By 90Min
December 14, 2017

Manchester City have had a remarkable half season. Pep Guardiola's expensively assembled squad have dropped just two points from 17 games, have scored 52 times and are 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League, all before Santa Claus sets off to make deliveries.

The takeover of the club by Sheikh Mansour in 2008, which followed a truly bizarre season in which City were under the ownership of former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra, heralded a new era beyond the dreams of most football fans.

However, while City are perched firmly at the top of football's Christmas tree pouring goals (and milk) down on the rest, it wasn't always the case. Guardiola's imperious star-studded cast continue to set new records, but it was just over a decade ago that City's name was going down in the history books for very different reasons.

In 2006/07, Man City under the management of then England Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce finished 14th in the Premier League with 42 points - seven fewer than they have at this stage of the season.

Considering the club's previous three finishes in the pre-takeover years (15th, 8th and 16th) their final standing wasn't particularly disgraceful, or even noteworthy. However, the football on display in the final season under John Wardle as chairman left an ugly mark on both City fans memories and in the Premier League history books. 

City, who scored just 29 times all season, set the record for the fewest home goals in English top-flight history with just ten. None of those ten came after a 2-1 win over Everton on New Year's Day 2007.

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While the Citizens - who have already netted close to double their total 2006/07 tally - currently have three players in the top 10 scorers list for the 2017/18 campaign, Joey Barton finished 2006/07 as the league top marksmen with just six strikes.

In fact, Barton was the only player for City to hit five or more in the league, with 21-year-old auxiliary forward Giorgios Samaras netting just four times in 35 appearances.

City's pre-season and transfer dealings in the summer didn't immediately ring alarm bells. Veteran forwards Andy Cole and Antoine Sibierski left for Portsmouth and Newcastle, but in came players of some pedigree in former Italy international Bernardo Corradi, returning club favourite Paul Dickov and the free transfer of Belgian front man Emile Mpenza, who was adamant that his stint the previous season in Qatar with Al-Rayyan had not affected his ability at the top level.

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"I am not finished and I will prove it in Manchester," Mpenza told Belgian radio after his move. "I make this move as revenge, with respect to all those who criticised my decision to play in Qatar"

The two-time DFB Pokal winner scored just three times in all competitions in 2006/07.

City did not quite have a Crystal Palace-esque start to the campaign and, while they lost four of their opening ten fixtures, they did beat Arsenal 1-0 at the end of August.

After match week 15, Pearce - who had shaken off the 'Pyscho' image of his playing days as a calm touchline figure who refused to berate referees and was even spotted reading Treasure Island in the dugout before a game - had City in mid table, having recorded home wins over West Ham (2-0) and Fulham (3-1). The football may not have been scintillating but few would have imagined that the tally from those two fixtures would constitute 50% of the season's home goals.

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Three consecutive wins followed the Christmas period and a Samaras double saw off Everton at the City of Manchester Stadium on New Year's Day. It would be another seven months before fans saw a home goal at the stadium.

Pearce, who had infamously played David James up front in an attempt "unsettle" opponents Middlesbrough, couldn't find an answer to his side's curse, as eight home games passed without City's scoreboard flickering.

The season was a difficult one for Pearce and the supporters off the field too. Ben Thatcher received a six-week club ban and fine for one of the Premier League's worst ever fouls, when he careered elbow first into Portsmouth's Pedro Mendes. Pearce called the incident indefensible and said, "in all honesty, he has not got a leg to stand on."

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Meanwhile, top scorer Barton was very much in his pre-Twitter philosopher period and was banned from speaking to the media after a damning interview in which he criticised the club's transfer dealings. 

"If I was a fan I wouldn't have paid to watch us at home this season," he told BBC Radio Manchester in March, in an mid-season interview that would be almost unthinkable for a modern Premier League player today.

"You have to face facts. We have not brought quality in...We can't gamble on players who have scored six goals in six games in the Pontins League or in Belgium."

Barton's words reflected the feelings of the fans, but he remained an unpopular figure due to several off the field incidents, including leaving teammate Ousmane Dabo unconscious in a training ground assault, for which he received a four-month suspended prison sentence.

At the end of the wretched campaign following three straight defeats, Pearce's requests for time and more funds fell on deaf ears and he left with a whimper. He was to be replaced by former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson under new owner Shinawatra in one more unpredictably weird season before the Abu Dhabi United Group came and changed the history of the club and of the Premier League.

It might take a collapse of form as great as City's in 2006/07 to derail Guardiola's seemingly all-conquering side this season, but it's worth remembering for younger fans that the goals weren't always quite so free-flowing in the blue half of Manchester.

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