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How Pellegrini handed City the trophy

The season was a personal triumph for the Chilean's unyielding commitment to an attacking game, and key buys in the transfer market

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 May, 2014, 10:29pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 May, 2014, 10:29pm
 

By packing a punch on the pitch and in the transfer market, Manchester City managed to outmuscle their rivals in the race for Premier League glory in 2013-14.

Liverpool's late collapse may have opened the door for them, but it was only thanks to a well-equipped squad and a blistering 102-goal attack that City were able to take advantage.

The foundations were laid in the last close season, when City's Abu Dhabi owners invested over £90 million (HK$1.1 billion) in new players, including Brazil midfielder Fernandinho and Spain striker Alvaro Negredo.

There are different ways to win titles. I choose attractive football, so that the fans enjoy the season. Maybe you can win titles other ways. For me, the aesthetic part is very important
City manager Manuel Pellegrini

Fernandinho's arrival liberated Yaya Toure from his defensive responsibilities and the Ivorian colossus responded with the finest season of his career, amassing 20 goals in the league and 24 in all competitions.

Negredo struck up a devastating strike partnership with Sergio Aguero, and when injury curtailed their influence in the second half of the campaign, Edin Dzeko stepped in with a burst of crucial goals.

The season proved a personal triumph for manager Manuel Pellegrini, who ended his maiden campaign in English soccer with a league title and a League Cup winner's medal.

The titles represent the first major silverware the Chilean has won in Europe, after nine trophy-less years in Spain, and were the reward for his unyielding commitment to attacking soccer.

"There are different ways to win titles," said the former Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga coach, who is the first non-European manager to win the Premier League.

"I choose this one, with attractive football, so that the fans enjoy the season. Maybe you can win titles other ways. For me, the aesthetic part is very important."

Influential midfielder David Silva said: "He's made it a happy place. He's brought a joy and happiness, also to our style of play. We are attack-minded and we score lots of goals."

The chances of City winning the title seemed remote in early November, after they picked up just four points from a possible 18 in their first six away games; losing four.

A 1-0 defeat at Sunderland on November 10 left them six points behind early-season pace-setters Arsenal, prompting Pellegrini to admit: "I am concerned because we are losing too many points away."

City responded by winning 11 and drawing one of their next 12 games, in which they plundered 39 goals, thrashing Tottenham Hotspur twice (6-0 and 1-5) and crushing Arsenal 6-3 at the Etihad Stadium.

There were also home-and-away wins over fierce locals rivals Manchester United (4-1 and 0-3), while City scored four or more goals in a game on 11 separate occasions.

The wheels threatened to come off in February, however, as the effort of competing for glory on four fronts took its toll.

A 1-0 loss at home to Chelsea cost City top spot in the league and although they beat Sunderland in the League Cup final, they were dumped out of the FA Cup by Wigan Athletic - their conquerors in last year's final - and lost to Barcelona in the Champions League last 16.

The pressure seemed to tell on Pellegrini, who lost his cool after the first-leg defeat by Barcelona, accusing referee Jonas Eriksson of favouring the Spanish club, for which he received a two-game Uefa ban.

More gloom was to descend in April, as a 3-2 loss at Liverpool, followed by a 2-2 draw with Sunderland, left City six points off the pace in the league with only one game in hand.

He's made it a happy place. He's brought a joy and happiness, also to our style of play
Midfielder David Silva on Manuel Pellegrini

However, with the title seemingly out of sight, both Liverpool and Chelsea faltered, and City seized their opportunity by winning their last five games to claim a second league crown in three years.

While Aguero and Negredo led the charge in the season's first half, plundering 24 goals between them by the end of January, it was Toure and Dzeko who powered City past the finishing post.

A bit-part player before Christmas, Dzeko scored nine goals in City's last 13 games, including pivotal braces in key wins at Manchester United and Everton, and at home to Aston Villa.

Toure, meanwhile, found the net eight times over the same period, becoming only the second central midfielder - after Chelsea's Frank Lampard - to reach the 20-goal mark in a Premier League season.

The looming threat of financial fair play sanctions from Uefa means that City will not prowl the transfer market with quite the same menace in the weeks ahead, but in 2013-14 their might could not be withstood.

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