Manchester City 2015/16 – Player & Manager Ratings

After a strange and rather underwhelming nine months, it’s time to reflect on what we all saw. Not everyone comes out if it that well, which won’t surprise you in the slightest. A season that saw City scrape into the top four, win a cup, and progress in the Champions League, but ultimately felt flat and disappointing.

 

Joe Hart – 8.5
Goalkeeping is an area that I am a bit obsessive about, and thus overly critical about at times too. I’ve never been totally convinced by Hart, whilst acknowledging he is superb, but it’s probably time to put those doubts away now.
Hart has made mistakes this season, as he is a goalkeeper, and they all do (see De Gea at West Ham – cheers David!). He has still excelled, raises himself to another level in Europe, and is a professional on and off the pitch – just about the only player who is honest and says it as it is, as a fan would see it. Why he is so disliked by other fans has always puzzled me, as he does little to annoy.
Anyway, his distribution remains his main problem, a bigger problem when Pep is on his way. Often though it’s a case of other players giving him options, and it is something he can work on.
This season has been tough for City’s defence, and tough on Hart as he has been regularly left exposed. He’s done excellently, and could ultimately become one of our longest-serving/most capped players. In the end, only Fernando’s head prevented Joe Hart sharing the Golden Gloves award.
Having said all that, there are plenty of rumours that Pep is not convinced by Hart either, but until Marc-Andre Ter Stegen is spotted at the Lowry, I will take that with a pinch of salt.

 

Willy Caballero – 7
The goalkeeper we all love to hate, I am one of a very select band that has always rated the guy, even if my eyes were telling me something very different. In the end, City signed off Pellegrini’s career with a trophy because of this guy. Caballero has looked as flaky as a ’99 when deputising for Hart in the league, but it’s a hard position to make an occasional appearance in. He was however given a free run in the Capital One Cup, his inclusion in the final causing great consternation. In the end he was the star of the show, as City won on penalties. Don’t know if he will stay now, but he’s played his part this season.

 

Richard Wright – 11
The end of an era, as perhaps City’s greatest ever player departs. Wright did not put a foot wrong in almost four years at the club – the only mystery is why he was repeatedly overlooked at international level.

 

Vincent Kompany – 5
A low mark because he could dislocate his shoulder answering the phone. The most frustrating season possible for our captain, and his absence was keenly felt. The team was transformed when he was on the pitch, but he was on the pitch rarely, and the abiding image of the season was Kompany trudging off the pitch desolate as he handed on the captain’s armband.
What does the future hold? God only knows. It’s terrible news for Kompany to be out of the Euros, but it might just save his City career. He needs a rest – a long one, and just maybe he can come back stronger than ever.
Or he’ll pull a calf muscle three minutes into the season.

 

Eliaquim Mangala – 6.5
Should a player be judged on his transfer fee? Either way, Mangala impresses, then frustrates. Mangala could become a mix of Bobby Moore and Franz Beckenbauer, but the fee was always ludicrous, for a player with potential, and a defender at that. If that’s what he, or any defender in that scenario cost, we should have walked away (hope we get Laporte though!).
Anyway, Mangala has continued the trend that started the day he joined. Good one week, all at sea the next. In his defence he has not been part of a settled defence and often has to cover if, for example, he’s playing next to a Serbian left-back, but he is nowhere consistent enough, and Pep might not warm to his distribution either. He has all the attributes physically, but seems to turn off at vital moments. He’s not young enough to be given much more time to develop – but we trust in Pep.

 

Nicolas Otamendi – 6.5
See Eliaquim Mangala. One week good, one week bad. And then there’s the slide tackles of course.
Otamendi was always something of a strange transfer for me though, with the feeling he was bought because we could rather because we had established a need to strengthen that position.
Now Otamendi makes plenty of successful slide tackles that break up opposition attacks. However, when he misses one, he leaves a huge hole behind him, or concedes a dangerous free kick. Eventually he’ll get a red card too for two mis-timed tackles. I love slide tackles, but as we all know they have no place in the modern game where any form of contact results in players falling to the floor clutching their knee in fake agony.
So like Mangala he has had excellent games and really shaky games. Pep Guardiola will have to make a decision on whether to get rid of one of Otamendi or Mangala – with Kompany’s fitness never guaranteed, he surely can’t get rid of both. I see hope for both of them, but then they have a bad game. Stay on your feet Nicolas, and the sky is the limit.
Martin DeMichelis – 4
It’s a shame, but time has caught up with Martin – maybe spending all that time sat in bookies numbed his legs, but he was little short of a liability when on the pitch. Thanks for the memories, and all the best…..

 

Bacary Sagna – 8
A stand out season for the experienced Frenchman, and it was needed with Zabaleta’s many problems. A patchy first season made many wonder if his best days were behind him, but this season showed that was not the case – amazing what regular football can do for a player.
Consistent performances and a greater ability than most to avoid injury – his presence was one of the positives for the season, to the point that many wanted him to slot in at centre back in the spring to ease our defensive woes. He’s 33 though, so who knows what the future holds.

 

Pablo Zabaleta – 5
A sobering season for Pablo and us. Dogged by injury, when he did regain fitness we all wondered if his legs had gone for good. Surgery and a summer of recuperation will follow, and like with our captain, it may work in our favour if he can come back fresh. Or he may have gone to Roma – I hope not.

 

Gael Clichy – 7.5
A solid season for Gael, and as with Sagna, it was needed when the alternatives were considered. The feeling persists for me that we do not have a left-back to the standard we require going forward, and Clichy does little to challenge my convictions. A good, solid defender, but offers less than Kolarov going forward. He’s done fine for us, and proved something of a bargain, but I still feel this is an area we need to strengthen in during the summer, rather than waiting to see how good Angelino turns out.

 

Aleksander Kolarov – 5
A generous score because he scored a great goal against Bournemouth and as I type, the sun is out. Kolarov is simply not good enough. His ambling, can’t-be-arsed performance against Southampton proved he can’t even cover his inadequacies with work-rate. His positioning in defence is terrible, but he is better in attack, sometimes, and on his day can put in lethal crosses, lethal shots, and lethal free kicks. Those days are getting rarer though, and he simply isn’t up to scratch. I’ve expected him to leave every summer and yet here he is still is, but I’d be amazed if he survives into the Pep era. Still, great videos for City TV.

 

Fernando – 7
The ultimate “meh” player, as our defensive midfielders always tend to be, Fernando actually did quite well when selected and became quite important too when even Manuel Pellegrini realised that a midfield pairing of Fernandinho and Toure wasn’t really a ticket to success. With Fernando in the team, there was at last a modicum of protection for the defence and a better shape to the team, even if his functions were basic. Not sure he offers enough for a Pep team, but he came with a glowing reputation, and players can grow into this league, so who knows?
Well to be honest, Guardiola will probably prefer a pivote that can spray the ball to both wings too.

 

Fernandinho – 8.5
Player of the season? Due to De Bruyne’s spell out with injury, Fernandinho gets the nod for me. The pleasant, smiling Brazilian does not fire shots into the top corner from 30 yards, bullet headers in from corners or make numerous goal-line clearances, but he is the engine in the midfield that has kept everything ticking over. Week in, week out, he has been the most consistent player in the team, and often had to do the work of two men. Even when shifted out wide occasionally he adjusted nicely, and added a cup final goal to his CV too. It’s just a shame he’s 31 already, but you couldn’t tell, and there’s plenty of life in the old dog yet.
50 appearances, 6 goals, 5 assists, an 87.1% successful pass rate and plenty of “professional” fouls to keep things in check without receiving a single red card. Amazingly he is only listed as receiving 3 Man of the Match Awards, which shows how his sort of contribution often passes under the radar. He’s been crucial to keeping the team’s head above water though during his 3782 minutes on the pitch.
His best game for me? I’d go for PSG away.

 

Delph – 5
A bit of a disastrous 9 months, if truth be told. A bungled transfer saga, injury after injury, and no real chance to shine or get going. Showed signs of real promise, but was pretty poor when recently returning to the side. Hard to know what the future holds, but he is a dynamic player who can offer something, if Guardiola thinks he has the skillset to contribute. Also English, which helps.

 

David Silva – 7
A generous 7, but with extenuating circumstances. Let’s be honest, Silva has been a shadow of his former self at times this season, but is still often a class above us mere mortals. The reason is clear – he is playing with pain in his ankle, and the worry is that this is not an injury but now a persistent condition. Another player who could do with a nice, long rest, but as this year is an even one, he may not get it. Still chipped in with 11 assists and at 30 years of age still has plenty to offer – I mean, he’s David Silva FFS.

 

Jesus Navas – 7
Nothing to say that hasn’t been said before. A wonderful asset for a manager to have, hence why he has seen more pitch time under Pellegrini than any other player (not picking up 14 separate muscle injuries also helps).  Really covers the pitch, covers the right back too, great control, helps team shape, team player. Shame about the crossing and shooting really. A player of his type should be getting a minimum of 10 goals and at least that many assists each season. Such a shame that a lack of composure prevents him from being a huge player.

Yaya Toure – 6.5

Ah, Yaya. A season where we remember the comments of his agent more than his deeds on the pitch, Toure showed his age at last, and possibly City’s moist influential ever player may have played his last game for the team. Eight goals, seven assists – even a fading Yaya can be a thing of beauty, and we only criticise because he was once a force of nature, a giant of the game. He can still contribute, but this season showed more than ever that he can not cope in a midfield two against energetic, pressing opposition players.
If he stays, he’ll have to accept a reduced role, which doesn’t sound like his thing at all. Ah well, we’ll always have the memories – and what memories they were.

 

Samir Nasri – 5
Another season of frustration, wrecked by serious injury which meant that a quicker than expected recovery saw him watch the Champions League latter stages as a fit bystander. Even before injury, it was once more a challenge to categorise where he fits in the team, and just how good he may or may not be. Supremely talented with superb ball retention, he could have a role under Guardiola, and is saying all the right things, but time will tell. In the end, he got just 500 minutes on the pitch in 15/16, with 2 goals and 2 assists. Still, that goal at Everton will live long in my memory.

 

Kevin De Bruyne – 8.5
Ah, lovely, lovely Kevin. De Bruyne wasted no time justifying his large transfer fee, and settled in as a debutant and when returning from injury. He is simply a champagne footballer, capable of wonderful things – passing, crossing, scoring, he does it all. He is not perfect (yet) – as a player that is always looking for vital passes, he will waste possession, and he had a sparse run for a while away from home prior to his injury, but in a team that has struggled to sparkle, he has provided the shine. If he had stayed fit, he would have been my player of the season, and maybe he should be anyway, but here’s to more of the same next season and beyond. After all, 17 goals and 16 assists is not bad for a debut season, eh?

 

Raheem Sterling – 6.5
You ready? Take the phone off the hook and sit back – this could take a while.
I don’t know what Sterling did in a previous life, but I have rarely seen a player get as much stick as he does, and not just from opposition fans.
Sterling arrived with the whole world showering with abuse, and with a huge price tag. City started the season on fire, and he flourished in the team. When it all went wrong for City and form plummeted, he followed suit. By the end of the season, he looked like a player shorn of all confidence. And yet his form mirrored City’s in a way. In the Champions League he was one of our best players, sparkling in Seville and at home to Borussia. In the league, he faded, and then an injury curtailed him further. Maybe if his own fans had supported him, a young player with huge expectations on his shoulder, he’d have done better – we’ll never know.
Still, 11 goals and 4 assists over the season is no disaster- but the hope is he now develops and works on his weaknesses – shooting being one obvious area. He is just the sort of player you’d hope Pep takes under his wing.

 

Sergio Aguero – 8
Another season where you winced and drew breath every time Sergio Aguero hit the floor. Another player prone to injuries due to his playing style, he still almost won the Premier League golden boot, did what he does best, but still underwhelmed in many games, though he was hardly alone in that respect. Hopefully next season he will play in a team that suits him better, rather than seeing him occasionally isolated and forced to come deep to find the ball. He wants to stay anyway, and that’s the important thing – it’s just a shame there’s a special Copa America this summer.

 

Kelechi Iheanacho – 8
A point off for his display on the final day, when he appeared drunk (smiley face). A wonderful talent that has been nurtured with little fanfare. Iheanacho is far from the finished product, but his potential is clear for all to see, his goals return for the season superb, his strike rate (Swansea apart) phenomenal. I just wish he’d smile occasionally and stop thanking his imaginary friend in the sky.

 

Wilfried Bony – 4
The sun is still out, so a generous marking. Hang on there’s a cloud approaching, best type quick.
What can you say? When he signed, I thought it was a deal that made sense – a physical, powerful shooter who offered something different to anything we had.
Well, it’s fair to say it’s been a complete disaster, and there’s more chance of Leicester winning the Premier League than Bony turning this round. He was away on international duty when he signed, then got malaria, then picked up a few more injuries, but pretty much every minute on the pitch has been painful to watch. I vaguely remember one goal that was heading towards the corner flag from 5 yards out until it rebounded in off a defender. Not suited it seems to our style of play, confidence shot, I know he can do so much more, but it’s probably best for all that we take a hefty loss and let him shine somewhere else, perhaps back at Swansea.

 

Manuel Pellegrini – 6.5
How do you mark a manager whose team lurched from triumph to disaster, but couldn’t handle the bread and butter of league football?

Well – League Cup – 9/10. League – 5/10 (cos we scraped top four). FA Cup – 7/10. Champions League – 8/10. That averages at 7.25, but the league is rather important.

Maybe we could retain him just for the cups, but then I remember last season’s domestic fayre.

So off goes the “charming man”, with a speech of thanks to a near-empty stadium and palpable relief from most of us fans. In the end he didn’t quite prove good enough, couldn’t maintain our flowing football from 2013/14, couldn’t juggle multiple competitions, nor develop many players or commit to blooding youth. Whilst this season saw a trophy, it felt the most disappointing of all.
Let’s be honest, we’re upgrading now, but I wish him all the best in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

Pellegrini: The End For The Once-Charming Man

And so it is over. Another manager departs, and for once it’s been fairly civilised and planned.
The ending was apt though, City crawling over the line after 90 minutes of wasteful finishing that kept us sweating until the end. It was a match that summed up the season perfectly. Little sparkles, but mostly just frustration and swear words.

Under duress from Yaya Toure, one of City’s most successful managers handed his expensive suit jacket to a happy fan, and he was gone. And the sad thing is, the relief was palpable. Job done, on the day, a Champions League qualifier secured, a new dawn and perhaps a clean sweep on the way.

Two points from the final three games was enough in the end, the traditional late surge even absent this time as City finished with their lowest points total in seven years. They weren’t alone in under-achieving, at least, and their top four place was deserved, because that’s where they finished, and that’s how league tables work. Yet again, god bless City’s sporadic attacking intent – United fans must really hate goal difference. For the third successive season, City were the highest scorers in the Premier League, but it’s a statistic that merely thinly papers over a series of cracks.

And for Pellegrini, with hindsight, a season too far. He was the bridge between the fiery Mancini and the obsessive Guardiola, the dream ticket since the beginning, and Pep will bring back a much-needed passion on the touchline. There’s no right way to manage, but it feels that a more expressive manager is what the club and the fans need after a turgid nine months in the league.

I’ve spent two years flip-flopping over Pellegrini, always looking to defend a man who has always acted with class and dignity, but it was hard to support him as this season developed. After five games, it seemed we were walking to the league. Sky Sports even asked (rather stupidly) if City could go the whole season unbeaten. City were scoring for fun, winning, and looked fresh and up for the challenges ahead. It took just a couple of key injuries to derail all that. And whilst Pellegrini clearly worked on tactics, worked with individuals, and dealt with those that stepped out of line, it just didn’t feel like it to us outsiders. Players must take blame too, but players are often a reflection of their manager, and this team certainly was by the end. When things went wrong I wanted to see arguments, I wanted to see fire, not just bowed heads and a sigh.

Pellegrini was emotional at the end, an emotion we’ve rarely seen. It was a rare show of anything from a man with a poker face. His stonewalling of journalists was understandable when a minority were intent of twisting whatever he said, but he never really connected with the fans. For me that wasn’t really a problem, I want a manager to win games, but when the team is not winning games, it is an aspect of a manager that becomes more and more apparent. Maybe this is why many City fans never really warmed to him, with many pining, still, for Mancini.
But then fans see things in black and white. For many, Pellegrini has either been a success or a failure. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between. His first season was an undoubted success, coming in to the club in difficult circumstances and providing a calm, holistic front to the club whilst the team scored more goals than ever before. The second season? A failure for sure, but still 2nd in the league. The third was a mixture of abject failure in the league and success in the cups. Unfortunately, the league is kinda important.

Pellegrini always gave me the impression of a manager who felt his team was good enough to do its thing – class would tell. Often it was enough, but a rut formed eventually when there was no back up plan, no intensity to firing up the troops.
The injuries were crippling, but this cannot just be put down to bad luck. Some were- injuries to Aguero and Silva amongst others were down to bad tackles, but many, many more were muscle injuries that makes you question training techniques. What was left behind was still good enough to do better too, despite all the disruptions. What didn’t help either was Pellegrini’s reluctance to trust youth – the one time he blooded them, they were thrown to the wolves. A number of youth players could have filled in and done little worse than some of the underwhelming performances put in by certain players this season, and more importantly, would have helped take the strain off a team fighting on four fronts, and probably eased the injury list. But development did not seem to be high on the Chilean’s list – after all, how many players have really improved during his tenure? For this reason, I wouldn’t write off half the squad just yet.

In addition, we were always led to believe that the Champions League was the main goal, but Pellegrini damaged the team’s pursuit of major trophies by taking the League Cup too seriously. The two cup wins gave me two of the most enjoyable days out in recent years, and some great occasions – and of course two trophies. BUT – surely it is not a trophy to risk many first team players in when there are so many other games to contest. Only when the semi-final comes along should that view alter.

It’s sad (to a few of us) that Pellegrini will be rather forgotten when City’s history is updated in a few decades’ time. He will be defined by the final season, and of overseeing a team with a soft underbelly. A team that had defensive vulnerabilities, that sometimes hung defenders out to dry, an expensive team that was capable of handing out and receiving the odd thrashing, and a team that lacked fight – a team that rarely came from behind to win games.

The announcement of Pep Guardiola, which came from Pellegrini himself, did not wreck City’s season. The team’s form had been poor beforehand, in the league at least, and the greatest cup exploits came after the news was announced. What did for City this season was an appalling record against other top teams in the league – City were so often impotent in such games, so often outfought. With Kompany spending more time in hospitals than on football pitches there was a distinct lack of leadership, with little encouragement coming from the side-lines.

But whilst the manager is the figurehead for the performance of a team, Pellegrini cannot take all the blame. I do not know how much input he had in transfer activity – I would wager it is a group effort, but whatever, City have wasted a lot of money on underperforming players. Others in the club have questions to answer too on why this club seems to have treaded water in the last two years. Many will claim the team has regressed, especially when you look in the striker department, but simply by hiring Pep Guardiola, I’d say that’s no longer the case.

Have no doubt, City are upgrading their manager now – it is a coup to get Pep Guardiola on board. The last few months have shown that he has not taken the easy option, and has plenty of work to do. But here is a man that lost fewer league games in three years at Bayern Munich than City did this season alone. He will bring a new intensity to the team, and it can’t come soon enough.

So goodbye to the charming man, a man who wasn’t quite to the standard we desired. He acted with decorum throughout, knowing like we did that he was keeping the seat warm for the hottest ticket in town. He knew the score, and he got it. He gave us some of the best football we’ve ever witnessed, but ultimately came up short. He goes with my thanks, and I hope he finds great success in the future.
For City, a new era, with a new manager, and the end for many of our club’s most important ever players. A sad summer perhaps, but an exciting future.