Despite what Part One of this half season review might have you believe, the season so far has not been entirely positive and some bad things have happened. That news probably didn’t come as a shock to any of you. Here are a few things which have gone wrong this season…
Early Away Form
It is difficult to pick a single most depressing away loss in the Premier League so far this season. There are many strong contenders. They all had certain aspects in common – disastrous individual errors, confidence disappearing for no reason, atrocious bad luck – and yet all of them were disheartening in different ways.
The loss to Aston Villa was so bizarre it was just funny in the end. The Cardiff game was a difficult watch right from the start as the newly promoted team taught City a lesson about not taking anyone lightly.
The annual 1 – 0 loss away at Sunderland was disappointing, but expected. The loss at Chelsea probably takes the title of worst game of the season so far because it offered hope which was then cruelly snatched away at the death by Fernando Torres of all people.
Thankfully the end of 2013 saw an improvement in City’s away form in all competitions as the team progressed to the Last 16 of the Champion’s League, moved towards the top of the Premier League and reached the Semi Final of the League Cup. It is imperative that this form is carried on into 2014, starting with the game against Swansea on New Year’s Day.
The Goalkeeper Situation
Frankly, the goalkeeper fiasco this season has been embarrassing and was played out in excruciating detail across the back pages of our beloved newspapers.
Joe Hart’s loss of form was extraordinary. Seeing high profile blunder after high profile blunder was real car crash viewing, like watching a building be demolished in slow motion. Hart was dropped for the first time in his City career as Pellegrini set about the work of rebuilding what looked like a broken man from the foundations up. Each game he sat on the bench added another layer to the patient facade plastered across his face. From behind the scenes we heard reports of him staying behind after training to do extra throwing and catching practice (or whatever it is goalkeepers do) and his anger and being on the bench.
On the pitch, Costel Pantilimon was doing a credible if not remarkable job for the team. He kept some clean sheets and played in some big games. Strangely enough, he seems to have similar weaknesses in the air to Joe Hart despite being 6’ 8” tall. Logic doesn’t always work the way it should do.
His short tenure in nets showed that he probably has a future as a Number 1 in the Premier League, just not for City. He was good but not great and a title winning team should have a great goalkeeper between the posts. It would be unfortunate, but not at all a surprise, to see him move on from City in the Summer.
Eventually Pellegrini’s use of Hart in Cup and Champion’s League games proved to be a prelude to his recall to the Premier League squad against Crystal Palace on the 28th December where he won the Man of the Match award following a series of important saves which ensured City’s 100% home record remained intact.
The most irritating thing from the first half of the season was the injuries. We got to see a nice mix of recurring injuries and brand new ones.
The constant injuries to Jovetic are the most frustrating. He looks such an exciting player and, two goals against Wigan in the League Cup aside, all we really know about him since his move to City is that he is incredibly injury prone. It has reached the point where certain City fans on Twitter (you know who you are) have taken to tweeting his name out into the endless void of the Internet in an attempt to magic him healthy again. It would have been great to see him play over the Christmas holiday when he was in line to return and it was so close…but he got injured again. If there wasn’t Youtube footage of him playing football you could be forgiven for thinking the whole signing was an elaborate hoax to launder money.
As with Jovetic, Jack Rodwell has also had his season curtailed as per usual by his candyfloss hamstrings. Thankfully, he has been making substitute appearances recently and if his hamstrings hold up then we can expect to see more of him. With the absence of Gareth Barry there needs to be more cover at central midfield than Javi Garcia. Garcia has shown willing this season to do his part despite receiving an undeserved level of criticism from fans and the media but City are only a few injuries away from needing him to cover at centre back as well and the man cannot do both. Extra cover in January would be welcome.
And so to the defence. It has become apparent this season that Vincent Kompany may well be injury prone as many had begun to suspect over the last season or so. This is obviously disastrous news as he is one of the best defenders in world football and is a clear leader and inspiration to the rest of the team. The simple fact is that City are better with Kompany in the team. He’s even been scoring goals recently (at both ends…)
There is nothing to say about Micah Richards’ recurring injuries that has not already been said. Normally this would not be a problem with Zabaleta fit and healthy as the latter has made the right back slot his own so Richards would never have played 40 games this year anyway. But oh, wait, Zabaleta pulled up injured just before Christmas which was a deeply unlucky way to end the first half of the season after some excellent performances, most notably away to Bayern Munich where he dominated Ballon D’Or shortlister Frank Ribery.
Finally, the two other sicknotes of significance in the first half of this season are/were Aguero and Silva. The latter is back and playing again now but Aguero will not be back for a few games yet. Similarly to the Kompany situation, both players are so vital to the team and City rarely hit the highest notes without this pair. When both were on song this year, the team absolutely flew. The beatings handed out to United, Spurs, Norwich and all the rest of them bear testament to this truth.
But none of them will be injured forever and will inevitably return to push City forward towards trophies in the second half of the 2013-14 season. (Hopefully.)
That’s the end of the Half Season Review. There have been some bad parts and there are obviously places where the team and the club have to improve, but overall 2014 is looking bright. Have a lovely New Year’s Eve.
Written by Alex Timperley