History on Man City's side heading into season-defining match
Manchester City fans looking for omens ahead of the club's FA Cup semifinal with Arsenal on Sunday can be encouraged by their side's record at this stage of the competition. Pep Guardiola will be looking to continue their tradition -- they've won 10 of their 12 fixtures when it gets down to the last four.
In fact, so good is the club's run in semifinals that it's been 85 years since City failed to get through from this position, having won all of their last eight. Again, though, those looking for omens might be a little less encouraged by the news that Arsenal were the last team to beat the club in the semis back in 1932.
The only other side to knock City out at the semifinal stage is Newcastle, when the Magpies won the cup in 1924.
The two teams head to Wembley for a match that could define either's season. Both face a battle for the top four and both are certainly performing below what would have been expected for their Premier League challenge, but one will get a shot at silverware at least in what will ultimately prove a disappointing campaign for the two sides.
City's record gets a little sketchier when they progress further than the semifinal; they've a bang average return, winning half of their 10 FA Cup finals. Though if they were to better Arsenal this time around, they could finally get the chance to take on Tottenham and exorcise the ghost of that Ricky Villa goal from the 3-2 defeat in the final replay of 1981.
The FA Cup is a big part of the club's recent history. It was the tournament that first quenched the thirst for trophies in the Sheikh Mansour era, as Roberto Mancini won it in his first full season at Eastlands.
The Italian's success in the 2011 competition ended the club's 35-year wait for silverware and it was the first time they'd made the final since they'd lost to Spurs in the early 80s. But that 1-0 victory over Stoke wasn't the biggest part of the campaign; the semifinal win over Manchester United, by the same scoreline, was the moment that mental barriers were broken down.
That result made Mancini's side far more resilient and proved to them that they were good enough to compete with the best -- United would go on to be Premier League champions that season.
The manager gave the club a big-game mentality. That's what shone through when his team next made the semifinals, beating Chelsea 2-1 in 2013. It should have been a tough ask, as the Stamford Bridge side were on an amazing five-year run of not having lost an FA Cup match except for one penalty shootout, but City bullied their opposition out of the game.
That bully-boy attitude is something Guardiola has been desperately trying to reinstate, but so far in the Premier League they've been found wanting, taking just two points from a possible 18 against the other teams in the top four. They've fought harder than in recent seasons, but the result has been no better.
Despite this Arsenal team currently looking in disarray, Guardiola's side struggled to stay ahead of the Gunners in their recent league meeting. They twice surrendered the lead to draw 2-2.
Every time City got themselves in front, they "stopped playing," as the manager commented, dropping deeper to try and protect the lead instead of continuing to attack with dynamism, as they had been doing so well.
If City do the same in the semifinal on Sunday, they could be left travelling home having been knocked out for only the third time at this stage.
While the club's record suggests they tend to do well in FA Cup semifinals, it's also seems like it's not always simple -- all of the last six have been decided by one goal, five of them with City coming out on top 1-0.
Wins over United and Chelsea are the most recent and carry more influence to the current tie, but it's notable that the team had that big-game mentality in 1-0 semifinal victories over Everton in 1969 and against Ipswich after extra time in 1981, both at Villa Park. Neither of those sides were slouches in those eras.
Guardiola will need to rediscover that resilience if he's to get the club to the final for the ninth consecutive time since the 1930s. From their first appearance in the last four, a 3-0 win over The Wednesday at Goodison Park in 1904, to their last in beating Chelsea four years ago, City always look to be up to the challenge.
No City manager has won the FA Cup in his first season, with only one -- John Bond -- making the final at his first attempt. If Guardiola could go one better, then his debut campaign might not have been what was expected, but it will be a lot closer to what the fans were hoping for.
David Mooney is ESPN FC's Manchester City blogger. Twitter: @DavidMooney