x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Premier League review: Manchester City and other challengers to United's crown

Richard Jolly and Jonathan Wilson have a club-wise look at the runners-up Manchester City as well as Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham.

Manchester City beat eventual champions United in April but lost out on the title John Peters / Getty Images
Manchester City beat eventual champions United in April but lost out on the title John Peters / Getty Images

Where Manchester City got it right

They ended the year with the best defensive record in the division. Matija Nastasic proved one of the best signings of the season and City seem to have found a centre-back for the next decade.

In patches, they played the slickest, quickest football and, at their best, they could beat anyone in England. They deservedly defeated Manchester United at Old Trafford and enjoyed the better of their meetings with Chelsea.

It says much about the standards they had set that, despite finishing second in the league and reaching the FA Cup final, they came in for so much criticism.

They remain hard to beat in league play at home, with only a meaningless end-of-season loss to Norwich City and an unfortunate, but crucial, loss to United all campaign.

Where City got it wrong

Their Uefa Champions League campaign was disastrous and while they were pooled with Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, two of the competition's strongest sides, taking one point from their two games against Ajax was unsatisfactory in every respect.

Their Premier League title defence ended because of too many draws and a couple of dreadful performances, against Everton and Southampton. Nor, indeed, did they perform in the FA Cup final.

Having scored 93 league goals last season, that figure dropped to 66 with no one proving prolific. None of the supposed superstars produced his best form consistently, with Joe Hart and Samir Nasri as particular disappointments, while four of their five major signings last summer - Maicon, Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair - have not succeeded.

Star man - Pablo Zabaleta

City's most determined and consistent player, Zabaleta's form improved while others' tailed off.

Flop - Samir Nasri

So much talent, so little return. Nasri went eight months without a league goal - apart from deflecting in Robin van Persie's derby winner for United.

Prospective signings

Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini is likely to arrive as Mancini's successor and should oversee an overhaul. The midfield could be much-changed with Malaga playmaker Isco and Shakhtar Donetsk's Fernandinho both targets.

Sevilla winger Jesus Navas has also attracted City's attention while Napoli's prolific Uruguayan Edinson Cavani could arrive to be the spearhead in attack.

Strikers Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez are potential departures along with Sinclair and centre-back Joleon Lescott. Defender Kolo Toure, whose contract has ended, will go.

Prospects for 2013/14

Much depends on how quickly the new coach, most likely Pellegrini, adjusts to life at City and how soon the players adapt to his methods and tactics.

Although they will only be third seeds, it is imperative that they qualify from their Champions League group and there will be a marked focus on Europe.

The departed Mancini wanted to win silverware on an annual basis, so it will be instructive to see how seriously Pellegrini takes the domestic cups. He will need a stronger squad to flourish in all four competitions, though, so it is vital that City buy well.


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