Report card: Champions City time it to quiet perfection while others falter

They only led the league for a fortnight - but, as Matt Allen writes, it was the most important fortnight...

The lowdown

The ambient bluster during this season's title charge has often made for interesting viewing. Chelsea huffed and puffed over fixture schedules, as Jose Mourinho made disingenuous claims that his premium-priced squad were the race’s 'little horses'. Liverpool, meanwhile, were swept along in the emotional swell of the Hillsborough anniversary while playing some of the most exciting football of this or many another season.

For Manuel Pellegrini, his first season in English football leant heavily on quiet dignity. He refused to be drawn into public squabbles with his rivals, preferring to do his business on the quiet. That MO was reflected in his team's league performances this season: while Mourinho and Rodgers played up to the media, City, with a minimum of fuss, came from behind to reclaim the Premier League in its closing stages. In all, they topped the league for barely a fortnight – compared to the two-month totals of Chelsea and Liverpool, and the four months Arsenal compiled. Talking about timing your run.

There were blips, however. Without doubt, injury issues took their toll during the season. And while a two-trophy haul marks an impressive first season’s takings, Pellegrini's continuation of Manchester City’s inability to stay in the Champions League beyond Easter will have given him plenty to think about in the close season.

Would they have taken this in August?

Are you kidding? Winning the title while watching their hated rivals implode has been dreamland stuff for City fans.

Would they have taken this in January?

Yes. At times this season, The Mourinho Effect and Liverpool's emotional resurgence threatened to derail their title tilt.

High point

Smashing United home and away felt like a major power shift this season. Sure, City have walloped their rivals before, but with Sir Alex Ferguson now helpless in the posh seats and United's world collapsing, Pellegrini will view this year's campaign as a heavy psychological blow.

Low point

Losing home and away to Barcelona proved that, despite their impressive squad and domestic prowess, City still lack the smarts to clip the wings of their Champions League rivals.

Hero of the season

Pablo Zabaleta. With his effervescent presence on the flank, the right-back has been in sharp form this season, both offensively, where he has provided several assists, and defensively. This has proved vital considering injury concerns surrounding skipper, Vincent Kompany, not to mention the erratic form of...

Villain of the season

Martin Demichelis. If there's one City player with a high-profile "ricket in his locker" (© Paul Merson), it's the Argentinian centre-half. His positional sense and form improved immeasurably in the closing stages of the season – but not before several rushes of blood to the head resulted in costly goals.

The season in microcosm

The typically brilliant Yaya Toure's goal against Aston Villa in their penultimate fixture of 2013/14 encapsulated his team's form this year. With a three-goal advantage and seconds remaining on the clock, Toure took the ball in his own half and drove with pace and power, knocking defenders aside like empty beer cans before smashing the ball past Brad Guzan. Relentless and brutal.

FFT grade

A-. Sturdy work. But Europe remains City's perennial weak spot.

SEE ALSO Read FFT's report cards for the other 19 Premier League teams


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