The 2020/21 season was a rollercoaster of emotions for Manchester City and their fans.
After a disappointing 2019/20 campaign, there was plenty of room for improvement for the Citizens, who looked a shadow of the dominant force we'd seen in the previous two seasons.
A disappointing start to the league campaign left fans wondering whether the Pep Guardiola era was grinding to a halt, but a record breaking run turned things around.
Another Premier League title landed at the Etihad Stadium in May, though the season ended on a sour note as the blue side of Manchester once again fell short in Europe.
It was a season of up and downs, but now it's time to reflect on the 2020/21 Manchester City campaign.
A Messi Summer
Lionel Messi trading Las Ramblas for East Manchester? Surely not.
Well that was the hot topic for the majority of the summer, and whilst a move for the greatest player to ever grace a football pitch never materialised, there was some shroud business done by the higher powers at the Etihad Stadium.
There was three high profile arrivals to the CFA, with Spanish youngster Ferran Torres brought in as a direct replacement for Bayern Munich bound Leroy Sane.
A shaky back four had been the main thorn in Guardiola's side as they allowed Liverpool to canter to the league title in the 2019/20 campaign, so it came as no surprise to see heavy investments in that department.
Two new centre backs put pen to paper with the Citizens, Nathan Ake arriving from Bournemouth, whilst Ruben Dias joined from Benfica for a club record sum of £61,000,000.
A Nightmare Start
Having amassed a whopping 198 points in back-to-back title wins between 2017 and 2019, it was quite surprising to see Liverpool canter to the Premier League title in 2020, finishing 18 points clear of the second placed Citizens.
But, after finishing their previous campaign on a high, it was expected that Pep’s side would come out of the blocks quickly as they aimed for a third title in four campaigns. They couldn’t have started worse.
A torrid display in defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on November 21st left Manchester City lingering in 11th place with just 12 points from their opening eight games, leaving the pre-season favourites eight points off the top and five points adrift of the Champions League spots.
For the first time in his Manchester City reign, there was questions beginning to be asked about Pep Guardiola. Could he turn this side around? Or were the rest of the league finally beginning to work out the Spaniard’s game?
South Coast win the Turning Point
Manchester City’s form started to improve as the season wore on, though they were still struggling to find a way through those stubborn defences, particularly at the Etihad.
The gruelling winter schedule is one that tests the mantle of any side vying for the title, with fixtures coming thick and fast across domestic and European competitions, and it was a result on the 19th of December that proved to be the turning point for Manchester City.
Having dropped two points in a 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion earlier in the week, the Citizens travelled to St Mary’s to take on high flying Southampton, who led Guardiola’s side by four points heading into the clash.
Manchester City got off to a fast start though, as Raheem Sterling turned home Kevin De Bruyne’s cutback and, whilst it wasn’t a picturesque display from the visiting side, they returned home with what would prove to be an invaluable three points.
Pep Guardiola’s men would go on to win their next 21 games in all competitions, obliterating the English record of 14 which was held by Arsenal (1987) and Preston North End (1892).
The Citizens picked up some impressive wins during that time, including 4-1 wins at the Emirates and Anfield, but it was that gritty, hard fought win at St Mary’s which fans will look back on at the turning point in yet another record-breaking season.
Manchester City Player of the Season.
The incredible thing about this Manchester City squad is that they have so many talented individuals, all of which compliment one another’s game perfectly. Which makes it so hard to pick a Player of the Season.
An honourable mention must go to Ilkay Gundogan who, in a newfound advanced midfielder role, was the architect of so many victories throughout the course of the season, particularly throughout the months of January and February where the German won back-to-back PL POTM awards.
Three players from the side picked up individual league awards at the end of the campaign though, and they are the three that we are going to try and decide between here.
Despite missing chunks of the season through injury, Kevin De Bruyne became only the third player in the history of the Premier League to pick up back-to-back PFA Player of the Year awards. Whilst he didn’t hit the dizzy heights of the previous campaign of a personal level, the Belgian was once again the key architect for the Citizens en route to their domestic double.
Phil Foden scooped a Young Player of the Year double, picking up the Premier League and PFA Young Player of the Year awards. The Stockport Iniesta had a stunning breakthrough year for Guardiola’s side, with a number of memorable performances including a MOTM showing at Anfield and match winning goals in both legs of their UCL quarter final victory over Borussia Dortmund.
However, the man that we have opted for is Premier League Player of the Year, Ruben Dias. The Portuguese centre back had one of the most memorable debut campaigns in recent history, marshalling the back four to a runaway title victory and a first ever Champions League final. His performance in the second leg of their UCL semi-final win against Paris Saint Germain was arguably the best individual defensive performance of the season. A man for the big occasion.
Most Improved Player
Again, this is one that is well and truly up for debate.
After an underwhelming first 12 months at the club, Portuguese right back Joao Cancelo upped his levels massively, revolutionising the fullback role in yet another tactical masterstroke from Pep.
Oleksandr Zinchenko, who had been deemed surplus to requirements on a number of occasions during Pep’s tenure, is another player who must be mentioned having established himself as the clubs first choice left back, despite being brought in as an attacking midfielder!
But for us, there is only one man who deserves the title of Manchester City’s Most Improved Player this season, and that is the Barnsley Beckenbauer himself, Mr John Stones.
The arrival of Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias alongside the returning Aymeric Laporte meant that Stones’ days at City looked numbered, but clearly he hadn’t read the script.
The Englishman’s resurgence was one of the stories of the season, with the 27-year-old forcing Laporte out of the side to re-establish himself as one of the league’s best and secure himself a spot in Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2020 squad.