The Path to Success Part Two: Manchester City
Published by Ian John on May 3, 2011
Money, Money, Money, it’s a rich man’s world. The words of Abba’s 70s classic still ring true, especially at the top of the Barclays Premier League and no club has as many financial resources available to them as Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City.
This season has been somewhat bitty for City fans. The chance of lifting their first major trophy since 1976 will arrive during May when they take on Stoke City at Wembley in the FA Cup final, after a noteworthy and memorable semi-final victory over rivals Manchester United.
In European competition and the league however, City have been solid, if unspectacular. All season long that have promised to break into the three horse title race, but never put together the performances to do so on a consistent basis. The aim of achieving Champions League football for next season however, does look on, especially given Tottenham’s weekend loss at Chelsea and Spurs difficult run in, combined with Liverpool’s resurgence still coming too late to really trouble the Sky Blues.
So what does Roberto Mancini need to do in order to turn his team from Champions League hopefuls into genuine title contenders and able to contest both the Premier League and Champions League in the same way that across town rivals Manchester United do, year in year out?
Step One: Sell!That may well sound ridiculous given Manchester City’s vast reserves of money, but the truth of the matter is, with new UEFA guidelines about club finances being slowly introduced, Manchester City need to drastically reduce their wage bill or else they run the risk of falling foul of the new FIFA guidelines regarding club finances. The problem is not paying key players too much, but paying squad players far too much, often to ply their trades at other clubs. For example Emmanuel Adebayor at Real Madrid, Roque Santa Cruz at Blackburn, Felipe Caicedo at Levante, Wayne Bridge at West Ham, Nedum Onuoha at Sunderland, Vladimir Weiss at Rangers and Craig Bellamy at Cardiff City.
These players, along with several others at City who are not likely to be part of Roberto Mancini’s plans for the future, Shaun Wright Phillips and Jo for example, need to be sold on. Not only will this vastly reduce the amount the club is paying each week in wages (which at a conservative estimate based on this amount of players, is probably not far short of £700,000 a week in wages) but will free up places in the squad, and more wage budget, for signings that Mancini does need to make.
Step Two : Keep!Quite simply, despite noises to the contrary that he wants to leave the club, if Manchester City are to develop into genuine title contenders next season then Carlos Tevez needs to remain at the club. His importance to the club is akin to Gerrard at Liverpool, Messi at Barcelona or Rooney at Manchester United.
Talk is of Tevez interesting clubs in Spain and Italy, with Real Madrid and Inter Milan both strongly linked with a move for the Argentinean and with Tevez known to be less then enamoured with life in England, it seems these rumours have credence. Selling him however would be a huge blow to the club and require Mancini to make an equally outstanding (and probably twice as expensive) signing to replace him and there are not enough players of his quality around at the moment.
Step Three: The Balotelli EnigmaIf one player sums up Manchester City it is Balotelli, capable of brilliance and undeniable talent, too often he disappoints. The Italian’s attitude and workrate is also questionable and his antics must irk both Mancini and the Manchester City faithful.
The truth is Balotelli needs to knuckle down and be a team professional, rather than a talented individual. Whether the Italian will or not remains to be seen. He has the talent to make patience prudent this season, but unless he shows a drastic change in attitude over the next 12 months, Mancini will be sorely tempted to cash in on him and allow him his dream move back to Milan.
Step Four: Mancini’s tactical approachIt may seem strange to have this ranked higher than a new signing, but the truth is, City could sign Messi, Iniesta, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele, Maradona and the mighty Dale Jennings, but if Mancini’s choice of tactics is effectively going to shackle them, then what is the point?
Certainly, City need defensive stability, but for Mancini, this often comes at the expense of attacking prowess. That is an imbalance that needs to be sorted if City are to realistically challenge for the title. Tevez brilliance cannot be relied upon alone. He needs a regular supporting and contributing cast of attacking players playing in a formation which adds creativity, inventiveness and fluidity to City’s already pragmatic defensive nature.
The key seems relatively simple, do away with one of the two or three holding players Mancini likes to employ to protect his defence and bring on a more attack minded attacker or midfielder to supplement the talent he has.
Step Five: Sign!So who do Manchester City sign bearing all that in mind? Well assuming that Tevez and Balotelli stay, then City are not far from being title contenders at all. Dzeko will benefit from having a full pre-season with his new team mates and a bit more experience of English football, David Silva too will be stronger next season. In fact, City need to make very few changes to their team, what they need however is a player to push them from being a very good team, into a great one.
A player like that is hard to come by. The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Fernando Torres, David Villa or Wayne Rooney are not going to be available, even for the vast sums of money City can pay. The problem is, that is the type of player City need in order to move to the next level.
Having said that, there are two players who City could go for who could considerably help this team. The first is Sergio Aguero of Atletico Madrid, a long time target for Chelsea and who could prove to be the perfect attacking foil for Dzeko. The other would be an attacking midfielder, either in the form of one time City target Kaka, who seems likely to be available from Real Madrid, or Chilean star Alexis Sanchez, who has starred in Serie A this year for Udinese, who would be an ideal alternative to Tevez.
This would leave a Manchester City XI for 2011-2012 looking like : Hart, Richards, Kolarov, Kompany, Toure.K, Toure.Y, Tevez, Silva, Milner, Aguero, Dzeko.
So it isn’t major surgery required by City, more a re-sort of their resources and a couple of key purchases. Of course, that very much depends on the futures of Balotelli and Tevez and whether Mancini can allow his City the attacking license they need in order to challenge at the very top in the future.