After an ultimately disappointing season, I’ve had a look at how the squad prepared, with some wildly varied results.
Joe Hart – 8.5
I’ll be honest, I‘ve had my doubts about Joe Hart. There’s no doubt he’s a great keeper, but I’ve never been convinced he is world class. I still have issues – his distribution exasperates, his decision-making for crosses is not always perfect and he can flap a bit, but what keeper doesn’t make mistakes? The truth is he has had a great season, and has improved under a new goalkeeping coach. His performance in Barcelona was phenomenal, and he topped that with the save of the Premier League season against Swansea. He is the number 1 for the foreseeable future – that’s one less thing to worry about, at least.
Willy Caballero – 4
A wasted move and a wasted season for the highly-rated keeper, after years of stellar performances for Malaga. Many a City fan decided he was rubbish after two games, which is a shame, as he is nothing of the sort and Pellegrini, who will know him well, clearly saw him as serious competition for Hart, but whilst England’s Number 1 has improved all season, Caballero has never been in a position to challenge for the keeper’s shirt, and doesn’t appear to have settled. He is more than good enough though for the Number 2 spot, so I hope he stays, but a return to Spain for a small profit seems highly possible – perhaps to Valencia.
Richard Wright – 10
Another flawless season for perhaps City’s most consistent keeper – ever.
Vincent Kompany – 6
The most depressing squad score I will probably ever give (hopefully). It has been a poor season for our once-inspirational skipper, and you’ll all have your theories as to why. He continues to pick up niggling injuries, and his form has been erratic to put it kindly. The defence as a whole has struggled at times of course and you hope that a summer of rest will see him come back stronger than ever in August.
Eliaquim Mangala – 7
The £42m enigma. The man it was hoped would be the final piece in the defence jigsaw has had a mixed debut season, not helped by his expected partner suffering a mid-career crisis. Once the total fee that City paid for him (a fee you suspect City did their best to hide) became public knowledge, then the pressure was doubled on the young Frenchman. For the future, the fee doesn’t matter – it was a ridiculous amount to pay for the defender, ANY defender, and I doubt he will ever truly be valued that highly. However, what is done is done, and there are enough signs to feel that Mangala can still be a huge success at City. He started impressively, carrying Diego Costa in his pocket, and he certainly seems to relish a physical scrap, but a number of calamities soon after, most notably at Hull, damaged his reputation and perhaps his confidence too. The fact is that City’s defence has been something of a mess all season, by our high standards at least, not helped by Pellegrini rarely playing the same back four for two consecutive games, until the title had gone anyway. The fact also is that Mangala played pretty well most of the time, but was let down by the odd rash moment, another foible of a proactive defender. He was often the best defender on the pitch and the criticism has snowballed way past the truth. The problem is that Kompany is a proactive defender too, and two proactive defenders is a dangerous mix. Still, Mangala has to be given a permanent berth in the team now – we’ve invested too much, and his performances are good enough to consider doing anything else.
Martin Demichelis – 7
A fair season once more for the suave Argentinean, shaking off World Cup final disappointment to put in a steady shift, as we expected he would. Didn’t hit the heights, but didn’t disappoint either, though it’s hard to quantify his level of performance considering the changes made to the defence each week. Here for another year, you’d expect him to be used more sparingly next season.
Dedryck Boyata – as you were. No idea why he is still at City, apart from quotas of course.
Pablo Zabaleta – 8
Many will claim that City’s number 1 cult hero had a mixed season, and there is some truth in that, as his performances did dip earlier in the season, though he was hardly alone. Impending fatherhood obviously played on his mind, but for me he still was a rock for most of the time, and was clearly a class above new arrival Bacary Sagna, not that Sagna had much opportunity to prove his worth.
Bacary Sagna – 6.5
There seems to be a common practice amongst a minority to label all of our “back-up” players as utterly useless whenever they manage to get on the pitch. Sagna was nothing of the sort, but had little impact on our season, though was given the nod in the odd big European game. The disappointment for me was that I vaguely recall him putting in a succession of excellent crosses as an Arsenal player, but we saw very little evidence of that in the past season. The question is, will he want to remain as an occasional player? I doubt it.
Aleksander Kolarov – 6.5
On his day, Kolarov is a wonderful asset for City. Powerful surges down the left, bullet crosses that any decent striker should relish, and a wonderful repertoire of free-kicks. Unfortunately, it’s not always his day, and to me he seems utterly disinterested some games. Half the problem is that Pellegrini (or many of us) don’t know who the best left-back at the club is, which benefits no one. Kolarov plays best after a continued run in the side, as most players do, something he only got at the tail-end of the season. This is an area that I feel City need to improve, with someone new.
Gael Clichy – 6.5
Favoured for more league games than Kolarov, he’s been ok, as usual, but never really excelled – that is Clichy all over. Never terrible, never brilliant, he is for me an able back-up but not good enough to take this club forward – no left-back at the club is.
Fernando – 5
Well done to Fernando Reges, the Premier League player with the highest pass completion (91%) in the league last season. Proof, if proof were needed, that stats can mislead. Again, to continue the theme, Fernando was not as appalling as some make out, he just had very little to offer, is nowhere near the dynamic player we were led to believe, and is not good enough at screening that defence, though this is not always his fault, as responsibility lies with the formation chosen by the manager and his midfield partners. He will undoubtedly be given more time, and we have a tradition of hating our defensive midfielders until they begin to find form and are promptly sold, so hope springs eternal.
Fernandinho – 6
Another play for whom 2014/15 was disappointing, though I’m not sure it was his fault. Clearly traumatised by the shellacking handed out by Germany at the World Cup, Fernandinho was a slow returned to the City fold, and his season was split between the pitch and the bench, which made little sense as he rarely failed when called upon. For some reason Pellegrini didn’t see him as integral to our shape, but I hope we see more of him next season, as otherwise what’s the point of spending £30m on a great player to use every other game? He is a victim I guess of the “midfield problem”, of finding the right pairing in the middle, especially when playing two upfront. With Yaya Toure now looking to stay, that problem is set to remain.
Yaya Toure – 7
Ah yes, the most-talked about player yet again this season, with the world’s most idiotic agent. It’s been a bit of a comedown season for Yaya, after the season-defining contribution of last season. Of course he suffered terrible tragedy during the summer, which puts arguing over a cake into perspective somewhat, and with yet another African Cup of Nations depriving City of his services for over a month, his season was underwhelming. Still, he still did more of note than most players, and chipped in with 10 league goals from midfield. As always, the problem is playing him in a 4-4-2, where he can get overrun, where his position fails to play to his strengths, and where the better teams and those that play a high tempo game can ensure that games pass him by. I think the time might be right for him to go, but will be secretly delighted to see him remain – I just hope we make full use of him next season, as the team’s success is closely linked to that.
Samir Nasri – 6
A season that has promised much has rather fizzled out for the enigmatic Frenchman. He put in some promising performances, and scored a vital goal in Rome, but it hasn’t really happened for him since and injury finished his season for good. I get the feeling he will go this summer, after a City career that was good but never quite scaled the heights. Still, for annoying Arsenal fans by winning stuff and telling them where to go, he has my eternal gratitude.
Frank Lampard – 7
Brilliant for a short-spell (and scorer of some important goals), it’s been a strange but enjoyable cameo from one of my all-time Premier League favourites. When he first arrived, I didn’t really give it much thought, as I didn’t expect to see much of him before he jetted off to the States in the New Year. As it turned out, he had a great purple patch in the autumn, including a crucial equalizer against Chelsea. Soon he was the cause of a diplomatic incident with New York City, and it seemed a fruitless exercise falling out with a sister club, as his appearance waned thereafter, but he has featured again much more as the season drew to an end, and capped it off with a trademark last-day goal. A credit to his profession, and a thoroughly decent bloke, it was good to see him in City’s colours, if only briefly.
David Silva – 8.5
My all-time favourite player, possibly worth a 9, but I had to separate him from Sergio somehow. Again, not perfect, though this season saw him improve slightly in front of goal, which is his only obvious weakness, apart from goalkeeping, caber-tossing and origami (so I’m told). Still, another season of Silva doing what Silva does, and it continues to be a joy to witness most matches. Beautiful ball control, exquisite passing, he works between the lines and is a nightmare for opposition teams. If he ever leaves I’m off to support Chelsea.
James Milner – 8
The Yorkshire Figo has probably played his last game for City, and more’s the pity, though I still retain some hope that he sees SENSE and re-signs for the project.
An important squad member, if not a clear first-teamer, he has had a good season, putting in a series of consistent, steady performances, taking up the striker mantle when we didn’t have any, and coping excellently, and generally doing all the things you expect him to do. Tireless worker, some assists, some goals, no moaning, few injuries, he is the perfect professional. Let’s hope he realises that playing in the middle every week is not worth going to a weaker team.
Stevan Jovetic – 3
It’s hard to get lower than a 4/10, but Stevan managed it. A disastrous season, capped by being dropped from City’s Champions League squad so that Wilfried Bony could sit on the bench instead. A season where it was hoped that Jovetic would finally show his worth never materialised, and he was eventually frozen out by Pellegrini, sneaking back onto the bench for the final league match. He will surely leave in the summer, naturally for much less than we paid for him, which is a shame, as I had high hopes for him, but it just never happened, much like his ability to dress himself properly.
Jesus Navas – 6.5
A player I really like, but as we know, frustrates much of the time. The frustration is that you just know he is capable of anything, but always seems to fall just short. Still, he is what he is – a good squad player with bags of pace who works hard and stretches opposition teams. I hope he stays for years to come. His blind crossing marks him down, though most crosses by definition will find a defender, and also because his goal threat has dried up completely, which is not really good enough for a wide man, who should be chipping in with at least a few.
Scott Sinclair – 10
One of the greatest prospects in world football, Sinclair has been brutally side-lined and his career wrecked by a club with more money than sense. Clearly the best player at the club, with also the best looks and most buxom girlfriend, his repeated omission from the side remains one of the greatest mysteries in the modern game, and I just hope he can resurrect his career at Aston Villa, where at least Tim Sherwood will appreciate his tremendous skill and passion for the game. Shame on you City. Shame on you.
Sergio Aguero – 9
Well, what really needs to be said? Another injury lay-off that had the knock-on effect of him being below par for a few weeks on his return have probably prevented him having a record-breaking season, but in a team that failed to live up to expectations and bowed out of cup competitions often with a whimper, he once more outscored everyone with ease and was a class above, though it should be noted he is human and still had his off-days like most of us do. The best striker in the Premier League, I keep praying that he stays for the next season, for when he does go I may cry a bit, or perhaps a lot.
Edin Dzeko – 4
Let’s face facts – Edin has been utter pants this season. His grumpy face as he traipsed round the Etihad pitch after the Southampton match told a story, resembling a hen-pecked husband told he has to spend 8 hours helping his wife find a nice blouse in the Trafford Centre for Tracey’s hen do the following week. Basically I’m saying he didn’t look very happy, and with good reason, though he has resorted to lazy mode this campaign, with the ball-retention skills of Adolf Hitler (see the Albert Hall archives for further details). This time around, he couldn’t even come good at the business end of the season, despite getting a few outings. A summer exit would be best for all, and thanks for all the memories.
Wilfried Bony – 6
Hard to jusge too much just yet as he was signed whilst away in Africa, and came back soon before Manuel Pellegrini finally twigged that playing one up front may be the way forward. Just the two goals then, has come on and looked lively, but with some erratic finishing – he will be judged properly next season.
Manuel Pellegrini – 7
Tough one this. Many think he should get a 3, after a frustrating season where his stubbornness seemed to derail the whole season, and his inability to adapt cost us dear, the nadir being a terrible 8 defeats in 15 games from early January onwards. And yet, whilst the pressure may have been off, we did once more finish strongly, yet again winning our final 6 games, we finished clear in 2nd, 9 points ahead of United, we were beaten by a team in Barcelona who are quite simply on another level, and whilst the domestic cup performances were appalling, I blame the players as much as Pellegrini, and the knock-on effect of a mid-season jaunt to Abu Dhabi, which left the players in revolt. It looks like he will stay for another year, and with some proper investment in the summer, I am hopeful he can sign off on a high.