They have been the favorites since eternity, ever since the first ball was kicked off in the 2013-14 Premier League season. Manchester City looked tough meat, even after some serious overhauls from the top to the bottom reaches. And now at the finishing stretches of the season, all seems to be out of their hands. A customary silverware has been won, albeit it being the Mickey Mouse Cup, and if the Premier League trophy doesn’t end up in the Etihad cabinets, it will sum up a hugely disappointing season for the Citizens. Vibes of discontent could very well emanate from the blue half of Manchester, and post season could be as lame as it has ever been in these parts for the past few seasons.
The door was shown to club favorite Roberto Mancini a little over a year ago, and fans expected better things as the self-effacing and calm Manuel Pellegrini took over reins. Good things were expected from the off, particularly after rivals Manchester United pulled off the winners’ medal in the Community Shield. As if Pellegrini swept his persona across the whole of Manchester City, the club pulled along in the same direction and displayed calmness as never seen before. The summer passed off without much fuss; although pundits dropped jaws at some of the astronomical sums thrown and shown around.
On board came the talents of Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetic and Fernandinho. Things looked clearer by the day, and analysts slowly got to know how Pellegrini would operate his pawns. The most significant of departures was Carlos Tevez’s journey to Turin. Pre-season was mixed, but Pellegrini started life in the Premiership exactly the same way as the last time City lifted the title: a 4-0 home victory. They were already the favorites then.
As if travelling wasn’t his forte, City contrived to go on an indifferent run of form on the road. But they banged in goals at home at will. Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo combined finesse and force, and Yaya Toure was the beating heart. Navas was already having the Silva-esque debut season while Nasri was a man reborn. Problems were few and far between, and by Christmas they had the title in sight as they cleared their Champions League group stage jinx. A home defeat to Chelsea was a big blot in an otherwise promising run, while they progressed without hiccups in the domestic cups.
Worries were there, but Pellegrini remained unfazed. Joe Hart’s bad form meant that he had to drop his and the country’s number 1 to the bench. Not an easy task considering the media bias in the country, but the ‘Engineer’ engineered his way out of the situation. Hart eventually returned, and has looked far more solid ever since. Defensive injuries meant that Pellegrini didn’t have his first-choice combinations every week, but got it right most often. Martin Demichelis got a lot of stick, but Pellegrini refrained from slating him. Instead, the clumsy Argentine has worked his socks off, and now looks more accomplished at the back than captain Vincent Kompany.
The cup runs were maintained, and suddenly City found themselves competing on all fronts. With a squad as big as theirs, it wasn’t impossible to rule them out of the reckoning. The Capital One Cup was won with much comfort, although you would doubt that without the presence of a certain Yaya Toure. Things looked rosy, although the Premier League summit seemed to elude them. The reason for this being the lesser number of league games played by City. Champions League was a breath of fresh air, but Pellegrini’s stars failed him when he needed them the most.
City faced a Barcelona side at probably their lowest ebb, but failed to take the proper advantage. Knocked out of Europe, City had to face the ignominy of going out of the FA Cup as well. And within a fortnight, four trophies turned into two, the league being one of them. It was all falling by the wayside for City, and even though the League Cup provided some delight, it seemed not enough. And the fact that it all coincided with Aguero’s injury and Negredo’s loss of goalscoring form made for some arguments about how City weren’t a team of stars, but a team of dependent players that depended on a few stars. Yaya Toure and David Silva carried them through the thick, but will City rue their missed opportunity this season?
It still isn’t over, and City could still do a double but the fact that somebody else has the upper hand over the moneybags is particularly damning. City were already the champions-elect at a time when they couldn’t score less. They even put six goals past one-time league leaders Arsenal to signal their intent. But as time wore on, the blue machine has lost momentum. Last weekend’s loss at Liverpool showed the direction of the tide. City will have to muster up something incredible to turn it on their side, and what better time than the final stretch of the season.
A season that started with much promise could surely not end in a whimper for Pellegrini and co. After all his paymasters aren’t the exact examples of patient people. The Premier League was City’s to lose all season; now they depend on others for their own glory. That’s some fall from the supposed grace, and it has largely been their own undoing.