Arsenal

Man City’s Most Wanted

Manchester City have given those in the upper echelons of the Premier League a stay of execution after missing out on the Champions League.

Their own disappointment at failure, lay not in the millions they have thus missed out on, they aren’t particularly desperate for money are they? But more in their now reduced ability to attract the star names that they will have been waiting to pounce on.

The added attraction of Champions League football, in tandem with the riches they can offer the best players will have made them impossible to resist for some. They say each player has a price…and Manchester City will have been willing to match it, whatever the amount. This would have been damaging to the other clubs, those now already lagging behind like Liverpool and Aston Villa, may have never caught them.

For clubs like Chelsea and Manchester United, their dominance of the Premier League would face an almighty new threat. Those at Stamford Bridge bearing witness to the repeat of their own spending under Roman Abramovich.

Manchester City’s pursuit of Kaka showed the lengths they are willing to go to in their attempts to make City one of the biggest clubs in the world. The £100 million plus that they were willing to spend on the Brazilian, is a ludicrous amount, appearing even more so now given the Brazilians struggles at Real Madrid.

The reasons Kaka gave for turning the club down, we were led to believe, lay in the absence of Champions League football. Whilst City may still be willing to pay any transfer fee, players of the ilk of Kaka will still be put off by the absence of European football’s biggest stage.

Manchester City though are not a club who needs to worry themselves about transfer fees and sell-on values when negotiating for players. They just want the best players at that particular moment in time, to take City forward. If that means they pay £100 million so be it, they captured the player they were pursuing.

The signing of Joleon Lescott is another example. Is Lescott worth £24 million in any kind of market? Not in a million years. City though recognised a potential weakness in the side, targeted the Everton defender and did what they had to do to get the deal done.

If City had secured Champions League football, I’m sure the board at Liverpool were bracing themselves for a formal offer for Fernando Torres the very next morning. Manchester City’s pursuit of the Spaniard was no secret, Mancini’s public declaration of interest not going down to well with Rafael Benitez. Now, after a season ending 5th place finish, the situation becomes trickier.

It is highly doubtful that Torres will choose to leave Liverpool to go to Manchester City, despite the wages they would offer. Torres, already on a mammoth wage at Liverpool, is in any case, not a player appearing to be motivated by cash incentives.

Manchester City are, in truth, not that far away from breaking into the top four, and even if they spent little this summer, which is highly unlikely, then their potential to finish in a Champions League place next season would not diminish to the point of no return. Teams must always look to improve however; the teams above them certainly will do so.

One area in which they are lacking is in the defence. The money spent on players in these positions has not been spent wisely. The £24 million they invested into Joleon Lescott seems now to have been a mistake. Add to that shaky performances by Kolo Toure and Wayne Bridge and the problems begin to stack up. Jerome Boateng looks like being the first of Mancini’s summer signings, arriving from Hamburg. Earning great reviews, it still remains to be seen how well he settles into the Premier League and if his quality is indeed of the required standard.

Others City could do well to target include, Giorgio Chiellini at Juventus, a rugged defender, strong in the tackle who will organise the defence well. Maicon at Inter Milan is another potential target, great speed and attacking intent, the Brazilian will improve City’s options in attack yet remaining a solid defender. Both players ply their trade in Serie A meaning Mancini will know them well, Maicon having also been managed by the Italian at Inter Milan.

There is certainly no problem with the goalkeeper, Shay Given proving a fantastic signing, deserving of his place in an improving team after the underachievement experienced with Newcastle United for so many years.

Another area the team should look to improve is within the centre of the midfield. With a central partnership of Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry, the midfield seems too stifled, missing the box-to-box midfielder that all of the other top teams possess.

Compare with the teams who finished above them and we can see the likes of Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Cesc Fabregas, and Luka Modric, who consistently contribute at both ends of the field in goals and assists and the defence. The City midfield, in contrast, can be too much of a defensive unit at times, which in turn forces Carlos Tevez further and further back to receive the ball. Whilst both good passers, de Jong and Barry are not particularly known for their surging runs beyond the halfway line to link up with the forward men. The signing of Patrick Vieira in January was therefore a puzzling one. Signed perhaps more for his experience in their attempt to reach the Champions League, Vieira has not managed to reach his previous high standards on his return to England.

At 33 years old, it appears the Frenchman is no longer as mobile as he once was, a necessity in the central midfield positions in the Premier League. In hindsight the signing looks to have been a mistake. He may have been a free transfer but the reported £140,000 wages he receives will add up. Do they care? Probably not.

Such is the value of these box-to-box players that the best are already playing in all of the top teams. Even if a target is found, the difficulty will be in convincing the clubs to sell, regardless of the money on offer. Defensive midfielders can be replaced one way or another, those that can do both are a special commodity and need to be retained by the clubs who hold them. Mancini may just have to scour Europe and spot a diamond in the rough.

Finally, moving into the striking department, one can also find problems. Apart from Carlos Tevez, contributor of 29 goals last season, the other strikers at the club have not justified their huge transfer fees. The regular rotation by the manager demonstrates his lack of conviction on a first choice pairing. Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz, were again ridiculously overpriced. At £25 million and £18 million respectively, the deals seem bewildering when one thinks that City target Torres was signed by Liverpool for £20 million. With the money that City possess, it seems they must now accept that they will have to pay over the odds for players. Once City become interested clubs can then add at least £10 million onto the asking price. Being able to spot a bargain appears, for them at least, to be a thing of the past.

If we then accept Tevez is a definite starter in the team then it may be wise to look for another tall target man to compliment the darting runs and work rate of the Argentine. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been mentioned and it is certainly likely that City would be interested if he was available. Although there are always doubts over a new player, without experience in England, joining the Premier League, Ibrahimovic could be a good option for City. David Villa is another, a great player but whose arrival at Barcelona appears soon to be rubber-stamped.

A current club partnership, perhaps ready for a new challenge, is Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero at Atletico Madrid. Aguero has certainly made noises about his exit, Chelsea being the most strongly linked. After their Europa League success against Fulham, both players may now feel that there is not much left to achieve with the Spanish club. With little prospect of the rapid improvement needed to allow them to challenge for La Liga and outside of the Champions League once again for next season, the Europa League represents the biggest success possible.

Diego Forlan, after his disappointments across Manchester, may welcome the challenge of finally proving himself in the Premiership. His improvement since this time has been dramatic, becoming one of the most lethal finishers in European football during his time in Spain. Following Carlos Tevez’s move from United, Forlan will probably be forgiven by the Old Trafford faithful for making the move; such is the opportunity that it could represent for the Uruguayan.

The problem City will now encounter this summer is that the players they will be interested in will no doubt interest all of the other top clubs in Europe. Add to that the others can offer Champions League football and it places a great obstacle in the way of City’s path to glory. Much will also depend on the other teams around them. Will Spurs continue to improve or was their success last season a one-off? Similarly will Liverpool display a return to form and prove their disappointments of the last campaign are not part of a deeper terminal decline?

Manchester City are not that far away, one or two more quality signings and the team may just line up to hear the Champions League theme ring around Eastlands in 2011.

The best music possible to City fan’s ears I’m sure.

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