Pablo Zabaleta stares into an uncertain future for Manchester City.
Manchester City football fans never thought the end of the 2012-2013 season could end like this.
It began with a remarkably destitute and abbreviated run in the Champions League.
It continued with a pitiful, insufficient defense of the Premier League crown that saw the trophy repossessed by loathed Manchester United.
And it finished with one of the saddest, weakest efforts to win an FA Cup that the storied prize has ever been witness to.
Yes, the team finished second in the league and it boasted the stingiest defense in the league.
All told, though, City's season fell far below their own expectations, not to mention those of the fans.
So there are some awards to hand out. Not all of them are so nice to give or to receive, though.
Yaya wins by default.
This was not Yaya Toure's best season as a Sky Blue. But on a team of underachievers, Yaya did just enough to be City's best player.
Yaya led the team's field players in Premier League matches started, and would have led the team in matches played outright but for his midseason stint at the African Cup of Nations.
Ultimately, Yaya was City's player of the year because the usual suspects (Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero) all had subpar seasons.
And because no one else on the club carries the same two-way burden that Yaya does.
Zabaleta was City's most consistently excellent defender.
Manchester City's defense was typically tight this season, but that is not to say it was always easy.
Vincent Kompany spent half the season limping and the other half of the season looking like his old self but never playing like him.
Joleon Lescott played himself into Roberto Mancini's doghouse, never to be seen again.
Things got so bad for City at times that Javi Garcia was asked to play on the back line, with predictably iffy results.
Yes, Matija Nastasic took over at midseason and was a revelation. This is a full-season award, though.
That leaves Gael Clichy and Pablo Zabaleta. With apologies to Clichy, who was really very good all year, Zabaleta was better.
Zabaleta made more probing runs, more aggressive tackles, more sound defensive plays than any other Sky Blue defender.
That may also partially explain why City did not defend its Premier League title; the master plan never had Zabaleta being the team's best back-liner.
If Tevez is indeed leaving, he will be sorely missed.
Edin Dzeko scored the most Premier League goals for Manchester City this season.
Sergio Aguero is still City's most elegant finisher.
In 2012-2013, though, Carlos Tevez carried most of the water for City's ultimately disappointing offense.
Tevez had 17 goals in all competitions, including 11 in the Premier League. Within the league, Tevez led City in shots (105) and fouls suffered (35). He tied with Dzeko for shots on target with 40.
More to the point, though, Tevez was the only striker of the four "superstars" City began the season with to end it without his name tarnished.
Aguero was in and out of the lineup with little injuries. Dzeko never earned a starting position. Mario Balotelli got himself sold out of the league.
Only Tevez began and ended the season as a dependable contributor up front.
Nastasic was City's lone find last summer, but he is an important piece to City's future.
It was some haul from the 2012 summer transfer window for Manchester City.
Maicon turned out to be a shot player.
Scott Sinclair was paid handsomely to show up to training and occasionally sit on City's bench.
Javi Garcia never knew where he was playing, and never seemed to know what to do wherever he was on the pitch.
Jack Rodwell made more headlines for the efforts he made to get healthy than he did for anything he did between the lines.
Thankfully for City, their other purchase from last summer was Matija Nastasic.
The 20-year-old Serbian was pressed into service due to injuries Vincent Kompany and Micah Richards. All he did was take hold of a starting spot in midseason and never let it go.
City will hope for a better fate this summer, but they will be hard pressed to do much better than finding another Matija Nastasic.
For much of the early part of the season, the plan was to hang around and wait for Dzeko to score. And he did.
For a player who wanted nothing more than to start, Edin Dzeko was often at his best as a late substitute.
Dzeko's first six goals in the Premier League in 2012-2013 came in the second half of play. Five of them came after Dzeko entered the game as a substitute.
It is a shame that Dzeko could never generate that sort of form early in matches. Dzeko clearly had Golden Boot form (within the Premier League, anyway) in him.
He just did not show it often enough.
Nasri did some of his best work sitting, because when he was on his feet he was pretty useless.
On paper, the midfield of Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure, David Silva and James Milner or Gareth Barry is pretty terrifying.
Where it counted, though, the midfielders tasked with generating chances for the star strike force came up pretty short.
None shorter than Samir Nasri.
In the Premier League, Nasri had two goals and seven assists in 28 appearances. He took only 30 shots.
Nasri's defense is notoriously lacking. For what he cost, this sort of anemic productivity can only be called insufficient.
City looked as good as they did all season against Chelsea at Wembley.
Naturally, Manchester City's derby victory at Old Trafford was very satisfying.
From a practical standpoint, though, it did not mean all that much. Even with that win, United had one hand firmly on the Premier League trophy and the other hand poised to grab it.
No, the best performance of City's season came six days later at Wembley Stadium in the FA Cup semifinal against Chelsea.
By the time this match kicked off, City knew that its sole chance for some redemption in an otherwise lost season was to win the FA Cup for the second time in three chances. Chelsea was as ever a significant opponent.
City played its best 60 minutes of the season against Chelsea, scoring twice and seemingly running rings around Rafa Benitez's charges.
True to form, though, City could not maintain that level of play, and had to hold on desperately against a Chelsea surge that might have been even sterner had Sergio Aguero properly been sent off.
Still, for an hour, City looked like it did in 2011-2012. Too bad it was only a fleeting glance.
This may have been the hardest award to decide on.
Let's face it...there were plenty of nominees for City's worst team performance this season.
Who could forget:
- Stoke City 1-1 Manchester City
- Sunderland 1-0 Manchester City
- Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Manchester City
- Southampton 3-1 Manchester City
And yet, even considering those stinkbombs, City's failure to take care of business against a decidedly outgunned Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup final was, even by City's historically shambolic standards, really shameful.
If City's players wanted Roberto Mancini fired, fine. But giving away a trophy to a bad team to prove a fleeting point is just bad business all the way around.
City's fans may know something the team's players do not.
Seventeen managers in the Premier League would probably have been given contract extensions for a season that included a second-place finish in the Premier League, Champions League football and an FA Cup final.
Those same achievements got Roberto Mancini a big cardboard box to pack his office effects in.
Sure, it's a hard business, and managers get sacked all the time in the Premier League for far lesser sins than those Mancini committed.
Was he responsible for all 11 City slackers out there giving the FA Cup away at Wembley?
There is good news and bad news for City's prima donna players. The good news is that they got rid of Mancini.
The bad news is that with Mancini went all their shoddy excuses for their own lacking play.
If you stare at it too long you might go blind. Or start to cry.
The strangest thing about the relative cakewalk that Manchester United had in winning the Premier League, is how comparatively ordinary Sir Alex Ferguson's side really was.
In a sport where so many final scores adhere to binary code numbers, United found itself in an absurd amount of shootouts with crooked digits on the scoreboard against lesser sides.
For all their defensive questions, though, United had all the important answers where it mattered most: they put the ball in the net more times than the other guys almost every time.
City can use a lot of four-letter words to describe United's Premier League title.
But "luck" is not one of them.