Manchester City: champions elect or perennial underachievers?
Many pundits are calling this Man City’s year, saying that the side will go from 11 superstars who can’t work together, relying on moments of genius to win matches, to a team, gelling together and putting their obvious superiority on paper into dominance on the playing field.
This summer has been one of few signings for City, but the ones they’ve made have been expensive ones, to the extent whereby their expenditure this summer has been half of the entire Premier League’s.
If we look at their signings this transfer window, their major signings have been Yaya Toure, David Silva, Aleksander Kolarov and Jerome Boateng, with Milner and Balotelli waiting in the wings for transfers to complete.
Major players they’ve sold include Javier Garrido, Valeri Bojinov, Martin Petrov, Benjani and Sylvinho, and expected departures are Craig Bellamy, Roque Santa Cruz, Stephen Ireland and Shaun Wright-Phillips, to name only four.
Analysing these transfers, we can see that Toure has been signed as a midfielder in a position that the squad is already over-saturated. Already they have Gareth Barry, last year’s big-name signing who looks like he will struggle for a first-team position, Patrick Vieira, and Nigel de Jong. One of their previous starlets, Michael Johnson, is injury-stricken, and when fit has no chance of playing.
The new Premier League rules state that clubs must have a 25-man playing list by the close of the transfer window, of which eight must be home grown – anyone registered with an English or Welsh club for three years between the ages of 16 and 21.
Clubs can use as many under-21 players as they like, but any players over the age of 21 and not in the 25-man squad are ineligible to play, meaning that big name players like Craig Bellamy, Jonathan Woodgate, Owen Hargreaves, Andy Johnson and Premier League record signing Robinho could possibly be forced to sit out at least the first half of their side’s Premiership campaign, until the next transfer window begins on January 1.
David Silva was one of Spain’s best players at a World Cup where very few big names reached their potential, leaving many fans feeling underwhelmed and disappointed. Silva’s £24m purchase has certainly drawn attention, given how successful he has been of late, but Adam Johnson’s role at the club can now be questioned they have purchased a player who may not be as young as him, but is arguably better.
Also, Mancini has the difficulty of rotating a strike force which includes, but probably won’t just be limited to, Silva, Johnson, Santa Cruz, Emmanuel Adebayor, Robinho, Bellamy, Carlos Tevez, as well as, chances are, James Milner and Mario Balotelli.
Even if Santa Cruz, Bellamy and even Robinho are shown the door, I would still expect at least one of the remaining six players not to make it into City’s 25-man squad, and it is questionable how many of their players would be willing to take a Winston Bogarde-esque role of getting paid to sit on the sidelines.
Aleksander Kolarov and Jerome Boateng are in a slightly more comfortable position, given how weak Man City’s defence was last season, where they let in 45 goals – more than anyone else in the top 7. The reason they didn’t finish higher was because they counteracted victories against Arsenal and Chelsea by losing against teams like Hull, Everton home and away and Tottenham home and away – games they really should be winning if they are to be taken seriously as title contenders.
This can be seen as why they’ve decided to spend on two defenders, one of whom – Boateng – impressed at the World Cup and should, fitness providing, be one of the signings of the season. Kolarov I’m not as sure about, but he should prove a better replacement for the disappointing Javier Garrido.
If City can get all their stars playing well, together, and they can gel as a team, then their first team – assuming there is a specific starting 11 – can beat any side in the Premier League on their day. If they can’t, it could be an early exit for Mancini, who many think is going to be the next casualty of the Premier League.