10 Moments Where the Manchester City Champs Looked Like Chumps
Do not adopt Manchester City as your Premiership club expecting the season to be nonstop fun.
City has a billion-plus-dollar roster and a shiny title trophy in the cabinet, yes. The ride getting there, though, was anything but smooth.
Carlos Tevez missed half the season after allegedly, maybe—or most likely refusing—to enter a Champions League game as a substitute.
Yaya Toure missed several games playing in the African Nations Cup for Ivory Coast, and watching City play without him was rather like watching the American version of "The Office" without Steve Carell. It looked similar, but ignoring what was missing was impossible.
And Mario Balotelli spent half the time scoring pivotal goals and the other half of the time committing pointless, dangerous fouls.
In advance of a season with great promise, given that all the key players from a championship team are back, spirits in the Sky Blue side of Manchester are sky high.
But there are going to be moments where all the optimism seems misplaced. Here are ten from last season.
September 27, 2011: Bayern Munich 2, Manchester City 0
Whether Tevez refused to enter the game as a substitute or not, the bottom line is that after this contest, Tevez did not play meaningful minutes for City again until March 21, 2012.
The loss to Bayern Munich also served notice to City that, whatever its level of success in the Premiership was, Champions League football was deeper water with stronger current.
December 12, 2011: Chelsea 2, Manchester City 1
It was not merely the fact that City's unbeaten start to the season ended. It was how it went down that was troubling.
Balotelli scored in the second minute. City actually had the run of play but went to the half tied 1-1.
Then Roberto Mancini made the mistake of playing for one point when three were still there to be taken. Kolo Toure and Nigel De Jong came on for Sergio Aguero and David Silva. Pretensions to score abated.
Seven minutes after Silva left, Frank Lampard converted a penalty, and Chelsea were ahead to stay.
December 26, 2011: West Bromwich Albion 0, Manchester City 0
A goal-less draw on the road on the day after Christmas, when many of the players on both sides would probably rather be anywhere else, was not in of itself cause for alarm.
Indeed, with only one card shown the entire match, the intensity of the proceedings could fairly be questioned.
The concern for City was that, unlike in previous games, their dominance in possession (73%) and their industry (17 shots, four on target) went unrewarded.
If it could happen here, it could happen again....
January 1, 2012: Sunderland 1, Manchester City 0
And if it happened again, maybe it would mean a loss instead of a draw. Which is exactly what happened in City's trip to the Stadium of Light.
Again, the numbers were astonishingly one-sided: City had 27 shots to Sunderland's eight, and ten corner kicks to Sunderland's one.
Micah Richards and Edin Dzeko both hit the crossbar in regulation time.
All was lost, though, when an obviously offside Dong-Won Ju slid a breakaway marker past Joe Hart.
It was the sort of loss that only Black Cats could be responsible for.
January 8, 2012: Manchester City 2, Manchester United 3
Admittedly, an FA Cup third-round tie was not City's highest priority.
But any match bringing the loathed Reds to the Etihad was worth their best go.
Instead, Vincent Kompany was sent off for a two-footed challenge on Nani who, you will never believe, fell as though he had been hit with an anti-aircraft rocket.
Ten-man City was down 0-3 at the break. A determined rally brought them back into the game but never level.
Kompany's red card led not only to the end of City's dominance at home, but also to a four-game ban for the captain. That portended real trouble.
January 11, 2012: Manchester City 0, Liverpool 1
Out of the FA Cup on Sunday, down after the home leg of a Carling Cup tie on Wednesday.
This game sharply underscored how much City missed both Yaya and Kolo Toure, as Stefan Savic played much of the second half (on for Silva) as though he was on roller skates.
All City's fans had been hearing about was how deep the squad was, but it certainly did not look that way in January.
January 22, 2012: Manchester City 3, Tottenham Hotspur 2
"Hey, they won this game—why is this one on the list?"
You had to see it.
Spurs quickly erased a two-goal City lead, the equalizer coming on a lightning stroke from Gareth Bale that Joe Hart may not have stopped with a tennis racket.
Only Balotelli's injury time penalty, awarded after Balo himself had spiked a fallen Scott Parker in the head, saved City from another bobble in the standings.
Champions make their own luck, sure, but City was damn lucky to win this one.
January 31, 2012: Everton 1, Manchester City 0
More dominance in possession (68%,) more productive effort (21 shots to ten, nine corner kicks to three) and no goals.
That Darren Gibson scored a deflected goal, that City was denied a late penalty and none of that was too surprising given City's traditional difficulties at Goodison Park.
But the loss eliminated City's lead in the Premiership and the wolf was at the door.
March 24, 2012: Stoke City 1, Manchester City 1
Yaya Toure's late tying strike limited the damage, but in truth, City went to the Britannia with only winning in mind.
And, again, keeping the ball 68% of the time meant little. Possessing the ball in your own half rarely does.
Peter Crouch's indescribably deft volley into the top corner behind Hart was magical. It also felt like the sort of goal that goes in when the title is going to be someone else's at year's end.
April 8, 2012: Arsenal 1, Manchester City 0
This was, in fact, where it all looked to be over for City.
Eighty-six minutes of stunted City play culminated in a marvelous goal from Mikel Arteta, putting City in the hole it would not come out of.
Adding insult, Balotelli was sent off (again) for lunging at Bacary Sagna in injury time. In the moment, the cause seemed lost.
Happily for City, they would pick up eighteen of eighteen possible points in the six-game run-out, clinching the title on the season's last kick.
City's fans would love a similar result with a less harrying buildup.