Manchester City come into the new season on the back of a second Premier League victory in three years. The title was won in dramatic fashion and spirits are high at the club and there is a determination not to give up the crown in as feeble a fashion as in the 2012/13 season.
City developed a fluid, inventive, and aggressive style of football last season which was both easy on the eye and incredibly destructive. The sheer number of goals scored on the way to the title, particularly in the few months around Christmas, speaks for itself.
The foray into the knock-out rounds of the 2013/14 Champions League was a brand new experience for the club, even if it turned out to be short lived as Barcelona’s superior experience and savvy proved to be significant. Progressing to at least the quarter finals this coming season should be the absolute minimum requirement and there is really no reason why that shouldn’t end up being the case.
On the whole, City give off the distinct impression that they are run and staffed by grownups who have a clear strategy for consistent success. Iterative progress is the name of the game and we will see further steps this year.
Last Season: 1st
In: Fernando (Porto, £12m), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal, Free), Willy Caballero (Malaga, £6.5m), Bruno Zuculini (Racing Club, £2m), Frank Lampard (New York City FC, Loan).
Out: Joleon Lescott (Released), Gareth Barry (Released), Marcos Lopes (Lille, loan), Costel Pantilimon (Released), Emyr Huws (Wigan, loan), Albert Rusnak (SC Cambuur, loan), Jack Rodwell (Sunderland, £10m).
Not much has changed for City this summer. Stability is highly valued at the club following the fallout from Roberto Mancini’s sacking last year, and Manuel Pellegrini is the man to deliver it. His calm, considered presence means that sudden changes are unlikely.
There hasn’t been, and won’t be, any severe upheavals with regards to the playing staff or management. Instead, the major changes are longer term and structural.
The Etihad Campus is set to open in the near future and will provide state of the art facilities to all of the teams that fall under the Manchester City umbrella. This is an important step in the focus on youth development which is a key priority for the owners. It might be hard to believe based on recent transfer history, but home grown talent will begin to be a feature of Manchester City in the coming years.
The easy choice is Yaya Toure. The Ivorian had a phenomenal season last year, dragging the team forward with his nigh on unstoppable momentum. He scored goals, he created goals. He destroyed teams.
However, the easy choice is not the correct one. The correct choice is David Silva. The diminutive Spaniard is at the heart of everything that Manchester City do. No one sums up the ethos Manuel Pellegrini has instilled in the team more than Silva. He controls and creates, he is incisive and irrepressible, he uses a different geometry to everyone else to play passes that no one else can see in the first place.
Last season, Silva played football in a way we’ve never seen before. Away at Hull he saved Manchester City’s season when the team was deep into adversity. Away at Liverpool he almost won the game single handedly after City were 2-0 down. Away at Bayern Munich he inspired and orchestrated one of the most famous wins in the club’s history.
As he comes into his prime, I expect him to fill me with awe and wonder once again.
If you’re not watching Silva this season, really watching what he does on the pitch, then you are missing the best player Manchester City have ever had and one of the best players in Premier League history.
One to Watch
This is going to be Stevan Jovetic’s year. His debut season for City was a horror show of injury after injury and there was a real danger that he might not fulfil his potential for the Champions. However he has used his summer well and is looking extremely strong and hungry in pre-season.
As a player he is always looking to pick the ball up, turn, and run directly at defenders. His has a direct and thrilling style which can terrify the opposition. Goals come out of nowhere, but also from everywhere. He is good with both feet and with his head, inside the box and outside it.
It is a cliché to say that a player coming back from injury is ‘like a new signing’, but in this case it is the truth. He had the highest goals to minutes ratio of all City’s strikers last year and, with Aguero’s patchy injury record and World Cup fatigue, Jovetic will get his chance to show that he means business right from the start.
This may be a rash prediction, but City will be Premier League champions again come next May. Chelsea look formidable and Arsenal have strengthened in eye catching fashion, but City are a well oiled, high performance machine.
The team is more than the sum of its parts, and what formidable parts they are, and should be favourites for the title. The club and the team are settled and confident. The new signings represent augmentation of a winning formula rather than upheaval. They believe they can win and there’s no reason why they can’t.
BPF Prediction: 2nd
Written by: Alex Timperly / @Alex_TIMP