Manchester City will most likely be parting company with arguably their star player – Carlos Tevez. In normal circumstances this would be greeted with outrage from fans – even if he was unhappy and potentially disruptive – and new concerns about whether the team can reach the heights of last season.
However at City there is an air of calm. Most fans, whilst appreciating his contribution, are excited about the prospect of finding a replacement. The smart money is on Sergio Aguero who, if the rumor mill is to be trusted, sees Eastlands as his preferred destination. For Manchester City these are exciting times.
City may not have maximized their expenditure thus far, but qualifying for the Champions League is a huge step forward. There are obvious parallels between City and the Chelsea team of 2003/4, when Roman Abramovich first came into power. Chelsea steamrolled the league that year, and the following year too. I think City can potentially do the same.
Previously they had the money but no status; without the lure of Champion League football they could only attract players at so called “lesser” clubs or players after a big pay day. Now it is different. Players like Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero and Alexis Sanchez are all very realistic targets. Teams who previously had more to offer now no longer have that claim, plus City still have the financial clout to outbid on both transfer fees and wages.
Roberto Mancini has first of all formed a solid defence which is essential for Premier League success. He has developed a top class core in Hart, Kompany, De Jong, Toure and Silva. Of course the tip of this core (Tevez) will need to be replaced but I have no doubt that this will be done. Mancini has also had 18 months in which to assess his large squad. The fringe squad players will be sold and the first teamers who are not quite up to it, like James Milner and Gareth Barry possibly (that is just my opinion, I am sure Mancini is better placed to decide), replaced by world class talent like Nasri and Sanchez. The squad has been gradually improved and this will continue through the Summer. The important factor here is that there will not be massive changes to deal with as City embark on what could be a landmark season for the club.
People will always cite the importance of a team rather than individual stars, and you cannot disagree with this ethos. However as Chelsea proved when they first splashed the cash if you get individual stars playing as a team then you are unstoppable, and this will be Mancini’s biggest challenge. In my opinion this is why Tevez’s departure is actually a blessing in disguise. If rumours, of Tevez refusing to speak to CEO Garry Cook and only directly with the owner Sheikh Mansour, are to be believed then they highlight the arrogance of a man whose popularity in England is fading rapidly. Mancini even seems to have calmed the walking time-bomb Mario Balotelli. He gave a disciplined and hard working performance in the FA Cup Final, I am sure he will mature further this year.
If we ignore the financial fair play rules for the moment – with the impending investigation into the new “Etihad Stadium” deal likely to drag on a while – Manchester City have the financial clout to have a whole squad of top players on top wages. If a team is able to replace injured players with top class Internationals then they can look forward to a season unaffected by injuries and only dependant on form. Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal all suffered dips in their results when faced with as little as 4 injuries (in Chelsea’s case). A dip in results is often described as a dip in “form” but in reality the players individually are just affected by the quality across the board due to injuries, which then affects the form of the team as a whole. Big squads seemed to have gone out of fashion as the recession hit the Premiership, but this trend has been disregarded in the latest transfer window, which has been crazy by recent standards – so we should see a higher quality all round from the “Big 6”.
Although City finished the season in third place it is important to look at how they grew throughout the season. Players like Yaya Toure and David Silva started slowly but were amongst the league’s top performers by the end of the season. This coincided with City finishing the season top of the form table, leapfrogging Arsenal and finishing level on points with Chelsea. Skybet list Man City at 7/2 (behind United and Chelsea) and these relatively short odds reflect how far City have come.
As Wenger keeps preaching financial stability and taking, what he considers to be, the moral high road and Chelsea chase after the “unavailable” Luka Modric, City no doubt will spend and strengthen their claim as one of the “Big 4”.
The final piece of the jigsaw is a winning mentality. In my opinion City have a number of “winners” in the team and leadership throughout. Kompany will be the obvious replacement, for Tevez, as captain. But players like De Jong, Barry and Hart also possess similar qualities, not to mention absent ex-captain Kolo Toure who will be like a new signing for the team next season. This quality, absent from an Arsenal team bordering on a crisis, but in abundance at United and Chelsea is an absolute necessity in order to win the Premier League.
The same day United won their 19th title, City claimed their first piece of Silverware in 35 years and, although United fans will deny it, this definitely took away some of the limelight from the red half of Manchester and saw City emerge from the shadows. The belief that this will have given the players and fans is immense. They still have a long way to go if they are to create a dynasty, and the league will be as competitive as ever this season. However if you are planning on having a flutter on the destiny of the Premier League trophy you might find good value in the Premier Leagues big spenders.
This article first appeared on Thomas’ The Drog’s Bollox site.