It’s been a somewhat turbulent 12 months for Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City.
At their best, they’re probably the finest side in the Premier League, but they underwhelmed too often in 2015.
It left them empty-handed last season, and a repeat this time around simply won’t do. City’s owners are ambitious and will surely demand silverware given the investment in the squad in recent seasons.
Their patchy form can—to some degree—be blamed on their injury list, which has been long and debilitating.
Despite their problems, they remain well placed to have a successful 2016.
Three points off the top of the Premier League, into the last 16 of the Champions League and with a League Cup semi-final beckoning, a good of run of form now could see City achieve their lofty ambitions.
Here are three targets for the new year.
Win the Premier League
Injuries have undoubtedly affected City so far this season, but even taking their misfortune into account they should have more points on the board.
Five defeats after 20 games, with the quality in their squad, simply isn’t good enough.
Going into the Watford match—the halfway point of the campaign—they had seven fewer points than they had at the same stage last season.
But the new order of the Premier League means a lower points tally is likely to be needed to win the title. Sides outside the traditional top six, imbued by the influx of television money, are signing better players. The gap between the elite and the rest is closing rapidly.
City, just a win behind leaders Arsenal, have the easiest away calendar of the current top four. Given that is where the Blues have struggled so far this season, it could prove to be significant.
Nothing less than a league title would be considered a success. City have the best team and squad in the division.
Go further in the Champions League
Winning the Champions League is central to the club’s long-term ambitions. They want to be considered alongside Europe’s elite—Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
To do that, sustained domestic success is a necessity, as is winning the Champions League. In terms of increasing a club’s profile, nothing can match success in Europe’s No. 1 knockout competition.
However, City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak is a realistic and patient man. He understands it’s a competition that requires a depth-proven quality, experience and a little bit of luck.
He isn't expecting City to holding aloft the giant trophy at the San Siro in May. He does, however, expect Pellegrini's side to show development and progression.
City’s back-to-back last-16 defeats to Barcelona were understandable. They are the finest club side in the world. City were soundly beaten.
This season, though, City topped their group and have landed themselves a winnable last-16 tie against Dynamo Kiev. Victory will see them move into the quarter-finals for the first time.
They are slowly but surely beginning to look more comfortable in a competition they've found problematic. Could this be the season they make an impact on the latter stages?
Land Pep Guardiola
Pellegrini has been a superb manager for City—the right man at the right time. After the instability of the Roberto Mancini era, the Chilean brought calm to a club that badly needed it.
He has also brought a superb brand of football that, when it clicks, makes City the most entertaining side in England.
Yet a feeling persists they need an upgrade if they are to reach their full potential.
If City were to land Pep Guardiola when his contract at Bayern Munich expires this summer, it would be their biggest statement since Sheikh Mansour acquired the club in 2008.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2015/16 season. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @RobPollard_.
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