Squad depth, a commitment to attack, an ice-cool manager and greater consistency than their rivals combined to bring the Premier League title back to Manchester City on Sunday.
The pain of finishing 11 points behind Manchester United a year ago following their dramatic last-day triumph in 2012 was a distant memory as City beat West Ham United 2-0 to win English soccer’s most coveted trophy in Manuel Pellegrini’s first season as manager.
Italian Roberto Mancini was sacked 12 months ago despite remaining popular with the club’s supporters, many of whom were not keen on Pellegrini who was little known in England despite his success in South America and Spain.
The appointment, though, proved inspired and the Chilean has now joined a select band of managers who have won the title at their first attempt.
Almost impregnable at home from the start of the season, it briefly looked as if City’s away form might prove to be their Achilles heel.
Cardiff City and Aston Villa, teams who struggled for much of the season, found a weak spot to inflict defeats early in the campaign, each putting three goals past a suspect City defence.
England goalkeeper Joe Hart lost form and was dropped but even though the number of clean sheets was less than usual from title contenders, the scoring power of Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko backed up by David Silva, Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure kept City winning.
In successive home games in November they put seven goals past Norwich City and hit Tottenham Hotspur for six before hammering league leaders Arsenal 6-3 in December.
When one striker was injured another took up the mantle and by mid-January Pellegrini’s team had racked up 100 goals in all competitions.
Postponements, caused in part by reaching the Capital One Cup final in which they beat Sunderland, meant City always had games in hand.
When they lost 3-2 at Liverpool in April and were held 2-2 at home by Sunderland, the Merseysiders were nine points ahead having played two more matches.
But Liverpool, like fellow contenders Chelsea, faltered when the pressure was on, giving City the opportunity to pounce.
Pellegrini remained calm to the end and, according to City great Mike Summerbee, a title winner in 1968 and now a club ambassador, his approach and man-management style were key factors.
“The manager brought attacking football that the people love, just like we did in the 1960s,” Summerbee told Reuters.
“Manager Brendan Rodgers wanted Liverpool to play that way too and because of all the entertaining, attacking football, football has come out on top this season.
“No disrespect to Jose Mourinho and Chelsea but Manchester City and Liverpool have been very exciting to watch.”
Even when City lost at Anfield, Summerbee did not lose faith.
“After going 2-0 down we came right back into the game to equalise and if it hadn’t been for Vincent Kompany uncharacteristically slicing a clearance I think we would have gone on and won the game,” said the former City forward.
“Liverpool have been wonderful to watch but three times recently, against Norwich, Chelsea and Crystal Palace, they’ve conceded late in the game and in two of those games it cost them.
“The most important thing to say about Manuel Pellegrini is that his man-management has been brilliant,” added Summerbee. “Whether you’re in a big company or a small one, you need that.
“Compared to some other people he’s always conducted himself well and handled the media well.
“Take nothing away from Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers has done a fantastic job, but I think City are deserved winners.”