Who is Manchester City's Player of the Season?
- September 12, 2019
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Pep Guardiola’s men have swept to the title yet again and they could yet win a domestic treble – but who has been their stand-out performer?
What a season it has been for Manchester City! Many wondered how they could follow up a 100-point campaign and we now have an answer – a 98-point campaign with a superb second-placed team just a solitary point behind.
City have delivered their title by winning 14 matches in a row. Only one team has won more than 13 on the bounce in the Premier League, and that was City last season.
A year ago, they set all kinds of records, including the Premier League win record, with 32. Incredibly, they have matched it this time around.
Of course, it has been an incredible team performance throughout the campaign, just as it was last year.
Interestingly, some of last season’s key players – such as Nicolas Otamendi, Kyle Walker, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus – were not quite as integral as they were 12 months ago, for varying reasons.
Yet together they have pulled off another superb season, one that surely cements their place among the very best Premier League teams.
And, of course, there have been individuals who have stood out a little more than their team-mates.
Here, Goal picks the top three players for 2018-19, in descending order.
Any number of City players could have a claim to being among the club’s top three performers this season.
Ederson has been as reliable and as integral as ever, thwarting opponents and setting up attacks with his fantastic passing ability. Aymeric Laporte is the outfield player with the most minutes this season and, similarly to Ederson in goal, he has helped City keep the goals out but also played his part in their unpredictable attacking. Ilkay Gundogan has stepped in fantastically for Fernandinho in recent months, seeming to add a defensive awareness to his game that had been missing earlier in the season.
But it would be impossible to overlook Sergio Aguero, who has played the best football of his career in the past two seasons. The Argentine has adapted to Pep Guardiola’s demands and added a whole new dimension to his game, while losing none of his goal-scoring instincts.
His winning goal at Burnley at the end of April was his 20th in the Premier League this season, the sixth time he has reached that tally and the fifth campaign in a row he has done so, taking him level with Thierry Henry, who had set the record during his time with Arsenal.
He has scored three league hat-tricks this season, including one against Arsenal and one against Chelsea in consecutive home games, and is joint top of the all-time Premier League hat-tricks list alongside Alan Shearer.
At times during Guardiola’s reign – even last season – Aguero had been kept out of the side in favour of Gabriel Jesus, but this season the 30-year-old has undisputedly re-established himself as City’s No.1 striker.
If it was hard enough to choose City’s third best player this season, then it is almost impossible to pick first and second.
Raheem Sterling has had a fantastic campaign, proving himself one of the Premier League’s most dangerous and consistent forwards.
With 17 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League, and five goals and three assists in the Champions League, he has become part of Guardiola’s go-to front three.
If there is a big game, Sterling plays.
There used to be doubts about the 24-year-old’s temperament in big matches, about his ability to keep cool in front of goal in particular, but he has seemingly banished those to the past.
Last season, he missed a sitter at Burnley and stewed on his mistake for days. This season, he missed one at Crystal Palace, in a must-win match for City, but responded by thundering in a one-on-one not long afterwards, and added another in the second half.
Sterling has matured on the pitch this season and plenty of attention has been drawn to his off-field progress, too. The England man himself admits that he has “woken up” as a footballer, and his willingness to speak out on racism has helped and will help to change attitudes and behaviours over time – although he cannot be expected to fight the battle all on his own.
Nonetheless, this season Sterling has stood up and been counted, both on and off the pitch.
How can Sterling’s contribution be outdone? Well, it is close. It is very, very close. In truth, either man could realistically lay claim to being City’s best this season (if they weren’t so humble), but Bernardo Silva just about edges it.
His headline numbers do not stack up to Sterling’s (the Portuguese has seven goals and seven assists in the league) but he may well have become Guardiola’s most important player.
The Catalan certainly thinks so, recently hailing him as the best in the league, and a player capable of slotting into any team in the world.
Bernardo’s consistency, intricacy and sheer hard work have seen him usurp Sane from the front three, but his skill-set is far from limited to the frontline and the Portuguese has regularly been deployed in the midfield, helping to ensure that De Bruyne’s absence has not been felt too keenly.
Like Sterling, if there is a big game, then Bernardo will play. Only it doesn’t matter if that’s in midfield or up front.
There are two things that most stand out about the 24-year-old’s game; the mazy dribbling that allows him to breeze past multiple opponents, and his dogged work-rate.
The two things come together best when he charges down defenders’ clearances and the ball still seems to stick to his foot, allowing him to drive towards goal straight away. No wonder he’s called ‘Bubblegum’.
This season, he has provided a bit of everything.
Against Liverpool in January, Bernardo covered every blade of grass in helping City pick up a victory that has proven to be crucial in the destination of this season’s title. He covered 13.7 kilometres that night, beating the record he set earlier this season at Tottenham, when he covered 13.65km.
And against Manchester United in April, in a period when City knew they had to win every single game, he opened the scoring from the edge of the box with an inch-perfect strike that sums up the other side of his game.
For a player so gifted, he works incredibly hard, and that is just one of the reasons his team-mates love him.
In this most incredible of seasons, in which so many City players have played their part, nobody would begrudge Bernardo his status as the club’s most important man.
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