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Can Manchester City win the Premier League or is it a case of too many cooks?

July 24, 2010

Yaya Toure is one of Roberto Mancini's superstar signings this summer

I’m certainly not the first person to start a discussion as to whether Manchester City will be good enough to challenge for the Premier League title this season, nor will I be the last. Until it is mathematically impossible, and until either Chelsea or Manchester United lift their 4th or 12th respective trophies, people won’t stop debating. Even then attentions will turn to the 2011/2012 season and whether City can strengthen their squad and push for honours again. Since the high-profile takeover of the club in 2007,  the days of questioning City’s credentials as a Premier League club are long gone, and mid-table expectancies are a distant memory. The talk has now switched to top four, Champions League, and champions of England. Last season City came ever so close to breaching the once unbreachable ‘big four’, that thanks to Liverpool no longer exists. It’s now the ‘big three and whoever else is good enough to join them’, but unfortunately for City, last season belonged to Tottenham, and it will be Harry Redknapp’s side that will have the chance to compete with Barcelona and Inter Milan in Europe’s biggest competition.

Whilst it’s extremely possible that Manchester City can go one better this season, I’m still unconvinced that they are potential challengers to Chelsea and their Manchester rivals. Of course, every Manchester City fan and follower will tell you that they have as good a chance as anyone. That’s what they’d like to believe. However, life is divided into two types of people; The idealists and the realists. I have the feeling that every one of those City fans falls into the idealist bracket, and the reality is they are still not a team capable of putting together a serious march to the summit of the Premier League. Indeed, it is a fantastic time for Manchester City and their fans. It’s a very exciting period in their history as a football club and they have every right to be ambitious, optimistic, and idealistic. I’m not here to be an ideal. I’m here to be real.

City’s spending this season has been typically outlandish. Yaya Toure, Jerome Boateng, David Silva and now Aleksandr Kolarov have arrived at Eastlands in big money deals, and you wouldn’t bet on them stopping there. James Milner and Landon Donovan are two other potential signings that could add to the sizeable roster City already have on their books. Those are some fantastic names I’ve just mentioned, and some superb footballers. They arrive at the club with huge reputations to live up to, and face the challenge of integrating into a side that isn’t all too familiar with each other. There’s my problem. The Premier League consists of 38 matches, each of which nowadays is a solid obstacle to defeat. 38 matches is a lot of time for a team to be found out, and for weaknesses to start showing. 38 matches divides the teams from the individuals, and at this stage of their rapid progression as a football club, Manchester City are not yet a fully functional, well-oiled unit. They are a squad made up a number of individual stars, who on their own terms are good enough to play for anyone. Football isn’t an individual sport. It’s not tennis, it’s not golf. It’s a team game. Yes, it may all sound very cliché, but so be it. These are the facts.

You may argue that a 5th-place finish last season was a fantastic effort from a side I’m branding as not yet a team. Nevertheless, you would expect 5th place as a minimum for a team consisting of the likes of Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Robinho and the rest. To better a 5th-place finish is a monumental task, one which City fans shouldn’t take for granted. I may well be very wrong come the end of the season, but analysing City’s situation at this stage, I would say I won’t be. It takes time for foreign players to adjust to the ‘English way’, and to adapt to the infamous pace of the Premier League. It takes double the time to settle into a team that has not played a great deal of games together, especially when 4 or 5 players arrive at the same time. In a 38-game season, you cannot afford to miss out on 6 or 7 games through the need to gel and bond as a team, especially when your priorities lie at the top. Pre-season friendlies are designed to give the players a chance to do exactly that, but with City bringing in a player a week at the moment, it isn’t an easy task. Having seen the highlights of their first friendly of the campaign against Sporting Lisbon in New York, it is evident that a lot of work needs to be done, and whilst I understand that pre-season friendlies are a useful tool to scrape all the rust off and get the mistakes out of the way, time is ticking before the Premier League season kicks off, and the pressure is on Roberto Mancini and his troops to make sure they are in the best possible frame, both physically and tactically, to make their much expected challenge for the title.

Having assessed what may prove to be the downfall of Manchester City this season, I cannot escape what has to be the catalyst for what they hope to be is their best ever Premier League season. That catalyst would be the strength-in-depth that they clearly possess, a tool that comes to be very useful in football today. With so many matches in a season, particularly with increased European and cup participation, to have 3 or 4 players who can play in every position is a real luxury, and whilst some teams may struggle with that aspect of their dynamics, City have the guarantee that they’re progress won’t be slowed by injuries and suspensions. At least, it is their’s to throw away. If used correctly and at the right times, then silverware is a very realistic objective. If neglected and if Roberto Mancini sees no benefit in using his whole quota of players, Champions League possibilities could slip away.

Shay Given and Joe Hart are two top-class goalkeepers who should enjoy a hefty tussle for the number 1 jersey throughout the next 12 months or so. Micah Richards, Nedum Onuoha, Pablo Zabaleta and Jerome Boateng should keep each other occupied in the full-back slots, whilst Wayne Bridge will have to fight off new signing Kolarov for the left-back berth. Vincent Kompany, Kolo Toure, Joleon Lescott and Dedryck Boyata are all contenders to play at the heart of the defence, meaning that Mancini has at least 10 defensive options at his disposal. The Italian also has his fair share of options on the wings with Silva, Bellamy, Wright-Phillips and Adam Johnson in the mix, plus youngster Vladimir Weiss who may well find himself loaned out of Eastlands for a second consecutive season.

With the arrival of Yaya Toure, Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry will be kept on their toes, whilst Stephen Ireland, Michael Johnson and Patrick Vieira will be used in a  more box-to-box role. Up-front, the City fans have the joy of watching Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor and Jo ply their trade, leaving Roque Santa Cruz to twiddle his thumbs and ultimately look for another club. His injury-corrupted career has done him no favours in the scheme of things at City.

So, there’s a lot to choose from for Mancini, who will have his work cut out to keep everyone happy at City. Still, he’d rather that than have a small group of unmotivated players on his hands, and how he deals with a first team squad containing more than 35 players will be the key to any success City will have this season.

What do we think folks? Are they living in dream land or is it plausible to say they’ll be the new name engraved on the Premier League trophy in May 2011?

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33 Comments leave one →
  1. July 24, 2010 10:40 pm

    You kept referring to “your assessment” but I read nothing more scientific than opinion.

    My opinion, as a City fan (idealist?) is that city go into the season as a totally unknown quality. There will be 6 or 7 new faces with big reputations to live upto playing for a manager who has his first preseason to work with his own squad.

    I should also point out that City are likely to play 65 games this season and not 38. Whilst the FA Cup, Carling Cup and Europa League may only be important for idealists like City they all offer us the opportunity to win something for the first time in 34 years so as to get that monkey off our back.

  2. mick travis permalink
    July 24, 2010 10:47 pm

    Too early to talk about winning the Prem. One thing is for sure, though. Mancini, with Marwood and Cook have switched the emphasis to youngish players with considerable potential and this should be one helluva team in 2011/12.
    Hart/Given; Boateng/Zabaleta/Richards; K Toure/Kompany/Lescott/Boyata; Kolarov/Bridge; A Johnson/M Johnson/Ireland/SWP/Y Toure/De Jong/Barry/Silva; Tevez/Adebayor/Santa Cruz plus ???? Milner? Balotellli? Dzecko? looks a squad good enough to take at least 3rd or 4th and take the Champs League spot, after which sky’s the limit because we can attract the really top players.
    The squad is probably good enough to challenge for 1st/2nd in the Prem this season, though my money would be on Chelsea or a resurgent Arsenal if they can keep Fabregas and Van Persie.
    We certainly have more going for us than United with their ageing/crocky squad – surely Giggs/Scholes/Neville can’t raise another full season? Although United’s winning habit, devloped over many years of success and with Taggart bullying the shit out of the players, will probably allow them to sustain a challenge, they don’t really have much strength in depth or the wherewithal to buy better players. There is a God!
    so… fingers are xxxd.

  3. dave@shepton permalink
    July 24, 2010 11:01 pm

    I am not so sure that your “assessment” is correct. The squad City have put together is bordering on the outstanding, and that is before we actually win anything. It knocks that of United, Chels oh sod it, no one in the premier league can compete with the quality of players now at City. Yes, United may have a couple of outstanding individuals and are a team. Same applies to Arsenal and Chelsea. But you only have to look at the options available to realise that this is a serious assault on the title. It was not so long ago that all the doom-mongers were saying that City would not attract players of his calibre because they did not have CL football. Er, Wrong.

    Can you imagine what havoc a team that has Silva, Robinho? and Tevez could wreak. The defence has been shored up, midfield strengthened and still over a month to go in the market.

    Bear this in mind. Last season we came mighty close to qualifying for the CL. Only United beat us out of the so-called top 4. Both times in injury time. We win against Spurs and we were in. Ok we lost and good luck to Spurs. But, we have strengthened and will continue to do so. Most have stood still or gone backwards. We will get better, these are professional players, they will gel, pre-season is long enough these days for that to happen. Watch out boys.

  4. July 24, 2010 11:03 pm

    Listen. We City fans are if nothing else, realistic. Yep we are all enjoying the ride but with the money, aspirations etc etc, we should be challenging for at least the EPL Title. If we finish in the top 4 -3 we will be happy. Whta p***es us off the most is the journalistic rumblings berating us for ambition despite what the ‘top 4’ have done previously for years unabatted. Who cares who wins? Guess what, we do!! ‘Superbia In Proelia’

  5. George permalink
    July 25, 2010 12:38 am

    I’m merely asking the question and voicing my opinion. It’s undoubted that City have some outstanding individual talent, but does that automatically bring team cohesion, understanding and ultimately the ability to win trophies, beating off United and Chelsea who have a settled unit, all familiar with playing with each other? Of course you City fans will disagree because you believe your side has what it takes, but I’m not convinced. If City go on to to prove me wrong, then I’ll hold my hands up. It’s my assessment and my opinion, and that is all.

  6. City fan permalink
    July 25, 2010 1:07 am

    i think City can win the premier league next season if they get Milner and balotelli ! i also hope that city sell good enough this summer because of overcrowdness in every single position

    Final squad should be like

    Rb: boateng/richards
    Lb: bridge/kolarov
    Cb: kompany/lescott/toure/boyata

    Dmf: yaya/dejong/zabaleta
    Cmf: barry/vieira/milner

    Amf/Wf: ireland/bellamy/silva/a.johnson/Swp
    St: tevez/adebayor/balotelli

    2possible lineups: 4-3-3
    boateng toure kompany kolarov
    milner barry
    a.johnson silva

    boateng toure lescott kolarov
    yaya dejong
    milner bellamy
    balotelli adebayor

  7. billyboneshaker permalink
    July 25, 2010 2:10 am

    same as george’s point… no team adds like an entire new squad… teams like manutd and arsenal bring in young players (either thru buying or youth squad) and make them gel into their team slowly… so there is always a good understanding between players and barely any ego clashes…
    City have bought in some really good players but how well and quickly those players can gel with each other is the question.. we have seen many good players falter in the epl and many perform really well in the first season as well…

  8. maserati4200 permalink
    July 25, 2010 10:52 am

    A successful team is more than the sum of its parts. “I pick the best team not, necessarily, the best players”, said a certain Alf Ramsey during the ’66 World Cup campaign.

    City have assembled a fantastic squad and I’m sure there is more quality to come. This won’t guarantee anything, however. Good results and performances early on will be crucial for Mancini and his players. A poor start will have the prophets of doom baying like a pack of wolves (sorry about the mixed metaphor!).

    I hope they make a decent fist of it, however. This will only benefit the EPL and make it more competitve at the top.

  9. July 25, 2010 3:56 pm

    i like this article. fresh approach. but remember, City isnt winning anything any time soon :P
    do check up on my blogs at call this “shameless self-publicity”

  10. July 25, 2010 8:20 pm

    Can’t win Premier League ,but can reach top 4 .

  11. George permalink
    July 26, 2010 1:23 am

    There goes another defeat for City! 2-1 against New York Red Bulls. Not a great start to the season for Mancini, who also found out today that he has to sell at least 12 players due to the new Premier League rules. Who said managing a group of superstars would be hard eh?

    • Blueboy permalink
      July 26, 2010 9:06 pm

      Do you really think Mancini/City have ONLY just found out about the “new” max 25 squad number regulations?


  12. George permalink
    July 26, 2010 9:10 pm

    Well we have only just found out, and it wouldn’t make sense if I said something like “… and I’ve just found out about the new PL regulations, so Manchester City will have to sell some players”. Minor detail.

    • Blueboy permalink
      July 26, 2010 9:20 pm

      Not a minor detail in my opinion.
      You are implying, albeit probably unintentionally, that the club does not have a properly thought out tranfer PLAN, taking all relevant regulations into consideration.

      I have known for a while, since it was posted on the official English Premier League website. The clubs themselves had to vote on it too, as per PL regulations so have known since the vote at least!

      Do your research, makes a good post even better.

  13. George permalink
    July 26, 2010 9:22 pm

    Okay, well apologies for my error. I shall take more care in attention to detail next time. Thank you for reading.

    • Blueboy permalink
      July 26, 2010 9:31 pm

      No problem.
      As a football fan I love reading alternate views and perspectives on the game.
      As a City fan I am seeing a lot of lazy journalism in the mainstream media, having a go at every opportunity implying the “kids in a sweet shop” approach to our transfer policy.
      I take nothing for granted as we now need to build a team from whatever is left after all the ins/outs. This will take time……….
      Looking forward to future posts George.

  14. George permalink
    July 26, 2010 9:33 pm

    I understand. I guess that’s what journalists are for eh? Cheers again.

  15. September 27, 2010 2:03 am

    If they are playing football like the match against Chelsea. I think it is possible.

  16. stephenAxe permalink
    October 7, 2010 8:13 am

    I would just like to point out that City are now second in the Prem and ar lookig pretty solid for a top four finish. Still too early to tell if we can win the title but why not. We have a s much strenrth in depth and quality as any team in this league. I really hope you will be eating your words come the end of this season.

  17. George permalink
    November 1, 2010 2:54 pm

    And I’d just like to point out that Champions don’t lose 2 games on the trot very often, especially to Wolves.

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