Ranking Manchester City's Top 5 Players for March 2016
March was one of Manchester City’s most disappointing months in recent memory. Five games yielded just one win, with City failing to score in four of them. If it wasn’t for the second-half blitzing of Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium, they’d have gone through the entire month goalless.
Liverpool (away) – lost 3-0
Aston Villa (home) - won 4-0
Norwich City (away) – drew 0-0
Dynamo Kiev (home) – drew 0-0
Manchester United (home) – lost 1-0
Their title challenge was on the ropes going into March anyway, but their Capital One Cup win at the end of February, as well as their excellent victory away at Dynamo Kiev that put them in a commanding position in their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie, had seen optimism they could produce a last-ditch charge grow.
That was immediately wiped out when they lost to Liverpool after one of City’s limpest, most uninspired performances this season. They often struggle at Anfield—but this an average Liverpool side who were there for the taking. City barely threatened.
The win over Aston Villa saw City produce a solid second-half, with some movement and energy in their play, but they followed that up with a toothless performance against Norwich City at Carrow Road. The Citizens had all the possession, and they probed and asked questions, but, ultimately, their final ball let them down and they left with any lingering title hopes up in smoke.
Their disjointed display at home to Kiev was tempered by the fact they had done the hard work in the previous leg, but it set the tone for their game with United a few days later. City looked fragile, with Martin Demichelis woeful and removed before the hour, as their rivals scored early and settled in for three points—the worst United side of the last 25 years.
It isn’t good enough for a side with as much quality as City, and the board will be expecting much more next season when Pep Guardiola replaces Manuel Pellegrini as first-team manager.
City are missing energy and enthusiasm. There’s been a lack of desire as well as excellence. It’s been worrying for those connected to the club to observe.
It would be easier to compile a list of the worst City players in March. Finding five who produced consistent quality is difficult, but here are the five best Blues players for last month. Feel free to use the comment section below to offer further suggestions.
5. Vincent Kompany
Vincent Kompany’s disastrous season went from bad to worse when he was injured after just six minutes of the game with Kiev. His calf issues have become a huge concern over the last two seasons, and there must surely be doubts in the boardroom about whether the club can rely on him anymore.
However, before his latest cruel setback, he was playing well in March and was on course to be City’s player of the month.
He has to take some responsibility for the Anfield debacle—City were awful, and he wasn’t exempt from criticism—but he was solid against both Villa and Norwich.
In fact, he was superb against Norwich, back to his sharp, commanding best.
It’s been a big part of City’s problems in the Premier League this season. They rely on their captain massively yet can’t get him on the pitch regularly. This summer is likely to see City sign a top-class defender to remove the burden.
4. Joe Hart
Joe Hart’s solid season continued for much of March—that was until he was played into trouble by Demichelis in the derby, had to overstretch to reach the ball and injured his calf in the process.
He didn’t impress against Liverpool, diving too slowly for Adam Lallana’s goal, but he was left horribly exposed that night.
He made a superb stop from Jordan Ayew against Villa with the game locked at 0-0 and dealt with everything thrown at him at Carrow Road. He made an excellent save from Vitaliy Buyalskyi late on against Kiev before his injury nightmare in the derby.
3. Gael Clichy
Gael Clichy has played every game in March and continued to strengthen his grip on the left-back spot.
It’s a long-held view of many observers that City need a new left-back, a top-class performer who can revolutionise their attacking threat down that side. That view still stands, but Clichy’s performances over recent months suggest he should be a part of the Guardiola revolution.
Aleksandar Kolarov is now on the bench week in, week out, and he is struggling to get past the Frenchman. Clichy is quicker, better defensively and more comfortable in possession.
His best display last month came against Villa. He was absolutely superb, providing a number of wonderful balls into the box from wide.
Fernandinho has been the most consistent outfield player in the City squad this season. There are plenty of players Guardiola may look to move on, with added pace and youth needed, but Fernandinho has done everything he can to make sure he’s involved in the next phase of the club’s development.
He played every game in March and was as reliable as ever. He was City's best player at Anfield, which made Pellegrini’s decision to hook him all the more baffling. He had given his side drive from deep and was one of the few who looked capable of hauling them into the game.
He sat deep and defended against Villa, which he did so efficiently, allowing Yaya Toure the freedom to get forward. It was a disciplined display—just what City needed in order for their creative players to unlock a side who put 10 men behind the ball.
Norwich was frustrating for every City player, but again the Brazilian was one of their better players, getting forward more than in the previous game and doing all he could to try to spark City into life.
An insipid display against Kiev came next, before the derby game with United saw him drafted to centre-half when Demichelis was subbed to stabilise the back four, which he duly did.
We didn’t see Fernandinho at his absolute best last month—but he was at least a steady, consistent influence when too many others were shrinking.
1. Yaya Toure
Yaya Toure may have missed two of City’s matches last month—but in the three he played, he was arguably the best player in blue.
And his absence against Liverpool and Norwich reinforced his status as one of City’s most important players.
There was a big hole in City’s midfield in those two matches. Very few are capable of offering what the Ivorian does, even at 32.
Against Villa he was excellent, the catalyst for the win. He scored the opener and passed Villa to death. No one else recycles the ball quite as efficiently as Toure.
On an uninspired night against Kiev, Toure was the most likely to create, with some surging runs and his desire to take players on perhaps the only exciting element of City’s play.
He finished the month by being undoubtedly City’s best player against United.
He could leave in the summer, given his age and the fact he is a fading force—but if he stays, he still has plenty to offer when used correctly.