City will make the Top four this season. The squad is to good now for it not to happen. The big question for them, or more likely their owners is, “is that enough?”
City are now in a similar position to where Chelsea were at the start of the 2004/2005 season. They have had one full season with new ownership and have a relatively new manager. Mancini has had one full summer to make signings and make the team his own. This year he can have no excuses for not delivering what is expected of him.
What differentiates them from Chelsea is that in 2004, Chelsea already had the basis of a decent squad with talent such as Joe Cole and Frank Lampard in their ranks. Coming off a second place finish in the Premier league they were able to attract better players to the squad because they could offer Champions League football. Therefore, once the special one had been appointed at Stamford Bridge he was able to go out and sign players of real quality who had serious credentials. They were able to sign players like Carvalho and Ferreira who had won the Champions League, a striker in Drogba who had already destroyed Liverpool and Newcastle in the Uefa Cup and Peter Cech who despite been a relative unknown to most fans over here at the time, became one the best goalkeepers in the world.
David Silva is a fantastic addition to City’s squad but whilst Yaya Toure and if he arrives, Balotelli, have won Europe’s premier competition, they certainly weren’t the driving force behind those wins. Also, does City really want to be chasing after players who react like this when they are brought on as a late sub?
Given the amount of squad rotation that will have to be done at Eastlands this year it seems like a strange choice.
And that is another issue that Mancini will have to deal with; the size of the squad. On Friday Jim White and Co stuck up the names of the entire City midfield.
Nigel De Jong
If you add Milner to that list, City will have 14 players vying for three spots assuming Mancini goes with his 4-3-3 formation that he used last season. How do you keep all of them happy? By juggling the squad round week by week surely there can’t be any consistency for the team either. Look at Benitez at Liverpool. It could be argued that his constant tinkering with his team cost him his job because he never knew what his best team was.
Mourinho had a plan for Chelsea when he took over and as a result he got rid of a lot of the dead wood at Stamford Bridge that didn’t fit in. Out went Petit, Hasselbaink, Desailly, Babayaro, Melchiot, Zenden and a few others, whilst Crespo and a young Carlton Cole were sent out on loan to Milan and Villa respectively. This gave his new signings faith that he believed in them and that they were the players to go out and win the league. There has been little evidence so far that Mancini wants to get rid of any players although with a squad cap of 25 players been enforced by the Premier League this season, he will have to make some tough choices sooner or later.
What I do think is crucial for City is a good start. Mourinho was able to put down a marker in his first game as they beat United 1-0 at the Bridge. City has a great opportunity to do just that as they face Spurs at White Hart Lane on the opening day of the season and then Liverpool at Eastlands a week later. Win those two and the confidence will flow through the squad like the Thames does through London. However if they lose both, there will be serious questions about the players that Mancini has brought in.
Of course there will be plenty of time for them to recover and this is a squad that possesses some of the best talent in the country (Gareth Barry excluded). For me though, City’s fate will be determined by how Mancini copes with the pressure that the job at Eastlands now comes with. At Inter he was gifted the title by the match fixing scandal of 2006, yet in Europe he couldn’t get Inter past the second round of the Champions League where he was frequently outwitted by Europe’s other top coaches. He was eventually sent on his way by Inter and replaced with Jose himself. Mourinho charmed the media in his first season here and whilst he did ruffle a few feathers along the way he was able to take the pressure of his team and keep the media focused on him. His players loved him for that and as a result they played for him in a way that they didn’t for Grant or Scolari, his two main successors. Mancini is of course his own man but he would do well to take note of how Mourinho coped with the pressure of building a new team and fans and media expecting results straight away.
A top four position is more than achievable for a team with City’s riches, especially given a lack of real investment by any of the other so called big sides. It would represent progress for City, however Mancini will have to do a lot more than that to keep his job at Eastlands. Otherwise he may see Jose on the other side of that revolving door again in ten months time. Just ask Ranieri.