were 100% at home from five games and only Wayne Rooney and Romelu Lukaku from visiting sides had scored.
It was a completely different story away from home. Just one win was achieved in their first six outings on the road. September’s results had the high of the Derby but the low of losing 3-2 to Aston Villa in another error-strewn display defensively. Hart was again culpable for the winner, being caught in a bad position to allow Andreas Weimann to settle the contest in Villa’s favour. A month later, a similar story occurred at Chelsea. With the game delicately poised at 1-1 going into stoppage-time, Hart got involved in a calamitous mix-up with young defender Matija Nastasic. Their collision gave Fernando Torres the most simplest of goals to win the match for the Blues. With question marks over his performances, especially from the media – England no.1 Hart was dropped by Pellegrini in favour of Romanian Costel Pantilimon. He wouldn’t regain his place in the team until just before Christmas.
A fourth away defeat followed a fortnight later away to Sunderland. Phil Bardsley scored the only goal of the game as the Black Cats recorded a fourth successive home victory over City in the Premier League – all by a 1-0 scoreline. Going into the November international break, the table didn’t make for great reading for Pellegrini and his team.
TABLE ON 10th November 2013
Moving into position
Although they sat in eighth position, Manchester City were still just six points off Arsenal in top spot and were still a genuine threat for the title. That was proven by their next set of results. Following the defeat at Sunderland, the club went on the rampage, winning 11 of their next 12 fixtures to hit the summit at the end of January, whilst also progressing to the League Cup final during that run.
The run began with a 6-0 beating of Tottenham Hotspur at The Etihad. Navas opened the scoring after just 13 seconds and the gulfing class between the two sides had never been more apparent. Ironically, this sequence of results was bookended by a 5-1 victory over the same opposition at White Hart Lane.
Arsenal also received a pasting in this period, going down 6-3 on their trip to fortress Etihad. Fernandinho scored twice whilst the partnership of Aguero and Negredo upfront was providing plenty of goals. In January, a 4-2 home victory over Cardiff City meant Manchester City had already surpassed 100 goals in all competitions. They became the first-ever side to achieve this feat before the end of January. In total, they finished with 156, surpassing Manchester United’s total from the 1956-1957 season.
Liverpool FC were also beaten during the run, losing an entertaining encounter 2-1 on Boxing Day and City’s progress into the League Cup final was convincing to say the least. Their semi-final opponents, West Ham United were brushed aside 9-0 on aggregate over the two legs.
100 goals and title no.2
Manchester City’s first home defeat of the season came in early February. Jose Mourinho put in one of his trademark masterclass displays. His tactics for his Chelsea side were spot-on, as they managed to completely nullify the serious City attacking threat throughout the contest. Branislav Ivanovic scored the only goal of the game and the 1-0 victory suddenly made Chelsea title favourites.
At this point, Manchester City were still in all four competitions but realistically, they were never going to win all four trophies. Their UEFA Champions League effort was ended by Barcelona in the round-of-16, losing 4-1 on aggregate with a red card in each leg for a City player (Demichelis in the home leg and Pablo Zabaleta in the away contest). FA Cup hopes were ended in early March with a shock 2-1 loss at home to their nemesis side, Wigan Athletic. Wigan were now in the Championship but pulled off a smash-and-grab victory, managed by ex-City cult hero striker Uwe Rosler. However, a 3-1 victory over Sunderland in the League Cup final ensured a first piece of silverware was safely locked away in the trophy cabinet.
The Premier League push continued in earnest. With early season pacesetters Arsenal falling off the pace, City were now locked in a three-horse title race with Chelsea and Liverpool FC. The Reds’ stunning winning sequence and Mourinho’s experience at Chelsea meant City were considered as the outsiders for the championship. That was despite the best efforts of Toure. He was majestic all campaign, scoring 20 league goals which included a hat-trick in a 5-0 beating of struggling Fulham in March. The goalscoring form of Aguero and Edin Dzeko ensured that Manchester City became the first-ever team to have three players score at least 15 Premier League goals in a season.
In mid-April, a narrow 3-2 defeat at Anfield to Liverpool FC seemed to have ended the title hopes for Pellegrini’s side. They were now seven points adrift of the Reds and despite a game in-hand; it was now the Merseysiders’ title to lose. Days later, only a late mistake by visiting goalkeeper Vito Mannone allowed the home side to escape with a point in a 2-2 draw with Sunderland. It looked like the challenge had run out of steam.
Unbowed, Pellegrini urged his side to one final push and the mission was now clear. With five games left, it was to win all five matches and crank the pressure up on Brendan Rodgers and his Liverpool side. The breakthrough result came at the end of April. An early header from Dzeko and a trademark Toure surging run and goal helped Manchester City win 2-0 away at Crystal Palace. Earlier that afternoon, Liverpool had lost 2-0 at home to Chelsea, meaning City had regained control of the title destiny.
Dzeko was finishing the campaign in stunning form and he scored another two goals in a valuable 3-2 away victory at in-form Everton. Two more wins from home fixtures against Aston Villa and West Ham United would be enough to regain the title from across the city. Despite frustrating them in the first half, Villa were no match for City’s attacking prowess in the second half. Another two goals from Dzeko and Toure scored yet again to mark the club’s 100th Premier League goal of the campaign in the 4-0 victory. On a rain-soaked evening, even the calm Pellegrini could crack a smile. The job was nearly complete.
West Ham put up little resistance on the final day. Vincent Kompany scored the final league goal of the season for the Citizens and the 2-0 win was good enough for Manchester City to be crowned Premier League champions once again.
For Manuel Pellegrini, it was instant success in an impressive debut season on these shores.
FINAL 2013-2014 TABLE – 1st to 6th