Goal nominates the Premier League champions’ best three performers of the current campaign – do you agree? Have your say in the comments section below!
Manchester City’s has been a curious kind of triumph this season, coming as it has with no more than 15 days at the top of the Premier League or any huge ‘statement’ victories over their main title rivals.
Nonetheless, the newly-crowned champions are certainly deserving ones. City have finally put together a truly formidable squad of high-end footballers with a temperament to match their ability.
There is also an air of serene focus surrounding a club that has for too long been defined by its nonstop turbulence. While the fiery, confrontational nature of Roberto Mancini may have been exactly the approach needed to transform City into thoroughbred winners, it never felt truly sustainable.
Manuel Pellegrini’s calmness has provided a welcome contrast and far more fitting vibe. The Chilean, who arrived in England last summer without the glitzy reputation enjoyed by many of his peers, deserves immense credit for the way he has undertaken a huge, high-pressure task and – aside from another underwhelming Champions League campaign – succeeded with distinction.
His team have overcome their stumbling early away form to emerge as a well-balanced unit, producing a devastating brand of attacking football while boasting a significantly more convincing defence than Liverpool.
Here, Goal looks at three of City’s most impressive performers as the dust settles on a season in which the club claimed its second league title in three years.
YAYA TOURE | MIDFIELDER
It is quite a feat to stand out so strikingly within a squad brimming with world-class talent assembled at vast expense, but over the last 10 months Yaya Toure has managed exactly that.
His combination of technique, altheticism and leadership arguably marks him out as the most complete footballer in the top flight. The same man who played the 2009 Champions League final at centre-back for Barcelona has become only the second central midfielder in Premier League history to score 20 league goals.
Since joining from the Catalan giants, Toure has become a virtual ever-present and one of the most enduring symbols of City’s ascent to the elite level of European football.
But this season has been a step up even by the giant Ivorian’s standards. Aside from his 20 league goals, he has played the most passes per game of any player in the division, and the fifth most of any player in Europe’s top five leagues. Only men in Bayern Munich and Barcelona shirts have played more.
SERGIO AGUERO | STRIKER
Had he not endured such an injury-hit campaign, there’s little doubt that Sergio Aguero would have been among the front-runners for the end-of-season individual awards.
As it is, with the more ever-present Luis Suarez and Yaya Toure wooing the PFA and FWA voters, the dead-eyed Argentine will have to make do with a decisive contribution to City’s second league title in three years.
It may not have been Aguero’s most headline-grabbing year but it has been the one in which his predatory instincts have been at their most refined. His tally of 17 goals is the fourth highest in the Premier League; a particularly impressive statistic when one considers that the top three have played at least eight full games more.
Across all competitions the Argentine has found the net on average every 87 minutes, bypassing Arsenal legend Thierry Henry as the man with the best goals-to-minutes ratio since the Premier League’s inception.
In many ways Aguero is the archetypal modern striker, a finely tuned blend of athleticism and technical excellence in a player who always seems to take the minimum number of touches with maximum efficiency. He is constantly on the move and can operate capably in any situation, holding the ball up as adeptly as he shoots at goal.
With City trailing Everton at Goodison Park earlier this month when a win was required to assume control of the title race it was Aguero who provided the game’s most pivotal moment, rifling past Tim Howard to equalise and turn the momentum in his team’s favour. They never looked back.
DAVID SILVA | MIDFIELDER
If Yaya Toure represents the beating heart of this Manchester City side and Aguero is its most potent weapone, then David Silva is the brain which elegantly knits all the components together.
It is telling that of the 11 Premier League games in which Manuel Pellegrini’s side dropped points this season, Silva was absent for more than half.
Leadership is most often viewed through the prism of industry – Vincent Kompany’s crunching tackles, Toure’s galloping runs – but Silva’s absolute desire to show for the ball at any and every opportunity is just as inspiring in the times, rare though they may be, when City are struggling to break down a defence.
Aston Villa’s visit to the Etihad Stadium only last week provided a prime example: with City under huge pressure to get a result and the home crowd plainly edgy as the hour-mark came and went with the deadlock intact, it was two passes from Silva that finally picked apart a crowded defence.
Twice the Spaniard engineered space on the edge of the box and with characteristic precision released Pablo Zabaleta, who duly squared for Edin Dzeko to tap home a double. And that was that.
Silva plays what Opta deem to be ‘key passes’ at a higher rate than any player in the Premier League, and though he tends not to take corners or free kicks only four players have racked up more assists.
Less quantifiably, but equally obvious to the onlooker, is the manner in which the City side is knitted seamlessly together by the subtle probings of their chief creator.
Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas may have been acquired with a view to assuming a share of the creative burden, but the fact remains that no player in the squad comes close to exerting the sort of inventive influence Silva does.