Updated: Tuesday, 20th November 2018 @ 12:36pm

Manchester City mid-season review: Losing the crown could be just what doctor ordered for renewed Blues

Manchester City mid-season review: Losing the crown could be just what doctor ordered for renewed Blues

By Paddy Dinham

When 5ft 10 Ben Watson towered above the Manchester City defence to head home a last minute goal to win the FA Cup for Wigan, plans for major overhaul began immediately.

A year earlier the Citizens’ fans were catapulted into delirium as they clinched their first title for 44 years in their own dramatic circumstances.

Now they sat motionless in the West Stand of Wembley Stadium as the Latics’ fans opposite them almost blew the arch off the stadium as they created their own piece of history.

Lessons were learnt from a dormant summer last time around: Roberto Mancini was replaced by Manuel Pellegrini and over £100million was spent on new players.

Their impact has so far been mixed - a blend of outstanding and careless but City are still fighting for success on all fronts and the fans have reason to be optimistic about the second half of the season.

Pre-season

Preparations for the new campaign certainly got off to a slow start for Pellegrini’s new-look side as they were beaten by two South African Premier League Soccer sides.

A team containing £30million man Fernandinho went down 2-0 to Supersport United and then 2-1 to AmaZulu.

 Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo made their debuts in the Barclays Asia Trophy  which they won with 1-0 wins over South China and Sunderland.

The Audi Cup semi-final saw Stevan Jovetic get his first start against AC Milan as City raced into a 5-0 lead after 35 minutes with Edin Dzeko scoring for the third consecutive game.

A Milan side missing former Blue Mario Balotelli pulled three goals back before the Blues crashed out in the final to Bayern Munich.

The positives to take from the 2-1 defeat were an encouraging performance against the European Champions and a first goal for Negredo.

The Spaniard added a second as the pre-season preparations were rounded off with a 3-1 defeat to Arsenal, ensuring City would have to create their own momentum for start campaign.

August

City were and Newcastle were the last teams to get their season underway when Alan Pardew’s side visited the Etihad for the first Monday night game of the season.

A rampant display saw the Blues’ take apart the 10-man Magpies 4-0 with goals from David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri and took them to the top of the table.

The first signs of City’s indifferent away form became evident when they travelled to South Wales to face newly-promoted Cardiff.

Despite twice taking the lead through Negredo and Dzeko, they conceded three sloppy goals to give Malky Mackay’s team their first Premier League points.

They conceded two goals from set pieces when Joe Hart failed to claim the ball under his own cross bar, Frazier Campbell the beneficiary on both occasions.

Another unconvincing performance followed as Hull City put up a spirited showing for the first hour of the Citizens’ second home game.

Their superior firepower eventually shone through as Negredo and a second superb free-kick of the season from Toure secured a 2-0 win.

September

City dropped more points away from home as they wasted several good chances against Stoke in a game that eventually finished 0-0.

They got their Champions League campaign up and running with a 3-0 win in the Czech Republic against Viktoria Plzen with goals from Dzeko, Toure and Aguero.

Pellegrini and David Moyes then went head-to-head for their first Manchester derby level on points - what followed was a momentous triumph for the Blues.

They gave a scintillating performance in front of their own fans as they tore United apart as an Aguero double, Toure and Nasri helped them to a 4-1 win.

They followed that up by making it nine goals in 48 hours by beating Wigan 5-0 in the League Cup third round, with Jovetic grabbing his first goals for the club.

The month ended on a sour note however at Aston Villa as they once again threw away a lead, some sloppy defensive errors giving the Villain’s a 3-2 victory.

After Leandro Bacuna had curled home a softly-conceded free-kick, Hart came charging out of his goal and when he failed to reach the ball, Andreas Weimann poked home to complete the comeback.

October

If City had given Bayern Munich a good game in pre-season, their Champions League clash was anything but as the 2013 winners gave the Etihad crowd a footballing masterclass in a 3-1 victory.

Despite the dismissal of former Blue Jerome Boateng and late beauty from Negredo, City only had one third of possession and the performance of Hart was once again called into question.

They managed to bounce back well though as they put together a run of three consecutive victories starting with a 3-1 win at home to Everton.

This was followed by their first away win in the league, by the same score line, at West Ham before a hard-fought 2-1 win at CSKA Moscow which was overshadowed by more sour off-field events.

Toure claimed he was subjected to racist abuse from the CSKA fans, which the Russian club vehemently denied but were subsequently found guilty and had sections of their stadium closed.

In the Premier League, City’s travel sickness continued as a late mix-up between Hart and Matija Nastasic gifted Chelsea a last minute winner at Stamford Bridge.

It was the final straw for the England goalkeeper who was subsequently dropped from the first team for the first time since 2010.

They finished the month off on a more positive note however as a 2-0 win at Newcastle secured their place in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup.

November

City recorded their biggest ever Premier League win when Norwich were sent back from Manchester with their tails between their legs following a 7-0 thrashing.

Bradley Johnson’s own goal opened the floodgates with Silva, Nastasic  and Negredo making it four at half time.

Toure continued his speight of free-kicks before Aguero and Dzeko completed the rout.

After two botched attempts in the previous two years, qualification from the Champions League group stages was ensured with a 5-2 win over CSKA.

More away day woes soon dampened the mood though as a 1-0 defeat at bottom club Sunderland left the Citizens six points off the pace in the league in 8th position.

They responded with their best performance of the season so far when Andre Villas Boas brought his  Tottenham side to Manchester.

After Navas had capitalied on Hugo Lloris’ mistake to put City in front after just 14 seconds and a Sandro own goal, Aguero scored two to take himself to the top of the league scoring charts.

A Negredo stike and a second from Navas completed a 6-0 demolition and ensured City had scored 26 from their opening six games, a Premier League record.

They finished the month with an exciting 4-2 win over Plzen to keep their hopes of finishing on top of their European group alive.

December

City’s home comforts continued as they made it seven wins from seven in the league at the Etihad - Samir Nasri’s double capping a marked improvement in the Frenchman’s form under Pellegrini.

They then followed that result up with a 3-2 at West Bromwich Albion, the start of improvement in away form.

Despite dropping two points at Southampton three days later, Pellegrini lauded the draw as a good result as City showed the necessary steel to quell the Saints’ dominance of large periods.

City followed this up with two of their best results of the season, starting at the home of European Champions Bayern Munich.

At 2-0 down after 16 minutes, the returning Silva started a memorable comeback, completed by second half-goals from Kolarov and James Milner as the Blues recorded an unlikely triumph.

Controversy surrounded the post-match interviews however, with Pellegrini miscalculating the maths needed to win the group.

The Chilean brought on Jack Rodwell rather than Sergio Aguero towards the end, later justifying the decision by claiming that scoring twice in ten minutes was unlikely, but just one more goal was needed.

City were able to restore several key players for the visit of an Arsenal side sat top of the league, six points clear of the Citizens.

Aguero gave the Blues the lead but despite Arsenal’s persistent replies Negredo, Yaya Toure, Silva and Fernandinho’s first two goals for the club secured a 6-3 win.

The major downside of the game was Aguero limping off shortly after half-time, with the manager stating he could be out for up to eight weeks.

There was more positive news to follow as progression to the Carling Cup semi-finals was ensured as Kolarov and a Dzeko double secured a 3-1 win over Leicester City.

Image courtesy of OldElPaso via WikiCommons, with thanks.

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