Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri, Jesus Navas, David Silva, Alvaro Negredo, Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko; and Manuel Pellegrini as their manager – is it really any wonder Manchester City won the Premier League last time out?
If anything, City should never lose a match given that they have a squad that could possibly rival those of either Real Madrid or Barcelona. And to add to this worrisome reading (for rival supporters), The Citizens have added Bacary Sagna to their considerable ranks.
Manchester City should once again end the coming season at the league’s summit as they have all the attributes necessary to stake a claim for their third title in four seasons: excellent balance between defense and attack; a healthy blend of youthful talent and title-winning experience; and amazing strength in depth that suggests players coming off the bench are very nearly as good as those coming off the pitch.
Manuel Pellegrini managed to claim a Premier League title at the first time of asking, though he’ll also be the first to admit that the only thing harder than claiming your first crown, is winning a second – more so when aiming to do so on the trot. And in doing so, he’s accomplished a feat not many are capable of – managing a boot room full of the world’s greatest talent and the egos that travel with them. I may stand corrected, but I am of the opinion that Roberto Mancini failed to manage their immense collective talent effectively, and that may have led to his sacking in 2013.
Where Mancini fell short, Pellegrini has excelled to the tune of 102 goals scored over 38 league matches. That equates to just shy of three goals per game, with only Liverpool coming close having scored one goal fewer.
Over 90 of those goals were either scored or created between Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko; and factoring in that Sagna enjoys a frequent foray downfield, we are certain to see more of the same in the coming league campaign.
In May of this year, a world-record ₤50million fine (more than any sports team globally has ever been sanctioned) was levied on the club for breaching Uefa’s financial Fair Play rules following Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan’s embarking on a spending spree of around ₤1billion on the club. As part of the sanctions, City have had their Champions League squad reduced to only 21 players, eight of whom must be home-grown; and the fine could be extended to a second Champions League term should the club fail to comply with further conditions of the sanctions before the turn of the year.
For those less familiar, the sanctions come as a result of The Citizens reporting a loss of around ₤98million. Of course, for a man who is able to spend ₤1billion at a time, a ₤50million fine is probably little more than an itch that needs scratching, but the principle remains and further sanctions lay in wait should the club continue to operate in such a manner.
With that aside, I still feel that City will retain their position as champions. Chelsea, given their sparkling new strike force and solid rearguard should be in close pursuit. Manchester United should have a good season and return to their previous title-challenging form, though I doubt they’ll do well enough to win it.
Arsene Wenger has finally dug a little deeper into Arsenal’s coffers and spent some real money on great quality. In fact, this is the first time in recent memory that Wenger has spent money on established talent, as he has, up till now, been a discoverer of world-class players. My money is on Arsenal finishing a solid fourth as a result.
Liverpool have signed a number of players in this transfer window, and most of them from Southampton – Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren, while Emre Can, Lazar Markovic and Divock Origi have arrived from the European mainland. Given that Origi has been loaned back to Lille, and with the deal for Loic Remy having fallen through, The Reds have turned their attention to Swansea’s Wilfred Bony. Should a deal for a sound striking partner for Daniel Sturridge not materialise soon, I fear their coming season will pale in comparison to the last – a fifth-place finish is then on the cards for Rodgers and his men.
Irrespective of what may materialise however, Brendan Rodgers has proven to be a manager of substantial talent and will surely do his damndest to keep pace with the leading pack.
So brace yourselves for what will, beyond a shadow of doubt, be one of the most hotly-contested league seasons in the history of English football.
I. LOVE. THIS. GAME.