August 9th, 2010
Star-studded: City manager Mancini unveils his new signings at Eastlands - and promises more will follow
The day that Sheik Mansour of Abu Dhabi bought Manchester City remains etched in the memory.
One moment, City were about to sink into oblivion under the reckless control of Thaksin Shinawatra; the next, a club employee was blinking hard with disbelief as she faxed a £32million transfer request to Real Madrid for the registration of Brazil forward Robinho.
In the following days and weeks, English football began to wonder if its familiar landscape – one with Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool at its centre – was about to change for ever.
Two years on, it is finally threatening to happen. City’s progress to the top of the English game has been relatively slow.
Chelsea did it almost as soon as Roman Abramovich’s money arrived in 2003, finishing second the following season and reaching the last four of the Champions League.
Abramovich has poured in more than £400m in transfer fees alone since taking over but the club were starting from a position of relative strength in their bid to overthrow Manchester United’s dominance.
They had finished fourth the season before takeover. City had finished ninth – behind Portsmouth and Blackburn – and had lost their final League game 8-1 at Middlesbrough.
During two recent weeks in the United States, the strength of the modern City – one built by investment in excess of £300m – has been apparent.
In the mixed zone after their game in Baltimore last Saturday, they walked past us. Shay Given, Emmanuel Adebayor, Craig Bellamy, Yaya Toure, Gareth Barry.
Listen up: Striker Tevez (left) keeps his City team-mates entertained during a training session
Last week, in Germany, they were joined by Spanish World Cup winner David Silva, Germany’s Jerome Boateng and Carlos Tevez of Argentina.
City boss Roberto Mancini says that James Milner and Mario Balotelli will be joining the cast list by Thursday, taking this summer’s spending spree past the £125m mark.
It is, it must be said, an increasingly impressive pool of players. Arguably, City now have the most talented and deepest squad in the Premier League.
They could now field two teams of internationals. They had 13 players on World Cup duty in South Africa this summer.
But can this squad win the Premier League this season? Certainly, it could. Will it? It’s unlikely.
A team needs a tried and trusted core of players if it is to succeed, individuals who instinctively know and understand each other and will drag a team through the difficulties of a demanding season.
Although they haven’t spent heavily this summer, City’s title rivals Chelsea and Manchester United have that core.
At Arsenal, meanwhile, Arsene Wenger presides over a team that has been growing for some time.
Consider a player like Gael Clichy: a ‘young’ full back who has now actually been at the club for seven years and has more than 200 appearances under his belt.
City cannot buy this experience. They will have to wait for it. On the opening day of the season, for example, the club’s longest serving player could feasibly be goalkeeper Given, who has been at the club for only 18 months.
As Mancini looks to hit the ground running and avoid the pressure that would follow any kind of early stumbles, trying to bring this squad of eclectic players together could be his greatest challenge.
It will not faze the Italian. Beneath the easy charm and behind the ready smile, Mancini is a tough man.
He now has his own backroom staff to support him after the summer appointments of David Platt and Attilio Lombardo. That will help.
Nevertheless, the task he faces is enormous. The effects of his rigorous training sessions last season have not been forgotten by his players.
He remains relatively unpopular with some of them and that could yet be something that comes back to trouble him, especially when it comes to persuading some of them to serve time on the substitutes’ bench.
Certainly, City would appear to have bought well this summer. They have purchased players of sound character.
Toure looks perfect for the Premier League, as laconic as he is physically formidable, while full backs Boateng and the Serbian Aleksandar Kolarov have impeccable backgrounds.
Neverthless, Mancini’s squad looks peculiarly short of top-class central defenders and the emotional mentalities of players like Adebayor, Tevez and Bellamy must be considered.
These are forwards who flourish with regular football but are not the best to have around when they are not in the team.
Managing this is part of Mancini’s job and certainly the arrival of Platt will help. The two men are close and Platt is a good coach and thinker.
He will provide a buffer between Mancini and the players that wasn’t there last season and, at times, that will be critical.
Source: daily mail
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