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Manchester City in 2021: A successful year with much more to come

Manchester City have enjoyed another highly successful year. For the fourth year in a row, they managed to add to their ever-growing trophy cabinet, winning the Premier League title and the Carabao Cup.

However, it wasn’t a year without heartbreak, as they fell to defeat in the Champions League final. Furthermore, they had to say goodbye to all-time top goalscorer Sergio Aguero after ten incredible years at the Etihad Stadium.

Best player – Ruben Dias

While Man City’s midfielders and forwards rightly draw a lot of attention, their backline had come under question. In the 2019/20 season, one long-term injury to Aymeric Laporte was enough to derail their title defence.

Not much was known about Ruben Dias when he was recruited from Benfica for a then club record fee. But he soon began to change that with several excellent displays at the heart of defence.

The Portuguese had a sensational year at the back and quickly became recognised as one of the best defenders in the world. He was named the FWA Footballer of the Year and finished 26th in the Ballon d’Or.

And, at just 24 years old, he is looking like a Man City legend in the making.

Best game – Liverpool 1-4 Manchester City

The first half of last season was reasonably tight, with several teams being considered title contenders. But an explosive start to 2021 for Pep Guardiola’s men soon changed that, as they gave themselves a commanding lead over their rivals.

The Cityzens effectively removed all doubt when they travelled to Anfield in February. Up against a faltering Liverpool side, this was an opportunity to make a statement.

And that’s exactly what they did. Ilkay Gundogan wasted a first-half penalty but made amends early in the first half, finishing on the rebound after Alisson denied Phil Foden.

The hosts got themselves an equaliser from the penalty spot, with Mohamed Salah converting after being brought down by Dias. But parity lasted only ten minutes, as Gundogan notched his second of the game, tapping in from Foden’s cutback after a poor clearance by Alisson.

Shortly afterwards, the Brazilian goalkeeper added to his nightmare afternoon. His pass fell straight to Bernardo Silva, who clipped a cross to the back post for Raheem Sterling to nod in against his former club.

And, in the final ten minutes, Man City put the finishing touches on a breathtaking performance with a stunner. Foden picked up a pass from Gabriel Jesus, drove into the box, cut onto his left foot, and unleashed a powerful strike into the roof of the net from a tight angle.

It was a near-perfect day for the away side, who had sent out a message to the rest of the world – we’re back to our best.

Worst game – Manchester City 0-1 Chelsea

The last decade has been the most glorious in Man City’s history, winning five Premier League titles, two FA Cups, and six League Cups. However, there is one thing missing – the Champions League.

On May 29, 2021, they had the chance to clinch that trophy. This would be the final piece in the puzzle of Guardiola’s reign and would solidify their position as one of the greatest sides to ever grace English football.

Standing in their way was Chelsea, who had ended the league season in fourth, 19 points off their opponents. The Blues had suffered recent disappointment in the FA Cup final, falling to defeat against Leicester City. Man City were hot favourites.

But Thomas Tuchel’s men managed to pull off a shock 1-0 victory, thanks to Kai Havertz’s effort in the first half. The German raced onto Mason Mount’s through ball, nicked it past the onrushing Ederson, and finished into an empty net.

There wasn’t much else to talk about. Kevin De Bruyne had to go off injured after a clash with Antonio Rudiger, and Sergio Aguero was unable to make his fairytale farewell as he made his final appearance for the club.

It was still progress for Man City. This was the furthest they’d ever got in the Champions League. However, that will be little consolation to the side, who had missed a huge opportunity.

Transfer business

During the summer, Man City broke smashed their transfer record, bringing in Jack Grealish from Aston Villa for £100 million. This made him the most expensive British footballer of all time.

So far, the England international has done okay, but question marks remain over whether he was needed. They already had several top creators at the club – was another one really necessary?

On the other hand, they were left without a natural striker following Aguero’s departure. They tried all summer to bring in Harry Kane, but Tottenham Hotspur refused to budge on his £150m valuation. Maybe they would have been better off putting some of the Grealish money towards a bid for Kane.

Along with Aguero, young centre-back Eric Garcia left on a free transfer to Barcelona. He is set to be joined by Ferran Torres, who will complete his transfer to Camp Nou when the January transfer window opens.

The Spanish winger has shown potential at the Etihad Stadium. However, he was way down the pecking order. The club have doubled their money on him, so it seems like good business.

Angelino, Jack Harrison and Lukas Nmecha were also sold in the summer.

How did the manager do?

In the league, Guardiola has been near-perfect. He cruised to the league title last season and ends the calendar year eight points clear of Chelsea in second place.

He’s guiding this Man City side through a period of domestic dominance, all while playing some beautiful football.

Despite this, he has still come under scrutiny, especially for the Champions League final defeat. The former Barcelona boss opted to play without a defensive midfielder, leaving Fernandinho and Rodri on the bench.

Guardiola is one of the most decorated managers of all time – he must have had his reasons for this decision. But was this a case of overthinking? Did his choices cost Man City a Champions League title?

Overall consensus

It’s been another sensational year for Man City, who are quickly becoming one of the best sides in Premier League history. They won their third league title in four years and look well on their way to wrapping up another.

Of course, their frustration in Europe remains. Once again, they were eliminated by opposition that they were expected to beat.

Nonetheless, it was a year they will remember. There is more to come from this side, who have the potential to dominate for years.

Read also: Liverpool in 2021 – So close, yet so far?

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