Manchester City won their first Premier League in the most dramatic fashion possible in 2012, but followed it up with the footballing equivalent of Speed II.
A last minute goal from Sergio Aguero against QPR sent fans into a state of euphoria they will almost certainly never feel again, as the blue half of Manchester pipped their historically more successful rivals to the title.
What followed was a bizarre summer of transfer activity; Nigel de Jong was sold on the cheap to AC Milan, as Roberto Mancini did not feel he was deserving of a new contract and pay increase – the Dutch international midfielder, who was key to the Italian’s plan of unleashing Yaya Toure to win games in the final third, was replaced by the lethargic Spaniard Javi Garcia on transfer deadline day.
Joining the former Real Madrid man on deadline day - when five players were signed - was Scott Sinclair, another underwhelming replacement, this time for the wizardry of Adam Johnson, whose lifestyle didn’t fit well with Mancini’s philosophy, but he was more effective than Sinclair could ever dream of being.
Along with these personnel changes, Mancini deemed it necessary to play an entirely new formation to the one that had won City their first Premier League title. The 3-5-2 was unsuccessful, with City regularly reverting to a more classic 4-4-2 when things were not going their way. Due to Euro 2012 players came back for pre-season later than normal, meaning they were unable to learn their new role, causing farce in their opening fixtures.
At right wing-back free transfer Maicon struggled to adapt to the rigours of the Premier League, Aleks Kolarov was on the opposite flank, as a collection of players were wedged into uncomfortable roles in a confused back three.
Mario Balotelli was turfed out of the club in January, leaving City a striker short going into a potential title challenge, a costly error from Mancini.
The season didn’t go to plan; City put in a dismal effort to retain the title, they once again failed in the Champions League, finishing bottom of their group and lost to relegated Wigan in the FA Cup final.
Mancini was removed after that Wembley defeat, having lost the dressing room and the trophy.
At this point City’s new structure knew what they wanted to do: Manuel Pellegrini was appointed as the new custodian in the summer very quickly and transfer targets were quickly identified, allowing them to cover every angle ahead of procuring them.
Fernandinho, Stevan Jovetic, Alvaro Negredo, Martin Demichelis and Jesus were signed up to boost a squad who had hit a low under Mancini’s man-management style.
Divisive figure Carlos Tevez was shipped out, improving the harmony within the dressing room too, having been previously placated by Mancini when he needed him, but with just cause.
Pellegrini took them to the Premier League crown last season with comparative ease, leaving the Chilean and his sporting director Txiki Begiristain to work on improving on Manchester City’s weak elements.
A new second choice goalkeeper was brought in to provide the competition Joe Hart required; Garcia was replaced by Porto midfielder Fernando, who has impressed in his opening encounters; Bacary Sagna joined on a free to offer some relief for the ever-present Pablo Zabaleta; centre-back Eliaquim Mangala was bought for £32million to take over from the ageing, error enthusiast Demichelis.
Most importantly, all these signings were made early in the transfer window, allowing them to settle in at the East Manchester club, allowing the luxury of time, rather than being forced to hit the ground running.
Brazil-born Fernando, slotting in as a direct replacement for Fernandinho alongside Yaya Toure, was the only new boy to start the opening two wins against Newcastle and Liverpool, showing Pellegrini’s desire for continuity.
City picked up where they left off, looking imperious against a Liverpool team who ran them incredibly close last time around, thanks to the most subtle of adjustments.
Pellegrini will never change for change’s sake, something that will see Manchester City profit as a club, both domestically and on the continent, as we’re about to find out this season.