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What a great season! After a long campaign which, at times, threatened to end in disappointment, Manchester City were crowned Premier League Champions on Sunday, ending their 44 year wait for the league title. Few, if any, could have predicted the dramatic fashion in which the title was clinched at the death, including myself. Although I predicted silverware this season, I was way off the mark in terms of the grandeur of what City ended up with:

Premier League: predicted 2nd, finished as Champions.

Champions League: predicted quarter-finals, finished at group stage.

FA Cup: predicted 5th round, finished at 3rd round.

League Cup: predicted Winners, finished at semi-finals.

In spite of my flimsy predictions, it has come to that stage of the season to take stock and look back at the highlights of an unforgettable and historic campaign. In a similar vein to the nauseatingly blinkered Premier League 20 Seasons Awards, I have a number of categories.

Player of the Season

An extremely difficult decision given that players in all positions have excelled throughout the season. If you were to ask me tomorrow it is likely I would select three different players.

1st: Sergio Aguero

In recent years, City have bought strikers of high prestige who have not cut the mustard. Not Sergio. He is the real deal. With great skill, a fantastic attitude and the frightening potential to get even better, I have to include Aguero in the top three.

2nd: Yaya Toure

Simply indispensable. City are not the same without him as was proven when he left for the African Cup of Nations in January and February. Nothing beats watching the versatile midfielder running at speed with the opposition quaking in their boots.

3rd: Gareth Barry

Despite his advancing years, Barry is a mainstay in Mancini’s midfield. Solid and consistent, he has kept Nigel De Jong on the periphery of the starting 11 for most of the season, with little room for argument. Enough said.

Game of the Season

Though the QPR game won the title, the game itself was not the best so I have another category, “Moment of the Season”, to account for that. With so many great performances, it is a difficult choice to narrow to three games, apart from the obvious.

1st: Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City – 23rd October 2011

City beat United 6-1 at Old Trafford and it could have been worse for them. The flurry of goals proved decisive in the goal difference that won City the League Championship.

Fact: This game was the first time that United conceded more than 5 goals at home since December 1978.

2nd: Tottenham Hotspur 1-5 Manchester City – 28th August 2011

I despise Tottenham and Harry Redknapp. Destroying Spurs on their own turf, thanks to an Edin Dzeko 4 goal haul, was a personal highlight.

Fact: In this game, Samir Nasri provided 3 assists, 2 more than he provided in the entire of his last season at Arsenal.

3rd: Porto 1-2 Manchester City – 16th February 2012

It was a classic European away performance against the holders of the Europa League with astute defending and two vital goals to take into the second leg. It was a good contest in which neither team flaked that I enjoyed. City were deserved winners.

Fact: This game represented Porto’s first competitive defeat at home since 23rd February 2011.

Goal of the Season

1st: James Milner versus Aston Villa – 15th October 2011

Stunning! A beautifal 3 pass move using the majority of the pitch. Thwack!

2nd: Mario Balotelli (2nd) versus Manchester United – 23rd October 2011

Pass and move, pass and move. Lovely intricate passing that calved open United’s defence. That was liquid football!

3rd: Joe Hart versus Aston Villa – 12th February 2012

It wasn’t a goal, it wasn’t even a shot. It was a save that felt like a goal (it didn’t). However, in the interest of proving that one can claim that just about any moment throughout the season won City the league (I have already in this article: the 6-1 over United adding to the crucial goal difference), I am claiming this last minute fingertip save to deny Darren Bent won City the league.

Moment of the Season

This is obvious. After all, it was the moment of a lifetime for thousands of people. City winning the Premier League Championship 13 seconds after Manchester United had kicked the final ball of their season (for clarity, this is the actual moment City won the league). Words cannot describe….

Champions

Words, that cannot describe, by Rob Toole

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GUEST BLOG

written by Robert Pollard – 14th May 2012

With both Manchester City and Manchester United going into the last match of the season with a chance of lifting the 2011-2012 Barclays Premier League trophy, it promised to be a great final day of the season. However, what ensued will go down in football history; a day of the highest possible drama that brought a fitting end to one the most entertaining seasons in recent history.

It was Manchester City who won the coveted prize; their first league title in 44 years, a period in which their fans have suffered ridicule on a grand scale. Relegation to the third tier of English football saw them branded as a laughing-stock, with even their own staff recognising their problems. Former player, and one time chairman of the club, Francis Lee famously claimed City would ‘win cups for cock-ups’, and Joe Royle, the manager who rescued them from their deepest slump, coined the phrase ‘cityitis’, a word which described City’s unerring ability to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.

But all that was forgotten as they clinched the biggest prize in English football in the most dramatic of circumstances, scoring two late goals to seal the trophy their fans, players, management and owners had long craved. Manchester United did what they had to do on the final day – beat Sunderland away. Their 1-0 victory had, at one stage, seemed enough to snatch the title from their rivals, but City’s late, late salvo changed it all within minutes, scoring with their 43rd and 44th shots of the match. It seems poetic that the team so often praised for their ability to produce late drama have been usurped in exactly that fashion.

Roberto Mancini, City’s Italian manager, must now begin to take some long overdue credit. He took the job when many others were shirking it, coming to a new country to take the reins at a club where expectations had soared due to their new-found wealth. Since then, despite success, he has received little praise. When City do well it is to be expected; when they don’t it is a failure on his part. An FA Cup success, qualification for the Champions League, and now a Premiership title, all delivered in the space of two-and-a-half years, mean his excellence deserves to be recognised. He found himself trailing United by 8 points but managed to win the last 6 matches of the season – including a win against United – to take the title. This is a remarkable achievement. You feel if Harry Redknapp, or another similarly well-liked manager, had turned round such a deficit and won the league he’d be carried on the shoulders of journalists through the streets of London. However, Mancini is not afforded such favourable press.

The hard work starts here for Mancini and creating a team capable of dominating for a long time his the task he is charged with and he has an outstanding set of players to achieve this. Vincent Kompany grows in stature every day, with his performances, leadership, professionalism and interview style now a vital part of Manchester City. Every club needs a leader and City have one of the best. The spine of Hart, Kompany, Yaya Toure, Silva and Aguero is the best in the league, and provides a frightening prospect for opposing sides. This City team is young and hungry for more success.

A special mention must also go to Pablo Zabaleta, one of the best full backs and undoubtedly the most valuable utility player in the Premiership; his grit and determination is something City fans will long remember in what has been a tiring campaign. Gareth Barry, who may not feature quite so heavily in a title-winning side again as he enters the twilight of his career, has also been excellent. City must now use the momentum this title has created to push on and become even better.

Manchester United also deserve great credit for their season. They have had crippling injuries to deal with, most notably the absence of Nemanja Vidic who, along with Kompany, is the best central defender in English football. Sound logic would suggest if he had been available all season, United may well have been lifting the trophy. Sir Alex Ferguson will spend this summer and United will be a force again next season. Only a side managed by Fergie could have kept pace with such an excellent City side, and they came so close to an unlikely 20th league title.

If city were ever going to become champions of England, one suspected it would be dramatic, heart-in-the-mouth type stuff, but even by their standards this was remarkable. Never will there be a final day quite like yesterday.

Robert Pollard is a freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter and Passions Just Like Mine

City provided somewhat of a reality check in their most recent Premier League clash with Blackburn. On the day, City ran out 4-0 winners courtesy of goals from four players: Adam Johnson, Mario Balotelli, Samir Nasri and Stefan Savic.

Whilst Blackburn’s fortunes truly do look gloomy, the same cannot be said for City. In spite of what you may have read in the wake of the Munich affair and Carlos Tevez’s alleged refusal to play, life goes on at City and things seem to be on an upward curve.

Balotelli celebrates against Blackburn

Nauseating accusations of a lack of team spirit within City reared their ugly head after Munich. The extraordinary actions of one man, Carlos Tevez, do not necessarily affect the entire team.

The performance against Blackburn alone was evidence enough of an established and growing team ethic amongst the City team and management. How can a group of players who mustered up 19 shots and 4 goals against Blackburn have no team spirit? From a wider perspective, how can a team who have scored 27 goals in all competitions, this season, and remain undefeated in the league, lack team spirit? Take a look at the footage of changing room celebrations after last season’s FA Cup victory and you simply cannot argue.

Words by Rob Toole

City earned a deserved and hard fought victory over Everton yesterday lunch time. City ran out two-nil winners in Manchester courtesy of strikes from Mario Balotelli and James Milner to finally overcome the stranglehold which Everton have had over City in recent seasons. Everton, going into this game, have won the last four Premier League encounters with City.

The game offered a different spectacle to what we have become accustomed to this season and this was mainly down to the negative tactics employed by Everton’s manager David Moyes. City had to work hard and be patient as Everton put all their players behind the ball in an attempt to stifle City’s attacking flair. This seemed to be working until the hour mark when Roberto Mancini introduced Mario Balotelli in place of Edin Dzeko.

The Italian youngster seemed to change the game in as much that he scored a goal to put City into the lead but he also added a different dimension to City’s attack. His pace, quick feet and directness was something that Everton could not cope with. Balotelli put in a fine performance against Birmingham earlier in the week and Mancini had clearly taken note.

After Balotelli scored it was notable to see him run straight towards Mancini and embrace him before acknowledging the delight of his team mates. Not that one can read too much into it, perhaps this demonstrates that Mancini has taken Balotelli under his wing and has been working closely with the, on occasion, fiery Italian so that he can fulfil his massive potential. After the game, Mancini praised Balotelli’s patience and work ethic this season as he has had to wait on the sidelines for his chance to shine. Perhaps his celebration was merely a thank you to his manager.

Balotelli embraces Mancini after putting City into the lead against Everton

As the game wore on, Everton did not adjust their tactics in response to the goal and seemed to be happy to resort to damage limitation. However, in the dying embers of the game David Silva took advantage of some sloppy midfield play from Everton substitute, Drenthe, to gain possession. The little Spaniard superbly held up the ball before feeding a sublime through ball for James Milner to tuck the ball home.

All in all, the victory was deserved and notable for the different approach that City had to take to secure the points. It may well be something City will have to get used to as the season wares on as few teams will try and take the game to City. It is comforting to see that City have the guile and temperament to overcome the sternest of defences, like Everton’s, as well the flair and swagger to tear apart teams, like Tottenham.

Words by Rob Toole

“Five to one baby, one in five, no one here, gets out alive”. The immortal words of Jim Morrison of The Doors have been ringing around my head ever since City’s 5-1 thumping of Tottenham Hotspur in London last Sunday. Whilst Morrison’s words can loosely be associated with the game, it is worth noting City came out of the tie alive and kicking! Tottenham, on the other hand, started the game dead on their feet and left the field of play flat on their arses, quick frankly.

Such was the immense force at which City took the game to Spurs, the Londoners never really stood a chance. Edin Dzeko’s four goal haul and an individual effort from Sergio Aguero ensured City maintained their 100% start to the season.

Dzeko heads in his second goal

Historically, Tottenham have been somewhat of a bogie team for City. In the past City have had an uncanny ability to lie down and surrender at Tottenham’s will. Even last May at Eastlands, Tottenham controlled the game despite City coming out 1-0 winners on the night. On that occasion, thanks can go to the greatest City player there never was, Peter Crouch, who confirmed City’s qualification to the Champions League with an own goal. However, the clash on Sunday was a different story entirely and perhaps signals a change in fortune for City against Tottenham.

The game was even for the first half hour with both teams finding half chances. However, City’s superior quality soon began to tell with debutant, Samir Nasri, blending in superbly with City’s slightly more established talents such as David Silva and Edin Dzeko. Some of the link up play was phenomenal and Dzeko was there, time and time again, to finish off the fine passages of play.

City’s second goal demonstrated the excellent aerial ability of Dzeko, but it was the Bosnian’s fourth goal (City’s fifth) which stole the show. After a neat one-two with Gareth Barry on the edge of 18 yard box, Dzeko glided a sweet left footed strike into the top left hand corner of the Tottenham goal.

Tottenham humbled by the irrepressible City

There were too many fine moments to mention all of which can be seen by clicking here. The manner of victory was seriously impressive. To beat one of the top five teams in England so emphatically away from home has sent a serious statement of intent to the rest of the Premier League. It really does look like City mean business this season. Whether they will go onto win the League remains to be seen but few could have asked for a better start to the season.

Words by Rob Toole

Sergio Aguero ensured City flew out of the traps in their first Premier League game of the season against Swansea last night. City comfortably cruised to a 4-0 win over the newly promoted Welshmen.

Inoculated City had the pleasure of watching the game in 3D for the first time; a trivial experience and ultimately good fun. Initially it may have been a bad idea. As I sat in the local, bearing nerdish looking 3D glasses, Swansea took control of the early proceedings, rather embarrassingly. City’s multi-million pound team were mere spectators of the Premier League new boys for the first 20 minutes. The onlookers, including myself, were only able to hide their shame behind 3D glasses. Fortunately, the pub was sparsely populated so my personal misfortune was not too apparent. Getting an ear-bashing about the Community Shield from a United fan in tow didn’t do much to lighten the mood.

David Silva was influential against Swansea

Self consciousness aside, City finally woke up and went onto dominate the game. Edin Dzeko opened the scoring with a simple tap in after David Silva and Gareth Barry hit the woodwork earlier in the game.

It wasn’t until Sergio Aguero, son-in-law of Diego Maradona, was introduced that the show really started. Aguero, nicknamed Kun, almost immediately after coming off the bench swivelled and shot from the edge of the area troubling the Swansea keeper. Yaya Toure should have done better with the follow up.

Sergio Aguero celebrates his first goal for City

Moments later the debutant opened his City scoring account with a tap-in. Before Aguero’s introduction Silva ran the game with his wide array of skill and vision. Aguero somewhat took the spotlight off Silva by setting him up for a simple finish to make it three for the night. Aguero deftly lobbed the keeper and pulled the ball back for Silva to complete a fine move.

With the game drawing to a close Aguero fired a thunderbolt of a shot from 25 yards into the left of the goal leaving the crowd breathless. The quality of the strike cannot be overstated: to curve the ball up and down so quickly is a skill few possess.

With the embarrassment of the 3D glasses far from my mind, here’s one City fan that went to bed dreaming of a glorious future which seems surreally possible. With players like Aguero and Silva who can stop City now?

To see the match highlights click here.

Words by Rob Toole

My on my, a lot has happened since Inoculated City’s last post. Since Inoculated City’s rather unceremonious hiatus from the blogging world, Manchester City have gone onto surprise and please many. Of course, the wait for the first trophy in 35 years has come to an end with the FA Cup victory against Stoke City in May.

Also worthy of a mention is the end of season surge to 3rd in the Premier League (joint 2nd if you like) which left our North London rivals, Arsenal and Tottenham, hopelessly chasing our tails at the end of the season.

Lest we forgot the historic FA Cup Semi-Final against Manchester United and the rather hilarious post match antics in which Rio Ferdinand told David Platt to control his players whilst being held back by several of his colleagues and Shaun Wright-Phillips, of all people. The irony is delicious.

FA Cup Winners 2011

This, however, should not overshadow the Final itself in which City fully deserved their 1-0 victory over Stoke. Yaya Toure putting his name into City folklore with a thunderbolt left foot finish to seal the historic victory. A day which will live long in the memory of City fans, except for those who drank too much.

During the close season, City have kept us entertained with some positive performances in the pre-season tour of North America, taking part in the Herbalife World Football Challenge and more recently the Dublin Super Cup in the weekend just gone. Not that anyone can read too much into pre-season games it is still encouraging to see the likes of Edin Dzeko putting in solid performances and, most importantly, the ball in the back of the net.

It did seem that City were conducting their transfer business in slightly more modest fashion in comparison to recent seasons with the arrival of Gael Clichy and Stefan Savic for modest fees. This was until they smashed the club transfer fee record to capture Argentinean stalwart Sergio Aguero. Time will tell whether the transfer will be a success but most reports suggest that Aguero is a force to be reckoned with and should be a great asset to the team.

Club record signing Sergio Aguero

So with the season close to a start there are many reasons for City fans to be optimistic. So there would be no better way to begin the season with a signal of intent against United in this weekend’s Community Shield at Wembley.

Words by Rob Toole