Manchester City's Biggest Disappointments of the 2013/14 Premier League Season
In football, as in life, the margins between greatness and embarrassment are perilously thin.
Manchester City's 2013-14 Premier League season ended with a championship, so it was a huge success. City owe a huge debt to Liverpool, who had a hand on the trophy only to drop points in two of their final three league matches.
That's where the line gets drawn.
Had the Reds merely drawn with Chelsea and survived Crystal Palace's second half onslaught to preserve victory, we would be sitting here talking about recrimination and regret for City with the league trophy on Merseyside.
Instead it's a double for City, a parade through the streets of Manchester and acclaim as England's best side. As it should be.
Still, there were things that happened at the Etihad and elsewhere that City supporters will try to forget, disappointments ultimately blunted by the gleam of the league trophy.
These are the things that we would be spending the summer talking about had City failed to win the league.
That Manchester City won the league title with so much uncertainty in front of goalkeeper Joe Hart is sort of remarkable.
Not until the last two months of the season did Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis form a competent and confident centre-back pairing. Even during that time, Kompany was playing hurt.
Pain was a problem throughout the season for Kompany's No. 1 partner last year, Matija Nastasic. The Serbia international made only 11 starts in the league for City, the last one (also his last appearance) coming on February 3 against Chelsea.
If Nastasic's recurrent leg troubles were the reason for his inactivity, at least he had a reason. Joleon Lescott could have had numerous opportunities throughout the season to fill in at centre-back, but manager Manuel Pellegrini apparently thought Lescott was as cooked as former boss Roberto Mancini did.
Pellegrini even preferred to play holding midfielder Javi Garcia at centre-back over Lescott.
Expect Pellegrini to purchase at least one centre-back, perhaps two, in the summer transfer window.
Limiting Injuries for Stevan Jovetic
Fernandinho performed even better than his reputation suggested. With Fernandinho behind him to cover, all the suddenly freed-up Yaya Toure did was score 20 Premier League goals.
Both Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas ended the season as remember-whens, i.e., remember earlier this season when they were good? Still, their contributions to the title run were significant when they were healthy and playing their best football.
Then there is the sad tale of Stevan Jovetic.
Jovetic is a real joy to watch. He plays with great intelligence and has skill to burn. Unfortunately for City fans, they did not see much of Jovetic in 2013-14.
The Montenegrin striker started only twice in the league. He made 11 appearances as a substitute, often coming on very late to mop up for Sergio Aguero or Edin Dzeko.
Jovetic showed enough when he was on the pitch to make City fans want to see more from him. City need to find some way to get Jovetic healthy this summer.
Another Lost Season for Jack Rodwell
If Stevan Jovetic's season was a disappointment, Jack Rodwell's was an abject disaster.
Rodwell made five appearances for Manchester City in league play this season, starting only one match. That's five more appearances than you made, and you're not even on the roster.
As Craig Hope noted for the Daily Mail, Rodwell just barely qualified to share City's title spoils.
"Rodwell collected a Premier League winner’s medal despite starting just one game for Manchester City this season," Hope wrote. "League rules state that a player must make five appearances to qualify for a medal, the total having been lowered from 10 ahead of the 2012/13 season."
Last season, Rodwell had injury to blame for his inactivity. But he has been fully fit for months. He just never fit into manager Manuel Pellegrini's plans.
"The former Everton midfielder has started just seven league matches for City since his £12 million switch in 2012," Hope continued.
Both City and Rodwell might be best served by seeing Rodwell sold this summer. That will work as long as City are prepared to sell Rodwell at a loss.
A Likely Exit for Micah Richards
Jack Rodwell's season was a loss, but at least he qualified for a Premier League champion's medal.
Richards made two starts in the league for Manchester City this season and did not otherwise appear. He needed to make five appearances to qualify for a medal.
Per Jeremy Cross of the Daily Star, "the England defender has been frozen out at the Etihad Stadium this season following a succession of injuries. Now he admits he could have to find a new club in the close season to save his top flight career."
Richards will have all summer to sort out his plans, since he will not be going to Brazil with the England World Cup team.
Richards will turn 26 this summer. It is not too late for him to find his form and find success with another club.
But he better make his next opportunity count.
Double Jeopardy with Chelsea
Manchester City scored 102 Premier League goals and won 27 of their 38 league matches.
Imagine how much better they might have been had they not had to deal with Chelsea.
City lost both matches to Jose Mourinho's club. Both losses were galling, but surely City's self-inflicted fall at Stamford Bridge was the harder dose to take.
The ignominy of dropping a point and gifting Chelsea two due to the failure to handle a harmless high ball near midfield was bad enough. Seeing Mourinho finish the match in the home stands celebrating with the Chelsea supporters was even worse.
Chelsea were the only team to do the double against City in the league this season. But City cannot hear Mourinho's sniping any more, not with their league champion medals from 2011-12 and 2013-14 in their ears.
The Sunderland Hex
Had Manchester City not pulled off their Premier League title victory, the temptation would be to fixate on taking no points from two matches against Chelsea.
But Chelsea are an elite side, a club that progressed to the Champions League semi-final and, but for a few inexplicable slips against weaker Premier League opposition, could easily have won the league.
City's foibles against Sunderland are another matter entirely.
The Sky Blues have now lost at the Stadium of Light by identical 1-0 scores in each of the past four Premier League seasons.
On top of that, the Black Cats very nearly took all three points at the Etihad. The point City saved at the end of that match did not make any difference, as City won the league by two points.
Had City lost the league, though, the realization that a club like Sunderland could take four points from them would have been very troubling.
Joe Hart's Wobble
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini took over at the Etihad with question marks at some positions. But he probably never thought goalkeeper would become one.
Joe Hart entered the 2013-14 Premier League season as one of the most durable and steady goalkeepers in the league. Hart won his third straight Golden Gloves award at the end of the 2012-13 season. He was money in the bank.
Hart lost his confidence, his form and ultimately his job in the first 10 weeks of the Premier League season. After Hart's wild foray off his line cost City a draw at Stamford Bridge, Pellegrini had no choice but to replace Hart with Costel Pantilimon.
To Hart's credit, he handled the demotion professionally. He took his training seriously and was very supportive of Pantilimon for the seven-game stretch that the big Romanian held the fort down for City.
Hart's play in the final few months of the season was back at his standard high level, so much so that Pellegrini has endorsed Hart as his goalkeeper for the foreseeable future.
City's Form Against Lesser Opposition
Manchester City lost six Premier League matches this season. Two of the losses came to Chelsea; again, there is no shame in that.
The other four losses, though, ranged from unlucky to unusual to inexplicable to inexcusable.
The Sky Blues lost at Cardiff City, who finished at the bottom of the table and will not be back for the 2014-15 Premier League season. Their losses at Sunderland (14th place in the table) and at Aston Villa (15th place) were simply not good enough, either.
Factor in the draw at Norwich City (18th place, relegated), and that makes 10 points dropped to second-tier clubs.
That is eight or nine too many.