And so, we have reached part three, the finale of our player ratings. Not only have we saved the best till last in the attackers, but we’ve also saved you a few honourable mentions that both assisted and hindered the blues on their way to an unprecedented domestic treble. And how could we forget rating the mastermind behind the success – Pep Guardiola.
Riyad Mahrez – 6
Languid by nature, lethal by nurture. It’s been a season clouded by one moment. That penalty miss. The chance for our first win at Anfield in fifteen years was met with a carefree run up and a wallop of the ball that may as well have said “Couldn’t care less pal, the Bake off final is on TV when I get back”. I was in that away end, the abuse being hurled at him after that miss was rather crass, although in the heat of the moment, fairly understandable.
After that, certain labels stuck to him like viruses to a host. It created a situation whereby the fans being on his back played into him performing badly, and in return his bad performances played into the fans labelling him as all sorts of things.
Yes, he is frustrating, but it was only three years ago that Jesus Navas was running down our flank, collecting the ball on the touchline before apprehensively approaching the left back – legs akimbo and jellified – hunched over, ready to do one of two things:
- Hit the first man with a cross lacking as much direction as the Game of Thrones writers do.
- Timidly pass the ball back inside to whichever archaic Pellegrini era fullback we suffered at the hands of.
All I’m saying is we’ve had much, much worse – this lad is a PFA POTY winner. And let’s not forget the amount of big moments he’s still managed to churn out despite having the weight of an angry mob on his shoulders; winning goals against Bournemouth, Watford and Spurs, capped off with a tension releasing goal on the final day, and what a goal it was.
Thwarted by himself this year, but talented nonetheless, he cost a club record fee for a reason – watch this space in 19/20.
Leroy Sane – 7
To have had a somewhat disappointing season and still get a seven speaks volumes of just how good this guy can be. On his day, for me he’s the most unplayable player in the entire squad. But unfortunately, the glib truth at this moment in time is that – much like in ninety-minute games – he operates in spells.
Frozen out of the team throughout parts of the season for reasons we can only speculate. Sure, there’s been games where he hasn’t set the world alight and has been dropped accordingly but you can’t help but feel like perhaps there’s some personal undertones to it as well.
One reassuring moment late on this season was his goal off the bench to kill the derby at Old Trafford. His embrace with Pep post-match and his words in the interview afterwards certainly suggested he’s still happy in Manchester – and thankfully it looks unlikely he’d leave this summer due to our priorities in the market seemingly lying elsewhere. Leroy would take a hefty sum of money to pry off us.
Regardless of what happens, he scored the all-important goal in the biggest game of the season, preventing a post-apocalyptic Britain, that alone should be worth a pay rise. Worthwhile side note; that school leavers-esque jacket he wore a few months ago goes down as the fashion look of the season – narrowly eclipsing Pep and his cardigan.
Raheem Sterling – 10
What a man. The one player in our squad worthy of a true holistic evaluation. The amount of criticism that’s come his way in a footballing sense – “he can’t finish”, “he doesn’t show up in big games”, “he’s too selfish”. The amount of criticism he’s faced personally – “he’s greedy, arrogant, thick” etc. Every single personal attack is answered with aplomb.
As a footballer, he comes on leaps and bounds by the month. Through a combination of his own personal drive and Pep Guardiola’s managerial prowess he’s flourished into a truly world class footballer. Positionally savvy, a knack for smelling danger, an extremely adept dribbler – he’s either scored or assisted against all the top six sides this season. It’s reached the point where he’s scoring hattricks in cup finals and that is well within the realms of normality – it certainly wasn’t when Jordon Ibe was the supposed better footballer.
Then there’s the media. I honestly don’t want to give their bile the light of day anymore. But that game against Chelsea at the Bridge was the true turning point; after all the headlines persecuting a man just living his life, treating his mother, buying a f*****g Greggs, they daren’t do it again after the strong response he put out against the racist abuse he received that evening. Alas, he received it again – an alarming amount of football fans happen to be Neanderthals. But the negative portrayal of Raheem languished rapidly, and people were starting to sing his praises. It’s harrowing in a way that it took something as grievous as discrimination for the likes of Piers Morgan – a clearly morally fictitious cretin – to start supporting him rather than petulantly loathing his gun tattoo when there’s more serious matters at hand; like vegan sausages… can you imagine if Raheem bought one of them from Greggs?
It’s been a true success story in every sense and the vast majority of football fans now love Sterling. A delightful footballer whose stats improve year on year – but more importantly, he’s a huge spokesperson for the game and its socio-political aspects.
Oh, and I almost forgot… he’s top of the league.
Gabriel Jesus – 6
For no real fault of his own, he just can’t knock Aguero off his perch. The Aguero/Jesus strike partnership seems to be a thing of the past now, whether Mendy’s annual six games next season will temporarily alter that remains to be seen.
I really do like Jesus, I think he excels in numerous striking departments, but not the most important one for me – and that’s finishing. Maybe this is due to the privilege of becoming accustomed to Aguero’s vigour in front of goal, but he’s missed chances throughout the season that Kun simply wouldn’t have.
He’s been by no means bad, especially in the second half of the season, but I’m always left wondering if he ever does quite enough to convince me that he’ll lead the line at City for years to come. Having said that his strike rate if fairly grand. When he gets his starts – which can be somewhat scarce when Serge is firing – he tends to get a goal. Perhaps it’s the fact his options against the big teams are more limited therefore it’s harder to impose himself in the squad as a player of true importance. Still, I just find myself having marginally less faith in him than I do players like Foden or Sane.
Anyhow, he’s still a top-class player and although that might have seemed a slightly unjust evaluation, he’s not had a bad season.
Sergio Aguero – 9
If you’re reading this as an opposition fan – firstly, why, and secondly, he’s probably scored against your team. It’s been his best season under Guardiola. Like times of old, Aguero’s been the go-to guy in big games and has delivered.
A thunderous strike that went straight past a perplexed De Gea – kick starting his spiral towards mediocrity. A moment of quick thinking to nick past Lovren – who’s mediocre anyway – and rifle one in the roof of the net past Alisson – who’s certainly not. A stray ball purloined off the Chelsea midfield and exploded into the upper ninety, all in a haze. These moments were reminiscent of the old Aguero; the ferocious young forward with fire in his belly and speed to burn. Who do we have to thank for that? Probably Dr Cugat.
It’s not just the big goals against the objectively big sides either, winners against West Ham and Burnley in the title run in, and then that eminent equaliser against Brighton when the second-best striker in the league, Glenn Murray, had really piled the pressure on us. It’s these moments that we’ve almost started to take for granted with Aguero – but we shouldn’t. Cherish his goals because he’s going to be a hell of a player to replace.
The Argentine is that big a goalscoring phenomenon, this season he broke into the all time top ten Premier League goal scorers. It’s about time, at long last, some proper respect is put on his name.
Pep Guardiola – 9
Hot take – but Pep Guardiola might just be the best chequebook manager in world football. Yes, he’s spent money, but so has the adopted son of the media Jurgen Klopp. All that was added was the attacking accessory Riyad Mahrez. Other than that, he had to keep this squad fresh, hungry, and most importantly, mentally resolute.
How do you manage to achieve that when the team rivalling you is absolutely relentless? Ninety-seven points. That’s three less than we got last season – a mathematical feat we didn’t think would even be neared for years. Liverpool did that, and hats off to them for it, but so did we.
And I’m honestly asking you, the reader, right now, how did he actually manage it? I have no idea myself, but you’d imagine that, because of the type of man he is; charismatic, authoritarian, sharp-witted – he’s instilled a level of mental strength within this squad, the likes of which we’ve rarely seen in sport, let alone football.
The setbacks we’ve had, the fact Pep’s got it wrong at times. The players always improvise, adapt and overcome. To win fourteen on the bounce to ensure you win the title, knowing a singular slip costs you the title, outshines our record breaking eighteen-win streak from the season before, simply due to the psychological battle that was ongoing throughout.
Oh, and not only did he retain us the league, we won the other two domestic trophies as well. This is without our best player or a natural left back for large quantities of the season by the way, but as we know Pep needs investment everywhere to win.
To address the elephant in the room, no not you Neil Custis, the Champions League has to be a priority next season. Pep got it wrong against Tottenham, as he did against Liverpool. There were some tactically questionable decisions in both legs – to play Delph and Mahrez away at Tottenham and be so conservative in possession, and then to be so hellbent on scoring at home that we were left vulnerable at the back – it really felt like he’d overthought it a bit. I just pray that come next season, hopefully with a few more millions worth of players injected into the squad, we can approach European games in the same savvy manner we do domestic games.
Trophies won: 3 (First domestic treble in England ever)
Harrogate waters drank after conceding: 478
Mid-game toilet breaks: 0
What a manager we have. Long may it continue.
Dr Ramon Cugat – 10
“He gives me, I think they call it… endorphins” – Sergio Aguero (August 2018)
Manuel Pellegrini – 9
You gave Jurgen Klopp the V, for that you’re an icon.
I can’t give you a ten though because I’ll never forget about Wilfried Bony.
The wind – 5
Slap bang in the middle. One game you made Liverpool drop points at Everton, the next you helped them win at home to Burnley. It’s almost as if you’re… impartial?
The mainstream media – -1
All I can say is; Delaney, McKenna, Castles, Harris, Custis, Rudd, Pearce, Ogden, Syed, Collymore – your lads took one hell of a beating.
You can follow the author on twitter here: @_adammonk
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You can read Part One of our Player Ratings HERE!
You can read Part Two of our Player Ratings HERE!