Manchester City will definitely be finishing the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League season in 2nd place, with Arsenal failing to win against Sunderland yesterday and relinquishing the slim chance they had of finishing above Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
City, with already 76 points to their name, face Southampton at the Etihad Stadium in the final competitive game of the season, and will no doubt be looking to make it half-a-dozen wins, to pull the curtains on what has been a ‘disappointing’ season for the club.
The Blues have endured a horrible second half of the campaign that has seen them lose to the likes of Burnley and Crystal Palace – away from home – making life easier for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho, who have consequently won the title in a canter.
Pellegrini too, as a result of City’s poor showings, has come under intense scrutiny regarding his position and we still await the board’s decision on him before the next season kicks off.
Manchester City’s last defeat came against Manchester United, who won 4-2 at Old Trafford after losing the previous four derbies on the trot, in April, when it seemed like Pellegrini’s side would struggle to even finish in one of the four UEFA Champions League places.
Credit to the Etihad outfit, however, for turning things around in the way they have, stringing a quintet of league wins together and assuring themselves of direct qualification into the group stages of next season’s Champions League.
The questions are: does City’s strong finish to the season count for anything? What are the positives to come out of the current winning run? Answers to follow…
Takeaways from the Strong Finish to Manchester City’s 2014-15 season
Some will say that the final flourish to Manchester City’s 2014-15 season has been of little importance, but what did we learn from the resurgence shown by Pellegrini’s men since the Manchester Derby defeat?
The hunger to win football matches has been one of the most impressive aspects of City’s current five-game winning run.
The 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane was invigorating to watch, simply because of the manner of the victory. Out of possession, City had to be dogged and defend for large periods in the game, which can’t be easy for a side that thrives on possession football.
Sergio Aguero’s winner came from a fantastic Manchester City counterattack, with Silva teeing up the Argentine who was utterly unflappable with his taking of the chance.
Against Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium, the game was more suited to City’s style of play, and the 4-2 scoreline confirmed that the visitors had the better attacking resources of the two sides.
However, on both those occasions, City had to fight hard for the three points, and by doing so, were fully deserving of the results they managed in the end.
Although it has come pretty late on in the season, City have shown character and steel during their current five-game winning run and that is definitely a positive to come out of their strong finish to this season.
Barring the victories over West Ham United and Aston Villa, teams that sabotaged themselves with a couple of unforced errors, City have played and won as a team.
Aleksandar Kolarov, in particular, has been in a rich vein of form at left-back, winning tackles, aerial duels, delivering incisively from corner kicks, and scoring from a couple of beautiful free-kicks, too.
Along with the Serbian, the Pablo Zabaleta-Fernandinho duo, who probably haven’t had satisfying seasons by their own standards, have put in some very good displays at right-back and central midfield, respectively.
In an attacking sense, Aguero, Milner and Silva have been a delight to watch and were the cornerstones to City’s attractive victories over Queens Park Rangers (QPR) and Swansea.
Neither can we ill-afford to forget Joe Hart’s heroics in City’s victory last weekend, pulling off a couple of flabbergasting saves that gave his side a chance to go and clinch the three points.
Wilfried Bony came up with an assist and a goal in his last two substitute appearances for City, showing his pedigree as a genuine target Mman.
Many a City player hasn’t been at his best for a majority of this season, and Aguero’s goals have bailed his side out of trouble on a number of occasions. But ever since the derby defeat, City have performed and won as a team.
Takeaways for Manchester City
Capitulation seemed inevitable after the defeat to the Red Devils and Pellegrini was portrayed as a ‘dead man walking’ by many media outlets.
I think, from that point of view, City have conjured up a remarkable turnaround and made sure that they lived up to their recent history as either the winners of the Premier League or runners-up.
Hart, in the aftermath of the 6-0 victory over QPR, mentioned that a top four finish was the minimum for City these days. Also, finishing above Arsene Wenger’s wizards and United – in particular – for the second consecutive season will delight City.
Avoiding capitulation, for me, says a lot about City as a club and their ambitions to remain the top dog in the English top flight, while also being aware that Mourinho and Chelsea will be their strong rivals in the years to come.
Other than that, City need to regroup and recruit in the best way possible this summer, to challenge for honors next season, when it will once again be a ‘fresh’ start and challenge.
Pellegrini has engineered a turnaround in Manchester City’s fortunes during the last month, which tells a lot of him, as well, as a manager who can be trusted with delivering silverware for City in the 2015/16 campaign. The character shown by the City boss can also be looked at as one of the positives to come out of the Cityzens’ strong finish to their 2014/15 campaign.