5 Things Manchester City Have Failed to Replicate from Last Season
For Manchester City fans, it's going to take something special to top 13 May 2012—Sergio Aguero's winner rippling the net to give the "noisy neighbours" their first league title in 44 years—a moment that will be inked onto the arms and indeed the memories of every City fan for quite a while, as bragging rights passed from the red half of Manchester to the blue.
However, the curse of success is expectation, and as Arsene Wenger is currently experiencing at Arsenal (and Brian McDermott has just found out at Reading), football fans (and owners) are quick to forget former glories; they live in the present, with City's contingent no different.
This season, the weight of expectation has fallen heavily on the English champions: they lie 12 points adrift in the Premier League to Manchester United, were unceremoniously dumped out of the Champions League at the group stage without winning a game, and were beaten at home by Aston Villa in the third round of the League Cup. What has gone wrong for Roberto Mancini?
Here are five reasons why City have failed to live up to last season.
Worse in 2012-13: Joe Hart
But come January, after a number of costly errors, his very same manager didn't exactly give Joe a vote of confidence by hounding down Jack Butland as a potential replacement/understudy and put in a formal, but ultimately unsuccessful bid for the Birmingham keeper. (from Metro).
Clean sheets win games, and a confident goalkeeper breeds confidence into his respective back four. At this point last season, Joe Hart had 13 clean sheets—more than any other Premier League goalkeeper—performances that later earned him a PFA Player of the Year nomination from his peers.
Whilst there is no doubting Hart's ability, his performances have definitely dipped this season, and at crucial moments, which Mancini is not afraid to criticise (from The Mirror).
"It's simple. If Joe continues to make mistakes, he goes on the bench...the problem is the goalkeeper makes a mistake, we have lost the game."
These are never words that would have been uttered 12 months ago.
Worse in 2012-13: Goalscoring
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Indeed, many of Joe Hart's errors this season may not have been so costly had City's strikers been a little sharper in front of goal and put their side out of sight.
City have scored 18 fewer goals than at this stage last season and it shows—they are 12 points adrift now rather than eight points at the same point last year.
Only Edin Dzeko can be wholly pleased with himself—he is the only of City's strikers to be within the league's 19 top scorers, and for a title-aspiring side, that is simply not good enough.
However, the biggest reason for a lack of goals this season compared to last year lies in the engine room, rather than with the forwards. Last year, David Silva, Samir Nasri and conductor-in-chief Yaya Toure wafted, flicked and shunted the ball in and around the goal.
However, this year, with Nasri dropped, Toure on both African Cup on Nations duty and the physio table and Silva consistently inconsistent, City have been devoid of chances and subsequently goals.
Putting five past Barnsley in the FA Cup is encouraging but Everton this weekend will provide a sterner test and and with City needing to win every game to have any chance in the league, they'll need their goal tally to try and match that of last year.
Worse in 2012-13: Team Fitness
It might be an awkward fall, a pulled hamstring, or meeting Lee Cattermole on a bad day but injuries are predicable in just one way: they are definitely going to happen.
Last season Man City sustained the least injuries in the league by far (see table): almost half the amount of next fewest—Chelsea—and over nine times fewer days lost to injury than Man United, who were the most crocked team in the entire league.
Injuries are most prevalent at the end of the season, and for clubs that compete in Europe, these can be exacerbated even further. Whilst City tip-toed through their final games unscathed, United's squad was decimated.
If we look at the league form in this period last year, United dropped eight points in their last six games, City won all six games. The result? City's season is a success, United's a disaster.
This season is the opposite, with City currently nursing the most injured players with seven first-team players out (via PhysioRoom). Their last five games? Seven points dropped. United have almost half the number of players injured and have won all five games.
Of course there are other factors at work here to determine these results but there is no doubt injuries take their toll, especially when City's two most important players at the two ends of the pitch—Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero—are the ones hobbling around.
We can look for insights and analysis as to why Manchester City's fortunes might differ season to season but sometimes one factor is decisive: luck.
Worse in 2012-13: Transfer Policy
Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Perhaps it's the financial fair play rules on the horizon, but City's spending is slowing down. In three seasons, they have reduced the net transfer spend by 88%.
2010/11 net total spend : £116m
2011/12 net total spend : £48m
2012/13 net total spend : £14m
Now is a period of relative austerity, Mario Balotelli was sold in January, and City failed to offer Robin van Persie enough to ensnare him from under United's nose, which was of particular concern to Mancini when talking to Daniel Taylor of The Guardian:
"We worked badly [in the transfer market] and I don't know why because when you win the league that is the moment to bring in another two or three top players to improve the mentality. We are missing 10 to 15 goals. We score those goals and it's worth another eight or nine points. And Van Persie is a United player."
And in these "eight or nine points", we might have found the difference between City's present season and last campaign. Sergio Aguero was City's marquee signing of last season and he certainly secured that amount of points.
Arguably City's biggest signing of the season has been Txiki Beguiristain, the former director of football of Barcelona. His appointment signals a greater intent to attract genuine world-class players on the vision and ethos of the club, rather than just wages offered.
It seems the policy of buying one huge name is seen to be more effective than littering the squad with the Scott Sinclairs and Maicons of this world.
In failing to replicate the flexing of financial muscle in 2011/12, City have suffered this season. One has the feeling this summer might not be so cheap.
Worse in 2012-13: Home Form
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Admittedly this was a tough ask. Last season, Man City set the best ever Premier League home record, remarkably marking up 55 out of a possible 57 points. But this season, and with five home games still to battle through, they have already quadrupled their points dropped.
It's still certainly a respectable record, but when you think Man United have only dropped three points all season at Old Trafford, you begin to see where the 12 point gap at the top of the table has sprung from.
Man City's home points total at this stage in the season in 2011-12 and 2012-13
|Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Goals For||Goals Against||Points Dropped|
|12 March 2011-12||14||14||0||0||42||6||0|
|12 March 2012-13||14||10||3||1||31||11||9|
A 100% home record?! Six goals conceded in 14 games?! Outrageous stats from last season's City.
There are football clichés to be hated and football cliches to be loved, and "fortress" certainly falls into the latter in my book (probably alongside "war-chest" and "journeyman" for the record).
A fortress is indeed what The Etihad Stadium was last year, but with Yaya Toure continuing to play further up the field, Nigel de Jong sold off and Gareth Barry looking increasingly more pedestrian, City's back four is increasingly exposed at home this season compared to last, despite the encouraging emergence of Matija Nastasic at centre-back.
Anything else you feel has contributed to City's season? What could be done to improve the club next year? Is there any deadwood that needs to be sold? Leave your comments below and give me a follow on Twitter (if you like) @michaelbutler18 and we can have it out