The year of 2014 has been a prosperous and fruitful one for the Blues, with a string of successes on and off the pitch.
Co-editor Josh Lawless evaluates the year of 2014, compiling a list of the best and worst moments.
As aforementioned, the year has been a memorable one, but for the wrong reasons as well as right. So we’ll kick things off with the worst of 2014.
Embarrassing cup exits:
Manuel Pellegrini deserves great credit for taking cup competitions seriously, but that didn’t prevent two disappointing cup defeats, at the hands of Wigan and Newcastle respectively. In both games City were not at the races at all, with a hint of complacency. In both games, we were shoddy defensively and unusually did not have the spark in attack. The Wigan defeat was especially disappointing because of the difference in levels between the two sides, yet the Latics were superior and nullified City excellently, as did Newcastle when they made the trip up to the Etihad in this season’s Capital One Cup tie. I would say these two games featured our worst two performances in 2014 and are undoubtedly matches that we would all be keen to forget about.
Champions League difficulties:
Similarly, our performance in Europe in 2014 has been somewhat underwhelming. Bar a few games in the 2013/14 group stage, we were quite average and did not live up to our billing. I felt that we didn’t play particularly bad in both games with Barcelona; however we showed them too much respect and granted them the initiative. It must be said that refereeing decisions also played its part in the tie. This season that trend continued, we were unfortunate against Bayern, missed a big opportunity against Roma and fell apart in both games against CSKA. Yet in the last two group stages we really stepped it up, Aguero inspiring us to a late 3-2 win over Bayern, before we produced our most complete Champions League performance to date away to Roma. Fortunately, we just did enough to squeeze into the last 16, again facing Barcelona, and that resurgence could very well spur us on in European Competition.
The signing of Eliaquim Mangala:
The purchase of the French defender dragged on in the summer, before the £32m capture of Mangala from Porto was completed on 11th August. He waited a long time before making his debut in the huge clash against Chelsea, where he was exceptional at stifling Diego Costa; who had been unstoppable until this point. Things looked rosy, yet Mangala then went through a tough spell where he looked raw, making significant errors in his next game against Hull. His bad patch coincided with City’s poor form, but once the Blues picked up in performances and began to look like the City of last season, Mangala looked much more assured and comfortable. City’s impressive vein of form saw Mangala shine in defence alongside Martin Demichelis, though both had difficulty defending in the 2-2 draw with Burnley. At times erratic and rash, 2015 should see Mangala come good. A lesson was learnt when fans were quick to criticise Demichelis, so supporters should give him the benefit of the doubt – after all he is still just 23.
A certain Serbian centre-back has not had a great 2014 in all senses. Having arrived as a calm and composed defender under Roberto Mancini, the 21-year old is now frozen out to the point where is not even regarded as ‘back-up’ anymore. He made a total of 20 appearances for the club in 2013/14, but has only featured seven times in the whole of 2014, if you count his last start against Arsenal in the Community Shield at Wembley. It does appear as though Pellegrini does not favour the youngster; that became evident after the Mangala signing. Yet the Serb remains a polished defensive prospect who could still offer something. Somehow Dedyrck Boyata is ahead of him in the pecking order, and his lack of game-time means he is destined to move on when 2015 comes around.
One of the major low points of 2014 has been the amount of injuries we have had, many of which have been inflicted on key members of our side. Kompany, Toure, Aguero and Silva are undoubtedly our primary players, yet rarely do we see all of the four in action at the same time. When we do, that is when the unbelievable quality in our side shines through. At times we have been hampered by injuries, with both Kompany and Aguero having much difficulty staying fit, plagued by hamstring problems and other injuries. Silva and Jovetic have also had persistent problems. In the 2013/14 campaign, the quartet played together just six times, and the trend has continued into this season with Kompany, Silva and Aguero all picking up notably. We have coped reasonably well without them, but we enter another gear when the core of our team is present. Here’s to an injury-free 2015!
Now let’s take a look at the plethora of positives that 2014 brought…
Premier League form:
More positively, our Premier League form in 2014 was utterly flawless. From 38 games, we accumulated an impressive 88 points, which breaks down to 2.32 points per game. We tasted victory 27 times, drew 7 games and lost just four times in domestic terms. Chelsea had a remarkably similar record to us, bar a slightly inferior goal difference. Although, in other departments such as the amount of goals scored we are ahead by some margin. Joe Hart recorded 16 clean sheets during 2014 in the Premier League, the highest in the league. Our performance in the Premier League in 2014 has been exemplary and demonstrates that we are on par with Chelsea and ahead of them in some areas. That sort of form would be extremely difficult to replicate in 2015, but retaining the Premier League title is definitely a realistic objective.
Another huge high in 2014 was the Capital One Cup success. It was the first trophy Pellegrini delivered in his time at the club and will always stick out for fans, even if is not as attractive or appealing as the Premier League. City played some fine football on their way to the final, and despite a stern test provided by Sunderland, travelled back from Wembley with the Cup in the back. For large parts of the game, City found it tough breaking down the Mackems, however two breathtaking strikes from Toure and Nasri, and then a Navas goal handed the Blues their first trophy under their new manager. The two goals to completely turn the game around were exceptional, and in away avenged the defeat to Wigan in the FA Cup around a year earlier. Both supporters and players were in complete elation; this was definitely one of the highlights of the year.
Upon his arrival in England, Demichelis struggled to adapt the demands of the league and initially looked suspect. He made a few memorable errors that proved costly, culminating in endless amounts of criticism from some fans. Despite his early woes, he ended the season strongly and was a key factor in City’s title win. Post-March he cemented his place at the heart of the defence and delivered some sterling defensive displays. He helped Argentina to the World Cup final, and even without his trademark ponytail, has built on his excellent World Cup with a series of commendable performances this season. His improved reading of the game, terrific composure on the ball and experience has meant he now acts as a pivotal member of the side. He deserves great credit for the improvements made in his game.
2014 has been the year where Sergio Aguero emerged as one of the elite players in world football. Although frequently faced with injuries, his form has been phenomenal and he has been a constant thorn in the opposition’s defence. At times, he has been simply unplayable. Possessing tremendous strength, balance and speed, he has lifted his games to new heights in 2014. In 2014, he hit 18 goals in just 23 Premier League matches which is extraordinary. Not only did he provide the goods in attack with a delicious spread of goals, his link-up play and work-rate is admirable. He is the complete combination of skill and effort, and 2015 promises much more Aguero magic.
Finally, another great highlight of the year for City fans has been the unveiling of the new ‘City Football Academy.’ The investments made will not only see City reap the rewards, but also the community will benefit hugely from the project. Guardian Journalist Jamie Jackson labelled the £200m facilities “Phenomenal” in our exclusive interview, and believes the club are “deadly serious about producing young players.” Every football fan wants to see youth products make the grade and the faith City are showing in this has got a large chunk of City supporters excited. In the past, many prospects have been misused, but the new facility is devoted to developing the next crop of players and moving them into the first team when the time arrives. Recently Jose Angel Pozo made his Premier League debut for the club, and it will not be long before a host of youngsters follow suit.
Here is a mini-review of the year. Let us know your choices by tweeting us at @TheMaineBlues.
Best player of 2014: David Silva. A joy to watch and I would still maintain that he is our best player.
Best goal: Samir Nasri vs Sunderland. Unbelievable technique.
Best performance: United 0-3. An easy dismantling at Old Trafford.