Oh Roberto, what happened? Where did this season go? I don't care too much for the failure to win the domestic cup competitions, although Saturday was desperately flat, I am not overly disappointed with the CL failure considering the ridiculousness of the draw and the strength of the group. But losing out in the race for the title hurts, collapsing in the second half of the league campaign and the subsequent gap in points which developed added anger and confusion to that hurt.
Right, so let's evaluate the season under Mancini. As always, we ignore cup games (wildly varying quality of opposition) and the Champions League (what a group!) as it's just ridiculous to include these in any look at the moving averages of points, TSR's and goal difference.
It's all about the league and how and why it went wrong.
I tweeted this out on Saturday morning and it garnered some interest.
Close Game State Goal Difference
The premise is simple: This is each teams goal difference when the game is tied or when either team is up or down a goal (-1, tied, +1). I use this method as Close GD correlates to points nearly perfectly (r2=98.97).
Great teams will look like Man United's trajectory, and Man City's trajectory for the for the first 23 games. But, as you can see, something happened to Man City from Game 24 onwards and they just haven't been the same team since.
But what is that something? Firstly, let's look at the points per game between the two sides.
I'd argue against all the popular narratives that City suffered through a terrible league campaign;infact, City, for the first 20 or so games were on course to really push United. Yes the away form needed to improve, but we were within touching distance. But then a significant gap develops around game 23/24.
The points gap:
This is the gap between the two Manchester clubs on a game by game basis. The gap and death spiral around game 24 is even more evident here.
I want to focus on Game 24 (the gap became 8 points at this juncture) as I believe this is the point Man City gave up, stopped trying, lost focus, didn't have anything left to play for. I could be wrong, but I don't think so. *It has since come to light that the players were not happy with the manager for a long spell during this season. Maybe, once the gap in points had become large enough for the title to have become improbable, the players stopped playing for each other.
So what happened around Game 24?
Balotelli was sold! (hat tip to Martin Eastwood on twitter) the points gap became too much for a fragile City side and this happened to Man City's shots totals:
Close Shots +/-
A dip leading into the derby, a reaction after the derby loss and then, from game 24 onwards, a collapse. Man City, when the game really mattered, stopped becoming an elite team who consistently outshot the opposition.
What of Shots on Target?
This shows us slightly different info to the shots graph. Here it looks like game 24 was the crest of a great performance wave and thereafter City's SoT performances decline, albeit with a fightback around games 28-30.
Some of the decline in shots performance at Close Game State may be explained by a certain regression from an abnormally good number, but surely not all of it? Man City now reside at their lowest point of the season in terms of out-shooting the opposition, any potential reasons dear reader?
I have, rightly or wrongly, convinced myself that this decline is due to Man City as a group having given up the ghost. The gap in points from game 24 became 8 to 10 to 13 in the space of just three games. This gap seems to have broken the will of all concerned and it is reflected in Man City's decline in points, goals at the crucial times in fixtures and a big drop off in shots and shots on target.
Yes, Man City still picked up 24 points in the last 13 games after 'giving up' but 19 of those points were at home where City can crush teams even at half effort. Away from has been dire: 1 win in 7 games including 3 losses by a clear 2 goal margin. (more on the away form later)
As the league became impossible everything semed to decline. The question is: How much of this is on the dearly departed Roberto Mancini and how much is on the players?
Either way this kind of decline and slide in standards and performance couldn't really be tolerated. The points gap between Man City and Man United was just too large to be ignored. It seems people stopped caring. An end of season slide this cannot be tolerated at Man City any longer. These are new times, standards are higher. Mancini's results were sliding and his politics too abrasive to envoke any sympathy or to give his promises of improved performance next season a chance.