Another season done and dusted so what did we get this time around?
Thirty eight league games, four FA Cup ties, six League Cup games, a 6-1 away win, a fifth place finish, two Adebayor suspensions, one managerial change, one emergency keeper and another European adventure to look forward to. Is that all we got for a £200m investment?
By all accounts, the 2009/10 season was the best we have had for almost 20 years, since Peter Reid took us to the dizzy heights of fifth in the final season of the old first division. It could, of course, been so much different but for a little more consistency.
Consistency has been a key issue for City over the years; as supporters, we would always go into games knowing we should win, but asking which team was going to show up on the day. This happened again last season but seemed to be a lot less than usual. Part of the problem for the blues last term was that, given the heavy investment in the squad and the high profile signings we made, the lower teams raised their game considerably against us and we failed to do likewise.
But for once, we got some very decent results and has given us a glimpse of what we can achieve if we just perform a little better and grind out a few results, rather than settle for draws. Wins at Portsmouth, Blackburn and Fulham were very welcome as these are places we have often slipped up at. Wolves and Burnley are grounds where we should be expected to win and did so in some style too. But it was the Chelsea game that really would have caught the eye. To go to the home of the eventual champions and take a 4-1 lead says much about our character. If only we could have had the same character during the run of draws through the Autumn.
Looking at it, that’s part of the reason why the blues failed to finish fourth or higher in the league this year. You can always cite one game or two games as a reason but we drew at home to teams like Burnley, Fulham and Hull while getting solitary points at places like Wigan and Bolton. That’s really what cost us a bigger prize this year but it is also what cost Mark Hughes his job.
The Welshman may have been a popular figure in the dressing room and there was plenty of uproar over his dismissal. Were the hierarchy too hasty? Some will argue Hughes should have been given a chance to succeed or fail, rather than just writing him off mid season. But from the club’s point of view, a run of draws and the odd win was just not good enough and they wanted a new manager in place ahead of the transfer window opening.
So Mancini arrived and navigated us through a couple of potentially tricky games, particularly at Wolves and Middlesbrough before facing United in the League Cup, where we first played our bridesmaid part. At 3-3 on aggregate, all we had to do was nick one more goal and the cup final was ours. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be but it was another measure of the improvement we have made. Other City sides would have gone out at Crystal palace in the second round or suffered defeat at home to Arsenal in the quarter final. Next year we’ll go one better.
The January transfer window should have seen a lot more action from the blues but strangely enough, we only signed Patrick Vieira and Adam Johnson. What are we saying? Only signed Johnson? This guy looks like he can really do the business for us on either wing and he has rightly earned himself a place in the provisional England squad. It should be an exciting season for the youngster next year.
We had a difficult run towards the end of the season and once again, our defensive frailties let us down. First against United when we should have got a point but failed to pick up Scholes in the last minute, then against Spurs, when Marton Fulop palmed the ball into Peter Crouch’s path for him to head the winner and allow Spurs to finish fourth. Once again, we played bridesmaid to Spurs.
But we had some fantastic results and our performances against the ‘top four’ were much better than they have been in recent years. A double over Chelsea was incredible, but also a 4-2 win over Arsenal was especially pleasing, particularly when we had been written off before the game had begun. And of course, being 5-0 up at half time at Turf Moor was unbelievable.
We’ve had our problems, with Adebayor getting himself suspended a couple of times and Mancini looking like he was going to chin David Moyes. We’ve ruffled a lot of feathers with the signings we’ve made, the Carlos Tevez poster and the Joleon Lescott affair before we caused uproar in the football world by even daring to ask the FA if we could sign a goalkeeper on an emergency loan.
But all in all, it has been a fantastic season and the only thing missing was a trophy. But we have another European campaign to start in August and this time we qualified without the fair play league. With a little more composure in big games, a little more ruthlessness against the lesser teams and an overall improvement in our consistency level, we should be again challenging for honours next season.
The standard has been set for next season. There’s an expectation at Eastlands for next season that Mancini and the players needs to deliver. Looking forward to it already