2015/16 could have been described as a disappointing season, despite a League Cup win and reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League. However with the appointment of Pep Guardiola as City boss, even before the new season started Blues’ fans were thinking that 2016/17 was going to see a very entertaining and successful season.
Leaving The Etihad without their contracts being renewed were veterans Richard Wright and Martin Demichelis, and as early as 2nd June City made their first mark on the transfer market as they signed the box to box midfielder Ilkay Gündogan from Borussia Dortmund for £21M.
A slightly less eye-catching transfer saw Aaron Mooy sign on a free from Melbourne City and within a week was sent on a year long loan to Huddersfield Town.
Spanish International forward Nolito was the next major signing, joining City from Celta Vigo for £13.8M.
And then another signing with an eye on the future was 19 year old Oleksandr Zinchenko who joined for an undisclosed fee from Russian side FC Ufa.
City’s first pre-season friendly was against Pep’s previous side Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena and a very youthful City side performed well but lost 1-0.
The still depleted squad minus the Euro 2016 contingent flew to China to play Mourinho’s Manchester United in the International Champions Cup, however on the day of the game it was called off due to the pitch at Beijing’s Birds Nest Stadium deemed to be unplayable due to days of extremely bad weather.
City finished the tour with a 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund City winning 6-5 in a penalty shoot-out.
Three more transfers were then announced, starting with the arrival of exciting 20 year old German forward Leroy Sane who joined from Schalke 04 for a fee of £37M.
Then 19 year old Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus signed for £27M from Palmeiras, however he will stay with his former club until January 2017. And the trio of youngsters was completed with 19 year old Colombian forward Marlos Moreno for £4.75M from Atlético Nacional, who immediately went on a one year loan to Deportivo La Coruna.
City’s final pre-season friendly was played in Gothenburg as Arsenal beat the Blues 3-2.
Then City announced they had signed John Stones from Everton for a fee of £47.5M.
Guardiola had a long injury list which restricted his team selection for the opening game of the season at home to Sunderland, Kompany, Otamendi and new signings Sane and Gundogan were amongst those sidelined, however Stones and Nolito made their debuts, and Joe Hart was sensationally named as a sub, his future at the club was a subject of debate by the media and fans alike. As it was, City won 2-1 in a display that clearly showed Pep’s vision of how he wanted the team to play, if at times some of the players weren’t too sure of their roles.
City had to negotiate a tricky Champions League Play-off round to reach the group stages, however in an amazing attacking display in Romania they destroyed Steaua Bucharest 5-0 in the first leg, Sergio Aguero scoring a hat-trick and missing two penalties.
Back in the league and another great performance at Stoke as City swept them aside 4-1 and the early league table showed the Blues sitting at the summit.
The second leg of the Champions League play-off against Steaua Bucharest was a formality and Pep rested many of his first choice players as City won 1-0 . The only real talking point was the recall of Joe Hart as captain, however after the game it appeared it might be his farewell performance at The Etihad. Indeed the next day City announced the signing of Chilean 33 year old keeper, Claudio Bravo from Barcelona for £17M, Guardiola clearly a big fan of his ‘sweeper keeper’ attributes and his distribution of the ball, something Joe Hart had been criticised for.
City stayed top of the league in the last game before the international break as they beat West Ham 3-1 at The Etihad, however the only bad news was Sergio Aguero was banned for three games as the TV cameras picked up an incident that was deemed to be dangerous play as the Argentinian was accused of trying to elbow his opponent.
The end of the transfer window saw several ‘big name’ players leave the club on loan, Joe Hart went to Torino, Wilfried Bony moved to Stoke, Eliaquim Mangala was loaned to Valencia, Samir Nasri moved to Sevilla, all for the full season, some of the younger players also moving away for a season long loan were Jason Denayer who moved to Sunderland and Shay Facey who joined Heerenveen.
The first game after the international break was the 172nd Manchester derby at Old Trafford, Claudio Bravo made a jittery debut, however City beat Manchester United 2-1 in some style despite the absence of Sergio Aguero. The Blues were now top two points clear at the top of the league with the only 100% record.
City’s first group game in the Champions League against Borussia Monchengladbach was controversially called off just 30 minutes before kick off due to what could only be described as a thunderous tropical storm.
The game was rearranged for the next day and Sergio Aguero scored a second hat-trick of the season in a brilliant City performance as they beat Borussia Monchengladbach 4-0, with Ilkay Gündogan making a very impressive debut.
Back in the league and it was another brilliant performance at The Etihad as Bournemouth were well beaten 4-0 which saw City clear at the top of the Premier League with 15 points from a possible 15.
In the EFL Cup 3rd Round a second string side beat Swansea City 2-1 and the squad stayed in Wales, as three days later The Blues played Swansea again, this time in the league and Sergio Aguero returning from his ban scored his tenth and eleventh goals of the season as City won 3-1 to keep up the perfect start to the season. Unfortunately a second half hamstring injury to Kevin de Bruyne was the only downside.
City’s perfect record soon disappeared as a plucky performance by Celtic in The Champions League produced a very entertaining 3-3 draw in Glasgow and then back in the League The Blues suffered their first defeat of the season losing 2-0 at Tottenham. Pep’s side held a slim lead at the top of the table moving into another international break.
After the break City’s results didn’t get any better as they struggled to a 1-1 draw against Everton at The Etihad and then at The Camp Nou in The Champions League a hatful of errors and the sending off of keeper Bravo led to a disastrous 4-0 defeat by Barcelona.
After such a brilliant start to the season The Blues then made it six games without a win as they drew 1-1 again at The Etihad this time against Southampton and then a weakened team lost 1-0 at Manchester United in the 4th Round of the EFL Cup.
The tide eventually turned as City beat West Brom 4-0 at The Hawthorns to stay top of the league and then in possibly the greatest night at The Etihad, Pep’s side came from one down to beat Barcelona 3-1 in a spellbinding second half display. However the team looked jaded four days later when they drew 1-1 at home to Middlesbrough to drop to third in the league, with another International break on the horizon.
The International break also brought an apology from Yaya Toure, but not his agent, and it was enough for Pep to include him in the team to play Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park and the big Ivorian was the star of the show scoring in a 2-1 victory.
Back in the Champions League City guaranteed second place in the group and qualification with a hard fought 1-1 draw at Borussia Monchengladbach.
The Blues finished November with another good win on their travels beating Burnley 2-1. December however started badly, City played runaway leaders Chelsea at The Etihad and despite dominating the match, possibly the worst refereeing display seen at the new stadium from Anthony Taylor saw Chelsea win 3-1 and the frustrations of the players at the ref’s total inadequacies blew up in the final minutes as Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho were sent off in a mass brawl when unbelievably no Chelsea players received their marching orders.
In the final match in The Champions League group stage, Pep played a second string side as they drew 1-1 in Manchester against Celtic in what was a ‘dead rubber’.
Aguero received a 4 match ban and Fernandinho a 3 match ban, December was looking to be a difficult month if the Blues were to try and keep Chelsea in their sights, and the task got wrse as they lost 4-2 at struggling Leicester.
City had another three matches without Sergio Aguero, however in his absence they took maximium points beating Watford 2-0 where unfortunately they lost Gundogan for the rest of the season from a cruciate ligament injury, then beat Arsenal 2-1 at The Etihad and Hull on Boxing Day 3-0.
On New Years Eve however City’s chances of a third Premier League title dwindled as they lost 1-0 at Liverpool and were now ten points behind leaders Chelsea.
Results wise 2017 started well as The Blues beat Burnley 2-1 at The Etihad, however Fernandinho was sent off in the first half and would face a four match ban.
Then in what could have been a tricky FA Cup tie at West Ham, City turned in a first class performance trouncing the Hammers 5-0 in their first ever visit the The London stadium..
Just as it looked like The Blues were back in form they were then trounced 4-0 at Everton in the League and fell out of the top four.
City were then robbed of all three points by another poor refereeing decision as they drew 2-2 at home to Tottenham, Gabriel Jesus made his debut from the bench.
The Blues then cruised into the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 3-0 victory at Crystal Palace, and continued their scoring spree against West Ham beating The Hammers 4-0.
City were now hitting some form with new arrival Gabriel Jesus and Sane particularly shining, and with teams in the top six slipping up, Guardiola’s team beat Swansea 2-1 at the Etihad and Bournemouth 2-0 on their travels to go second in the league, eight points behind Chelsea. Unfortunately at Bournemouth Jesus suffered a broken bone in his foot and could be out for the season.
In the fifth round of the FA Cup an understrength team drew 0-0 at Huddersfield.
The Champions League returned with the knock out stages, and in perhaps the best European night seen at the Etihad, City came from 3-2 behind in the second half to win 5-3 against Monaco in the first leg.
City fans were treated to another five goals as the Blues beat Huddersfield 5-1 in the FA Cup fifth round replay.
Back in the League and City won 2-0 at relegation threatened Sunderland, before a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Stoke.
The Blues booked a visit to Wembley as they beat Middlesbrough at The Riverside in the 6th round of the FA Cup.
Guardiola’s participation the Champions League however came to an end in France as they were beaten 3-1 by Monaco, the pressure was now on in the league to ensure a top four finish and it was getting tight as City then played three teams who were in the top six with them.
They drew 1-1 at home to Liverpool then drew 2-2 at Arsenal and were then beaten 2-1 at Champions elect, Chelsea.
The ship was settled slightly with a 3-1 victory at the Etihad against Hull and then a 3-0 win at Southampton.
Despite dominating the FA Cup semi-final clash with Arsenal at Wembley City lost 2-1 in extra time and so Champions League qualification was the only thing to play for.
However two draws, 0-0 at home to Manchester United and 2-2 at Middlesbrough meant that there were still six teams with a chance of a top four finish.
Three successive home wins however put City in the driving seat as they beat Crystal Palace 5-0, Leicester 2-1 and West Brom 3-1. A draw in the last game of the season guaranteed top four and a win would mean third place.