Liverpool have front players who possess a greater goal threat… but Manchester City are the better team. That is the crux of the 2021-22 Premier League title race, and the reason it went right down to the wire.
The Blues are better at controlling games, are stronger all around, and their system is more effective and efficient, but Jurgen Klopp’s side have been more lethal in front of goal. So when it comes to rating City’s players out of ten for the season, that commonality, that shared effort, shines out – even if one or two players have been outstanding at times.
So how do we rate City for the entire season?
Ederson – There have been times when his shot-stopping ability has been questioned, and he suffers by comparison with his Brazil rival Alisson, who has won games for Liverpool. But he is a good keeper who is also an exceptional outfield player, Guardiola’s 11th man in the build-up. Some of his passes have been outrageous. 7
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Zack Steffen – It is tough being the second keeper at a club like City, expected to step in once in a blue moon and maintain the high standards set by others. Steffen suffered with that, and his Wembley nightmare against Liverpool, not his first gaffe, weighs heavily against him. 5
Kyle Walker – More than ever, his recovery pace has been a factor in City’s title win, a tool he also employs well as an overlapping – and increasingly underlapping – full back. The fact he was sorely missed when absent tells its own story. 8
John Stones – Went into the season as first choice, but injury hampered his ability to remain so. But he is back to being the Rolls-Royce defender who lit up the start of Pep Guardiola’s reign. 8
Ruben Dias – Losing him for the run-in was a serious blow, lessened by the good form of others. Still the talisman in defense, we will never know whether his presence might have seen the Blues into the Champions League final. 8
Aymeric Laporte – After a season of disillusionment when he saw Stones and Dias ahead of him, Laporte seized his chances to re-affirm his status as a world-class center back, and the best passer in the back four. A creator and a destroyer. 8
Nathan Ake – Had become the odd man out of the City center backs as Dias, Stones and Laporte dominated, but when injury problems struck late in the season, he stepped up and was excellent, both at left back and in the center. Fully played his part. 7
Joao Cancelo – He set such high standards last season as an innovative play-making left back that this campaign was always going to be tougher. But his dynamic attacking, and defending that improved markedly after his Anfield schooling by Mo Salah, were still important features. Played 52 games, more than anyone else. 8
Alex Zinchenko – A traumatic time for the Ukraine skipper as his homeland was invaded and family and friends placed in peril, but his response has been first-class. An ambassador for his country as well as a first-rate attacking left back who made a difference on the final day. 8
Rodri – Others have got the plaudits but Rodri is undoubtedly a contender for Player of the Season. His unfussy style, calmness in possession, physical presence and penchant for important goals – including his ice-cool finish on the final day – have made him City’s fulcrum 9.
Fernandinho – The Brazilian brought down the curtain on his City career by becoming the equal most decorated player in the club’s history. His influence off the field increased as his participation on it declined, but he still stepped up and did a good job when required. 7
Ilkay Gundogan – Picked the perfect moment to remind everyone he was City’s penalty area poacher last season, with two vital goals. So unlucky not to play more, as he is always quality and brings an intelligence and structure to midfield. Sign him up again, Txiki. 8
Bernardo Silva – With the energy he uses, it was no surprise that he has not maintained his standard towards the end of the season, but earlier, when Kevin De Bruyne was working up to full fitness, he was exceptional, right back to his best. Quality plus work rate makes him irreplaceable. 9
Kevin De Bruyne – Slow to get going after a summer nursing wounds from his Champions League and Euro 2020 smashing, but once he got into his stride he reminded everyone of his supreme quality. No finer sight in football than De Bruyne driving at teams, and scoring and assisting goals. Incredible contribution 9.
James McAtee – The best compliment you can pay any player is to say they do not look out of place in this City team, and McAtee did not in his six appearances. Playing the hardest role in the team, he showed the talent that has excited academy-watchers – just a shame circumstance dictated he could not play more. 7
Riyad Mahrez – To finish top scorer, with an excellent 24 goals (plus ten assists), tells its own story. His form was patchier than it was last season, when he was top-class, but ended with more goal involvements than De Bruyne, which is phenomenal. 9
Gabriel Jesus – Began the season as first choice with a hat-trick of assists against Arsenal. It looks like this could be his final City season, but he made sure he was important and the fact he was picked for the truly big games – both Liverpool league clashes and both against Real Madrid – shows how much his combination of extreme work ethic and touches of quality are valued. 8
Cole Palmer – Injury wrecked his season just when he seemed to be approaching lift-off. Memorable goals against Wycombe, Swindon and Club Brugge showed he can translate his under-23 form into the first team. Exciting times ahead 7.
Ferran Torres – Left the club in January for a dream move to Barcelona – asked to fill the vacant striking role he finished with three goals in seven appearances, very creditable. Never let anyone down, just could not dislodge others. 7
Phil Foden – Many feel his talent has been wasted by often playing the sacrificial false nine role, creating space for others – but 14 goals and 11 assists is a superb return. He has developed his raw talent into being an essential cog in the City machine, wherever he plays, and he has the capacity to light up games. There is more to come! 9
Jack Grealish – The £ 100million price tag hung heavily round his neck at times, but he has been better than the stats suggest. He has the knack of creating space for others, but was critical of his own return of six goals and four assists. Signs that he is starting to find his feet, but he was not picked for the crunch games at the end of the season. 7
Raheem Sterling – Does so much good work and then undoes it with glaring misses or wasted chances, but his tally of 17 goals and eight assists was only bettered by De Bruyne and Mahrez. At times he was unplayable, and came up with the goods to spark the last-day revival. 8
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