2015/16 SEASON REVIEW
The pre-season was filled with hundreds of transfer rumours, as has been, the last few years since the Sheikh’s investment, however, the first moves announced were away from The Etihad, as James Milner, out of contract, spurned a lucrative offer from City to join Liverpool, with the hope of playing more games in his favoured central midfield position.
Also out of contract, Micah Richards, fresh from his season long loan at Fiorentina decided to join Aston Villa.
Also moving from The Blues was Dedryck Boyata, who joined Celtic for £1.5M, and promising academy graduate Karim Rekik joined Marseille for an undisclosed fee.
The first player to be added to Pellegrini’s squad was 18 year old Turkish starlet Enes Unal who joined from Bursaspor for around £2M.
Then after a well publicised chase for want away England star Raheem Sterling, he eventually moved from Liverpool to City for a reported £44M plus £5M add ons.
The squad, minus Copa America players, had flown to Australia for the first pre-season tour and in a game played behind closed doors, City beat Adelaide United at the Gold Coast’s CBus Stadium, 2-0.
After declaring to Aston Villa fans just a week earlier that he was staying at Villa Park, Fabian Delph took a total U-turn and put pen to paper and joined City for just £8M, which was his buy-out clause.
Back at the CBus Stadium The Blues beat their sister club Melbourne City 1-0.
With a look to the future City swooped to sign Fulham’s 18 year old ‘wonderkid’, Patrick Roberts, the fee was undisclosed, but thought to be up to £8M dependant on his development at The Etihad.
The pre-season friendlies continued with two games in the International Champions Cup, the first against Roma ended 2-2 after 90 minutes, with Raheem Sterling scoring after just three minutes on his debut, Joe Hart was then the hero of the penalty shoot-out, scoring one and saving two penalties as City won 5-4 in the shoot-out.
The second game was played in front of nearly 100,000 fans at The MCG and an understrength City side were beaten 4-1 by a virtual first choice Real Madrid team. Fabian Delph made his debut in the game, however he suffered a hamstring injury in the first half and he would now be doubtful for the start of the Premier League programme.
From Australia City flew to Vietnam and against a poor Vietnam National team they won 8-1.
With City fans awaiting news of some headline signings, they received news of a player moving away from The Etihad as Stevan Jovetic signed for Inter Milan on a year-and-a-half’s loan with a view to a permanent transfer. After just e few weeks with City, Unal Emes was sent out on a season long loan to Genk.
City were well under strength for their final pre-season game at VFB Stuttgart but the capitulation of a strong defence was of concern as the Blues lost 4-2.
City had to wait to the final game of the opening weekend to play, as they were broadcast on Sky’s Monday Night football, and even though their trio of Argentinian Copa America stars started the game on the bench. The Blues put up an amazing display, beating West Brom at The Hawthorns with a performance, the like that hadn’t been seen last season, as they easily beat The Baggies 3-0.
With a need to move non home grown players away from the club to free up places for new signings, Edin Dzeko moved to Roma on a season-long deal with a view to a permanent transfer if certain conditions were met.
There was a carnival atmosphere at The Etihad for the first home game of the season as City’s new three tier South Stand was unveiled. The bookies’ favourites for the title, Chelsea were the visitors, and a record Etihad crowd of over 54,000 weren’t disappointed as Pellegrini’s side swept Mourinho’s team aside with a stunning 3-0 victory.
Despite conceding a goal in their first two games The Blues laid out an initil £29M to bring in Argentinian defender Nicolás Otamendi to The Etihad from Valencia.
City were looking to equal a club record from 1912 of nine straight wins as they visited Everton and the team didn’t let the fans down as they beat Everton 2-0. Another player leaving The Etihad was youngster, Marcos Lopes who joined Monaco for a fee that could eventually bring in £9M. The City record books were then smashed as they recorded their tenth victory on the trot, beating Watford 2-0 in Manchester. They then announced the marquee signing of Kevin De Bruyne for a reported £56M.
The Blues went into the international break with a perfect record of four wins out of four with no goals conceded.
Following the break Manuel Pellegrini won the Premier League Manager of the Month award after City’s ‘perfect’ start in August.
That 100% record continued as City beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at Selhurst Park, the only downside was an injury to Sergio Aguero which would see him sit out the of the starting eleven for the opening game in the Champions League, when the City’s European problems returned as they were beaten by Juventus, 2-1 at The Etihad.
Back in the league and City were suffering a slight injury crisis. Already unavailable were Zabaleta, Clichy, Delph, Vincent Kompany was added to the list after an injury sustained midweek and then David Silva suffered an injury in the warm up and was withdrawn, Sergio Aguero played from the start but was clearly not 100% fit. Still The Blues were expected to make it 18 points from six games as they entertained West Ham, however The Hammers ended up 2-1 winners and City’s perfect start was over. After two defeats on the trot, injuries allowing, Manuel Pellegrini picked his strongest side possible to play at Sunderland in the third round of the Capital One Cup, and City comfortably won 4-1.
The next league game was at White Hart Lane and the injury crisis worsened with Joe Hart only being named on the bench due to a small back problem and Vincent Kompany pulling out minutes before kick off. In the end two terrible offside decisions and a poor keeping display by Cabellero saw The Blues beaten 4-1 by Tottenham, to make things worse, Yaya Toure left the pitch with a tweak to the hamstring and Manchester United leapfrogged over City at the top of the Premier League.
Joe Hart returned between the sticks for City’s trip to Germany where he put in a great performance as The Blues triumphed 2-1 against Borussia Monchengladbach in The Champions League. Yaya Toure had to leave the pitch early again as his hamstring didn’t hold up and it could mean a month out.
For The home game against Newcastle the injury list had reduced to Clichy, Delph, Kompany, Toure and Nasri, but a clearly now 100% fit Sergio Aguero, tore up the record books as he scored five goals in 20 minutes, as Pellegrini’s side won 6-1 to send City back to the top of the league before another International break.
It was to be a bleak international break as Sergio Aguero was carried off playing for Argentina with a hamstring injury that would mean at least a month out, then David Silva limped off playing for Spain with another four to five week injury lay-off, however off the field there was better news as it was announced that the club had made a profit of £10.7M, first to have been achieved since the 2008 acquisition.
With Aguero and Silva missing, Raheem Sterling stepped up to the mark scoring a hat-trick as City beat Bournemouth 5-1 at The Etihad.
In the Champions League a last minute Kevin de Bruyne goal saw City beat Sevilla 2-1 to put them in a good position to qualify from the group.
The Manchester Derby at Old Trafford against Manchester United ended in a goalless draw, before The Blues qualified for the Capital One Quarter-Finals by disposing of Crystal Palace 5-1 in Manchester.
Back in the league and City stayed top with a narrow 2-1 home win against Norwich. And then with two games still to play they qualified for the knock out stage of the Champions League by winning 3-1 in Sevilla with perhaps the best performance in Europe in over 30 years.
City stayed top of the Premier League as they drew 0-0 at Aston Villa, before another international break intervened.
It proved to be a disastrous return from international duty as City suffered their worst defeat at The Etihad as they lost 4-1 against Liverpool. And with six regulars missing, including Kompany, Silva and Bony The Blues travelled to Turin and lost 1-0 against Juventus in The Champions League, a result that put the Italians in poll position to win the group.
Back in the league and City stopped the rot with a 3-1 victory over Southampton at The Etihad, and then booked themselves a place in the semi-final of the Capital One Cup with a 4-1 home win over Hull.
It was a poor start to December as The Blues were competely outclassed at Stoke, The Potters winning 2-0. However in The Champions League City beat Borussia Monchengladbach 4-2 in Manchester and with Juventus slipping up it meant that Pellegrini’s side would win the group and so for the first time steer clear of the ‘big guns’ in the first round of the knockout stage.
Yaya Toure was then named BBC African Footballer of the Year, and he went onto Captain City in a tight 2-1 victory over managerless Swansea at The Etihad.
Going into the festive period however City lost 2-1 at Arsenal and so the table showed unlikely leaders Leicester on 38 points, Arsenal on 36 and The Blues in third on 32 points
A sell out Etihad Boxing Day crowd were treated to an entertaining 4-1 win against Sunderland, and then in a top of the table clash City drew 0-0 at surprise leaders, Leicester.
In the first match of 2016 The Blues produced a smash and grab act as they scored two goals in the last eight minutes to beat an in form Watford team 2-1 at Vicarage Road.
The games were coming thick and fast with Pellegrini’s side still fighting in all four competitions, and next up was the first leg of The Capital One Cup semi-final at Goodison Park and Everton took a 2-1 lead into the second leg.
The cup matches continued and in the 3rd round of the FA Cup City beat Norwich 3-0 in an impressive display at Carrow Road, and then in the league at The Etihad they drew 0-0 against Everton, then beat Crystal Palace 4-0. Another draw followed, 2-2 at West Ham.
City then put up an amazing display in the second leg of the Capital One Cup to beat Everton 3-1 and book a place at Wembley for the final against Liverpool. The only downside was that Kevin De Bruyne suffered a nasty knee injury that could see him missing the next ten weeks of the season.
The Blues’ Cup form continued as Kelechi Iheanacho scored a hat-trick to beat Aston Villa 4-0 at Villa Park in the 4th round of the FA Cup.
After months of speculation the club the made an official statement to confirm that Pep Guardiola would become Head Coach for the start of 2016/17 season, and that Manuel Pellegrini would end his tenure as City’s boss at the end of this season.
Patrick Roberts then moved to Celtic on an 18 month loan deal.
Back in the league, despite a 1-0 win at Sunderland, City’s title winning chances faltered as they lost at home 3-1 to surprise leaders Leicester and 2-1 to title contenders Tottenham, The Blues were now fourth in the league and the media were speculating that even Champions League qualification was in doubt.
in the FA Cup 5th Round Manuel Pellegrini put out a team of youngsters with just a few minor senior players and despite a fighting display they were easily beaten 5-1 at Chelsea.
The City boss had been saving his first choice team selection for the 1st leg of the Champions League knock out stage, and the gamble worked as City put up a great display to beat Dynamo Kiev in The Ukraine.
The first silverware of the season came from a prestigous Capital One Cup Final, as City played Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. The Blues dominated the game but after extra time the teams were level at 1-1, then up stepped an unlikely hero in the much maligned City custodian Willy Cabellero, who saved three penalties in the penalty shoot-out to win the Capital One Cup for The Citizens.
Back in the league just two days later at Anfield Liverpool got some revenge with a 3-0 win over a tired looking City side. However back at The Etihad they convincingly beat bottom of the table Aston Villa 4-0.
The Blue’s title hopes were almost extinguished as they could then only draw 0-0 at relegation threatened Norwich.
City then made club history as they moved into the quarter finals of the Champions League for the first time by drawing 0-0 against Dynamo Kiev in the most dour 2nd leg at The Etihad, bad news on the eve of the Manchester derby, however as Vincent Kompany just one month into his comeback, broke down again with a muscle injury in the 6th minute which could see him out until the end of the season. To make matters worse in the first half Nicolas Otamendi also left the match with a bad impact injury, which would mean he would also miss the Derby.
And so to the Manchester Derby at The Etihad and a patched up City defence were caught out on the break by Manchester United who won 1-0, ridiculously there were further injury worries for The Blues as Joe Hart was carried off in the second half with what looked like a thigh injury and Raheem Sterling faces a six week lay off due to a groin injury. With just eight games to play City were now in fourth place and fifteen points behind leaders Leicester, however more worrying was the fact that both West Ham and Manchester United were just one point behind Pellegrini’s side.
Another International break meant that when the league programme continued Kevin de Bruyne and Samir Nasri wer both available for selection and they both played their part in a 4-0 destruction of Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.
In the Champions League Quarter Final Pellegrini’s side gained a great result drawing 2-2 at Paris St Germain in the first leg. Back in the Premier League and City made hard work of beating West Brom 2-1 at The Etihad. Then club history was made as The Blues beat PSG 1-0 in the second leg of the Champions League Quarter Final 2nd leg to set up a semi-final tie against Real Madrid.
City were on a good run of form and looked to sustain a good run of form as they beat Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge, however they stuttered with a 1-1 draw at relegation threatened Newcastle, but then beat Stoke 4-0 at The Etihad.
As City dipped their toe into the semi-finals of The Champions League they gave themselves a great chance of reaching the final drawing 0-0 with Real Madrid in the first leg of the semi-finals.
With the second leg iminent, Pellegrini perhaps putting City’s Champions League qualifying in jeopardy, made eight changes for the trip to Southampton in the league and The Blues were duly beaten 4-2. The changes made no difference as Real Madrid beat a poor City side 1-0 to knock them out of the Champions League. And after a disastrous injury hit season captain Vincent Kompany suffered another injury putting his Euro 2016 place with Belgium doubtful.
In the penultimate game of the season City put their 4th place finish at risk as they could only draw 2-2 against Arsenal at The Etihad.
On the last day of the season City needed at least a draw to guarantee Champions League football for next season and in another unsatisfactory performance they stuttered into fourth place with a 1-1 draw at Swansea.