When Manchester City defeated Stoke to win the FA Cup in 2011, it signalled the end of a 35 year period without a major trophy. City followed up their cup success by winning the Premier League trophy in 2012, and many thought that a period of domestic dominance would follow. An onslaught on the Champions League was surely only a matter of time.
It hasn’t exactly worked out like that since. City did win a second Premier League title last season, but they are yet to assert themselves in Europe, despite displaying sporadic flashes of brilliance.
The main reason for City’s lack of progress has surely been their poor performance in the transfer market. The line-up for their Champions League debut in 2011 against Napoli was as follows:
Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, Yaya Toure, Barry, Silva, Nasri, Aguero and Dzeko.
Since then, City have spent over £300 million on transfers (and fallen foul of Financial Fair Play regulations in the process), yet only Lescott and Barry from the above line-up have left the club. Gael Clichy is often preferred at left-back, and Bacary Sagna displaced Zabaleta for City’s match against Barcelona, but only Martin Demichelis (who cost around £4 million) could be considered an improvement, despite his shaky start.
So – despite the amount spent on transfers – where do City still need to improve if they are to seriously challenge for the Premier League and progress further in Europe next season?
Joe Hart showed in the Nou Camp recently just how valuable he is to Manchester City, and it’s doubtful that there are many ‘keepers in world football that would relegate the former Shrewsbury man to the bench. Willy Caballero has done little to stake a serious claim for the number one jersey, but signing a new goalkeeper will not be high on the agenda.
City are relatively well equipped in the full-back positions, with Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna competing on the right, and Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov occupying the left. It could be argued that the right-back position is in slightly better shape than the left – Clichy and Kolarov are sometimes found wanting defensively – but, like the goalkeeper position, it won’t be a priority to strengthen here.
Despite his recent form, Vincent Kompany can still be regarded as one of the best defenders in the Premier League. City’s captain is still only 28 years old, and will definitely be around for some time. Martin Demichelis on the other hand will be 35 this year, and Eliaquim Mangala has yet to justify his huge price tag. It won’t be a surprise to see Manuel Pellegrini (or whoever is in charge in summer) dip into the market for a centre-back. Raphael Varane, Diego Godin and Mats Hummels could all be linked with City in the coming months.
Yaya Toure’s lack of form and effort is bound to be a concern for City fans. Rumours are that Toure’s agent (and best friend) could be tempted by one more big money move before Toure’s legs give up on him. Elsewhere, Fernando does not look like a top flight player, in the Premier League or Europe, and Fernandinho has been inconsistent since his impressive first season at the Etihad. James Milner can operate in central midfield, but is yet to sign a new contract and may leave in the summer. Paul Pogba will be the name listed in all the papers wherever the ‘elite clubs’ are concerned, so expect several stories linking him with a big money move to City.
City possess one of the best attacking midfielders in world football in David Silva. Keeping hold of him will be a priority. Samir Nasri is also an important player when on form. The jury is still out on Jesus Navas however. The Spaniard possesses great pace, and excels against tiring defences in the Premier League, but is yet to make his mark on City’s biggest games. City have been linked with Lazio’s young Brazilian Felipe Anderson and Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling recently, and Pellegrini is also an admirer of Real Madrid’s Isco. City’s owners will be looking for a marquee signing, with attacking midfield a viable option. Don’t however, expect Balon D’or winner Ronaldo back in Manchester anytime soon.
City spent £30 million on Wilfried Bony in January, and will be looking for goals from him sooner rather than later. Sergio Aguero has also pledged to see out his Manchester City contract and, providing he can stay fit, guarantees goals. Edin Dzeko may look for first team football eslewhere, but City could do worse than retaining the Bosnian’s services. The writing seems to be on the wall for Stevan Jovetic however, who was dropped from City’s Champions League squad at the expense of Bony. City have been linked with Radamel Falcao recently, but this would be a huge gamble judging by his season at Old Trafford.
There’s no doubt that City have the quality to be a force in Europe and the Premier League, but their transfer policy needs to be seriously reviewed. It’s often been a case of spending for spending’s sake at The Etihad recently, but one or two astute buys, and a manager that can get them playing, could see more trophies arrive in the coming years.
Just don’t expect Ronaldo to be helping them.