The Highs and Lows for Manchester City in 2015

Rob Pollard@@RobPollard_Featured ColumnistDecember 31, 2015

The Highs and Lows for Manchester City in 2015

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    As 2015 draws to a close, it's time to look back and contemplate the last 12 months.

    It's been a strange year for Manchester City. Off the field, their constant financial growth and the improvements to the club's infrastructure have been remarkable. 

    The club is debt free and posted its first profit since 2008, as reported by BBC Sport, and is self-sufficient for the first time during Sheikh Mansour's tenure, and the deal the City Football Group (CFG) signed with China Media Capital looks likely to establish that growth.

    The club's academy, opened now for 12 months, has already seen a youth trophy won—the International Premier League International Cup—and the youth teams at almost every age group are enjoying fantastic success. 

    For the first team, though, it's been somewhat turbulent. A collapse in form at the turn of the year saw their 2014/15 campaign thrown into disarray, and the first half of the current campaign has seen them struggle for consistency.

    Let's take a chronological look back at the last year and reassess some of the highs and lows of City's 2015.

Arsenal Defeat

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    Having worked so hard to get themselves back level on points with Chelsea at the top of the table, despite playing the majority of December without a recognised striker, City's form at the start of 2015 undid much of their good work. 

    The first real hammer blow came when Arsenal visited the Etihad Stadium on January 18. The Gunners, inspired by Santi Cazorla, outplayed City and left deserved 2-0 winners. 

    Arsene Wenger's side were quicker and sharper, more inventive on the ball and superior in every department. 

    City's home form is usually superb. To lose so comprehensively didn't feel right. 

FA Cup Embarrassment

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    City crashed out of the FA Cup at the fourth-round stage just a few days after the Arsenal loss, suffering another 2-0 home defeat, this time to Championship side Middlesbrough

    City started well and could have been out of sight in the first half. They were to rue their missed chances. 

    Boro found their way into the game as sloppiness found its way into City's. Patrick Bamford prodded home following a woeful defensive mix-up involving Fernando and Willy Caballero

    City chased the game to no avail, and Kike added a second late on. 

    It was a woeful performance—perhaps the nadir of Manuel Pellegrini's time in charge.

City Finding Some Form

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    In February, there were a couple of signs City were perhaps about to hit some form again. 

    A 4-1 win away at Stoke City saw the Blues play some excellent football, with Samir Nasri and James Milner in inspired form. 

    City played with pace, moving the ball quickly and never relenting, even when the game was clearly won. That insatiable appetite for goals, the hallmark of Pellegrini's tenure, had been absent for weeks, but at the Britannia Stadium it returned in full glory. 

    Ten days later, City dismantled Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium, winning 5-0 with a devastating display.

    This was the City we’ve come to admire in recent seasons.

2 Big Losses in Quick Succession

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    City’s season was one the ropes. Their title challenge was faltering badly, they were out of both domestic cups and had a difficult Champions League last-16 tie with Barcelona.

    Then came a significant double blow. 

    In the space of a few days, they lost their first leg against Barcelona at home after being completely outplayed for the first 45 minutes before going to Anfield and losing 2-1 to Liverpool.

    City’s season had imploded. They looked limp and uninspired. The pressure on Pellegrini and his players was mounting.

Bad to Worse

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    The Blues’ 1-0 defeat to Burnley at Turf Moor in March was another low point of Pellegrini’s reign. George Boyd scored the winner as a side heading for the Championship out-thought and outfought City.

    It was worrying on every level. This wasn’t just a blip—it felt like there were systemic failures that threatened City moving forward.

    Pellegrini failed to acknowledge the away fans as he left the field, and his stock with his own supporters hit its lowest.

    The second leg against Barcelona followed, and there was an improvement. City lost 1-0 but played admirably. Lionel Messi was on another level.

    City were going to end the season empty-handed and had surrendered with a whimper.

Derby Loss

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    A heavy defeat in the Manchester derby in April didn’t help improve Pellegrini’s stock.

    City started brightly and went ahead through Sergio Aguero, but they inexplicably retreated at the first sign of a United resurgence.

    Aguero scored his 100th goal for City in his 158th game, but that achievement was buried by a bad loss.

6 Straight Wins End Season in Style

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    The defeat to United signalled something of a turning point. With City’s top-four place under serious threat, they went on a six-game winning run to end the season comfortably in second.

    West ham, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur, Queens Park Rangers, Swansea City and Southampton were all beaten as Pellegrini’s side began showing their true quality.

    After the lows of Burnley and United, it was a run that bred confidence going into the summer.

Signings of De Bruyne and Sterling

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    The winning run to end the season was built upon in the summer when the club went out and signed Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling. 

    Young, hungry and full of quality, these were exactly the kind of players City needed to improve on their poor showing in 2014/15. 

5-Match Winning Start to 2015/16 with No Goals Conceded

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    City’s outstanding end to the 2014/15 season rolled into the new one as they won their first five games without conceding a goal.

    With others lacking consistency, it looked as though City would run away with the title after wins over West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea, Everton, Watford and Crystal Palace.

    Pace, inventiveness, ingenuity, impudence—everything City lacked the previous season was on show in full glory.

Heavy Defeat at Spurs

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    That run couldn't last forever, and City, who had already been beaten at home by West Ham United were then hammered by Spurs at White Hart Lane at the end of September.

    The 4-1 reverse was the heaviest defeat of the Sheikh Mansour era. 

    The Blues led through De Bruyne's goal early in the game and dominated the first half. 

    A goal on the stroke of half-time changed things, though, and the second half was all Spurs. 

Another Winning Run

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    But that defeat at White Hart Lane signalled another run of wins. 

    Borussia Monchengladbach, Newcastle United, Bournemouth and Sevilla were all defeated as City began to pick up form again. 

    The Newcastle game, in particular, stood out, as Aguero bagged five goals in a magnificent 20-minute period, joining a small, elite band of players who have managed to notch five times in a single Premier League game. 

Sevilla 1-3 City

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    City haven't had a great relationship with the Champions League, often failing to show their best in the competition. 

    All of that changed in November when they went to Sevilla and won 3-1, dominating from start to finish. 

    Fernandinho gave a masterful midfield display—a genuine world-class performance from City's most consistent player in 2015.

    Sterling, Fernandinho and Bony got the goals, but this was a top-drawer team performance. 

More Heavy Defeats

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    Getting totally outplayed doesn't happen to City very often. 

    But it's happened twice in recent weeks. 

    Liverpool came to the Etihad toward the end of November and won 4-1—it could have been 10. From start to finish, Jurgen Klopp's team were superior in every area of the pitch. 

    At the Britannia Stadium at the start of December, City were awful and got outplayed again, this time by an excellent Stoke City team. The result was 2-0, but it could have been a lot worse. 

    City lacked consistency in 2015, and that needs to improve if they want titles in 2016.