Monday, May 21, 2012
ESPNsoccernet: May 22, 11:59 AM UK
Player Ratings: Manchester City
Tasked with ending a 44-year wait for a top-flight title, Manchester City's talented collective rose to the occasion in thrilling style, with a spine of significant strength helping wrest the Premier League trophy from the grip of neighbours Manchester United. Here, Richard Jolly assesses the individual performances of City's squad of champions.
Sergio Aguero: 9
When City had a shot - and probably only one shot - at the title, there was no one else they wanted to see bearing down on goal. Aguero's dramatic winner against QPR - dubbed, with reference to his father-in-law Diego Maradona, 'the foot of God' - was his 30th goal of a brilliant year. Sharp, speedy and skilful, he was an irrepressible presence in the attack, establishing himself as a high-class act and a scorer of important goals before the moment that made him a City legend.
Vincent Kompany: 9
Plenty already deemed the Belgian the division's best defender and a fine leader before April 30, but a Manchester derby that was settled by Kompany's header rather cemented that impression. A commanding figure who has blossomed under Roberto Mancini's management.
Yaya Toure: 9
The finest central midfielder in the country and possibly the outstanding athlete. There were times when Toure's ability to outrun opponents enabled City to overpower teams as well as out-pass them. A brace at Newcastle was his most memorable contribution, but there were plenty of others to treasure: the October winner at QPR, the all-action display against Manchester United, the invaluable leveller at Stoke.
David Silva: 8.5
Superb for half a season, subdued for a while but influential again at the end, Silva attracted the superlatives in autumn - particularly for that pass to Edin Dzeko at Old Trafford - but allied elegance with effectiveness. No one created more goals in the Premier League than the Spaniard and his 15 assists included two particularly significant ones, corners that were headed in by Kompany against Manchester United and Dzeko versus QPR respectively.
Joe Hart: 8
Seemed to be universally acclaimed as the best goalkeeper in the Premier League and won the division's Golden Glove award for the most clean sheets. Some shutouts barely required any work but superb late saves against Wigan and Aston Villa ensured City did not let a lead slip.
Pablo Zabaleta: 8
The second-choice right-back for much of the season but, when he played, the equal of any in the division. Zabaleta's reputation as a big-game player was reinforced with excellent performances against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United as well as the opening goal against QPR. Versatile, selfless, unassuming and indefatigable, every title-winning team needs a Zabaleta.
Joleon Lescott: 7.5
Until what appeared a hugely costly error against QPR on the final day, Kompany's sidekick was a bastion of reliability. A winner against Aston Villa was a vital contribution in what was the finest of Lescott's three seasons in Manchester. Even in autumn there were times when Kolo Toure was preferred for some matches but, while his doubters long included Mancini, he has now won the manager over.
Micah Richards: 7.5
For much of the season, the outstanding right-back in the Premier League. Richards' blockbusting runs were a highlight of the 6-1 win at Old Trafford, his greater defensive nous apparent when Mancini was prepared to use him as a centre-back. Lost his place to Zabaleta for the final few matches, but it was a sign of the standards he set that he kept the Argentine out before then.
Gareth Barry: 7
Got Silva's vote for City's Player of the Year award, suggesting his team-mates deem him an unsung hero. In the first half of the campaign, he found the finest form of his three-year stay at the Etihad Stadium and if there was a dip in his performances thereafter, he was colossal in April's derby win over Manchester United.
Mario Balotelli: 7
Billed as the man who would cost City the title, he was actually one of those who helped them win it. A final-day assist for Aguero's dramatic decider followed his own injury-time clincher against Tottenham (admittedly after he should have been sent off) and a role as destroyer-in-chief in the 6-1 victory at Old Trafford. In between, of course, he was dismissed twice, a source of frustration to his manager and team-mates and a guarantee of headlines. But 13 goals in 14 league starts and some evidence he can be the man for the big occasions means he emerges with more pros than cons.
Gael Clichy: 6.5
One of those who traded North London for East Manchester in the search for silverware, Clichy got his reward. No full-back made more league starts, with his pace allowing him to displace Aleksandar Kolarov. However, he is yet to recapture his finest Arsenal form and, had City not won the league, his red card in the defeat at Chelsea may have ranked among the reasons why not.
Edin Dzeko: 6.5
It is rare a 19-goal striker might score so lowly, and yet this mark would have been smaller but for Dzeko's last-day equaliser against QPR. Before then, the criticism was that he scored too few important goals and was too inconsistent, veering from drought to flood without warning. August's four-goal salvo at Spurs was the finest performance of his City career but by May, it seemed his future may lie elsewhere. But if he does go, his place in City folklore is secure.
Aleksandar Kolarov: 6.5
Lost his manager's faith towards the end of the season, when Clichy became the automatic choice, but intermittent as Kolarov's involvement was, he nonetheless drilled in an equaliser against Sunderland that proved crucial. Ferocious shooting also enabled him to score as City rallied in the second half of their FA Cup defeat to Manchester United, while he was a man possessed in the Champions League win over Villarreal. But he seemed to be deemed too slow, especially to face some of the Premier League's fastest wingers.
James Milner: 6.5
Only played one minute of football during the six successive wins with which City clinched the title, but played his part earlier on in the campaign. Milner's season - and indeed his City career - peaked with his hugely effective performance at Old Trafford and he had an excellent autumn. After a tough first year in Manchester, it was a step in the right direction.
Samir Nasri: 6.5
No repeat of his brilliant final year at Arsenal, when he was deservedly nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award, but a bit of a curate's egg of a season. Nasri made a brilliant debut, tormenting Tottenham and getting three assists, and went on to prove more creative in blue than in red. His pass completion rate was remarkably high, too, and a winner against Chelsea was one of the turning points in the title race. In between, however, his displays were mixed and he was on the bench for some of the season's biggest games.
Nigel de Jong: 6
Went from one of the fixtures on the teamsheet to a fringe player in an injury-hit, awkward start to the season, which probably reached its nadir when he was hauled off at half-time against Sunderland on New Year's Day. But, without becoming an automatic choice again, De Jong's campaign improved. Mancini's signature substitution - bringing on the Dutchman and moving Yaya Toure further forward - worked well in major matches and, even as a replacement, De Jong proved useful.
Adam Johnson: 6
Mistrusted by Mancini, but often had an impact when he was used. Johnson did not even make the bench on the last day of the season but, though he only started 10 league games, he chipped in with six goals and usually looked a threat. But an examination of those matches is telling: he was mainly picked against low-ranking opponents at home.
David Pizarro: 5
Brought in on loan from Roma to add another dimension to the City midfield, the Chilean briefly impressed, scoring his only goal in a wonderful cameo against Porto in the Europa League. But a lightweight, deep-lying playmaker is a rare role and Pizarro struggled against Sporting Lisbon and Arsenal and was not seen again in the run-in.
Kolo Toure: 5
His start to the season was delayed when he served the remainder of his ban for taking a forbidden slimming pill and, once eligible, it hardly improved. Mancini parachuted Toure into the team for the Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich, a mistake that appeared based on the theory that the experienced Ivorian was ideally suited to major matches, and he had a run of games in March when either or both of Kompany and Lescott were injured. They are mitigating factors, but City's results were poorer with him in the team.
Carlos Tevez: 4.5
Started seven league games, all of which City won, provided the pass for Nasri's vital winner against Chelsea and combined prolifically with Aguero in the closing weeks of the season: that is one way of viewing Tevez's year. It will, however, be remembered for his refusal to warm up in Munich's Allianz Arena and his decision to down tools for five months. At least the final few games allowed him the chance of partial redemption.
Owen Hargreaves: 4
Fit enough to appear on YouTube videos, just not on the football pitch. Hargreaves scored on his City debut, against Birmingham in the Carling Cup, but made a solitary substitute appearance in the league. He really should have joined a club where he could have played more often.
Stefan Savic: 4
Seemed out of his depth, his campaign epitomised by a disastrous showing at Anfield in the Carling Cup semi-final, when his half-time removal was a merciful release. Lacked the presence and did not produce the performances required, meaning City were worried whenever Kompany and Lescott were missing.
Follow Richard Jolly on Twitter @RichJolly