City Xtra Writers: The 2019/20 Season Review
For Manchester City, the past season has disappointingly failed to hit the heights of the previous two campaigns. Despite regaining the Carabao Cup for a third successive year, uncharacteristically City dropped points on 13 occasions during the elongated Premier League season, as they lost a two year long grip of the title.
Further to that, Pep Guardiola’s semi-final curse returned to haunt City, as they lost once again to Arsenal in the final four of the FA Cup, in what has been an injury plagued, error-prone and frustratingly anti-climactic year on the domestic front for the former back-to-back Champions.
As the 2019/20 domestic season finally drew to a close on Sunday, I asked fellow City Xtra contributors; Hamish MacRae, Brandon Evans, Matt Astbury, Mark Gough and Rob Milarvie three questions. These were their responses…
So, what have you made of Manchester City’s season?
Hamish: As you’d expect, this season now revolves totally around City’s performance in the Champions League next month. Bringing through Phil Foden and Eric García however was a good sign, and winning the Carabao Cup is always nice. Whether this season is looked back on as a success or a failure though, now depends on if David Silva lifts that Champions League trophy into the Lisbon air on the 23rd August.
Brandon: After the record-breaking heights of City’s two previous campaigns, it would be fair to say that this season has been somewhat disappointing. When City failed to replace Kompany, there were concerns aplenty regarding our defensive depth and these concerns were proved correct when Laporte was stretchered off against Brighton, and City’s title chances effectively left the Etihad alongside Laporte.
Attacking-wise, we’ve been as good as ever. De Bruyne, Sterling, Rodri and Mahrez have mostly been great all-season, and Foden and Garcia have shown tremendous promise.
Matt: This season for Manchester City has been a damp squid. The lack of a summer centre-back signing and early injury to Aymeric Laporte signalled the start of what would be a season to forget.
City have looked a shadow of the devastating force they were last season and did not deserve to win the 2019/20 Premier League title. Liverpool came back with a vengeance and got the job done, winning games in any way possible to secure that elusive first league title in 30 years. Yes, there have been questionable VAR decisions along the way, and Pep Guardiola’s side did win the Carabao Cup, but performances from the Blues have been below par throughout the various points of the season.”
Mark: I'm quite ambivalent about the season, really. On the one hand, I felt some drop off after two consecutive immaculate seasons, earning 100 points followed by 98, was going to be inevitable. As it is, we suffered way more than I anticipated, but the result is still the same: finishing 2nd to a Liverpool team that only just failed to break our own points record.
We were really harmed by the loss of Aymeric Laporte and the passing of the baton in midfield from Fernandinho to Rodri, compounded by bad luck, silly individual errors and some contentious VAR calls. On the other hand, our issues seem quite obvious and fixable to me, so I'm relatively sanguine ahead of next season; I'm still fully convinced City are the best team in the country. Plus, we once again savoured the sweet nectar of Carabao, and we still have a good chance of going all the way in the Champions League. If we win that or even reach a final for the first time, that will drastically alter how we reflect on the season.
Rob: City have been victims of their own stratospheric expectations after 198 points and eight domestic trophies - this season has been rather underwhelming and largely frustrating. Five exceptional performances are usually marred by an extremely poor one. Even with a plethora of individual awards and records, City have faltered in crucial games which has discoloured the season as a whole.
Manchester City have played 57 games across all competitions this year, so far. What has been your highest high and lowest low of the past 11 months?
Hamish: I doubt I’ll be alone amongst City fans in saying that the best moment of this season was overcoming Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16 first leg. Of course, it could all still come crashing down in the second leg, but that feeling of beating one of Europe’s biggest and best sides was unforgettable.
The lowest moment, however, may surprise you; for me it was the 2-2 draw with Newcastle at St James’ Park. Sure, we had costlier games, but just the way in which it seemed as though Kevin De Bruyne had got us out of a sticky situation, only for sheer lack of focus and the defence switching off to cost us two points really seemed to encapsulate everything wrong with City this season in a nutshell.
Brandon: The 2019/20 season has ultimately been a season consisting of few highs and many lows. However, in my opinion, City’s best moment of the campaign was emerging victorious in the Carabao Cup final. Whilst the match was rather unmemorable, it is always fantastic be at Wembley to see your club lift a trophy, and hopefully, we’ll repeat the feat next season.
I believe that City’s lowest point of the campaign must be the woeful 3-2 loss to Norwich in September. The match should have been a routine win against a side destined for a relegation battle, however, diabolical defending coupled with a failing to seize chances set the precedent for what would eventually be a terrible title defence.
Matt: The highest high definitely has to be 2-1 victory against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu. As someone who was at the game in the rafters of one of world football’s great arenas, it was an unforgettable night, even if I don’t remember much after the game.
The lowest low will definitely be seeing David Silva play in a City shirt for the final time. This will probably a common choice amongst many of the writers, but no words can describe how much of an impact the Spaniard has had on the club and English football.
For 10 years, Silva has let his ability on the pitch do the talking. He very rarely does interviews and is one of the most humble and grounded players this league has seen. His mentality is also something to be admired, whatever the situation, Silva will strive above it, the epitome of this being playing a crucial role in City’s title win last season despite his son fighting for his life after childbirth. David Silva may not be one who cleans up individual awards or lands a place in ‘The Team of the Year’, but he is someone who has changed this club and how football is played in England for the better. Gracias David Silva!
Mark: The win at the Bernabéu is the obvious choice. Domestically, Phil Foden's man-of-the-match efforts in the Carabao Cup Final was a great moment, and the post-lockdown 4-0 defeat of Liverpool was a real moment of redemption after a poor season. That sent a serious signal of intent for next season, and signalled that the squad remains fully committed to the cause.
The lowest point has to be both league games against Tottenham. Infuriating stuff. The first one for the farcical VAR intervention, and the second for one of the most unjust results you'll ever see. We should have won both games comfortably, Yet somehow we conspired to come out with a point and an aggregate defeat of 4-2. Aside from that, the derby defeats were annoying but United have been so insignificant in terms of challenging us the past few years that those games have become footnotes to our season now.
Rob: The highest high has to be the Real Madrid 1st leg. While the job isn’t done, it truly was a momentous moment for the club and this current side as this game reached a new level of seriously cementing our place in this competition. Going to a place like the Bernabeu, admittedly against a fluctuating Madrid side, and sweeping them aside was something really special.
The lowest low was probably the United loss back in December. Defeats against the likes of Norwich are frustrating and bizarre but losing the derby like we did at the Etihad was ghastly. Another shout is for Laporte’s injury against Brighton. With him now back, it really does question what could have been if he was fit all season.
Manchester City are undoubtedly going to be entering the transfer market this summer. What one player do you think City should sign and why?
Hamish: Any world class centre-back is a must. I’m particularly drawn to two Serie A talents in Kalidou Koulibaly and Milan Škriniar - either would improve our defence monumentally.
Brandon: As we all know, there are several holes in City’s squad that need to be filled, however, the club’s priority must be the acquisition of a genuine world-class defender, and so, if I had my way, the one player I would like City to sign would be Kalidou Koulibaly.
Koulibaly is an intelligent and imperious ball-playing centre-half who, on-paper, would slot in wonderfully alongside Laporte in defence. The Senegal International is easily one of the best defenders in the world, and despite his age, the sizeable fee being touted is one that is certainly worth paying.
Throughout the season City have often looked vulnerable in defence and with Stones and Otamendi’s susceptibility in mind, it is an absolute necessity for the club to bring in a top-class centre half to partner Laporte. Should City fail in the acquisition of a top-quality defender then we may as well write-off next season’s title challenge right now.
Matt: Well, there are so many areas of the team that need strengthening, mostly in the defensive department with a particular focus on centre-back. An effective centre-back partnership often has one player who is there to pass the ball around and the other needs to be the ball winner. In City’s case, Koulibaly would be the perfect enforcer at the heart of the back four and to compliment Laporte’s role in kicking off City’s attractive style of football.
Mark: I've always had David Alaba down as an ideal signing for this City side. World-class, versatile and already indoctrinated in the Guardiola philosophy. He would solve our uninterrupted crisis in the left-back position, and he's comfortable as a centre-back and in midfield. More realistically, Kalidou Koulibaly is a fantastic leader and an even better defender who could really transform our defence like Van Dijk has for Liverpool.
Further forward, Kylian Mbappe is the dream choice, and for a curveball suggestion I'd really fancy Aubameyang to terrorise defences with our creativity, led by De Bruyne, behind him. He'd offer something completely different to our current options, which is a big problem for us as our Moyes-esque Plan B of spamming crosses is painfully impotent.
Rob: Koulibaly is the obvious answer, but for truly outlandish reasons it would have to be Haaland. I’ve only seen six or seven performances from him but he does look like the real deal already. Excluding his clinical edge in front of goal, his size, speed & smart play is the type of striker that would elevate our attack to a whole new level once Aguero passes over the mantle.
Make sure you follow our Author on Twitter here: @harrywinters16
Follow us on Twitter for live updates: @City_Xtra